# The Church Vanishes, Part Deux

I’m doing a little math, and the consequences are troubling.

My own Episcopal Church USA (ECUSA) just released its annual statistics, showing a rate of decline that would be truly amazing if it were at all unexpected. 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. (I discussed these broader trends at this site back in 2012). The report received a “nothing special” headline at Episcopal Cafe, “Rate of decline in Sunday attendance little changed from recent years.”

But here’s my mathematical point. Obviously, those rates are not going to carry on year after year, precisely as in the past decade or so. Sometimes they will be lower than that, sometimes higher. But for the sake of argument, assume that the rates for recent years do continue more or less unchecked.

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. We might need a new vocabulary of religious decline. How about church evaporation?

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.

Non-attending notional members will persist for a few years longer, but by the end of the century, we should be talking total disappearance.

In that scenario, America’s last Episcopalian walks among us today.

At some point, young people contemplating a clerical career will have to consider just how long there will indeed be a church for them to serve.

This isn’t meant to be panic-mongering, and infinite extrapolations rarely follow exact lines. But if any church is losing 2.6 percent of its attenders every year – not every decade – it should be deeply alarmed. Why isn’t it?

ADDENDUM: Christian Post just put out a story analyzing the statistics, and suggesting why they might not be quite as apocalyptic as they seem. It is entitled The Decline of Decline? Alarming Rate of Mainline Protestants Leaving Church May Be Slowing Down. Time will tell.

• wyclif

TEC is not deeply alarmed because TEC has ceased to be a Christian church; it is now more akin to a Unitarian social club for anglophiles. If a church has no salvific Gospel, there’s little reason to roll out of bed of a Sunday morn to attend her services.

• philipjenkins

I won’t be wasting time in responding to cheap comments like this.

• Historybuff

Mr. Jenkins… I would lean more towards the comment above that you call a ‘cheap comment’… rather than your view of not ‘wasting time’. I am approaching retirement… long served in my own Church (Not Episcopalian) as a Deacon, Elder, Sunday School, committees…

And what I see today is that far too many Churches have become ‘feel good’ country Clubs where living issues are ignored. You stand for nothing when outside your/our church doors.

Sorry, but I see Christianity disappearing in America over the next hundred years… and the old “Main Stream Protestants Churches” that became country clubs are partly the blame. ‘If’ we do not disappear, it will be because stronger faith churches step into the public Colosseum and represent our Lord… rather than apologize for him from inside our increasingly vacant church doors.

None of this is presented as a personal rebuttal for you – you bring up the problem in th Episcopal church… laudable!
HB

• philipjenkins

Thank you. My response, though, was based on the gulf I witness between churches I know, that are so deeply rooted in that Anglican tradition, and the grim parody of the Christless cult. I also take comfort in the new presence of Anglican-derived migrants from Africa and elsewhere in a thriving Christian world. At present though, the statistics are indeed depressing.

• Dagnabbit_42

Philip:

Why not?

I mean, seriously, man, the observation Wyclif made is pretty much the way the Episcopal church is viewed by those outside her borders, excluding a few of the most highly “progressive” wings of the other mainlines, and a few of the most keenly-aware anti-Christian propagandists…who may not actually use Lenin’s reputed label “polezniye duraki” but can recognize and appropriate examples when they encounter them.

Let me put it to you this way: I owe the intellectual and devotional backbone of my faith to C.S. Lewis, an Anglican.

So as I moved (with help from Lewis) away from the non-denom, Baptist/Calvinist-influenced Christianity of my own upbringing towards more historical expressions of Christianity, you’d think my natural move would be towards Anglicanism, right?

But I couldn’t. Because, man-oh-man, are the Episcopals weak on sexual morality and any questions of objective truth, and really have no discernible witness in the culture.

No, I’m sorry, that understates it. The Episcopal hierarchy in the U.S. is divided between (a.) those for whom troublesome conflicts with the culture over sexual morality was the wedge which led them to various kinds of general apostasy both on moral and theological topics; (b.) those who aren’t necessarily apostate but think that it doesn’t really matter overmuch either way, because it’s hard to know who’s right, and really, “what is truth?”; (c.) those who aren’t apostate but saw the ship had sunk and jumped out of the boat to find various kinds of lifeboats in the Continuing Anglican or African Bishops dinghies; and (d.) those who aren’t apostate but are merely accustomed to being wet and miserable, as they faithfully stand knee-deep in water in the Crow’s Nest, wondering why their own water-bailing witness isn’t sufficient to prevent their church being a finishing-school for young agnostics.

This made me wonder, “Where is the church discipline?” Isn’t there any mechanism by which the Anglicans could expel the faithless from their clergy, however slowly, and thereby renew a witness to The Truth? What about Matthew 18?

Of course that led to questions of how Jesus organized His Church, and expected it to maintain unity, and to act with authority in His name throughout time. This led to more reading of the Church Fathers, the historicity of the Real Presence, the discovery of the New Testament fulfillment of the stewards and the clencher was Isaiah 22 and the Al-Bayith. John Henry Newman, for all his faults, pretty much sealed the deal; I’m sure you’ve heard such stories before. (I’ve learned, after-the-fact, that my four-year-journey was almost cliché.)

But I gotta say: If I’d found a plausible argument that C.S. Lewis’s church was still there, I’d likely have looked longer at the Episcopal church.

But I looked, man. I looked. And it’s just not.

Or, at least, those little islands of faithfulness are shouldered aside by their own communion. (Exactly what would happen to Lewis or Julian of Norwich or Bede or Collumcille, were they to try to teach Sunday School among the Episcopals of today.) So far as I can tell, it is no longer much of a caricature to say that the Episcopalians are mostly “Rich White Urbane Agnostics At Prayer.” And while God loves rich white urbane agnostics, I don’t want them teaching their “faith” to my children.

Sorry for the harshness of that; I really am. And I know you’ve had a better experience than that, and I hope that if you hold out, it’s to the spiritual benefit of yourself and others, and to the glory of God.

But Sisyphus isn’t really a Christian role-model, y’know?

• MLinPA

TEC always had a good happy hour at the 11:00 service.

• philipjenkins

Amen!

• wyclif

I would amend the title of the piece to “The Episcopal Church Vanishes, Part Deux.” The Church, on the other hand, seems to be doing quite well in terms of growth. It’s a distinction with a difference.

• philipjenkins

You are correct. I was just referring to an earlier piece of mine with the same title, which in turn referenced THE LADY VANISHES. Euphony trumped accuracy.

There is no “the Church.”

• Robert Smith

How does this compare to other Anglican denominations in the U.S.?

• philipjenkins

Well, those churches are of course growing from basically nothing back in 2000 so of course their initial growth rates look good right now. But they are very small, perhaps 100 or 200,000 members in the whole country, and no signs of any kind of spectacular expansion. They seem to have plateaued. Put another way, ECUSA and ACNA (the main Anglican Church) combined still have fewer members than ECUSA alone did twenty years ago.

Rearranging chairs on the Titanic?

• TJ McMahon

I am going to set aside the theological argument for the time being, and focus on the demographic issues. The average TEC parish is attended by something like 65 people on a given Sunday. The local parish feels good on any Sunday where they draw more than 30. As the numbers decline in marginal parishes, so does income. At some point, depending on the wealth of the people of the parish, and their level of generosity, the parish reaches a point where it can no longer afford a full time rector. Often, when that point is reached, a sizable part of the congregation falls away. After a few years of supply clergy, the bishop may be compelled by finances to reduce the parish to mission status. Eventually, it dwindles to the point where it is a few people meeting for Morning Prayer.
The crux of the issue for TEC is that so many of its parishes are at that point where they are no longer self sustaining financially. This has become evident in that the demand for full time clergy has diminished to the point that many seminaries are having a very difficult time attracting students.
The answer is not going to be found in the cardinal parishes in large cities. Trinity Wall Street will survive on investment interest in perpetuity. Some of the large urban parishes may grow. But the parishes in the small towns of the West and Midwest are dying at an alarming rate, and I suspect this is what leads to the anomalies one sees in the statistics where a diocese suddenly falls 5% or 10% in a single year- parishes have closed down, and those folks, rather than travel to another TEC church 25 miles down the road, are now Roman Catholics or Lutherans or Methodists.
So, for TEC to thrive, it needs to focus not on what works in NYC or LA, but on the spiritual needs and concerns of the people in those congregations of 65 in small towns around the country- that is where the church loses the most, because that is where, when a parish closes, it loses its entire presence in the community.

