Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Looking into the future - a view from 1969

The Fort Dodge Messenger Farm Edition July 26, 1969

Shocking Forecasts:

Predicts no sermons in churches of the future

by George W. Cornell AP religion writer

NEW YORK (AP) - Out of the murkiness of the present commotion and changes in the churches, a Protestant scholar has taken a long look at the eventual results of it all - and he sees some shockers ahead.

Among them: The disappearance of sermons and Sunday morning church services; growing interest in Jesus and less in the mystery of God; broad church consolidations; multiple memberships by some believers in more than one church.

The Rev. Dr. Roland W Tapp of Philadelphia, a United Presbyterian specialist in religious education, says "part of the upheaval now going on in the churches is temporary, but much of it will have permanent effects."

Recently on a three month research assignment for analysis and planning, Dr Tapp said in an interview that indications are that the organizational structures of churches "are not going to make it" to the end of the century."

"The long-range prospects are good for essential Judeo-Christianity, but not for the institutions.," he said.

Dr Tapp, a one time missionary, California pastor and World War II bomber pilot, is a former professor of psychology and philosophy of religion at Kentucky's Center College and of Biblical languages at San Francisco Theological Seminary.

He offered his lively preview of the future church at a recent gathering of religious publishers.

Items on the forecast included:

- A re-enactment of the fundamentalist-liberal fight of 60 years ago...It already has resulted in a marked polarization of the church at all levels...the split may become irreparable.

-With Protestants and Roman Catholics "no longer in real dispute" over major doctrines, they wil move increasingly toward "merger at practical levels" - between fundamental Protestants and fundamental Catholics and between liberal Protestants and liberal Catholics.

- Most institutional members will be 45 years old, and up.  "There will be a steady decrease in total membership...fewer youths will join the church."

-On the other hand, there will be "increasing interest in religion and Christianity" among college students and young adults but "they will continue to avoid the institutional church."

-Christian teachers will see themselves "more as fellow-seekers" rather than "transmitters of heritage."  They "will be more interested in Jesus and less in God"  even though this seems a "flat contradiction in Biblical terms."

- The Consultation on Church Union will bring unification of major Protestant denominations among "great wailing and gnashing of teeth," but the new connective church "will be no more of a monolith than it is now."

-"Sermons are out.  And so is the Sunday morning worship service at 11 o'clock.  The death rattle will be long and loud and gruesome."

-The main theological shift will be away from doctrine of divine transcendence toward a "doctrine of panentheism," which holds that "God is in everything," in contrast from pantheism, which says "God is everything."

- Racial integration "will be a fact within the churches...It already is a workable everday truth at headquarters levels."

- Church property, valued today at over $80 billion, will go on tax rolls.  "In a pluralistic society with Christians rapidly becoming a minority, this kind of tax exempt welath simply cannot be tolerated.  It won't be."


  1. Wow! Are you sure you didn't write this retroactively??

  2. I know! I was blown away...

    I am inserting a picture of the original article in the post.

    Where are the modern prophets - and what ever happened to Dr Tapp...something to mull over during lunch I suppose.

  3. Thank you for this post, Deborah...I think. I hope you share it with some of the clergy and institutional forums.

  4. Here is Dr Tapps obituary

    He was well connected and a visionary thinker.

  5. I wonder if anyone preached a sermon at his funeral.