Skip to comments.EPISCOPAL CHURCH DECLINE QUICKENS IN WAKE OF GC2006
Posted on 09/20/2006 11:49:27 PM PDT by monkapotamus
EPISCOPAL CHURCH DECLINE QUICKENS IN WAKE OF GC2006
By David W. Virtue
Nobody is buying any more what the Episcopal Church is selling. The Episcopal Church is imploding; it is running out of ecclesiastical gas. Like a reverse Ponzi scheme, those who got in first are losing more than Johnny-come-latelys. In fact there are very few coming into The Episcopal Church. Nobody is buying V. Gene Robinson's homosexual call to arms, even though every sermon he preaches starts and ends with himself. The Episcopal Church is not being flooded with homosexuals looking for a "sacred space" for their very unsacred behavior.
As large orthodox cardinal parishes like Christ Church, Plano along with a host of large parishes in Florida and California leave with their money and parishioners, increasingly what are left are medium-sized parishes, small missions and parishes run by retired clergy. Across the country churches are slowly but surely emptying. The more so in liberal ones, death catches up with them with aging priests and aging parishes waiting for the grim reaper. It's only a matter of time.
The truth is; there is only so many retired clergy and money to shuffle around before they can't fill the holes any more. Sooner or later the parishes get so small they close. The vast majority of the Episcopal Church's 7,500 parishes have less than 80 members, aged well into their 60's. They are not spiritually reproducing themselves because they have no transformative gospel to proclaim because nine out of the 11 Episcopal seminaries don't teach them what it is, and within a decade most of them will be dead and the properties sold. The new fangled doctrine of inclusivity is not selling Second career priests will not ultimately staunch the flow either, nor will aging lesbian feminists, one of the fastest growing groups to enter the church. Seminaries like Trinity School for Ministry will increasingly cater to a non-episcopal but wider Anglican community both inside and outside the U.S.
The American Anglican Council tabulates that more than 72,000 Episcopalians (and these are faithful tithers) have left The Episcopal Church since GC2006 and there is no doubt this will only escalate over time.
In a number of dioceses we are seeing rigor mortis already setting in.
In the Diocese of Pennsylvania an estimated 100 out of 150 parishes are barely staying open, while Bishop Charles Bennison told one parish search committee looking for a new priest to consider hiring a gay or lesbian. Some 40 churches will close in the next couple of years, (10 are already for sale) living proof that sodomy equals not only physical death but spiritual death as well. Bennison has emptied the trust funds, laid off nearly all his staff, and cries that he needs an additional $100,000 to pay the bills, when more than two thirds of the parishes can't even make their assessment!
The Diocese of Newark, which is about to elect a new bishop, who could be a gay man, is also courting suicide. The Record - the largest newspaper in northern New Jersey - published an extensive article about the decline of the Episcopal Church in the diocese of Newark and noted that under Bishops Jack Spong and John Cronenberg nearly 24,000 congregants - or 46 % of its membership since 1972 or so has been lost. It has also closed 23 congregations and "many congregations are struggling", a significant number have been incurring operating deficits. And some are in fear for their very existence. Furthermore not a single church has opened in 16 years, the report said. Within five years the diocese will be on life support looking to unite with another diocese just to stay alive.
This is the diocese of Dr. Louie Crew who now spends most of his retirement years running around liberal parishes propping them up with his doctrine of inclusion, and persuading fence sitting parishes that not to include practicing sodomites is just so unchristian.
And then there is the Diocese of Central New York where some 60 of 95 parishes won't or can't pay their assessment. The subtext is that they are barely staying afloat and don't have the money to pay the bishop, who is busy spending tens of thousands of dollars in lawsuits to take back properties he can't sell when he finally obtains them. Never mind that these orthodox parishes are going forward with news of God's inbreaking Kingdom. Fuhgetaboutit. "I want my property, ye shall not have it." Of course you can have it bishop and don't forget to mow the lawn and keep the cemetery clean, because the remnant, if there is one, won't be able to buy communion wafers in three months. The diocese is in financial free fall, embroiled in legal woes and fleeing parishes as well as non-paying parishes. Things are so bad there they had to make staff cuts after the disclosure that $43,000 was spent for a forensic audit of one single orthodox parish and its priest, whom the bishop hates, because, among other things, he is orthodox. The Rev. David Bollinger has turned around and sued the bishop for $1.20 million.