• philipjenkins

I don’t believe that statement about attracting seminarians is correct, especially if you include the volume of second-career older people, and particularly women.

• Thinkling

Do you have any comment about the application of the points made in Ross Douthat’s Bad Religion? While Douthat’s main subject is a different Church, it seems to me many of his points might apply to ECUSA as well. Certainly one of the consequences he documents is a near exponential decline in membership.

• philipjenkins

I love Ross Douthat’s writings and columns, and that book offered a lot of provocative and interesting ideas. I differ from him though in seeing the American past as much more conflicted, polyphonic and “heretical” than he suggests, even in eras like the 1950s. Hence, I don’t see the 1960s-70s as such a Fall. But as I say, he offers so much worth reading and mulling over.

• John Turner

Once, I considered a dissertation topic related to Presbyterians specifically and to mainline Protestants more generally. My adviser encouraged me by the fact that Presbyterians buy books. I had to weigh that against the fact that there are diminishing numbers of said Presbyterians available to do that.

Anecdotally, I’m not fully convinced the splinter Anglican communions have plateaued, but that’s based on visits to two such congregations that seemed to be thriving.

Finally, who is the artist of the haunting painting?

• philipjenkins

He did several similar treatments as well.

• philipjenkins

Time will tell about the “plateau” issue, but they are starting from a very low numerical foundation. As of 2013, ACNA reports a probable membership figure of around 112,000. Taking a slightly more generous way of calculating would give 130,000 but the denomination is admirably cautious.

https://c119b78671d19b8aee34-1ab073aa91389396dfc8b6aabc9b141e.ssl.cf2.rackcdn.com/Provincial_Meeting_Journal_web.pdf

On that basis, he should have told you to study Judaism.

• Greg Williams

For a Church with a proud history that played a vital role in the founding of this country it is sad to see what is happening to the church today. As a former Episcopalian, and now an Anglican, the Church’s recent leadership has embraced a secular, unbiblical agenda. The Church no longer follows the Bible and its teachings, and if it does, its piecemeal at best. In essence, its a lost Church in a lost world.

• WBrisky

Wyclif makes a point, though perhaps in a “cheap” way. It seems to me that the problem that the Gospel addresses was posed by Paul in Romans, that we are all sinners, and cannot reach peace with God by our own acts. Instead Christ paid the price for our sin once and for all, and we live by faith alone. That is a short cut, of course, but my point is that without a sense of personal sin, what is the point of the Gospel? TEC has essentially depersonalized sin by its theology of a pretty much anything goes sexual morality and similar un-Biblical changes which see sin not as something each of us does, but rather as something wrong with society, or perpetrated by “those others” who don’t share the political outlook of TEC. Without that sense of personal sin and Gospel mediated redemption, why show up on Sunday morning? You can just as easily fight the “system” from the political arena. There has been, in the US, a general drop in church affiliation which I would suggest is due largely to the increasing lack of any sense of personal sin among Americans. But it is those churches who retain the fundamental point of the Gospel, and sense of personal sin, that are doing the best, while TEC, the PCUSA and ELCA are declining the fastest.

• philipjenkins

You make points of substance. However, other churches growing strongly do not fit your profile, including Latter Day Saints and, of course, Roman Catholics. (Excuse me if I mis-state your views). Demography also plays a very large part in church growth or decline, and the declining groups you mention are also marked by extremely low birth rates.

• KAS

I don’t see how the LDS or RC fit that profile. Could you elaborate?

As to the question at hand, I believe the answer is that theological liberalism-cum-heterodoxy have made it difficult for TEC to attract the kind of worshipers from without who once sought it as a bastion of traditionalism and a middle way between evangelical Protestant churches and Catholicism. From within, the declining birth rate you note (also an effect of an acceptance of liberal reproductive views?) has reduced “replacement”
membership. While TEC offers an often transcendent liturgical experience, it isn’t enough to overcome those twin forces.

• philipjenkins

My understanding of the original comment was that the success of churches depended on how far they presented basically an evangelical approach to “personal sin and Gospel mediated redemption,” neither of which is true of those two communities. In terms of atttitude to sin, I don’t think a typical Catholic parish differs too greatly from its ECUSA counterpart.

• KAS

Well, I disagree there. Certainly the RC view includes societal evil, but Catholics are still obliged to seek the sacrament of reconciliation and it is strongly employed – I hesitate to say popular – in my parish. I do not think the Episcopal and Catholic attitude toward sin is that similar any longer.

Anecdotally, I have observed many vibrant, young Catholic parishes and late Sunday Masses on many Catholic college campuses are full. It is difficult to imagine that scenario on an historically Episcopalian campus.

• philipjenkins

My impression is that the prevalence of confession has really collapsed in recent decades, although that of course varies enormously between Catholic parishes.

• KAS

Pretty sure that trend has reversed, though it clearly has not recovered to the pre-Vatican II rate. But, to my point, it never was prevalent in TEC.

• http://platytera.blogspot.com Christian LeBlanc

My S.C. RC parish has robust use of confession, and grows as much from receiving disaffected Fundies, Evangelicals and TEC converts as it does from births or convert spouses.

• Dagnabbit_42

Yeah, along with the others, I’ve got to say that your impression is about a generation out-of-date.

My local Catholic parish has confession twice a week. There’s always a line unless you get there 15 minutes before the priests arrive. (There are usually two hearing confessions simultaneously.)

And I would say that the RCIA classes are evenly divided between people who’ve never had any church affiliation before, former Protestants or Anglicans, and new spouses or soon-to-be-spouses of Catholics.

• philipjenkins

I am quite prepared to be corrected on this. My impression – not based on any kind of worthwhile data – is that the range of practice in this regard is immense, varying enormously by diocese and region.

I quote an article from AMERICA magazine from 2007: “According to the Center for Applied Research on the Apostolate, a survey in 2005 showed that 42 percent of Catholic adults, when asked how often they went to confession, answered Never.”
http://americamagazine.org/issue/615/article/bless-me-father
That’s several years ago, but way less than a generation. That is also a massive decline from the customary practice of mid-century.

Also, here is a follow up question, that really is a question. Assume for the sake of argument that a parish in theory has 1,500 members. Confession is held twice a week, and serves the needs of 50 people who follow the practice regularly. In other words, confession is held, but only serves a really small minority. In other words, confession would still be offered regularly, but in practice would have shrunk to a niche devotion. Is that a fair comment, or not? If not, I certainly don’t push it.

• Joseph M

I didn’t recognize the LDS church in your statement either. A quick search for ‘sin’ turns up 14 talks from the Oct 2014 general conference which treat obtaining forgiveness from personal sin through the Atonement. (https://www.lds.org/search?q=sin&lang=eng&domains=general-conference&sort=date-new)

I especially recommend Pres Uchtdorf’s masterful “Lord, Is It I?” (https://www.lds.org/general-conference/2014/10/lord-is-it-i?lang=eng&query=sin)

For how the idea of personal sin is worked into our Weekly Sabbath devotions read Elder Hamula’s “The Sacrament and the Atonement”(https://www.lds.org/general-conference/2014/10/the-sacrament-and-the-atonement?lang=eng&query=sin) and Sister Esplin’s “the Sacrament- A Renewal for the Soul”(https://www.lds.org/general-conference/2014/10/the-sacrament-a-renewal-for-the-soul?lang=eng&query=sin)

Especially relevant to to wycliff’s comment was the observation by Elder Christofferson that “A God who makes no demands is the functional equivalent of a God who does not exist.”(https://www.lds.org/general-conference/2014/10/free-forever-to-act-for-themselves?lang=eng&query=sin)

• http://www.vidavictoriosa.net Carlos Rincon

The immigrants are the only reason the Catholic church is not declining, what is the Episcopal church doing in reaching the immigrants, specially Hispanics?

• philipjenkins

I think the church acts with great good intentions, but really has made little impact.

• tpaine1

TEC isn’t – they have lost their way – but the Anglican Church of North America is. We just had 8 new Spanish speaking parishes in the Chicago area join the Diocese – our Bishop (a monk) also happens to be Spanish speaking.
We as a communion recognize as does the Catholic Church, that God created each and everyone of us.

