The American Interest
Analysis by Walter Russell Mead & Staff
The Light That Failed

New numbers reveal that the collapse of the Episcopal Church dramatically accelerated in the last ten years. The denomination is literally falling apart, with attendance down 25% between 2000 and 2010.

For a link to the PDF file with the numbers, and for Rod Dreher’s comments on them, look here; but it’s important to note that the effect of these numbers on the life and the well being of local churches is even greater than the raw figures might suggest.

Many mainline Protestant congregations today are stuck with an infrastructure built in the 1950s and 1960s. There are buildings to maintain and salaries to pay. As congregations have dwindled and aged, it gets harder and harder to keep the place running. The congregation has less money for program, for outreach, for anything but survival, and the energy of the congregation turns inward. There is less going on that can attract new members, and each year more maintenance is deferred, more corners are cut, and the congregation gets a little smaller and a little greyer.

Ten years ago, roughly half of Episcopal parishes faced this kind of situation. Ten years of declining attendance on this scale means that many more parishes are now in survival mode. As the church’s resources decline, more and more of the energy and the funds of its members go to staving off collapse. Less and less is available for the wider world.

The numerical decline, bad as it is, matters less than the collapse in the moral authority of the church. The Episcopal Church has made many controversial pronouncements on social issues; at the latest General Convention the church declared that transgendered persons cannot automatically be barred from the priesthood. One can agree or disagree with some of these individual decisions, but what is striking over time is the decline in the moral weight of the church.

It used to matter what the Episcopal Church thought of this or that social issue. Other mainline Protestant churches and many social and political leaders followed its theological and political debates. Now, basically, no one outside the dwindling flock in the pews really cares what The Episcopal Church says about anything at all. General Convention can pass a million resolutions, and nothing anywhere will change. No one is even really angry anymore at anything the Episcopal hierarchy does; at most, there is a sigh and a quiet rolling of the eyes. Soon, there will not even be that.

It’s an extraordinary decline in an institution that a generation ago was still one of the pillars of American life. At this point the disaster appears irretrievable; those running the church are determined to run it into the ground and it is hard to see how that can change.

For Anglicans, the theological and demographic collapse of their church is a bitter blow. The traditions of this church exert a powerful hold on those who were raised in it; those declining attendance figures bespeak a lot of sadness and despair. But The Episcopal Church has moved on, headed down what looks increasingly like the theological path of least resistance as it makes the transition from a church that once spoke to a nation to a sect in communion only with itself.

Let us wish The Episcopal Church well on its journey towards whatever hope its bureaucrats and functionaries see glimmering ahead of them in the deepening twilight. God moves in mysterious ways, and the failure of a church is not the failure of a faith. Christianity is all about hope in the face of death; America’s Anglicans are learning a lot about what that means. For this, perhaps, we need to learn to be thankful.

 

Published on July 16, 2012 7:12 am
  • Brendan Doran

    Which is why the HHS ACA/Obamacare mandate against Catholicism is such a gift…it’s such a brazen and degrading challenge that the cowardly lion Bishops felt compelled to make a stand. If they continue to follow through they might stand for something again, if they keep their word to go to jail..the Churches will fill. If you’re unaware the Bishops have been “informing the faithful” thru the Priests weekly even daily from the pulpit.

    The Bishop’s are also under pressure from the faithful to finally make a stand, so they’re caught in a vise they helped forge.

  • jetty

    The Episcopal church wanted, desperately so, to be accepted by the surrounding culture. Alas, that is not the charge given to us by Jesus.

  • Eurydice

    This article reads like you’re trying to say something you don’t want said out loud. Dispite your “agree or disagree”. the only probable reason you’ve given for the Church’s loss of “moral authority” is its decisions on social issues, and that’s 2 sentences within 9 paragraphs of tap dancing. So, is this what you think the problem is or are there other factors involved?

  • Eurydice

    Argh! *despite*

  • http://Facingthehardtruths.com Stephen M. St. Onge

    A few years ago, I read a review of a play about Jesus. The reviewer, summing in up for a friend, said the play depicted Jesus as a promiscuous gay drunk who thought everyone should have lots of casual sex, and sing ‘Kumbaya.’

    The friend’s reaction was, ‘Oh, he’s an Episcopalian!’ That does about sum up what the Episcopal Church has become.

  • Walter Sobchak

    I think this situation is deeply connected to another issue Via Media has dialated on, and that is the sad state of America’s elites. See, e.g. “Is Meritocracy A Sham?” July 1, 2012.

