The words “conservative” and “liberal”, when applied to churches, are indicators of a profound difference, which has no connection to how the words “conservative” and “liberal” are usually used. In the Protestant world, a “liberal” Christian is one who is redefining the Christian faith so that it is shaped by one or more contemporary philosophies and/or ideologies.
About twelve years ago or so a young woman wanted to do a comparative study on a “conservative” and a “liberal” church. She ended up approaching two Anglican churches. We were the “conservative” church – at the time we were still in the Anglican Diocese of Ottawa and would have been considered the most “conservative” Anglican Church in the Diocese because of, among other things, our biblically based stand on a social issue. The leading “liberal” church was also approached. As a part of her study, she would visit both churches on a Sunday morning, and then later interview people from each church. She approached me and I agreed that Messiah (at the time called St. Alban’s) would participate.
She had a very nominal Christian background. If memory serves me, I think she attended a United Church a few times as a child. She visited the “liberal” church first. When she left, she was worried. In the “liberal” church, it was very formal. Priests and servers and choir were all in robes. The music was all organ driven and the choir dominated the service. The hymns were old – or at least seemed old. Everything was slow and solemn and serious.
She said to herself, if this is what the “liberal” church is like, the “conservative” church will be even slower, more solemn – you get the idea. A week or so later she came to our church. She was shocked and confused. No robes? A band? Modern music? Not stuffy? (I learned all of this later when she came to interview me). She was shocked at the difference and frankly could not get her mind around the disconnect between us being “conservative” and the average age and views and worship of our church.