Friday, January 08, 2010

The Living Church: 60,000 people gone

The stats are in. From here:
So, where is our sense of urgency in the Episcopal Church? Consider this: in 2007-08 our average Sunday attendance declined by 60,000 people. Ponder that reality: 60,000 people who were worshiping in Episcopal churches in 2006 were no longer there two years later. That represents losing the combined dioceses of Atlanta, Georgia, North Carolina, South Carolina, and Upper South Carolina.

Or, to place those losses in the Western part of the United States, those losses represent the combined attendance of the dioceses of Alaska, Arizona, California, Eastern Oregon, El Camino Real, Hawaii, Idaho, Navajoland Area Mission, Nevada, Olympia, Oregon, and Spokane.

Gone. Buildings might remain, but no real churches. Imagine all those people, the equivalent of eleven whole dioceses, walking out of church one day and not returning. That is what has happened in the Episcopal Church in the space of two years.

Several of our dioceses face questions concerning their future viability as independent, self-sustaining dioceses. Of course, we know that the dioceses of Ft. Worth, Pittsburgh, Quincy and San Joaquin need financial support as a result of departures from the Episcopal Church of the majority of their churches and leadership. In addition, the dioceses of Eau Claire and Fond du Lac have discussed merging; the Diocese of North Dakota is lending its bishop to the Diocese of Louisiana as an assisting bishop for one week per month to help pay his salary; and the Bishop of Western Kansas has resigned and returned to parish ministry partly because of the financial strain that a full-time bishop’s salary places on that diocese. These dioceses represent a warning to us that more consolidations and mergers are on the way.
Anglican Curmudgeon also has some thoughts on the recent financials. Can we stop the litigation now?


Anonymous said...

Your headline is misleading. In two years, from 2006 to 2008, attendance dropped by 60,000. And is that not nearly the same number that AAC/CANA/ACNA claim, after Minns' 100,000 claim was (quietly) corrected?

And, BabyBlue, how does trumpeting this misleading article live into your recently posted desire to seek reconciliation?

Sure New Year's reolutions do not die this quickly.

1662 BCP said...

Perhaps this is just a more drawn-out Episcopalian Rapture?

Chazaq said...

60,000 souls saved from the Episcopalians in 2 years. God is Good! Question now becomes how to steadily increase that number. Any ideas?

Reconciliation starts by acknowledging the Truth.

Anonymous said...

I agree with comment #1 - the correct number is ASA, exempting those congregations that went to CANA. It sounds like the change is about 0%.

If the supposed argument is that the "silent majority" in TEC congregations is slowly slipping out the door, then you would expect a decrease in the remaining congregations. I don't see that.

TLF+ said...

Commenters: Michell is NOT ACNA, he's in TEC, most recently a candidate for Bishop in Upper South Carolina.

Read his article - he is citing the slip in ASA.

He also points out that the poobahs of TEC did not reappoint even one of the members of the team that drafted the painfully honest "State of the Church" Report for last GenCon.

There is no silent majority in TEC, I agree. There are plenty of graying folks who just want some pastoral care for their final years, and there are activist types who can't evangelize for Christ but who can stay fed with dollars pecked off the denominational carcass.

Those of us still in TEC need to read Michell's and the Curmudgeon's cited articles - it is not ideology to say, "This church is being taken in a direction that nobody is willing to talk about." We should be much freer to do that now that the LGBTQ&c crowd have "won" for their agenda - how in the world does it benefit them to have the church function as a facade propped up by endowment draw downs and government contracts?

Think I will just let that question hang in the air...

Chazaq said...

"how in the world does it benefit them to have the church function as a facade propped up by endowment draw downs and government contracts?"

It benefits them as follows:

1. Flows that money into their pockets.

2. Provides an aura of legitimacy in the minds of the mainstream media in the United States.

3. Maintains their status in (some) ecumenical relationships, such as they are.

4. Provides a bully pulpit in the National Cathedral for cool televised events (Presidential funerals, Christmas services, etc.)