Look at the decimated Diocese of Florida - 16 parishes - most of them large, have left the diocese a spiritual wasteland, and Bishop John Howard thinks this is just fine. He recently boasted that when they have all gone he will start over and rebuild from the bottom up! "New life, mission, and ministry will begin in these churches... spending resources and improving our best efforts to rebuild those parishes and missions in our own Diocese which are now striving to re-enter the mainstream of our Episcopal tradition," cried Howard. And what sort of "good news" will that be that his remaining liberal and revisionist clergy are going to proclaim to foolish Floridians.
Or what of the Diocese of Northwest Texas under Bishop C. Wallis Ohl which is in a financial crunch because a number of cardinal parishes have left the diocese, chief among them St. Nicholas', Midland, causing a major financial crisis in the diocese. Some say that this will be the first ECUSA diocese that declares bankruptcy or is forced to align itself with another diocese.
And the Diocese of Kansas, which is staying alive largely on a deal cut by Bishop Dean Wolfe who got a $1 million over 10 years from the evangelical Christ Church in Overland Park, the largest parish in the diocese, so they could keep their property, but of course he had the "privilege" of inhibiting and deposing the priests, but not before he took their money. Apparently someone taught him how to read a balance sheet. But one day even that money too, will run out.
In the Diocese of Southwestern Virginia they passed the hat around recently to reduce their deficit. The Rt. Rev. F. Neff Powell tossed in $5,000 of his own money to get the ball rolling to reduce the diocese's deficit of $114,000. After putting out an appeal for more money the diocese raised an additional $47,000, but the question remains, how many times can you cry wolf? The diocese got a major shock when the largest single donor, St. John's, Roanoke, significantly reduced its voluntary diocesan pledge. "St. John's is not alone," said Bishop Powell. What will happen next year?
In the Diocese of Los Angeles, Bishop J. Jon Bruno said recently that the present method of funding the diocese would have to cease. He cannot fund ministry from the assets of the diocese rather than congregational contributions. The diocese's corporation sole fund, which has been used to underwrite the diocese's ministries, including those for congregational development, will end. Contributions from the fund decreased by $500,000. Bruno wants parishes to increase their financial support and says that parishes not giving 12 to 15 percent need to increase their donations. What Bruno didn't say is that he is using millions of dollars to fund litigation against three parishes that have fled the diocese and ECUSA. He is losing money like crazy and is having to pay their legal fees as well!
The Diocese of Washington's operating budget is held up only by the endowment of one woman, the Soper Trust, to the tune of millions of dollars. For the diocese to stay afloat it will raid the Soper Trust this coming year for $1.26 million, but the projected diocesan budget for 2006 still appears headed for a deficit -- the very model of financial stress. Parish giving cannot sustain diocesan needs.
Many revisionist dioceses that are staying afloat do so because of Dead Men's Money. The national church dips into its mortuary pot (Trust Funds) regularly to stay alive as well.
Even when the bishop wins back the properties the victory is largely hollow. Bishop Bennison is learning the hard way. He threw out the rector of St. James the Less in Philadelphia and Fr. David Ousley took the whole congregation with him. Bennison now has to pay to keep the place up. He cannot easily sell it off because of its historic importance and cemetery. The doors are closed forever.
Now all these dioceses have two things in common. The first is that they are dying because they have no gospel to proclaim, and secondly these bishops have a pathological hatred of orthodox Christianity and those who would promulgate it. 'Give me sodomy and Vicky or give me death', is their rallying cry. And in the end it will be the death of the diocese.
So the question must be asked, how long will all this continue before someone cries 'stop, in the name of God, stop.'
Thanks for the ping, Alia.
How soon before the remnant starts nosing around the Unitarians for a little help? Seems so much in common between the two, at for the bit that remains.
Of course, if David Virtue had stood firm against female ordination in the first place, none of this need have happened. Somehow I think he thought that was okay but this is really over the line.
I feel bad for him, actually. All that good sense, wasted in that mausoleum.
The problem with the Episcopal Church of America is that they have lost their identity. Anglicanism is no longer taught to their children, but rather some pusedo-pan-ecumenical-everybody is ok-Christianity. Add to that the homosexuality thing and you have a disaster. I left the Episcopal Church in 1998 and have never looked back.
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Speak the truth in love. Eph 4:15
I left in 1989. What I find is that the current problem is one that is just how the split that accompanied the original departure from Rome developed. From the start, there have been Anglicans of an individualistic bent (originally, Arminians and Presbyterians) and those of a Catholic leaning. The Kings at various times leaned to one or the other, which only increased the tenacity of each side (and the ferocity that accompanied switch-overs).
