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Episcopal Church welcome 0A7AB222-279F-4A6F-8122C192BD2E1165The Episcopal Church (TEC) in the United States continues its inexorable decline.

In October 2014, Philip Jenkins discussed the latest TEC statistics for Patheos (H/T Not Another Episcopal Church Blog and Midwest Conservative Journal):

Between 2012 and 2013, the denomination’s membership fell by 1.4 percent, to 1.87 million, while Average Sunday Attendance (ASA) fell by 2.6 percent. Those percentages may not sound like much, until you realize that these are figures for a single year, and they closely echo the percentage drops for several preceding years …  

If we extrapolate that rate into the not-too-distant future, then the number of people attending Episcopal churches on a typical Sunday will be negligible by mid-century, typical of a tiny sect rather than a great church or denomination. It won’t reach zero for a while, but in effect, the church will cease to exist.

That mid-century date is really not far off. In fact, the baby baptized at my church last Sunday will by that point only be a young adult in her 30s. 

Churches — and seminaries — are merging or closing. One recent church sale took place in Avon, Connecticut. This is how the Diocese of Connecticut explained the sale of Christ Episcopal Church to the Farmington Valley American Muslim Center:

The building was vacated after the congregation voted in 2012 to dissolve as a parish and close by the end of that year.

The following spring, Bishop Ian T. Douglas and other ECCT staff hosted a meeting of community leaders and interested residents to discern how the property could best be used “as an asset to God’s mission of restoration and reconciliation” in greater Avon and beyond.

At the meeting they learned that the local Muslim community needed a place to gather for prayers, teaching, youth programs and interfaith work. In September 2013 the ECCT entered into an interfaith partnership with FVAMC that included leasing the Avon building.

Since then the FVAMC has reached out to its neighbors with open houses and other interfaith efforts, expanded its worship and service work, and grown its programs, particularly for youth.

The several committees of the ECCT needed to approve the sale gave it their solid endorsement and support.

Hmm.

Christopher Johnson of Midwest Conservative Journal rightly finds it odd that a denomination which has lost its way theologically in appealing to the world is in decline:

For the last several years, studies similar to this one have assured us again and again that the reason why the Young PeopleTM no longer identify as Christians to the extent that they once did is that they don’t share the outmoded, retrograde attitudes of their parents or their churches on social issues such as abortion, women in leadership roles, duh gaze, etc.

Frankly, I’m starting to doubt the validity of those studies.  Because if they were true, would it not follow that the Episcopalians would be cleaning up?  That you’d have to make a reservation weeks in advance just to be allowed inside an Episcopal church?

Undergroundpewster of Not Another Episcopal Church Blog says (emphasis in the original):

Is there a way to reverse the trajectory? Of course there is, but nobody on board the starship Episcoprize seems willing to toss the captain and crew out into the vacuum of space and make the passengers study the owner’s manual in order to find out how we should have been flying this thing in the first place.

On the Midwest Conservative Journal‘s entry, he commented (emphases mine):

The shift is nearly complete from being called the Republican party at prayer to being the Democrat party without a prayer. Playing dress up on Sunday with phony clerics who don’t really believe the source documents of Christianity just won’t bring people to Christ.

In response to the Patheos article, he wrote:

The numbers don’t include the loss of the Diocese of South Carolina. The math is problematic in some other respects. The data on ASA and membership is not precise. Our parish ASA is routinely overstated by 20% or so by my estimate. Predicting the future is always difficult. It is hard to know if there will ever be a plateau or not at some point in the future. I suspect there will be a small remnant as Sarah suggests in her comment. The causes of the decline are legion, and I agree with others that the Church has departed from orthodox Christianity in many, many respects, and it is not likely to return to the fold of the one holy, catholic and apostolic Church that we say we believe in without giving up many, many of its new beliefs.

I thoroughly agree with undergroundpewster and Christopher Johnson.

Furthermore, a number of clergy from parish level to national level are guilty of the 15 ailments of which Pope Francis accuses the Curia. TEC has ongoing, vicious property disputes. Over the past two decades, it has splintered over theological and socio-political divisions (e.g. gay bishop Gene Robinson).

As for the faithful members, people either die or leave for a denomination which teaches the Gospel in all its fullness.

Churchgoers of faith know the difference between the Shepherd’s voice via His clergy and that of thieves and robbers of souls.

This is St John’s account of the Good Shepherd (John 10:1-18). Would that Episcopalian clergy were mindful of it:

1 “Truly, truly, I say to you, he who does not enter the sheepfold by the door but climbs in by another way, that man is a thief and a robber. But he who enters by the door is the shepherd of the sheep. To him the gatekeeper opens. The sheep hear his voice, and he calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. When he has brought out all his own, he goes before them, and the sheep follow him, for they know his voice. 5 A stranger they will not follow, but they will flee from him, for they do not know the voice of strangers.” This figure of speech Jesus used with them, but they did not understand what he was saying to them.

So Jesus again said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, I am the door of the sheep. All who came before me are thieves and robbers, but the sheep did not listen to them. I am the door. If anyone enters by me, he will be saved and will go in and out and find pasture. 10 The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly. 11 I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. 12 He who is a hired hand and not a shepherd, who does not own the sheep, sees the wolf coming and leaves the sheep and flees, and the wolf snatches them and scatters them. 13 He flees because he is a hired hand and cares nothing for the sheep. 14 I am the good shepherd. I know my own and my own know me, 15 just as the Father knows me and I know the Father; and I lay down my life for the sheep. 16 And I have other sheep that are not of this fold. I must bring them also, and they will listen to my voice. So there will be one flock, one shepherd. 17 For this reason the Father loves me, because I lay down my life that I may take it up again. 18 No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have authority to lay it down, and I have authority to take it up again. This charge I have received from my Father.”

The comments on the three entries I have linked to are well worth reading. Faithful Episcopalians describe their displeasure with a ‘Unitarian’ atmosphere, syncretic liturgies, ambivalent morality and apostate clergy.

Each time the Episcopal Church has embraced the world, it has lost more members.

There is no solution other than a return to the foundations of faith and the Bible.

As with the Catholic Church it is hard to know whether this should start with the Presiding Bishop or the seminaries.

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