• philipjenkins

Seriously, I wish them great success.

• Greg

The same argument was made at the turn of the 19th into 20th Century, only then it was about the Irish and Italians. Regardless where they come from, they are still Catholic.

• Episteme

And, similarly to the case of the last wave of immigrant integration, the integration on new immigrant Catholics (and that of Protestant converts) has helped invigorate the worship of many cradle Catholics like myself who realized how, despite being active in the parish and charitable works, my own personal devotion and frequent-reception wasn’t what it could be until I saw more fervent examples with my own eyes. I think that many Catholics today — especially younger Catholics (at 35, I’m on the edge of that category) who are leaving post-Vatican II home and seeing new ranges of devotion for the first time — are getting that shot in the arm in the same way that our great-grandparents did when European immigrants entered their settled American churches.

• Touma

Well, actually, the RCC is losing plenty of Hispanic members in the US. Pew did a report earlier this year showing that more and more Latinos are going over to charismatic churches, away from Catholicism. It is, of course, still the largest religion for Hispanics, but that is declining pretty steadily (something like 12% over the last four years alone).

• Doug

The Southern Baptists have seen a loss of adherents (using GSS data) since the late 1990’s that rivals that of the mainline churches. The RCC has around five people transfer out for every one it gains in converts and has closed one of every eleven of its parishes (that’s net) since 2000. It’s a very inconsistent argument to blame liberal theology on Episcopal Church losses but credit conservative/traditional theology with attracting adherents.

Membership losses (and gains) are a complicated topic.

• Dan Jividen

Despite the dire statistics I have faith that TEC will survive and eventually regain its losses. The Anglican Liturgy is one of the most beautiful and important works of art ever created. Such sublime, transcendent art has a way of surviving because we all need beauty just as much as we need food and shelter. My worry is that so many parishes have watered down, updated, and made “relevant” the Liturgy that TEC may one day reach a tipping point where we’ve become so diverse, relevant and inclusive we have forgotten what the beauty looked like. On that day TEC begins to die. But still I have faith. I believe that day will never come. In the end Beauty conquers all.

• philipjenkins

• Antiphon411

Do you really think that beauty is a draw any more? I mean beauty of the liturgical and religious art fashion. Ask a 20-something what image pops into his mind at the word “beauty”–is it Kim Kardashian or the Anglican liturgy?
We have replaced beauty with tawdriness in daily life. In the arts, of course, beauty has been replaced by message-heavy ugliness.

• philipjenkins

I disagree. I observe many young adults attracted to churches because of their traditional feel, which includes liturgy as well as visual qualities. That is especially true if they seek to pass that message on to their children.

• KAS

I agree with both of your replies and can attest that this aesthetic impulse lies behind the growth of the Latin Mass among my fellow Catholics. (Full disclosure: i enjoy attending the Anglican “Lessons and Carols” during Advent). But I simply do not believe the liturgical appeal of TEC is enough of a counterweight to its theological drift and demographic contraction.

• Episteme

I can also attest to the growing popularity of the Liturgy of Hours (which often uses Anglican translations even for Catholic devotion) when available among the young for that same reason. The exposure to the aural beauty of chant and the almost-mathematical beauty of how the Divine Office fits together is something that keeps bringing me back, even when praying it alone and unable to really chant the psalms except in my head.

As for the comment on musical tastes and beauty: each generation has had popular tastes within-time that their forebears despair of (even what we consider classical music today was considered trash-of-the-youth when it premiered, but that is separate from one’s appreciation of timeless art and beauty. Some of the most classical artistic minds that I know from my studies are the most contemporary in their outside-the-academy tastes.

(even myself, the straight-laced daily communicant patterning his life after his Dominican Order forebears, will sit there in my car blasting 80’s hair metal on my way to and from mass or Eucharistic Adoration)

• Antiphon411

Yes, as do I. But it’s a numbers/demographics game. Lovers of Good, Truth, and Beauty are in such a minority that one feels funny even suggesting that they are large enough to be a “minority”.

• Diws

There has to be substance behind the beauty, else the church becomes nothing more than a Potemkin village. As a cradle Episcopalian (now Orthodox), I am not willing to continue in the tradition of my forefathers when the core of the faith is subject to the social whims of the day. And to comment on Antiphon411’s post – dark times have already arrived in force for TEC, and it provides a preview of what we can expect. With the enlightened reign of Jefferts-Schori we now have churches being stolen from the ancestors of the very people who built a parish – sometimes literally. My family’s church, where generations of us have been christened, have worshiped, and been buried, is now subject to mooning homosexual couples.

The continuing Anglican churches are not a very good answer, with their many tiny competing jurisdictions. Where the subject of beauty is concerned – the Roman Catholic church would be well advised to draw on the incredible richness of the Tridentine Mass, and the music of a millennium of tradition, but it seems that the currents are pulling the other way for now.

Certainly demographics play a role, but what really drove the decline is the loss of the mainline Protestant establishment in America, which has both demographic and cultural confidence-related antecedents. As it is, my children will probably never see the inside of an actual Episcopal church, and that goes for a lot of us.

• Dan Jividen

Oh, yes. True beauty is as popular a draw, and as sublime, as ever. Think J.S. Bach, Handel, Purcell, the soaring beauty of the Gothic and Neo-Gothic. You would have to be a stone not to be moved by such beauty. Also, think of the small beauties of the sacramentals. People of all ages and conditions have cherished these down the ages and still do today.

• Antiphon411

Yes, yes, I know that you and I find such things beautiful. Does America’s youth? Would they rather watch Kardashians or Don Giovanni? Would they rather listen to some thug rapping or Mozart? Would they rather study a Raphael painting or the latest update on their favorite porn site?

Just as many no longer seek the Good or the Truth, so, too, has Beauty fallen out of favor. Dark times lie ahead. I doubt the Anglican/Episcopal church will provide the beacon of Light to guide us through.

False dichotomy.

Anglican church services are like going to a funeral.

• SamHamilton

I agree with you about beauty and the Prayer Book, but I’m not optimistic. Hopefully I’m not giving the younger generation enough credit.

• philipjenkins

You should check out my thriving Episcopal parish in State College, PA., with its abundance of young families and young adults.

• SamHamilton

Thanks for the recommendation. If I’m ever in State College, I will be sure to do so.

• MLinPA

I think if beauty is your priority, you’ve explained the decline thoroughly.

• Dan Jividen

TEC has always had various priorities — the salvation of souls, the cultivation of true Christian charity, and drawing nearer to the Creator being the highest of them. Traditionally one of TEC’s most effective means of achieving these priorities is through the beauty and power of its liturgy. The great thing about being an Anglican is that we understand that beauty is both a means and an end — just as Christ is.

• MLinPA

Not convincing.

• wyclif

Methinks you are confusing beauty with truth. Beauty is nothing unless it is founded upon the truth of the Gospel. The profound liturgy TEC used to have before they foisted the rotten ’79 Book on the church wasn’t meant to work alone even back when the church was still orthodox. The sermon was extremely important and was meant to convey Biblical truth to the congregation. It is precisely those “old school” Episcopalians who began to utter such foolish statements as “the liturgy is everything” that hastened the decline when the unitarians, leftists, and homosexuals took over the church, because there was no strength in doctrine to protect it from false teaching.

• scotrhodie

But that liturgy was abandoned almost everywhere with the adoption of the Rite 2 1979 texts, most of which were common to several denominations and derived from the now abandoned Latin Rite translations. The Ordinariate Rite is the closest thing to what you are celebrating, and that is now in Roman hands.

The end of the Prayer Book (and English Missal) tradition was the beginning of TEC’s demise, in my view.

• Dan Jividen

The transition from the 1928 BCP to the 1979 BCP wasn’t nearly as traumatic as many of us like to remember. It’s true that the language of the 79 BCP doesn’t soar to the same heights as the language of the 28 BCP, but it still soars. Besides many Episcopal parishes still offer the Rite I Liturgy as an option and Rite I is essentially the 28 BCP. The revision of the BCP could have been taken in stride. Unfortunately, at about the same time a great deal of “liberation theology” started coming from the pulpits and poor, old 79 BCP gets unfairly blamed for a lot of that. Fortunately the BCP contains no homilies. It’s good that most TEC churches keep copies of the BCP on the pew backs. Gives us dead enders something to read during the sermon.