For a while there, back in the late 19th Century, there was a great deal of hope that Anglo-Catholicism had sufficiently captured the American Church that reunion with Rome or at least autochthonous status could be established. The Evangelicals resurged at the beginning of the 20th Century and have never looked back. It took 50 years to really destroy the Catholicity of core Anglican worship, but they were intent on their goal. It then took another 20 years for the damage to percolate into actual parishional practice, at which point most really hard-core A-C's departed. When they left, they took with them the voting ballast necessary to really sustain any kind of orthodox position within TEC. The result is as you see it.
Kind of thumbnail, and I can fill in plenty of details, but I think to say that this is a recent problem does not do justice to the magnitude of the apostasy that is involved, how long it took apostates to destroy a great Church and exactly how tenacious Satan is when he gets his teeth into a vital part of the Body of Christ.
I am curious about one thing in your analysis. Are you suggesting that a good deal of blame for the current mess can be laid at the feet of the Evangelicals?
You really touched upon something there.
As a cradle Catholic I feel strangely sad when I read these stories, because I realize that at some point large parts of the Anglican Communion, the ECUSA in particular, stopped being what Neuhaus would call "Catholics waiting to come home" (I intend no offense with this reference to anyone, just how I saw it) and have become something entirely unrecognizable.
I say that the Evangelicals insisted on imposing democratic governance on a church which was founded as a monarchy. The monarchic form was never removed, just denatured (partly by Parliament) so bishops gradually lost the fervor to assert control. Exceptional ones did anyway (such as Charles Grafton, Willaim White, Samuel Seabury, Levi Ives, etc.) but the main were administrators. The two forms of government can be compatible (witness our mixed secular government), but doctrine is not something that can be submitted to majority vote. It is either true from an unimpeachable source or it is false and even dangerous. Allowing democratic church rule allowed democratic interpretation of Scripture which allowed individualistic participation and local control The result is doctrinal chaos, eventually, sort of what TEC has now.
And it came in through the Evangelicals.
Now, the Anglo-Catholics failed to continuously and intensively educate and prophesy. So they come in for blame, too. But the action was rear-guard and I suspect not a little resented by folks in the pews. Given many of them really support democratic principles, their natural affinity will be with the Evangelicals and against the Anglo-Catholics and so went many votes in GCs down the years. It was a slow erosive process but very similar to what rivers do to mountainsides.
Well, you're right. I am a great devotee of Fr Neuhaus' work and ministry. I sympathize with him over the Novus Ordo and the Hymnal RCs use. I envy him the Magisterium. So we each have something the other could really use. That is to say, I really really prefer the full Missal text of the unexpurgated BCP, with the Gloria at the beginning, running from Introit to Final Blessing. One could intensify the Catholicity a little, but that would be to make unambiguously and perhaps even tediously explicit what is already beautifully and allusively almost one long hymn. As I read the Novus Ordo, the rite is not quite so explicit about consecration as is our allegedly Reformed text. People make much of Cranmer's gradual tilt to Calvinism, but it does not show in his BCP. It only showed up when Puritans got to change it later.
Thing is, we're really thin on the ground now. Many have simply swum the Tiber (such as AnAmericanMother, I believe, here in FR), some have contented themselves with vaguely Evangelical alternatives (Church of God, Assembly of God, etc.), and some have simply given up altogether. And we have not helped our own cause by not being able to reunite just within the Continuing Church movement.
All in all, a tragedy in so many ways. But, my own obedience strictly maintains the Apostolic Succession. We celebrate the sacraments (all seven of them) with the highest devotion and reverence. We observe the Vigils, the Octaves and the many days of the Saints. My own vicar has just compiled what may prove to be the definitive Kalendar of the Saints, at least for the Western Tradition. Our altars are still attached to the east wall. We kneel for worship and for Communion. We use the bells and smells. We pray for the unity of the Church, and that we may be a part of it.
The differences are tiny, truly, but it seems that even that much difference is made to be too much. I do not know what would constitute true charity in the case, but I truly believe that good can come from all we have endured.
There are wonderful Anglican churches, not even remotely connected to ECUSA, scattered throughout the states. We belong to an Anglo-Catholic church that is true to orthodox Anglicanism in every sense.
Other orthodox Anglican provinces within the states include:
I could not have raised two children in the midst of this madness.
I am a clergyman in APCK, TR. We have two parishes in NC, one of which I am the deacon in charge.
