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March 27, 2012


Why on Earth is the Episcopal Church Shrinking?

The church growth experts over at the Episcopal Cafe are scratching their heads. Why is the Episcopal Church shrinking? What could it possibly be?

Apparently, some of the sharper crayons in the box over there suggested a link between the entirely unpredictable decline of the Episcopal Church and the introduction of the 79 Prayerbook over three decades ago.

Seems reasonable. I think most people would agree that the 79 book isn’t all that awesome. But to find out for sure the Episcopal Cafe decided to send the question to statistical researcher Kirk Hadaway. Here’s his answer:

I suppose that someone would have had to look at change at the congregational level in order to determine if there was a correlation. However, we cannot go back in time to do that study.

Our lowest point in terms of statistical decline was in the early to mid-1970s, so things had begun to improve prior to 1979 and continued to do so through the late 1990s. Our short-lived plateau turned into a slight decline in 2002 and got worse thereafter. So I cannot see how HE vs. MP has anything to do with the membership decline. In fact, it probably helped us attract many disaffected Roman Catholics and seekers in the 1980s and 1990s.

Well, that turned out to be a dead end. Back to square one. Now what could it be? There must have been something that occurred after 2002 to cause the decline. But what is it?


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60 comments

Still scratching my head….  Something after 2002…..  Hmmmmm….  Communion for squirrels maybe?  What possibly could it be?

[1] Posted by Bill2 on 3-27-2012 at 04:37 PM · [top]

I blame George W Bush. The TEC was doing fine while Poppy (41) was president, and a loyal member of the church. Suddenly, Dubya goes Baptist,  becomes president, and Bob’s your uncle.

[2] Posted by paradoxymoron on 3-27-2012 at 04:57 PM · [top]

Second, are all our churches in decline? No. Some Episcopal churches are growing. We’re seeing some new church plants attracting people

Captain Smith: “Second, is the Titanic sinking? No. Some parts of the boats are rising. The stern, for instance. I’ve never seen it so high, and it continues to attract people from all parts of the ship.”

[3] Posted by paradoxymoron on 3-27-2012 at 05:08 PM · [top]

Would a flak jacket and a sparkly pair of chuck taylor all stars have anything to do with it?

[4] Posted by midwestnorwegian on 3-27-2012 at 05:18 PM · [top]

Dubya was a Methodist. Still….

Personally, I think the decline has it origin in the consecration of Katharine Jefforts Schori. They really screwed up when they decided to use Joel Osteen, Richard Dawkins, and Nancy Pelosi as co-consecrators.

[5] Posted by David Fischler on 3-27-2012 at 05:31 PM · [top]

From reading various blogs and the British and NY press, I am convinced the decline in TEC is all Rowan Williams fault, for not having backed them to the hilt on gay bishops and marriage, and that terrible thing he wrote criticizing Spong’s theology, and for otherwise disobeying the instructions of 815.  Had they put someone in Cantaur’s chair who was more reasonable, like Tom Butler or Barry Morgan, there would be 4 million Piskies today, no doubt.

I don’t know why they are worried about decline.  All they need to do is pass the resolution put forward by Eastern Oregon, and their “communicants in good standing” will jump by 298,000,000 to equal the population of the US.

[6] Posted by tjmcmahon on 3-27-2012 at 06:04 PM · [top]

RE: ” “Second, is the Titanic sinking? No. Some parts of the boats are rising. The stern, for instance. I’ve never seen it so high, and it continues to attract people from all parts of the ship.”

[cackle/snort] . . .

BAHH HHAHAHAAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAAHAHAAHAHAAHAH [thump/clatter clatter] . . .

. . .

. . . You know.  This is an incredibly divisive and mean post by a guy who left TEC and flounced over to a competitor.

I’m not going to say why I think it incredibly divisive and mean.

But it is, trust me.  Very Very Mean.

And Divisive.

[7] Posted by Sarah on 3-27-2012 at 06:04 PM · [top]

It’s simply the Cost of Discipleship.

The pew-sitters simply aren’t bright enough to understand complex theology, so they have to go down the street, check their brains at the door, and be told what to believe.