• Sarah

RE: “The transition from the 1928 BCP to the 1979 BCP wasn’t nearly as traumatic as many of us like to remember.” Actually parishes in my diocese essentially died stone cold dead after the forced introduction of the 1979 BCP as well as women priests on small, poor, rural parishes who couldn’t afford to say no. And TEC as a whole lost many thousands from 1978 through 1990 with the departure of so many AngloCatholics — unlike the COE who managed to keep that branch up until the present day [they’ll have a similar loss now — but that’s an additional 35 years the COE had with the AngloCatholics that TEC lost]. It was a devastating blow that basically laid the groundwork for lost General Convention votes from the 1990s on into the 21st century. Go back and look at the stats from 1970 to 1990 — it’s perfectly clear.

• James Manley

BCP1979 Rite 1 is not at all “essentially the 28 BCP.” It useth thees and thous, yes, but at very few points does it even slightly resemble the 1928 BCP.

• scotrhodie

Respectfully, you are completely wrong. I have been in at least 2 parishes in NY that lost almost their entire congregations in the 1980s because of the new BCP, hymnal, and women priests. And these were not Anglo-Catholic parishes, just middle of the road country club Episcopalians.

There is a very considerable theological difference between the traditional BCP and the 79 book, which is superficially more Catholic and profoundly more modernist than any of the 1549-1928 family.

The former congregants did not go anywhere else, just stopped coming to church. They were replaced with a smaller number of liberal/divorced/homosexual Roman Catholics.

• http://bigpulpit.com/ Tito Edwards

It’s nice and cozy here at the Anglican Ordinariate brother! Come on over!

• http://platytera.blogspot.com Christian LeBlanc

My parish has an Ordinariate community, St. Anselm’s.

• Episteme

There’s no Anglican Ordinariate around here (although my diocese does have Eastern Catholic, Extraordinary Rite, and Asian & African language churches, so I wouldn’t be surprised if it looked to pick up any of the local Episcopals if they fell as Anglo-Catholic churches), but I do wonder how the AO is affecting the falling numbers of Episcopal and Anglican populations in various parts of the world.

Having a number of Protestant converts among fellow parishioners, and even a pastor who is a former Lutheran minister converted to Catholic when he and his family saw how their church was heading (his story of seeking Pastoral Privilege and his “return” to seminary, before teaching at the JPII Pontifical Institute due to his own scriptural knowledge, is a pretty fascinating one — we joke sometimes, given how very Catholic he is, how surprised we all are that he didn’t convert sooner), gives me a look at the ongoing push-pull of American Protestantism amidst changing currents of culture (getting used to being a non-dominant view?) and the New Evangelization in the Catholic Church.

I honestly wonder whether many of the more doctrinal Episcopal (and even conservative Lutheran) churches may end up as Ordinariate structures within the Catholic Church within a generation or two, especially if current attempts at bridging the gap with the Orthodox Church and Oriental Churches are successful at Nicaea 2025 and such. That Rome is specifically courting the larger Anglican Communion on a nearly-equal footing as the Orthodox Church as guests at meetings like the recent Extraordinary Synod is a sign to me both to their leadership and to their membership of trying to get as many as possible back into full communion without selling out doctrine (which the Ordinariate, allowing for cultural praxis while keeping proper apostolic doctrine, is a perfect example).

Homophobe.

• Chuckiechan

I looked into them since the Catholic church was pretty butt hurt that I was divorced and remarried. But it seem that some rules have been quietly and unofficially relaxed permitting me to be re baptized on Easter.

The Episcopalian church’s members are often known as “All the religion, but only half the guilt!”, due to becoming a refuge for Catholics fleeing institutional harassment. The people there at the Episcopalian church were nice and cordial and as normal as I would expect anyone else to be.

So if the Pope officially changes the annulment policies, this may further erode the Episcopalian membership.

And a note to wyclif: most churches have more social butterflies than “down on the knees” hard core members mumbling prayers. You may not like it, but look around and see who’s lips are moving in proper sequence with words.

But you gotta have a big tent!

• Lee Johnson

The Episcopalians pick up a few Catholics who cannot handle the fullness of the faith, yes. But they soon lose them to the church of St. Mattress.

• MarkP1971

Why would you assume constant or linear decline? I would think the more realistic case would be a discontinuity. Right now all those 60 attendee churches have enough endowment and 60+ yo professionals taught in a different church to sustain it. The combination of constant or increasing funerals as the demographics skew older, the pressure on money each one of those brings, and the calculations that you highlight (younger folks thinking long and hard about careers in ministry but I would not just limit it to that) would all point to something more like a 15 year horizon with an “it doesn’t work anymore” event be that an implosion or a splintering or quietly an increase in the rate of vanishing as churches literally disappear.

One other anecdotal piece. With the 60+ crowd there are still significant numbers that could not tell you what the church teaches beyond “be nice” platitudes. They attend because church is what you do on Sunday. With the 35 and under group, the only reason they are present is because they believe and know what the church teaches. The non-doctrinal positions of the EC are a strategy by older folks for older folks.

• James W.

Agree with Mark in that I think that there will be a linear decline for another 20 years or so, followed by a catastrophic drop/implosion after which you will see only a small fraction of TEC parishes (primarily coastal congregations with large endowments) surviving – at least until the endowments run out. People 60+ grew up believing that going to church was the socially-expected thing to do. They will go to church even if that church is rather banal in its theology. People under 35 grew up in a culture in which going to church costs them socially. They won’t go to church unless they feel compelled to do so. Making your brand identify echoing secular liberal platitudes simply won’t be compelling. So once the 60+ folks are gone, there won’t be anything significant left but the endowments.

• tpaine1

As a former Episcopalian and now, a very happy and contented Anglo-Catholic in the Anglican Church of North America, I am both saddened, but not surprised. When our species has the arrogance to presume to be God, those of us that even have a hint of the real God quickly disappear.
Real Christians don’t sue fellow Christians for property. THAT is also an abomination.
I will pray for my former church and those still in it.

Decent human beings don’t support anti-gay genocide in Africa.

Have you missed the last 40 years? ECUSA is already a fraction of what it was in 1978 and is well on its way to extinction. Almost every religious belief of the church has been destroyed since then, and the hollow shell of far left theology (of anything is allowed) continues to pick up speed. My family of six left long ago, and the local diocese just closed six more parishes two years ago. Another two are closing soon.

• god

Freedom of conscience does not like the indoctrination guys and no your slam poetry and Queen permission to gift religious freedom to the celts will not save the institution.

• MLinPA

A church (really a club) and not a religion; one born of privilege and politics, and will die accordingly. 20 years ago I was shocked by the rate of decline. Now, not at all.

As my wife has commented to me with some frequency, the Episcopal Church has great real estate holdings (location, location) if not vast. Catholic Church is the inverse because they emerged in poor neighborhoods and stayed there to serve the poor. A stark contrast that may be revealing to you. The last Episcopalians will have pretty good building sites available. Build wisely.

Those poor neighborhoods often gentrify.

• http://feudalyeoman.drupalgardens.com/ Feudal Yeoman

Where is the worn but true “I didn’t leave the church. The church left me.”?
I’m not certain where the cancer started, but it’s evident that it’s reached stage 4.
But I suspect that progression is fine with the progressives. If only everyone were as brilliant and forward-thinking? Good riddance to the ignorant, homophobic bigots!
Anyway, whoever is left will definitely cash in on some beautiful buildings that formerly served as churches before they took the reigns. So win/win?

• Jim

There is an old cliché that stands true..if you stand for everything, you stand for nothing. Over the years have seen TEC allow Hindu and other non-Christian writings read in the Liturgy, homosexual priests and bishops, embrace abortion. In fact the only thing the TEC has not embraced is the One True God found only in the Holy Bible, there is a great disdain for the authority of the Bible. There is no evangelism of the lost occurring because the TEC does not acknowledge any as lost. No evangelism, no growth. By the way, the lack of evangelism is a problem even in churches that accept the idea of people being lost, people are just not sharing their faith. It is even more pronounced in TEC because of their salvation is for all message.