THis is the popular paradygm espoused by Roman Catholics and even ECUSA members, themselves.
Winston Churchill is very clear in book one of his History of the English Speaking Peoples, that the interests of Rome were always antagonistic to the interests of the English Christian church which was founded on a monastic model by St. patrick.
The Roman variant always dominated the European continent and was part of the Norman Invasion.
There is a very old Christian tradition that used to be singularly British but now has degenerated in secularism at all levels in the Anglican (British) church.
I believe you are misconstruing what I wrote. What I meant was that from antiquity, the Western Church has been ruled by monarchic bishops and this was as true in England as anywhere else. This continues to be the ecclesial form, but that form has now been subjected to democratic oppression and overrule. The two do not go together, as the subsequent history has seen.
It can be argued that King Henry thought that it was only a matter of changing one monarch for another, but he was sadly mistaken and the English Church has paid the price for that mistake. Now, the Roman See made some mistakes as well, one of the worst being to require English Romans to disobey the lawful sovereignty of Elizabeth. This put them in an impossible position because they were bound by two equally valid vows which utterly canceled each other out. That was an error of historic proportions, which only time has managed to smooth out, due to the eventual repeal of the Clarendon Code and the general relaxation of intolerance for non-Anglicans in England.
I understand the point you make in your post but you will have to help me see how it refutes what I wrote.
One last thing: St. Patrick founded the Irish church, and it was originally founded on episcopal lines (i.e., ecclesial monarchy). He never served in England and was in fact ordained and consecrated in Gaul. Due to the tribal lines in Ireland, the abbot quickly became the power in the church and often had bishops in his abbey choir. That has little to do with the English Church, however, which was founded as an episcopal ecclesium by St. Augustine, refounded on the same basis by St. Theodore and carried forward from that day to this.
Thanks very much for your reply.
I do realize that the Kingdom is not based in democracy. And while I agree that doctrine should not be settled through majority vote in an ideal world, even the creeds developed out of a conciliar process that was vote based.
It is not clear to me that Evangelicals democratic intentions were motivated by a desire to settle doctrinal issues in that way. Rather it was more of a reaction against the monarchy, which is also what led to the American Revolution.
I believe that there are many issues in the church--largely matters of what the Windsor Report defined as "adiaphora" and not core doctrines--that are legitimately settled through majority vote. Perhaps the best situation this side of Heaven is a republican form of governance--democracy that is not a mere polite form of mob rule, instead it is governed through majority vote but interpreted through the lens of a guiding document--in this case Scripture. Even God warned against the pitfalls inherent in a monarchical system, desiring that Israel view Him as king.
It strikes me that the current problem in the Episcopal Church is not a matter of democracy gone bad, but of Bishops gone bad. Those who are sworn to protect the received faith have become active enemies against it. Surely the average Evangelical stands against the kind of decisions that have come out of the HOB and GC in recent years. The majority of Anglo-Catholics I know have tended to support the heretical bishops.
In the interest of full disclosure: I was raised Presbyterian--hence my democratic sensibilities. 11 years ago I was confirmed in the Episcopal Church and attended the most Anglo-Catholic parish in my dioceses until I could stand it no longer. As a result I am too Evangelical for many and too Catholic for many others. And I fervently look forward to the time when these labels disappear.
My dear newheart, I have meditated long and very seriously on what you have written, which is well thought-out and I believe entirely sincere.
I was guided to a source from within our Anglican heritage whose work I am not sure many now take any comfort, but I thought to try to summarize what he said.
In his first volume, +Charles Grafton (Bp, Fond du Lac) examined the claims of Rome as against the Scriptural data, the testimony of the ancient Fathers and the facts of history. He also considered those claims in respect of our own and he came to the conclusion that our own claims are authentically Catholic, Apostolic and as sure reservoir of Christ's saving grace and the way of salvation.
However, he did not arrive at this conclusion easily. One aspect he was particularly careful to examine was our tendency to break into factions, notably what are called 'low', 'broad' and 'high'. I myself tend to the high side, but in my own limited development as a churchman I interpreted this to be the same as being Catholic in terms. This does not appear to be a reasonable equation. Rather, when I review what I have preached I find myself taking elements of all three parties into my professed theology.