5. Allow$ them to continue leading Rowan William$ around by the no$e.

6. Provides employment for folks who behave "that way" such as outed governors of New Jersey.

7. Gives them the resources needed to sue the Christians.

etc. ad nauseum.

Ralph Webb said...

#1 and #4 -- ASA drops by 60K and it's inconsequential? Really? And do you really think that everyone has left for a CANA, ACNA, or (fill in the blank) parish? I'll wager that practically any theologically conservative TEC or former TEC parish rector can tell you about parishioners leaving for non-Anglican pastures.

And if I remember correctly, the 100K ACNA figure is for membership; the lower number is ASA. Pointing that out, like Baby Blue's posting of The Living Church piece, is not triumphalism, but a look at facts on the ground. Whether a "silent majority" or some type of minority leaves is ultimately irrelevant. If 60K people are gone, they're gone, and it's a huge problem for *any* church -- liberal, conservative, or what have you. More locally, if *one* faithful, active household departs from your congregation, it's a serious matter -- or at least it should be.

Anonymous said...

It would seem to be very poor stewardship indeed to acquiesce in the takeover of millions of dollars worth of property by people who profess to have left the Church, particularly where the Church is financially pressed. Of course, the litigation that defends those properties would halt in an instant once those who left surrender occupancy. But as one who elected to stay in the Church and who was offended by the notion that a decision to depart carried with it the right to arrogate property interests from those who did not make the same choice, I have every expectation that I will be able to return to my place of worship and would consider it a rank and base surrender for the Church not to continue to contest claims by departers who left, but kept, the church I and many others in my situation have worshipped in for decades.


Dale Matson said...

"The problems facing our church are spiritual in nature. We have not been faithful enough disciples of Jesus Christ." Most of the article is how to turn a business around and at last the author states the true problem. The Church is much more than a business. It isn't just demographics and vacant evangelism that is responsible for the drop in attendance.TEC need to do some soul searching.

Steven in Falls Church said...

"It would seem to be very poor stewardship indeed to acquiesce in the takeover of millions of dollars worth of property by people who profess to have left the Church, particularly where the Church is financially pressed."

Actually, the best form of stewardship would have been for TEC to come to agreement and allow the departing congregations to pay a cash settlement for the property (notwithstanding the properties are already titled in the local parishes' names). Instead, TEC has pressed on in this fantasy that there would be sufficient parishioners to provide support to the churches, were control of them to be wrested away from the CANA congregations. In all likelihood, the fate of the CANA parishes will be the same as St. Bartholomew, which had been the largest parish in the Diocese of Western New York. After the parishioners left to form their separate congregation, the diocese was left with an empty building and, after less than a year, has admitted failure in trying to prop up a replacement congregation.

Anonymous said...

Steven: that is one possible eventual outcome of all this. It is certainly possible that in some of these parishes that the continuing Episcopalians would not have had sufficient numbers to sustain the properties and there might have been some inclination, several years down the road, to sell off underutilized pieces to vibrant CANA congregations, given the good will that would have surrounded the amicable initial departure. The difficulty is that the departing factions occupied the buildings when they left and terminated Episcopal worship in the premises. This is not an environment in which the Church could very well do a deal on the property. Over time, perhaps it will find a rational disposition, but the occupation has to be dealt with first.


Ryan+ said...

why can you not worship there? Does TEC worship a different God than Anglicans? Are not those who stayed the same people you worshipped with for years before? Did someone tell you that you were not welcome to worship in the congregation you had been in previously? Does loyalty to TEC trump loyalty to Jesus Christ and isn't he the object of our worship anyway? Did Jesus leave the congregation when they broke from the General Convention Church? Just trying to understand how we justify suing these people that we considered family for so long.

Anonymous said...

As one who left TEC to CANA and all the way back to Rome? It's not that big a jump once we understand the semantic confusion. But the water in the Tiber is wonderful this time of year. Great for swimming.