• Dan Jividen

Jim, you’re being unfair. All Episcopalians recite the Nicene Creed at every Mass. The Triune God, the Maker of all there is, seen and unseen, features prominently in that creed. Non-liturgical Christians often are unaware of the separateness between the liturgy and the sermon. Priests are sinners, just as we in the pews are sinners. They make mistakes. They err. Fortunately TEC Mass is never about the sermon, always about the sacraments, especially the Sacrament of Holy Communion.

• Jim

I was an Episcopalian for many years…baptized and confirmed. While I appreciate the Liturgy, it seems to have had zero impact on the TEC as a whole. A glance at the TEC has given us all the items listed above. While there are I am sure lights within the TEC, there are too many examples of institutionally sanctioned wallowing in squalid, fetid sin. How many of the clergy and bishops will stand on John 14:6 and unequivocally state that Jesus is the only way of salvation and all others are lost? Very few, Yet they recite the Nicene Creed every service.

This is an Anglo-Catholic interpretation. Anyway, consider how many of you take seriously the 39 Articles anymore, and yet the clergy are required to pay lip service to them too.

• Andrew Dowling

Please show me beyond perhaps one obscure example (which I’m sure was taken out of context) where “Hindu” writings were read as part of the liturgy in an Episcopal church . . good grief the ignorance of the Episcopal Church by conservative evangelicals is astounding.

• Sarah

I’m an Episcopalian, *and* a conservative evangelical, and we all are quite aware of the cases of Hindu syncretism within Episcopal liturgies — many such examples over the years. As just one of those, here’s Bishop Bruno’s little ridiculous and heretical efforts:

http://articles.latimes.com/2008/jan/20/local/me-hindu20

No, the people who are ignorant are the liberal activists who prefer to obscure the perfectly obvious acts of the many bishops who promote a different gospel entirely from the Gospel. They’d rather the pewsitters not notice the kind of behavior that Bruno and hordes of other TEC bishops display on a now-weekly basis in The Episcopal Church.

Bishop Bruno, of course, may believe as he wishes — and those beliefs, values, and foundational worldview are utterly antithetical to the beliefs, values, and foundational worldview of thousands of Episcopalians like me.

• Andrew Dowling

That very article lists the event as a “once in a lifetime event” and as a “rare” joint service. Again, one outlier ecumenical service in Los Angeles says next to nothing . . at the other hundreds of services in that very church, you would never hear anything from Hinduism.

• Sarah

First, a grossly syncretistic service [far beyond a few Hindu texts read in the liturgy] led by a bishop of the church is not an “outlier.” Second, there are numerous such examples — I’m not going to go scrape up more links to other such services, since I’m not in the least interested in persuading revisionist activists that their church leaders are revisionist activists — they already know that and like it — in their eyes, that’s a benefit not a bug. And third, three further examples were supplied above in response to your question: “Please show me beyond perhaps one obscure example (which I’m sure was taken out of context) where “Hindu” writings were read as part of the liturgy in an Episcopal church . . . ”

I’m satisfied that the non-revisionist activists on this thread are aware that Jim and I have thoroughly demonstrated the case — and those are the people I care to inform.

• Doug

You’ve demonstrated nothing but how ridiculous attacks on the Episcopal Church like that are. You get few questionable examples together and generalize about the entire Church. All you’ve done is proven Andrew Dowling’s point.

But, of course, maybe it’s only the “non-revisionist activists” who can understand what you’re talking about.

• Sarah

Heh. Andrew asked a specific question — and he was answered in spades by two different people with *four* examples. The fact that that upsets people like you is all to the better.

RE: “maybe it’s only the “non-revisionist activist” who can understand what you’re talking about. . . . ”

Oh no — the revisionist activists understand what I’ve said all too well — they, after all, support such actions but wish the average pew sitters didn’t know about them. So I’m comfortable that both you and Andrew understand quite well what I and so many others know and point out publicly. That’s why you’re so annoyed.

• Andrew Dowling

One of his “examples” was that a book on spiritual writings from other faiths was included in some adult christian education list . . . ooooohhh . . although his lack of links I’m sure shows he’s again taking things completely out of context. Oh look, one can go to the EC website themselves and look at the “What We Believe” tab; see nothing about Hinduism or heretical beliefs but go on with the fear-mongering paranoia. It’s as necessary for the conservative soul as oxygen.
http://www.episcopalchurch.org/page/creeds

• Sarah

RE: “fear-mongering paranoia” . . . said the happy revisionist activist who sees nothing wrong with Bishop Bruno’s actions, nor Katherine Jefferts Schori’s nor any other revisionist activist leader in TEC. ; > )

But how wonderful it is to demonstrate on this very thread the chasm that exists between the two groups in TEC — right here in this exchange.

Hey Methodists, Presbyterians, and Baptists — don’t let your churches grow up to be Piskypalians! Or you too can enjoy conversations demonstrating antithetical gospels within the same organization.

No organization survives that level of disagreement in mission, vision, and basic values. And that chasm is why nobody on the revisionist activist side wants to talk about the steep auger into the ground of ASA . . . they know the chasm exists but what can you do about it when you’ve got an ideology to pursue and inflict on every single parishioner, parish, and priest?

Not a whole lot.

• Andrew Dowling

I’m not even Episcopalian, and major disagreements exist within every major church. You think those other groups you mentioned don’t have the same “chasms” as the EC? Talk about naive.

What in the EC statement link I posted shows support of “antithetical gospels?”

• Sarah

RE: “major disagreements exist within every major church.” Yup — depends on how you define “major” as to how deep and broad the chasm is, however.

RE: “You think those other groups you mentioned don’t have the same “chasms” as the EC?”

Oh, I think we set the bad example not to follow — we’re the “leading edge” so to speak. The PCUSA had more congregations and people to lose — and boy are they losing them! But since TEC started out small — the plummet is pretty tough. I look for a final static number of around 300K or so by the time it all settles out — maybe a little less than the UUs. Looks like the Methodists might turn the corner in the right direction . . . thanks to the US leaders failing to separate off the out-of-country votes, as they tried to do. ; > )

RE: “What in the EC statement link I posted shows support of “antithetical gospels?”

Never said it did — I didn’t bother to look at the propaganda link, because I happen to be a long-time member of TEC and am plenty familiar with both the *rhetoric* and the *acts* of the leaders of my church. Fact of the matter is . . . your point is that TEC’s plummeting numbers have nothing to do with your favored faith — because you’d rather your favored faith not have the blame for the masses of people departing TEC. That’s your thesis, however disguised you try to make it, in large part because that stuff — syncretistic worship and a bagful of other putrid stuff that our leaders are foisting off on us — is okay by you and not a particular problem, considering your ideology. That’s your faith — and that’s perfectly fine by me, standing over here on the other side of the broad and deep chasm.

But you’d rather people not point out just how radically off the wall TEC’s current leaders are — that goes against your thesis entirely.

At the end of the day your job — as your ideology demands — is to loudly proclaim that your ideology has no consequences, none whatsoever, on the churches that mistakenly promote that ideology.

I get that. I understand. But that’s not gonna make other folks who actually experience this charming ideology in their denomination and actually watch hordes of friends and families flood out the door in response to that ideology doubt the vision of their own eyes or the testimony of their own ears as they listen to yet another bishop prattle on about his little ideology.

You’re just not going to be able to gaslight people into not seeing and recognizing the consequences of your faith, your ideology, your particular, customized little gospel.

You asked for examples of syncretism in TEC, you got them. And if anybody cared about your opinion they could send you scores of actual links to actual idiotic sermons. And you’d continue to deny it no matter how much material you were shown — ***because you support that stuff yourself***.

• Andrew Dowling

“because you’d rather your favored faith not have the blame for the masses of people departing TEC.”

But that’s just my point . . .the EC was bleeding members for decades before any of the Anglican splinter churches formed after the Gene Robinson affair. So the thesis of “well the decline is due to the liberal tilt” is simply inaccurate . . sure, people have left because of those reasons since the early 2000s, but overall the % of the overall decline is small, and there’s no evidence to say that the EC isn’t even making up most of those losses in getting refugees from more conservative congregations.

The EC and other mainline churches were losing members since the before the “Sexual Revolution” (that conservatives love to blame for all of society’s ills) for the largely socio-demographic reasons I stated above. That’s not because I want it to be . . those are just the facts, ma’m.