Bp Grafton writes: "Every school, high, low, or broad, has its own danger. The subjective or low church system, unbalanced by the objective side of religion, leads to a denial of the visible Church, its priesthood, and the sacraments as instruments and effective signs of grace; the broad, or rationalizing, to a denial of all that is supernatural in God's Word, and of authority, and the Church's inherited dogmatic faith. The extreme Catholic or pro-Roman one, by his devotion to Western scholasticism, centralization in government, mistaken interpretation of Scripture, impatient with the condition of the English Church, turns in faint-heartedness to the papacy."
From this we see the essential need for all three elements at once. If one neglects any of the three, one falls eventually into fatal error and may imperil one's salvation. When I speak against Evangelicals, then, I am not speaking against evangelicalism as part of a lively faith, but against those who rule out the objective truth of the threeford ministry, the efficacy of the divinely-appointed sacraments and the authority of the Church to carry on the work her Savior gave into her hands. It is democracy in church matters shorn of any other restraining force that has worked majority-rule mischief, as I see it.
Now, that does not rule out that it may well be bishops themselves moving into this position. There have always been such prelates, I think, and you say rightly when you say that there have been great reformative forces in congregations that call for the restoration of Catholicity.
As to the majority of your Anglo-Catholic acquaintance, I cannot speak. I think that the great danger in Anglo-Catholicism is a tendency to assert divine authority for oneself, to search for a programme for salvation as a kind of protocol of redemption. This is what one might call mechanical Christianity. When I see that in myself, I rebuke myself because salvation is a free gift growing out of faith. All the good I do, all the repentance to which I may be called only serves to prove that I am and can be no more than an unworthy servant who cannot do his full duty by his Lord and Savior. My own inadequacy must be supplied by His perfection. So it is just as false to assert strict pro-Romanism as to utterly reject it.
My own Anglo-Catholic acquaintance have rejected the heretical drift of the Episcopal Church, preferring to worship in the wilderness than to populate buildings now turned to the aggrandizement of Man and the endorsement of his worldly ways.
So, I grant your point, but I thought I might say in my defense that the situation is not that we can do without the parties, but that the truth is maintained by the best that is held by every party. Each left to its own wanders from the right way, but the diligent inquirer can take from all what is right and true.
(LQTOS - laughing quietly to one's self): Both BelegStrongbow and I, along with a few other FReepers in the Religion forum, are APCK.
My personal synthesis:
"Evangelical zeal, Catholic tradition and Anglican liturgy"
Been reading Dawson?
As Newman pointed out somewhere, Darwin was fatal to evangelicalism in its fight against the rationalists. As for the rationalists, they separated truth from faith, and hoped that Christian morality could stand on its own. We can see that it cannot. Anglo-Catholicism was caught up in liturgicalism.
Yes, but, lurkers who may be seeking need to constantly have access to info about the alternatives....
The Episcopal Church has long been divided into basically three wings. The Evangelical Wing (Low Church), the Anglo-Catholic Wing (High Church) and the so-called "Broad Church". The Broad Church tried to accomodate everyone and eventually came to dominate the whole Church. Liberalism infiltrated this bunch and has led to where the Church is now.
BTW, Cranmer and the other founding Bishops of the Anglican Church were ardently Protestant in their theology.
(See "The Theology of the English Reformers" by Hughes.)
They retained a Liturgical style of Worshop but their Doctrine was Protestant to the Core.(See the 39 Articles of the Church of England and also the 39 Articles of the Protestant Episcopal Church in the United States of America.)
FWIW, Queen Elizabeth was not particular about the individual Theology of Church Members, but she did insist on a uniform form of Worshop.
They should check out the site in my tagline.
Thank you my friend for a marvelous response. I think we are on the same page. We must all beware of our tendencies to upset the balance that Bp. Grafton wisely calls for. "Democracy in church matters shorn of any other restraining force" does provide an environment in which error can flourish.
Yet the democratic process, participated in with humility against a backdrop of trust in God-inspired Scripture, God-given reason, and God-respecting tradition can become a method through which the Holy Spirit, if he so wills, can guide.
Unfortunately, in a fallen world, unrestrained democracy can become a (sometimes) polite form of mob rule, no less prone to error than the devastation that can come when a monarch becomes a mob of one--but with the power to enforce his or her will. There is no perfect government this side of Christ's return. All human technique that seeks to deliver Utopia are going to fall short.
As you put it, "the truth is maintained by the best that is held by every party." I must constantly pray that I do not become so certain of my own positions that I miss the best of those with whom I am engaged. "But we have this treasure in clay jars, so that it may be made clear that this extraordinary power belongs to God and does not come from us." Again, thank you.