Revisionist Rafe
(H/T to carl, of course)

[8] Posted by Ralph on 3-27-2012 at 06:14 PM · [top]

I think the Titanic references are going completely over the heads of most Episcopalians, because of the use of arcane language, like “sinking.”  To make this understandable, you need to put it into Episco-ese.  To translate:

In the early morning hours of April 15, 1912, the Titanic underwent an adaptation of local context.  The new context is described as follows:
“The Titanic lies in 13,000 feet of water on a gently sloping alpine-like countryside overlooking a small canyon below. Its bow faces north and the ship sits upright on the bottom. There is no light at this great depth and little life can be found.” (Dr. Robert Ballard)

In addition, at the same time, revisions were made to the Titanic’s organizational structure as follows:
“Location of Titanic’s bow section
49° 56’ 49” W, 41° 43’ 57” N

Location of Titanic’s stern section
49° 56’ 54” W, 41° 43’ 35” N

Location of Titanic’s heavier wreckage
49° 56’ 49” W, 41° 43’ 32” N “
Information found here: http://www.titanic-titanic.com/titanic_wreck_location.shtml

As one can see, in its modern local context, the Titanic faces a number of challenges if it is to continue in its purpose as a luxury ocean liner.  Like TEC, some on board chose to leave during the hours of crisis, because they were afraid to live into the future and a new context.

[9] Posted by tjmcmahon on 3-27-2012 at 06:32 PM · [top]

Thanks tjmcmahon #9.  You know, the way you put that really speaks to me.

[10] Posted by j.m.c. on 3-27-2012 at 06:48 PM · [top]

A “relative newcomer” to TEc over at the Cafe has the notion that advertising is the answer. Why, if only TEc could get the word out about what it REALLY stands for, the pews would be filled to capacity! Heh, yes I guess you really ARE a newcomer not to have seen the gag reel that is the TEc ad & PR portfolio since the mid 1990s. Oh well, spend those ad dollars if you must—proud sponsor of “RuPaul’s Drag Race” perhaps?

[11] Posted by polycarp on 3-27-2012 at 07:05 PM · [top]

” Oh well, spend those ad dollars if you must—proud sponsor of “RuPaul’s Drag Race” perhaps?”

Yeah…that’s the ticket!

[12] Posted by David Fischler on 3-27-2012 at 08:11 PM · [top]

Okay, #3 had me actually laughing out loud.  Top-shelf stuff there.

Here’s a wee hint for the Deep Thinkers over at the Cafe’:  When your mission is effectively to validate the appetites of your parishoners, coming to church is pointless and sleeping in looks like a much more profitable activity.

[13] Posted by Jeffersonian on 3-27-2012 at 08:31 PM · [top]

The reason why The Episcopal Church’s decline has accelerated since 2002 is….
.
.
.
.
(are you ready?)
.
.
.
Global Warming!!!!!!!

Yes, folks, TEC and the polar bears are suffering from the same cause.

[14] Posted by sophy0075 on 3-27-2012 at 09:13 PM · [top]

It’s the lack of inclusivity. People who would otherwise join are being driven away by the vestigial remnants of non-inclusive language. Certain pesky doctrinal declarations make it seem as though assent to them is expected.

Therefore the Creeds ought to be amended to read “Some of us believe, and some of us do not, and others of us are here for the hymns and coffee, that…”

[15] Posted by Matthew A (formerly mousestalker) on 3-27-2012 at 10:02 PM · [top]

The Episcopal Church is growing in numbers who need to hear the Gospel.

[16] Posted by Dr. N. on 3-27-2012 at 10:32 PM · [top]

Liberals can’t link.  Their ideological straight-jacket makes it impossible for them to think anything they’re doing isn’t making TEo grow.

[17] Posted by Bill2 on 3-27-2012 at 10:51 PM · [top]

I guess TEC took the pill that makes you small grin

One pill makes you larger
And one pill makes you small
And the ones that mother gives you
Don’t do anything at all
Go ask Schori
When she’s ten feet tall

And if you go chasing rabbits
And you know you’re going to fall
Tell ‘em a hookah smoking caterpillar
Has given you the call
Call Schori
When she was just small

When men on the chessboard
Get up and tell you where to go
And you’ve just had some kind of mushroom
And your mind is moving slow
Go ask Schori
I think she’ll know

When logic and proportion
Have fallen sloppy dead
And the White Knight is talking backwards
And the Red Queen’s “off with her head!”
Remember what the dormouse said;
“Feed YOUR HEAD

[18] Posted by Daniel on 3-27-2012 at 11:14 PM · [top]

Could it be that TEC’s failure to teach the Gospel of Our Lord straight from the Bible and undiluted has sonething to do with their shrinking numbers?