• Sarah

RE: “. . . . the EC was bleeding members for decades before any of the Anglican splinter churches formed after the Gene Robinson affair.”

Um — that would be incorrect. The EC had *finally* been able to hold stable after its disastrous losses in the 1970s and 80s, and even enjoy a small bump upward in membership in the late 90s/early 2000 and a teensy bit of ASA growth in the 90s. That changed from 2001 onward.

RE: “but overall the % of the overall decline is small, and there’s no evidence to say that the EC isn’t even making up most of those losses in getting refugees from more conservative congregations.”

Significant ignorance here too — a decline of 2-3% *per year* is not at all “small” and that is *net decline* so no, TEC isn’t “making up” the losses in getting refugees — not even close.

2002 ASA was 846,640. 2013 ASA is 657,102. That’s *net loss* — and yeh, it’s devastating, and I understand why the revisionist activists would prefer that not be directly attributable to the fact that the leaders of our church don’t preach or promote a gospel that the rest of us even remotely believe.

Back to the chasm again.

Fact is . . . there’s just not a very big market out there of leftist revisionist activists who also happen to like tasteful stylish spiritual-type places — and that’s the very very teensy market that the leaders of my church are attempting to appeal to, because that’s *them*.

With the continuing departure of conservatives . . . and that’s gonna keep on keeping on . . . you’re left with The Incredible Shrinking Church.

It’s a pity that for the sake of their ideology they’re willing to eliminate a once great, historic church.

• Doug

The RCC sees 25% of those raised in the faith leave and not replaced by converts. It loses almost 5 members for every 1 convert it receives. However, TEC, on net, has a far smaller net loss (percentage wise of course) from conversion/apostasy. The fact that the RCC makes up for those losses in other ways, such as higher birthrates or immigration, does not obscure the fact that they have plenty of people leaving. So one has to question the logic surrounding the argument that TEC losses are based on liberal theology and yet conservative/traditional theology is not hurting the RCC.

Also, anyone interested in reading an actual study about decline in the Mainline Churches (which includes TEC) should check out an article (considered a major study by the way) by Andrew Greeley, Michael Hout, and Melissa J. Wilde, entitled “The Demographic Imperative in Religious Change in the United States.”

• Sarah

RE: “The fact that the RCC makes up for those losses in other ways, such as higher birthrates or immigration, does not obscure the fact that they have plenty of people leaving.”

“The fact that [Apple computer] makes up for those losses in other ways, such as higher [new customers] or [the youth demographic], does not obscure the fact that they have plenty of people leaving.”

[chuckle]

I love the spin here. “Yeh, but other than people buying your religious product through birth or immigration, you’d have a net loss! So therefore the RC church and TEC are basically equivalent in losses.”

RE: “However, TEC, on net, has a far smaller net loss (percentage wise of course) from conversion/apostasy.”

This is, frankly, ludicrous. The fact is the RC has *no* “net loss percentage” and TEC *does*. You may object to *where* the RC church is receiving its customers — but receiving them it is, in net. And TEC is not, in net.

Incoherent there — but that’s what desperation to obscure reality brings you, I guess.

Hey, why don’t you just go ahead and do like Susan Russell does and say something like yeh, well, so what — it’s the ‘cost of discipleship’ that we’re auguring into the ground and our numbers are plummeting. ; > )

• Sarah

I mean, honestly . . . did you even read the article: “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.”

And the really *cool* thing? Those stats don’t even include the departure of the Diocese of South Carolina — which comes close to doubling the net losses.

• Doug

I’m curious. I’ve heard of a right-wing bubble but are you trying to tell us there’s a non-revisionist activists bubble of which we should be aware?

• Sarah

Nah — it’s just that the revisionist activists in TEC hang out together, and then we conservatives in TEC hang out together — signifying the deep and broad chasm in foundational worldview and basic values between the two groups. Don’t sweat it, Doug — you’ve got all the power at the national and diocesan level you need. Feel good about “winning” in TEC. And we over here on the other side will enjoy our fellowship with those who believe the Gospel in TEC.

• Jim

Doug, have you ever wondered why thousands of people have left (including myself) the TEC to other denominations or formed a new Anglican communion? The TEC is spiritually adrift and has forsaken its foundation Jesus Christ. “having a form of godliness but denying its power. And from such people turn away!” ( 2Tim 3:5) As Sarah has indicated there are too many examples to list as to how the TEC has drifted. I have personally experienced this, with a rector who thought how profound a comparison of Jesus and Santa Claus was or the exaltation of a lesbian relationship with my children’s Sunday school teacher, or as I explained in an earlier post the native American spiritualist worship service. No sir the attacks are not by me on the TEC but were on me and my faith by the TEC. That is what is both sad and ridiculous.

• Jim

Please see Sarah’s post below…one of just a few examples. I personally attended a TEC church in Tucson where the music service was dedicated to singing songs about our brother coyote, sister moon, basically a recitation of native American spiritualism. Perhaps a little research on your part will open your eyes as to what the TEC has become.

• Paul

Maybe the service was on an Indian reservation?

I’m pretty sure a good deal of Catholic churches in Mexico incorporate aspects of the ancient Mayan religion into their Masses.

• Jim

From and Episcopal church website: “Trinity Church Welcomes All through its “Big Red Doors” with Tibetan prayer flags flying in the wind.” Yet another with their Christian Education for adults “”Wise Men from the East: Spiritual Writings from Other Faiths”
Ancient Hindu ScripturesJanuary 16John ChaffeeThe Writings of Rumi, 13th century Persian poet and Sufi mystic” More…

Recitations from ancient Sanskrit scriptures will reverberate in a Christian church in Nevada on the occasion of coming Thanksgiving eve service.

Rajan Zed, the prominent Hindu chaplain, will read from Rig-Veda (oldest existing scripture of the world dated from around 1,500 BCE), Upanishads (Hindu scriptures containing mystical teachings), and Bhagavad-Gita (famous philosophical and spiritual poem) in Trinity Episcopal Church in Reno (Nevada) during Twenty-second Annual Thanksgiving Service of Northwestern Nevada to be held on November 21 evening.

Despite conflicts around the world, various faith traditions in northwestern Nevada will come together to share the spirit of love on Thanksgiving, Zed says. Shanti-Shanti, the only Sanskrit rock band of the world, will perform on the occasion. Choirs from area Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and Trinity Episcopal Church will also sing. A procession of the clergy dressed in an array of religious garb will be held before the Service.

All people have more in common than they have in conflict and challenge today is to seek unity that celebrates diversity, Zed adds.
Seen enough yet?

• Andrew Dowling

Oh my God . . .having an interfaith service at Thanksgiving! The blasphemy!

• Jim

Actually yes it is..to exalt, promote or otherwise worship a false god or gods in a church dedicated to the One, True and Living and Loving God…is blasphemy…now you are getting it

• Andrew Dowling

How insecure must one be in one’s faith in God to not be willing to even sit down once with someone of a different faith and both pray.

• Jim

Actually the insecure ones are the ones who would never tell someone that they are lost. Love them enough not to affirm their sin, but love them enough to show them the way to salvation through Jesus. John 14:6 is very clear, Jesus is the only way. John 3:16 is very clear if you do not believe in Him you will perish. Yet these churches who entertain other faiths in their sanctuaries serve only to affirm their separation from God. When is the last time you have heard a revisionist priest or bishop state that Jesus is the only way for salvation, or that there is no other name under heaven by which one can be saved?

• Andrew Dowling

Centuries of people killing each other over religion, and instead of reaching out to find common ground and a spirit of brotherhood, you think you’ll make progress by telling people who don’t share your faith they are “lost in sin?”

That does nothing but make you feel smug and sanctimonious, and the receiver think Christians are a bunch of jerks.

• Jim

Scripture instructs us: Do not be unequally yoked together with unbelievers. For what fellowship has righteousness with lawlessness? And what communion has light with darkness? We of course should do all thing in love, but never should we encourage one in a false faith. This of course is depending on whether you feel there is any truth or authority in the Bible.

In San Francisco there is a “Taoist Episcopal Church.” (The “Taoism” part seemed more for the benefit of the white people than the Chinese.)

• Andrew Dowling

Googled the above; found nothing beyond a Church in Palo Alto that rents out its space to a group that does Tai Chi.

