Skip to comments.Rising from the ashes [
Posted on 12/18/2009 12:51:25 PM PST by rhema
According to numbers released in December by the Episcopal Church, that denominations membership dropped by 3 percent in 2008. That doesnt sound like much, but I am a bit of a demographics junkie, plus I researched and examined a lot of church membership and growth data in writing my book A Lovers Quarrel With The Evangelical Church. I can tell you that I have never heard of a major denomination that has ever lost 3 percent of its membership in a single year.
Whats even more interesting about these numbers is that the Episcopal Church now says it has only about 2 million members in its 7,000-some parishes in the United States. Thats particularly astounding when you consider that the Episcopal Church had 3.5 million on its rolls in 1965thats a 43 percent drop from a year when the United States had about half as many people as it does today.
To make these numbers even more troubling (at least, if youre a leader in the Episcopal Church), is the fact that while there may be 2 million on the rolls, its likely that only about 800,000 people actually attend Episcopal Churches on any given Sunday.
Theologically speaking, the Episcopal Church is winding down, too. In 2003, the church consecrated an openly homosexual priest, Gene Robinson, as bishop of New Hampshire. Earlier this month, Episcopalians in Los Angeles elected a lesbian priest to the office of bishopdespite warnings from Anglicans around the world that such a move would widen the rift created by the Robinson consecration.
And then theres the general theological drift of the denomination, which has been going on for 40 years or more. Today it is common for leaders in the Episcopal Church to deny such core Christian doctrines as the Resurrection, the substitutionary atonement of Christ, the authority of Scripture, and the Virgin Birth. Conservative Bishop Fitz Allison famously summed up the situation when he said that retired liberal Bishop John Shelby Spong perjures himself every time he recites the Apostles Creed. One might reasonably wonder by what standard the Episcopal Church might still be called a Christian denomination.
If you are not a leader in the Episcopal Church, however, these numbers are not so much as troubling as they are encouraging. After all, if a building is on fire, the goal is to get people out aliveand as quickly as possible. And that is certainly what is happening, as the other side of the storythe growth of alternative Anglican churchesmakes clear. Indeed, earlier this year, disaffected Episcopalians, who have left the church at various times to form other denominations over the past 40 years, came together in an unprecedented move to form the Anglican Church in North America (ACNA).
And the great news is that the ACNA is made up only partly of former Episcopalians. Many of the new Anglicans are new converts to Christianity as well as pilgrims from other denominations who are being nourished by the rich theology and liturgy of the Anglican tradition. The ACNA now numbers in excess of 100,000and its growing rapidly. Its easy to see that within a decade, if both churches continue on their respective paths, the Anglican Church in North America could pass the Episcopal Church as the primary expression of Anglicanism in the United States.
So dont grieve the demise of the Episcopal Church. God has preserved a remnant. And the coming together of the various continuing Anglican churches under the ACNA organizational structure is one of the major religious developments of this year, a development what will likely resonate for many years to come.
There is a Presbyterian church not far from here that would make a lovely condo.
I wouldn't be counting too many of these chickens right now. Most of the "continuing Anglican" churches are where they are because they could not accept priestesses, an issue on which the (new) ACNA has decided to be wishy washy.
An older couple who are family friends of mine were hard core Epicopalians while their kids were growing up and for many years after that. Then the mainstream Episcopal church they’d been attending started to go off in the fuzzy Unitarian-like direction that the whole denomination has gone it, so they switched to a more conservative parish which was already starting to consider switching its affiliation to the Nigerian-based denomination. The church building, however, is a very historic one (dates to the 1700s I think, or maybe early 100s), and as a result ownership rights are unclear.
Between the huge civil war in the parish over which denomination to be affiliated with (I think it finally voted Nigerian, but with great contention) and the never-ending lawsuit over ownership of the church building and land, this couple finally got fed up with the war zone atmosphere and hooked up with a Presbyterian church (of the original, now fairly liberal denomination, not the newer more conservative one). But as far as I know, they never seriously considered going back to the mainstream Episcopal church.
My father was rector of an Episcopal church and my mother was an ordained deaconess, able to give communion. To say I grew up in the Church is an understatement. One of our vestry left the Church in the 60’s and became a Bishop in the Anglican Church of something or other, not the ACNA but I don’t know all the details. I guess he saw the writing on the wall. In the 80’s we got a female rector, very nice lady but likely in the closet, we got a lot more Celtic decorations and such and started an outreach to an AIDS hospice. Pretty soon we got a lot of parishioners from the GLBT community. Now I know the best place for us sinners is in church but I prefer to attend with sinners who sin more like I do if you get my drift. I have contributed quite a bit to the Church building fund and such in the past but no more. I have kin buried in the church graveyard and am still officially on the church role. It pains me to not be comfortable in my home church and to see the hierarchy condone all sorts of things I thought were sins. Not to mention the radical left politics openly displayed. I say now that I was an Episcopalian back when it was a religious denomination.
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