[19] Posted by cennydd13 on 3-27-2012 at 11:20 PM · [top]

If you haven’t yet done so, be sure to read the comments at the Cafe. Set down your beverages first.

[20] Posted by Matt Kennedy on 3-28-2012 at 04:17 AM · [top]

It started in the seminaries and we are reaping what was sowed.

[21] Posted by Pb on 3-28-2012 at 07:36 AM · [top]

Undoubtedly, the reason people are not living into attendance is the lack of creativity and innovation in vestments.  Despite the leadership of the presiding bishop, average clergy have been slow to adopt vestments more suited to our diverse modern context.

Well, that and a pervasive reticence to adopt liturgical dance.

[22] Posted by tired on 3-28-2012 at 07:38 AM · [top]

Oh, quite a few experts in TEC know exactly what they need - if they would just become more emergent, everything would turn around.  Now if they could just get a handle on what emergent means.  I, of course, cannot help since I haven’t a clue, but I’m sure a few more talks from McLaren and some expensive consultants would be exceedingly helpful.

[23] Posted by pendennis88 on 3-28-2012 at 08:19 AM · [top]

The solution is obvious.  More of the scenario-process based faith formation to address critical uncertainties.

Don’t believe me, check it out.

Yah that’ll work for sure!

[24] Posted by Karen B. on 3-28-2012 at 08:37 AM · [top]

The Titantic analogy is funny but if we were to put it back into real terms, the higher parts of the ship (i.e. stern = growing TEC churches), are more than likely orthodox dioceses like South Carolina and Central Florida.  If they want to continue to flourish, they’re going to have to jump into the lifeboat of Anglicanism, or they too will go down with the ship.

[25] Posted by flaanglican on 3-28-2012 at 08:49 AM · [top]

To sum up the cafe think tank’s ideas,

1) I don’t care; I love it as it is.
2) All the ships are sinking.
3) We need to turn on the spotlights so everyone can see our beautiful ship(wreck).
4) It must be the music.
5) We should never have given up Morning Prayer.

The last one is getting warmer, but I don’t think they see that the iceberg we hit was created by ourselves.

[26] Posted by Undergroundpewster on 3-28-2012 at 09:06 AM · [top]

ECUSA needs more selfish, self-serving bureaucracy. That will save it. wink

[27] Posted by All-Is-True on 3-28-2012 at 09:31 AM · [top]

Oh, but don’t you remember:

How many members of the Episcopal Church are there in this country?

About 2.2 million. It used to be larger percentagewise, but Episcopalians tend to be better-educated and tend to reproduce at lower rates than some other denominations. Roman Catholics and Mormons both have theological reasons for producing lots of children.

Episcopalians aren’t interested in replenishing their ranks by having children?

No. It’s probably the opposite. We encourage people to pay attention to the stewardship of the earth and not use more than their portion.

http://www.nytimes.com/2006/11/19/magazine/19WWLN_Q4.html?pagewanted=print

Obviously we’re all missing the point—it’s about quality and stewardship, really it is.  Once the world understands that the numbers will go back up.  Really they will.

[28] Posted by Summersnow on 3-28-2012 at 09:35 AM · [top]

RE: “but I don’t think they see that the iceberg we hit was created by ourselves. . . . “

You know—I’m curious about that.

I’m not *so sure* that’s right—that they can’t see it for themselves.

My theory is that the more uninformed moderates—those who haven’t kept up with the trends, examined the stats every year, read Kirk Hadaway, watched the silliness of the libs on blogs, and talked to their departing-from-TEC friends [and there are plenty of people like that]—may not see it for themselves.  I can buy that.

But I think the revisionist activists—which make up the writers of The Cafe, for instance—know the truth.  I think there’s just a conflict for them about whether to say it out loud or not.

