Recently, I read an article about life-long members of one denomination (normally Episcopalian or Lutheran) converting (or at least ruminating about converting) to Roman Catholicism or, less often, Eastern Orthodox The reasons are as varied as there are personalities and personal beliefs but, on the whole, the reasons seems to be: a) A reaction to some type heterodoxy (read heresy), b) The inability of the denomination's governing institution to correct such heterodoxy or c) both. I don't want to dismiss, out of hand, the real and legitimate doctrinal issues that face mainline Protestant denominations with glib analysis; it's never simple. Nevertheless, I feel that this does capture what I've been reading online as well as well as off (mostly periodicals -- both well know and esoteric).
(Note: Here I should mention that most conversions I've read are about theologians or pastors and not necessarily laymen or women. And theologians/pastors are, by definition and training, more acutely sensitive to doctrinal/dogmatic issues. I also haven't read about conversions the other way. It's hard to know if these conversions are a canary-in-the-coalmine issue for mainline Protestants or just outliers.)
Although these are the primary reasons, I feel there is a secondary, more personal reason. I'll call it foundational erosion. By this I mean a perceived sense that the bedrock foundational doctrines of their denomination are disappearing. These are doctrines that have been held for hundreds of years, in some cases back as far as the founding of the denomination. They are doctrines that have become interwoven into the very fabric of families and religious communities. This upheaval must be (and I suspect is) disconcerting to say the least. Add to this the very real conviction of leading the flock astray and you have the formulae for a crisis in any denomination.
Does leaving help? Is it a good (or proper) decision to make? Certainly one should be free to worship as they choose and one ought not be compelled to worship in a denomination that they feel is, at best, misguided, or worse, heretical. But what they seem to desire, although they might not verbally express it, is the certainty that comes with Catholicism; a faith that has a hierarchical system of authority (Magisterium) that can unequivocally say what is orthodox and what is not. A faith that goes back almost to the earliest Christian communities. A faith that has *roots* that do not change to the whims of modernity (or post modernity). And this seems all the more important given the myriad pressures and stresses we deal with every day. I guess you could call it reactionary (in the non-judgmental sense).
With culture seeming to be the cart before the spiritual horse, I can understand conversion being very enticing. I, for one, lament the lack of liturgical tradition in Lutheranism. I happen to be lucky (and blessed) enough to attend a church that understands the tremendous advantages, both spiritual and cultural, of retaining historic liturgical practices. But mine is the exception that proves the sad rule: historic (solemn, respectful) liturgy is out, "praise" worship (seemingly in service to membership growth and convenience) is in. This pull away from tradition is upsetting; I'm not even speaking yet of doctrinal issues which inform the heart of my beliefs. What would I do, I often wonder, if this happened to me?
Again the question begs to be answered: Is this a proper way of dealing with problems in your religious denomination? My gut reaction is no. And not for sectarian reasons, e.g. Lutheranism vs. Catholicism. If we are witnesses of Christ in the world, how much more are we in our church? Is this good fellowship or good stewardship of what God has entrusted to us? I feel it's our Christian duty to witness to the world what is best in our religious tradition and to work (in whatever capacity that God gives us) to change/correct those parts which are not true to first, the Gospel, and second, the rich history of the Church which is the Body of Christ in the world.
I will speak for myself: I love and cherish being Lutheran and couldn't imagine giving it up. I feel that Lutherans, by virtue of the fact that we share two faith traditions, can bear witness that there are reasons for retaining the religious norms of the Church even in the face of popular culture. But also to witness the need for change (small steps please!) against the rigidity of doctrinal and dogmatic tradition. And I can show the world, or my small part of it, that there is hope. There is hope because in Christ Jesus we are all one body even if we don't feel it. Amen.