• David Naas

I would not care to say just how much of the former glory of the Protestant Episcopal Church was due to it’s point on the upwardly-mobile continuum from camp-meeting Methodists though sturdy Presbyterians to arrived Episcopalians.

In college, back in the last half of the ’60’s, I would attend a local PEC church, mainly because the priest was a friend. I saw it then as “Catholicism Lite”.

Over the years, strange things happened, from the revision of the BCP to the election of Katharine Jefferts Schori. Most of those things led away from what value I had preciously seen.

It is not that it has ceased to be a Christian denomination, but its quest for relevancy has led inevitably to an essential irrelevance for today’s young people. Having tied its theology to a particular point in time (as did the Southern Baptists and Presbyterians), and one which had passed by the time that new thought had been installed (in the person of Katharine Jefferts Shori), it was left dangling over the abyss of history with nothing to show for it.

It is only by becoming timeless again, that the Episcopal Church will survive. I do wish it well, but honestly, it is quite as irrelevant as the ACNA or any other crowd.

• Greg

I believe the great Richard John Neuhaus summed it up nicely when he wrote, “Wherever orthodoxy is optional, it will sooner or later be proscribed.”

• Duane Alexander Miller

As someone who has lived and ministered in four difference provinces of the Communion over the years, I find myself asking this question too. I suspect that the answer is that liberals tend to think of the decline as temporary–all those evangelicals and conservatives leaving–and that once this is over the Church will regroup and be ready to grow again. As an evangelical within ECUSA (I can’t bring myself to call it TEC) I don’t think this is a realistic or accurate narrative, but I think it helps answer your question.

• Paul

I think with Michael Curry at the helm now, the church may start to experience real growth. Remember, TEC was the only mainline church to buck the trend of decline. There was actually growth in the 90s and early 2000s. It was the Gene Robinson controversy that sparked the decline we’re seeing now.

• http://theanglicangazette.podcastpeople.com/ trueanglican

Maybe I’m a glass half full kind of guy but I actually think the episcopal church actuAlly has a future because people , like myself (minority , evangelical, male). Still believe in the church and are seeking to serve her. If history shows anything, just when you think the church is done ( the dark ages, the enlightenment ). God sends women and men to revive it. Call me a wide eyed optimist, but I think God can breath life into these dry bones . But hey, I als believe In miracles

• Guthrum

Think about the denominational leaders as in the EC. The average, in church every Sunday members did not choose the EC leader. It was done in a fixed, stacked voting process that was geared toward a small minority of members. So now the EC has a presiding bishop that preaches universal salvation and other false doctrines while consolidating power at the top.

• Andrew Dowling

The Episcopal decline has extremely little to do with a shift towards liberal theology and everything to do with demographic shifts over the past 50 years.

1) White flight: The Episcopal Church catered to the mostly educated, middle class white populations of central cities. Post 1960s, the people left but the churches stayed . .one can simply drive around many large cities in the Rust Belt and Northeast where you will find beautiful old ECs in places where there simply aren’t many more people living around there.
2) Declining birth rates: The Episcopal church’s major clientele consisted of those aformentioned educated, middle-upper middle class white families . the same populations which have had fertility rates that have nosedived the past 40-50 years.
If not for immigration the RCC, which has a lot of overlap in terms of its demographics with the EC, would be in a similar steep decline, but they have not budged on SSM, female pastors, orthodox theology (although of course the crazy Franco-esque extremists will assert that if the Mass was still following the Trent Latin rite then the pews would be filled . . .)

The Southern Baptists are catching up, but they simply a) Started with a Southern demographic in which, until recently, the fertility rates were higher and b) Notably, it’s incredibly easy to start a Baptist church . . practically anyone can do it . .much different than the top-down structure of the EC, which provides for far less elasticity (which can be critiqued in and of itself, but again has zero to do with theology)

Regarding point #1 however, as young people flock again to central cities, I know of several once declining mainline churches that are again thriving. Because . . bah dah dahhh . . .families live around the church again!!

The Episcopal Church gives the impression that Christianity is dying out; the Catholic and Southern Baptist Churches give the impression that the last Christian died on the Cross.

• Wesley Brock

I can only hope. A shame that other sects and religions are not declining at this rate. I’d prefer to see the more anti-social ones disappear first.

• EyeTee

Our parish is adding members, with growing involvement of young families, and robust youth participation. Donations are up every year. One of our services is in Spanish. There is a strong push to meaningful outreach into the community. So what is likely to happen is that vibrant outposts will remain, while the method of “being church” for smaller parishes or more isolated communities will have to evolve.

• philipjenkins

If you don’t mind me asking, what part of the country are you writing from?

• EyeTee

No problem at all. Our parish is St Paul’s Cathedral in San Diego.

• Sarah

The Diocese of San Diego has gone from an ASA in 2003 of around 9000 to an ASA in 2013 of around 6000 — so it’s lost about 1/3 of its attendance. St. Paul’s itself has indeed grown from an ASA of around 500 in 2003 to an ASA of around 590 in 2013. That fits with my conjecture — TEC will have some “linchpin” parishes in high MSA areas in each diocese [or perhaps in most dioceses — obviously places like Northern Michigan will have no such thing!], while massive and systemic decline takes place in other areas throughout the diocese.

• Doug

There are basically three methods for a denomination to gain or lose members; conversion in or out, high or low birth rates and immigration. TEC benefits from few if any Anglican immigrants, has a frighteningly low birth rate, but does
do a reasonably good job of attracting converts to offset those who do
leave. In fact TEC picks up quite a few converts, many from conservative
denominations, and has only a small net outflow of members from conversions. A net outflow which, by the way, compares quite favorably with other rather conservative/traditional denominations. If someone is going to blame Episcopal Church losses on liberal theology they must reconcile that with a larger net outflow of adherents for other more theologically conservative denominations.

By the way, if anyone thinks acceptance of birth control by Episcopalians is part of the problem, think again. Episcopalians are no more accepting of birth control than the people of most other denominations.

TEC can reverse the trend of losses by making a greater effort to hang onto cradle Episcopalians and planting churches. It already attracts a healthy number of converts. It’s very realistic to think that the losses can be turned into gains.

• Andrew Dowling

Thank you. Facts sometimes don’t gel so well with agendas. The birth control argument, as you state, is ludicrous given that the RCC’s decline among its native-born adherents in the U.S. is very similar to the EC’s . .

As far as I know, birth control is simply not an issue (at least theological) for Episcopalians, any more than for most Protestants.

• Sarah

This has been an interesting article.

I’ve been doing my own theorizing and analysis about where TEC will be mid-century. Go parish by parish on the church stats in whatever diocese you’re in, and the visuals of the decline — especially in any congregation not in a larger city — are quite . . . daunting and lowering.

I think we can depend on a couple of markets in TEC for mid-century and with that in mind, I look for a denomination of around 250,000 ASA [membership is iffy because ASA runs around 1/3 of membership and I’m not confident the membership numbers are “real” given the state of the church rolls these days].

In my own diocese, I think our 65 congregations will be culled down to around 12-20 or so — you’ll always have one or two congregations in each major metropolitan statistical areas — and in my diocese there are five of those. So that’s ten parishes that manage to make it because even if you only gain .3%, there’s a large enough pool for that .3% to come to some numbers. Most of the rural parishes will close — every three years, General Convention comes along and a fresh wave of people leave. The last one was the “let’s canonically disallow parishes from not considering transgender clergy for their clergy vacancies” and putting that into the canons. That hit people pretty hard, naturally. But every three years General Convention will inflict some fresh insanity that will cause another cluster of families to receive “the final straw” — and two or three families leaving a rural church is pretty devastating.

So you’re left with 10 to 12 solid congregations within large MSAs, and then perhaps another 8-10 struggling rural congregations hanging on with solid endowments.

As far as the country goes, I think you’ll always have a solid presence of revisionist activists who have a “spiritual side” to them and don’t want to be a part of Unitarian church sheerly as a matter of taste and style! Granted, that’s an incredibly tiny percentage of the population [left-wing ideologue revisionists who wish to attend a tasteful stylish church of some sort] within the Southeast, but you do have a chunk of people like that in the Northwest and in California. And then there is a good sizable chunk of such people in the northeastern part of the country — there will always be opportunities for The Episcopal Church to have largish congregations in Washington, NYC, etc — there is a ready market there for what TEC leaders have to offer these days.