Obviously angry and bitter people like Susan Russell and some of the others actually do now say it out loud.  I think those guys have admitted it both to themselves and to others publicly.  They’ve had to come up with something religious sounding to cover it—like “the cost of discipleship,” etc.  So they’ve moved from the chirpiness of post General Convention 2003 of “streams of the newly-freed inclusivists will come flowing into our church and we’ll be growing and thriving, thriving and growing—it’ll be amazing how much our churches will be bursting at the seams now that we’ve been liberated” to “it’s the cost of discipleship that our church has tanked so radically from 2003 onward.”

But I think there’s a bunch of revisionist activists like Naughton et al who are simply unwilling to say publicly what they already know in their hearts is true.  “We’re not growing because there’s just not a thriving market for a deconstructionist, MoveOn.org, gay-sex-blessing, vaguely-liturgical, faux version of Christianity like we thought there was.” 

They know it—and they’re well-willing to live with that in their little shrinking cocoon that is TEC since, let’s face it, they like deconstructionist, MoveOn.org, gay-sex-blessing, faux versions of Christianity organizations! 

But they’re not so willing to say “yeh, looks like we’re shrinking because we misjudged the market out there for our religion” out loud.

[29] Posted by Sarah on 3-28-2012 at 09:42 AM · [top]

Sarah,

I agree. You know the raging revisionists far better than I.

[30] Posted by Undergroundpewster on 3-28-2012 at 09:57 AM · [top]

Sarah, I hope you’ll excuse me here, but there are times when TEC comes across (to me, at least) as a ship which hasn’t hit bottom yet, but when they do, we’ll hear it.  Just how loud the impact might be is anyone’s guess, but I suspect it’ll be a rumble and crunch.

[31] Posted by cennydd13 on 3-28-2012 at 12:33 PM · [top]

As wonderful and, yea, even biblical, as the ship metaphor is, I think there is another apt description perhaps best expressed in the Johnny Cash song, “Ring of Fire”: (adapted)

(Illicit) Love is a burnin’ thing,
And it makes a fiery ring
Bound by wild desire—
I fell into a ring of fire.

I fell into a burnin’ ring of fire—
I went down, down, down
And the flames went higher,
And it burns, burn, burns,
The ring of fire, the ring of fire.

The taste of (illicit) love is sweet
When hearts (bodies) like ours meet.
I fell for you like a child—
Oh, but the fire ran wild.

I fell into a burnin’ ring of fire—
I went down, down, down
And the flames went higher,
And it burns, burn, burns,
The ring of fire, the ring of fire.

I fell into a burnin’ ring of fire—
I went down, down, down,
And the flames went higher,
And it burns, burn, burns,
The ring of fire, the ring of fire.

The ring of fire

Of course, the illusions are to that nasty, pernicious, dominical teaching about hell and fire and such, echoed by unsavory types like Paul, Peter, and Jude, so I’m not sure that TEc knows about them.

[32] Posted by dwstroudmd+ on 3-28-2012 at 02:03 PM · [top]

Obviously the cause of the decline is the inferiority complex and sense of despair attendant with not having eliminated all restrictions fast enough.  Making people feel like they might be sinners is such a turn-off.  Like, ya’know?  (/sarcasm off)

[33] Posted by R. Scott Purdy on 3-28-2012 at 02:25 PM · [top]

Sarah - agree with you on the hard-line revisionist leaders, but I think that there are a whole lot of really dumb revisionist followers out there.  So you might have a typology as follows:

1) Revisionist leaders - they know full well that TEC is tanking and will continue to tank, but they have a positive motivation NOT TO ADMIT THIS.  And so, they can sponsor these church growth “soul searching” discussions every now and then to make it appear that there is concern.  As to the continuing decline of TEC, there is nothing but to let it happen and deal with it as best they can.

2) Revisionist followers - they are full-on supporters of revisionism but are rather dumb, and are the sort who seriously but naively take part in the church growth “soul searching” discussions.  These folks tend to be heavy on the narcissism (i.e. “I like TEC as it is and I can’t conceive that so few other people do”).  These are the people who seriously propose greater publicity or doubling down on TEC’s post-2003 nonsense as viable strategies for growth or comfort themselves that “everyone else is declining too, so it’s not that we’re doing anything wrong”.

3) Moderate followers - these are folks that are either completely clued out (i.e. either completely uninformed or don’t think that the “nonsense” will ever really affect them) or know what is happening but prefer outright denial.  These people either don’t engage at all over church decline (huge numbers of Episcopalians fall into this category), see it as a local issue only, or take part in the church growth “soul searching” discussions even though they know such discussions are worthless hot air.

I think that the vast majority of Episcopalians fall into the second and third groups.  The first group has a very strong motivation NOT TO ADMIT the truth (because to do so could cause the second and third groups to begin questioning things).  Thus, the continued implosion of TEC to a collapse sooner than many realize continues apace.

[34] Posted by jamesw on 3-28-2012 at 02:26 PM · [top]

And I will add this also - I know a priest in a rather liberal diocese.  The stats show that the diocese has lost well over 20% of its ASA over the last decade and that it is continuing this decline at speed.  It is admitted by some in the leadership that an alarming number of parishes that used to have F/T priests no longer can afford them.

But in this very same diocese, at clergy conference, the clergy are told about all the “success stories” - of how liberal congregations in the diocese are doubling their numbers and growing at extraordinary rates.  And the moderate and liberal follower clergy eat this news up like candy because they so badly want to believe it.  The priest that I know is conservative, and should know better, but likes to think the best of others and he will say to me “but they wouldn’t say it if it weren’t true.”  And my response is “yeah, but how many times have you heard this sort of good news, and why is it NEVER backed up in the subsequent official parish statistics?  And why do the official diocesan reports distributed at convention never reflect this supposed growth?”

[35] Posted by jamesw on 3-28-2012 at 02:35 PM · [top]

I think TEC is structured to keep lay people in spiritual infancy. Lay folks take care of the material world and the clergy take care of the spiritual. As long as the clergy were orthodox, things held together. It is a terrbile model. Change the clergy and you change the church.

[36] Posted by Pb on 3-28-2012 at 04:48 PM · [top]

I think TEC is structured to keep lay people in spiritual infancy. Lay folks take care of the material world and the clergy take care of the spiritual.

I think this is well-said, Pb.

Growing up in Mississippi, I was never Episcopalian. To me, Episcopalians were the ditsy, fussy librarian-types of churchgoers who wanted to be nice to everyone in a vague, warm, harmless, grandfatherly sort of way…even if they got really pissed at you for stepping on their flowers, overturning their garden stones, or throwing your frisbee too close to the building, etc. 

However, when I moved to Texas I joined the local Episcopal church in Arlington, which just happened to be in Bishop Iker’s diocese. I didn’t know how fortunate I was…my rector there encouraged questions during the confirmation process, and the priests there were interested in recommending books and starting reading circles with the parishioners who wanted to explore what a life in Christ actually meant. At my old church there, we had several weekday services in the mornings, there was more involvement with the community through the church, and I really felt like I belonged to a body of firm and mature believers who were interested in uplifting each other as Christ uplifted us in our own lives.

Then I moved back to Mississippi where I am now, teaching in Holly Springs which is up in the very northern and rural part of the state, and I have been stunned and saddened by how much things are different!

(1). The church only has one service each week.

(2). There were no education classes. The revisionist rector there wanted me to teach one, and I tried to take a short chapter every other week of Mere Christianity, and I had the audio tapes so no one even had to read it before they got there at 10am. After only two or three meetings (only once were there more than 2 people), I was just sitting there alone at the table in the fellowship hall. People would come in, say hello, pass me by and go get coffee, etc., and then go elsewhere. The only time I ever saw anyone organize anything at the church was involving fundraisers! (Oh, they took THOSE seriously!) Other than that, no one seemed interested in doing anything else.

(3). At the one class where I had more than 1 or 2 people (other than myself) we talked a little about evangelism, and this one lady who works at the local drug store said, “Well, that’s what we talked about when I went to the Baptist church.” She was implying, of course, that sharing the ‘good news’ was a Baptist thing, not something that Episcopalians got their hands dirty doing. Obviously, the people of this parish haven’t been ministered to in discipleship or biblical literacy in a long, long time.