So I don’t think TEC will actually disappear or evaporate. I think there will always be a small market for the product that TEC leaders wish to sell — TEC will be here a hundred years from now, barring some metaphysical intervention.

• dominic1955

Yes indeed. If nothing else, TEC will survive solely as Trinity Wall Street and provide choral concerts, things for Japanese tourists to take pictures of and a pretty backdrop for gay weddings.

• Sarah

; > )

But seriously, I think there will be a few dioceses — perhaps Central Florida, Dallas, etc — who *might* still have Gospel-promoting bishops mid-century, *if* they can convince the majority of bishops/standing committees to approve their election as kind of a “minority” thing. And I think there will be a few parishes in every diocese, too, that will preach the Gospel.

I don’t think it’s entirely bleak — it’s just pretty darn **bad**, is all. The toughest thing for churches like that is simply the bad reputation of their diocese and the national entity “precedes them” — so they have to be working against the current, so to speak, to demonstrate who they are and what they believe, as antithetical to what national church leaders believe.

• philipjenkins

You can all come and hide out with us in State College PA!

• dominic1955

I was being somewhat tongue in cheek. Still, outside of the more conservative parishes/dioceses, I don’t think the Episcopal Church as an institution is going to make it. Maybe restructured by those more conservative dioceses, I don’t know. I’m Catholic, so I don’t have a specific dog in this fight other than an interest in the Anglican Ordinariate and just the general preservation of some modicum of little o orthodoxy to some degree in the Christian/non-Catholic world. When I was in the seminary, I served at parishes that probably rivaled some small Episcopal dioceses in members and budgets.

Some have said we aren’t doing much better, but it just depends on where you look. Some of it is just demographics, similarly in TEC. But I think once the tide of Hispanic immigrants wanes, and our own baby boomer population dies off, we will be in a much better place. In my diocese, we have pretty packed churches on Sunday with some of them having 3, 4 or 5+ Masses a Sunday. Confession is offered regularly in practically all parishes with more and more people availing themselves of it. The liturgy, even in the NO parishes, isn’t awful and we have one parish that really tries to explicitly offer it with all the smells and bells. We also have a TLM parish, a Byzantine Rite parish and an Ordinariate parish within the diocesan boundaries. Some parishes actually have converts, some in the dozens per Easter.

In the Episcopalian equivalent, I don’t see a 1/10 of that even granting that there will be some obvious different markers in belief and practice and friends that were former Episcopalians confirm my observations. Its dying, certainly in its more liberal incarnations.

• Andrew Dowling

“But I think once the tide of Hispanic immigrants wanes, and our own baby boomer population dies off, we will be in a much better place.”

For the RCC? I struggle to see how the above makes any sense . . it’s those two groups that have ensured the RCC pop in the U.S. hasn’t been nosediving like the EC . .

“The liturgy, even in the NO parishes, isn’t awful”

NO? New Orleans?

• dominic1955

Meaning, in comparison to TEC, even when our somewhat artificial numbers propping system (immigrants) wanes and even when the baby boomers die off, we have a lot of strength in orthodoxy that will shine through even without as many sheer numbers. Very orthodox dioceses like Lincoln, NE are doing fine. Its the smaller but stronger Church that then-Cardinal Ratzinger spoke of.

“NO” is Catholic shorthand for “Novus Ordo”, i.e. the New Mass. I’m saying that in my archdiocese (Omaha) that even the regular parishes often do not have terrible hippy dippy liturgy and crap preaching. In other words, we’re doing pretty well.

• dominic1955

Plus, we rarely if ever loose whole parishes let alone whole dioceses. We gain parishes though, mostly from you guys.

• Doug

The RCC has lost 9% of its parishes (that’s net) since 2000.

• dominic1955

If they are “lost” they are closed down because of demographic changes. In my own city, we closed a few parishes in the older parts of town, yet have 4 or more parishes on the other side of town that could fill each of the old buildings to capacity 10 times over on a given Sunday.

I’ve yet to hear of more than a tiny amount of “parishes” (usually just a handful of moonbats that were at a parish at some point) ever leave the Church in toto. Your group, on the other hand, I can count whole *dioceses*. Just let that sink in for a bit.

• Cbalducc

Novos Ordo.

• underground pewster

Nothing new or unexpected. 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.

The Quakers have never been numerous, but nobody wrings their hands about the decline of Quakerism.

Liberal Episcopalianism is basically worthless. Its services are boring. It has little to offer the world, and its disappearance would not make any difference. The U.S. Anglicans are a cranky conservative reaction similar to the Tea Party, and will hold together about as well.

Really, the situation is like the end of Communism in the East Bloc. Now that it’s no longer socially necessary to belong to a church, more and more people are just chucking the whole thing, while the rump Communist parties either turn into Social Democrats (TEC) or right-wing fanatics (the Anglican splinter groups).

Or think of the Masons and other fraternal orders. Despite secretly ruling the world, they struggle to get new members–probably due to the accumulated effects of television, video games, the internet, etc., which have changed the way we spend our leisure time. Episcopalianism is no different.

• Cbalducc

The funny things is, writers for the National Catholic Reporter think that the Catholic Church will grow if becomes like the Episcopal Church.

One path is to compete for the conservative/evangelical subset of current church members and perhaps experience a temporary surge without changing the overall decline and eventually whither on the vine of irrelevancy. The other path is to continue the difficult work begun by more progressive churches in finding ways to continue to be relevant for all people in an evolving world.

• philipjenkins

Let me just offer a small update and explanation here.

A couple of commentators at various sites have correctly pointed out that the figures I am citing don’t amount to the church’s actual, literal, total disappearance in 50 years, or even longer. The church may shrink dramatically, at (say) 2 or 3 percent a year, but as time goes on, the actual reduction in annual numbers gets smaller and smaller, through what we call Zeno’s Paradox.

Hence, the church does not actually disappear altogether, but it gets smaller and smaller until it ceases to matter except as a tiny sect – like the Amish, but without the tourist appeal. That’s what I mean when I imagine the dilemma of the believer in the mid-century, in a church evaporating around him or her.

Churches really and literally do vanish, but only under the impact of severe persecution, and that is not the case here.

I tried to take account of that distinction in the post, but let me clarify.

• Robert11110

It’s really quite simple. Could it have something to do with the fact they don’t teach the Gospel of Jesus Christ? The large number of homosexuals present in the pews and the clergy itself, some with children, is deeply disturbing. There is a big difference between accepting all sinners into the doors and helping to promote a lifestyle that God finds abominable. Performing same sex weddings and even allowing transvestites to be ordained as priests are things straight out of hell. I attended a worship service in Danville KY and this young man, nicely dressed, walked into the church and testified he used to be a homosexual and was saved by Jesus Christ. The response from the resident high priestess there was to ask him to leave. I was shocked. I attended a Sunday School class and was amazed to find many of the parishioners believe that God and allah are the same. The Episcopal Church has become no more Christian than a Mooney or a Hari Krishna cult. I won’t make a broad sweeping statement because I would be judging, but many of the members are nothing more than reprobates, knowingly or unknowingly worshipping the god of this world.

• BeeKaaay

The gates of hell are prevailing over the episcopal church Every time the devil wins another victory, he does a victory dance. Acceptance of contraception. Victory dance. Ordination of women. victory dance. And so on and so on.

Might as well call it dancing with the devil.

• Paul

Remember, during the heyday of Soviet Communism, everyone thought Christianity in Russia, especially the Russian Orthodox Church, was going to evaporate into non-existence.

What’s happening today? The Russian Orthodox Church is slowly beginning to experience resurgence.

I wouldn’t be preparing The Episcopal Church’s funeral service just yet.

• Robert11110

Where will new members be coming from? One thing I have noticed about the usual Episcopal service is the dearth of children. The few you do see are likely to have homosexual parents and the odds of them growing up and having normal families are probably statistically not good. Self imposed extinction. Also, most people who have the mindset of Episcopalians are atheists and pagans and have little need for church services or a holy God. I suspect they will be all but extinct in 35 years unless they buy some time by merging with some of the other dying Mainlines or maybe even the Metropolitan Community Church. As they continue to decline, the higher ups will cannibalize their holdings by selling off Episcopal assets to keep their salaries and benefits flowing until it finally crashes. I say good riddance.

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