(4). There were community ‘prayer meetings’ at the fellowship hall each month, where there was very little praying. It was all people fussing about how unhappy they were, or people talking about how guilty they felt for imagined persecutions that they were suffering, or telling stories for attention, etc. After a few months of this, it was obvious that these people had no clue about what a mature prayer life really was…they usually didn’t even ask God to intercede for others or give them strength. It was more like, “God help me feel better now…” or “Let’s all feel bad about the Muslims now because it must be hard to live in Holly Springs and be a Muslim…”, etc.

(5). In a few of the conversations I had with the rector, before we left the church totally back in December 2010, he acted like prayer and church life was up to the elite in the Church…that the rest of us should not follow and should not worry ourselves with the higher policy of the church, diocese, etc. It was almost like he was encouraging me to busy myself inside the little church club<i> and not worry about the larger things that were happening. <i>And he certainly didn’t want me informing others about it, and once we left and tried to tell others, he tried to actively coach them in what to say and how to think about what we said…that my wife and I were just big city Anglo-Catholics (neither of which is true) who thought we were too good for little old folks from Holly Springs, etc.

In some parts of ECUSA, the people are good stewards and lay people for Christ. rural Northern Mississippi is not one of them, and it has been a bitter experience for us. And once the church here can no longer be self-supporting parish (they are down to maybe 20-25 regular members and they have to pay for the upkeep of a 150 year old building, etc.), it will be more bitter for them. :-(

[37] Posted by All-Is-True on 3-28-2012 at 06:39 PM · [top]

Well, one person over there alludes to the problem of radical sexual inclusivity under the general heading “political turmoil,” then they got into a whine-fest over what to call female clergy for the second half of the thread.  None of them seem to grasp that the rampant leftist grievance-class mentality may be irritating people enough to leave as well.

[38] Posted by Bill2 on 3-28-2012 at 10:19 PM · [top]

All-Is-True, your tale reminds me of my former TEC parish in the Diocese of El Camino Real.  Not surprising, is it, that yours and mine aren’t the only examples of such experiences?  My wife and I underwent a night-to-day change when we left that diocese, and we’ve never looked back, nor have we ever had cause to regret our move.

[39] Posted by cennydd13 on 3-28-2012 at 10:39 PM · [top]

[32] dwstroudmd+  I am confused. I thought it was Peter, Paul & Mary and then “Hey Jude.”

[40] Posted by Don+ on 3-28-2012 at 11:04 PM · [top]

Well, Don+, it could have been that way if the Jesus Seminar had worked its oral history magic by making it up that way to be more scholarly.  I sense that you have deep connection to outmoded concepts of historicity which will undoubtedly inhibit you.

[41] Posted by dwstroudmd+ on 3-28-2012 at 11:34 PM · [top]

[41] dwstroudmd+

I guess I got my polarity switched or something. I thought the color-coded text was swell and that it was new fangled historicity to vote on how likely Jesus said what he said.  And if anything should be subject to a vote it ought to be history.

[42] Posted by Don+ on 3-29-2012 at 04:49 AM · [top]

Thanks cennydd13. Dean Munday is right to say that theologically we have two different churches using the term ‘episcopal,’ but operationally I think we have more. Lots of church models remain that are a mix of tradition, mild superstition, and private club mentality. Perhaps the de-evolution of such churches is what begins when a congregation cannot accept (at least in whole) the revisionist positions of their leadership, but they alsocannot bring themselves—through apathy, habit, or conceitedness—to take a stand eitheragainst the usurpers of the church.

[43] Posted by All-Is-True on 3-29-2012 at 06:56 AM · [top]

Fret no more, I have found the answer.  Sunspot acitivity.

http://science.nasa.gov/science-news/science-at-nasa/2002/18jan_solarback/

[44] Posted by Paula Loughlin on 3-29-2012 at 12:34 PM · [top]

To Bill 2

Thanks for the laugh, “... bob’s your uncle.”  Laughed right out loud.

[45] Posted by episcopal100 on 3-29-2012 at 01:34 PM · [top]

So sorry, that was paradoxymoron’s comment.  Thanks for the laugh.

[46] Posted by episcopal100 on 3-29-2012 at 01:34 PM · [top]

And to Sarah,

Still laughing.  Laughing hard.  Hilarious.  I know I shouldn’t laugh, that I am a mean, mean person ... just the same, it is really funny.

[47] Posted by episcopal100 on 3-29-2012 at 01:37 PM · [top]

While I appreciate the humor offered by many who answered Matt’s question, there is serious and rather sad side as well and I expect many of us understand even if liberals don’t or won’t admit it.

I think Dr. Phil’s well known “How’s it working for ya?” is appropriate. The answer is pretty obvious.  Sharp decline and no steps taken to reverse it- dismal at best.

I will share some from +Mark Lawrence’s address to the recently assembled delegates at our (Diocese of South Carolina) Diocesan Convention just a few weeks ago. 

To argue as some conservatives have that these signs of institutional decline are caused entirely by the leaders of the Epsicopal Church embracing of a revisionist positions toward the Church’s teaching in such matters as the Fatherhood of God, the Uniqueness of Christ, liturgical innovations, the ordination of women, the blessing of same-sex unions, communion of the unbaptized, etc., is so misleading and reductionist as to be delusional.  To argue, however, that there is no relationship whatsoever is likewise delusional.  Frankly, the departure of so many of our clergy and lay leaders from the basics of Christian faith and practice has been nothing short of disastrous.

  (bold is mine)

How the members of Executive Council could not have stopped their meeting at this point (after viewing several of the graphs and stats which pointed to steep declines in recent decades) and turned to penitential prayer I do not know. I do it now. Lord, have mercy; (people responded) Christ have mercy; Lord, have mercy.  Here is a reason for Ash Wednesday and Lent if there ever was one.  These are absolutely devastating.

  (parenthetical phrase mine- we viewed many of the same graphs and stats as had Executive Council at their meeting)

If our more ardent critics will take an honest look at these statistics perhaps they might begin to understand why we (the Diocese of SC) have chosen to differentiate ourselves from the divisive decisions so many of the leaders of the Episcopal Church have embraced.

Agreed, if only they would do a reality check….....  I have heard a parishioner at parish “forum” put forth the idea that decline in church numbers and all the other signs of decline are signs of “being prophetic”. Now if those who believe this only realized what the prophets were actually saying…..

<blockqote>It is hardly an overstatement to suggest that the current brand of progressive theology and partisan social justice that the majority of leaders in the Episcopal Church seem to espouse is not an attractive option for most Americans who are searching for a church or seeking a faith for themselves and their children. </blockquote>

If you would like to read/listen to <a href=“http://dioceseofsc.org/”>, just scroll down and you can click on links that will take you to either an audio file or the text.

[48] Posted by SC blu cat lady on 3-29-2012 at 01:38 PM · [top]

Blast, the link is http://dioceseofsc.org. Just go there and scroll down the page if you want to read it.

[49] Posted by SC blu cat lady on 3-29-2012 at 01:40 PM · [top]

I think TEC is structured to keep lay people in spiritual infancy. Lay folks take care of the material world and the clergy take care of the spiritual. As long as the clergy were orthodox, things held together. It is a terrbile model. Change the clergy and you change the church.

Above courtesy of Pb.  This is spot on.  When leaving a couple years ago, I spoke to TEC priest by phone.  I told him that my study of the church recently led me to believe that the TEC hierarchy and leadership looked nothing like the folks sitting in the pews.  His response was, “Maybe that’s a good thing.” 

He said this rather smuggly and it grated to hear it.  I actually found myself feeling badly that, in leaving TEC, I may be making a poor decision.  Did those priests/bishops/presiding bishop know better than me?  What a bunch of nit-wits.

Well, I figured that one out.  In a Bible reading church now.  Sola scriptura.

[50] Posted by episcopal100 on 3-29-2012 at 01:53 PM · [top]

episcopal100 (#50), I agree. I left the Episcopal Church but my parents remain in an Episcopal Church congregation.  (My mother grew up in the Episcopal Church and that’s all there is to it.) When I have confronted them in the past with direct quotes from the PB, I get an emphatic, “I don’t want to talk about it.” 

Besides, the mantra in their church is “We will not let what’s happening at the national level affect what we do.”  Pick your analogy: “Ostrich head in the sand” or “See no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil.”  Of course, the Bishop is perfect happy to have a church like this one.  No rabble rousing there.

My parents—my mother in particular—simply don’t understand the whole “Anglicanism” thing (my mother not realizing that, technically, she is one) because they are not exposed to the theological issues to which the rest of us are so aware.

I haven’t asked them to leave.  All I have asked of them is just to be aware of what’s going on in TEC.  But even then it’s almost impossible without getting into a heated discussion.  We’re better off not talking about it.

[51] Posted by flaanglican on 3-29-2012 at 02:34 PM · [top]

First of all, Dubya is a Methodist.

Second, Hadaway already knew the answer to this long ago: the biggest problem is that upper middle class people aren’t breeding enough.

[52] Posted by C. Wingate on 3-29-2012 at 03:33 PM · [top]

Those that left were never Episcopalians in the first place.  That’s the problem with so called “evangelism”; you get people in the door that doesn’t really belong.

[53] Posted by Going Home on 3-29-2012 at 04:55 PM · [top]

Sorry, should be “don’t really belong ” above.

I cant even use good English when insulting others. Sad.

[54] Posted by Going Home on 3-29-2012 at 04:57 PM · [top]

Those that left were never Episcopalians in the first place.  That’s the problem with so called “evangelism”; you get people in the door that doesn’t really belong

That comment reeks of Episcopal ethos.

[55] Posted by All-Is-True on 3-29-2012 at 05:57 PM · [top]

My question for the revisionists out there, what does it take to be a real ECUSA Episcopalian? None of you seem to really accept Christ or the Bible as the revealed word of God. So what should a real Episcopalian sound like? What are the proper Episcopal attitudes that we should have?

I can think of a few different versions:

Easygoing Irish Moralist: “It’s my church, right or wrong…just like your mother is always your mother, drunk or sober.” 
Spoiled Child who doesn’t want to share: “It’s my church! MINE, MINE, MINE, and I can tear it to pieces right here on the rug if I want to!”
The Hibernophobiac from 1920: “No evangelicals need apply…I mean, need not walk past the 19th century red door that was meant to keep them out.”
typical Junior League member from 1950s: “Jesus would have been a country club Episcopalian if he were around today. Got to keep the riffraff off of the expensive red carpet, don’t you know. It would never do.”

[56] Posted by All-Is-True on 3-29-2012 at 07:25 PM · [top]

Bill2 [38] I thought the same thing—how quickly it turned into self-important self-parody. With Ann it usually does.

[57] Posted by polycarp on 3-29-2012 at 08:35 PM · [top]

Second, Hadaway already knew the answer to this long ago: the biggest problem is that upper middle class people aren’t breeding enough.

C. Wingnut, are you implying that there is nothing intellectually or spiritually compelling in what Episcopalian theology has degenerated into, and that the only thing to stem attrition would be people sticking it out as a sort of family duty?

I agree.

But as usual you are being reductionistic and simple minded in *reducing* it all to a *mere* problem of breeding.

For someone so smart, might I suggest you be a bit more self critical and give your own theories a second going over?

[58] Posted by SpongJohn SquarePantheist on 3-30-2012 at 01:44 PM · [top]

Sir, one of the things I would have missed about the old “sherry and slander in the sacristy” days, were I actually old enough to remember them, is that the level of rhetoric, however vicious, was not so lowered as to be tapped from the twin cesspools of radical academia or neocon politics. In the day, sarcasm did not have to be delivered with its name graven on its forehead, and one could hope for reference to the real Catallus rather than to his toddler pop-cultural descendant. Hadaway’s old paper was written before the Current Crisis, and I appreciate that he has changed his tune.

One walks among the various threads in the ECafe, and there is on the one hand a radicalist “we don’t care how many churches we empty in the Name of What’s Right” (and at that, one could list a number there for whom that Name isn’t Jesus Christ), and on the other a not-quite-panicky sense that they need to do Something Different in order to survive. Of course, the people who need to do that something different are, first of all, people who aren’t in their camp.

[59] Posted by C. Wingate on 3-30-2012 at 03:28 PM · [top]

Why is TEo circling the drain?  Because this is all the PBette has to say about the resurrection: http://episcopaldigitalnetwork.com/ens/2012/03/30/presiding-bishops-easter-message-give-thanks-for-easter/

[60] Posted by Nikolaus on 3-31-2012 at 05:30 PM · [top]

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