    David Brooks also reflected on the Hayes book last week: “Why Our Elites Stink” July 13, 2012 http://www.nytimes.com/2012/07/13/opinion/brooks-why-our-elites-stink.html

    The so called Mainline Protestant Denominations are one place where our “meritocrats” have abandoned the field. Just as they have with the US Military.

    An interesting trend is that some American Anglican congregations that retain their interest in religion have connected with African leadership, whose flocks are anxious to hear the word of God, instead of the word of the New York Review of Books. A reversal of “colonialism” and “British Imperialism”.

  • Bart Hall (Kansas, USA)

    In 1970 the Episcopal church had over three million members attending church on Sundays … as did the [Anglican] Church of Uganda. The Episcopal church is now more than three times smaller (under 700,000 Sunday worshippers) whilst the Church of Uganda is more than three times larger, at about 10 million. This despite 1970s-era persecution so strong that the Archbishop was assassinated.

    One church taught transformational truth and the other preached politicised pig piffle. Betcha can’t guess which was which.

    Even more shocking are the data indicating that over three-quarters of the *dioceses* in the Episcopal church have annual budgets under two million dollars. For comparison our modest-sized Anglican congregation has a two million dollar budget, much of which is spent on missions, evangelisation, ministry to the poor and broken, and church-planting.

    The Episcopal church has not just lost members, it has lost its dynamism as well as its way, which is why it stumbles from pillar to post grasping at whatever seems to be the latest left-wing secular trend.

    They are left with irrational nonsense wrapped up in spiritual jargon. They have to ordain practising homosexuals (or make them bishops) because they’re born that way and it’s a human right. They have to ordain transgender folks because all gender is a “choice”. And nobody even notices the complete inconsistency of thos two positions.

    The Episcopal church have become Unitarians with candles and some stained glass.

  • Eric from Texas

    Sad when you get better sermons and religious instruction from this site than from the Episcopal Church itself.

  • stan

    This seems to be the same path the Presbyterians have chosen (PCUSA). The people in the pews get fed up with the leadership’s denunciations of Columbus and the love affair with Castro, the constant left-wing political activism, and the relentless attack on sexual morality. Perhaps it is all sincerely faith driven, but to far too many worshipers the emphasis is all on politics, not worship. So they leave for other churches that focus on worship and scripture.

    As a Presbyterian (and a lawyer) who has sat through too many presentations and read too many briefs arguing for ordination of gays, etc., I’ve always been struck with how convoluted the citations to scripture are. It seems obvious (at least to me) that the arguments didn’t start with scripture and a genuine desire to understand God’s purpose. The arguments have all the hallmarks of having started from a political motive and a desire to have the church rubber stamp personal desires. Otherwise, the scriptural references wouldn’t be twisted, folded, spindled and mutilated the way they are.

    In the end, the left-wing activists who sought to strengthen their politics by winning the support of their church will find that they simply destroyed their church by cheapening its message to mere politics.

  • http://wwrtc.blogspot.com Art Deco

    So, is this what you think the problem is or are there other factors involved?

    You did not ask him, but I will answer with a hypothesis: the interlocking and mutually re-inforcing dispositions of aspirant clergy, seminary professors, vociferous laity, and church-o-crats. The people who are attracted to the clerical life and make it through the gauntlet of education and formation are the same types who end up in social work and teacher training, only more so. They are interested in working in a field which has no operational measures of competence but where they can ‘help’ people. The professoriate has no interest in developing in incremental ways an existing body of theology and scriptural study, but in playing intellectual games which gain them the regard of the secular academy. The laity want a social activity and do not want to be emotionally ‘upset’. The church-o-crats want what the clergy want without the irritation of having to interact with clientele with intractable problems – they want to spin their wheels issuing statements and distributing bits of patronage.

    Wholly incongruent with any of these pursuits is thinking or doing anything declasse (like saying that sexual misconduct is incongruent with personal salvation).

  • http://powerandcontrol.blogspot.com/ M. Simon

    The Churches that have are in favor of Drug Prohibition have signed their own death warrant. Wait until the general public figures out that they have been denied medicine in the name of morality. What kind of church would stand for that kind of proposition? The Church of the Darkside.

    Morality for the church used to mean healing the sick. Now it means denying them medicine. The only religion in America that gets this one? The Jews, who from Orthodox to Reform are involved in the medicinal cannabis movement. Look it up.

    What have the Christians become? Purveyors of pain, suffering, and illness. Only a few see this now. In time everyone will see it.

  • http://powerandcontrol.blogspot.com/ M. Simon

    Let me add that the same issues I addressed above will deeply wound the Republican Party. The last bastion of Prohibition.

    What is wrong with these people?

  • http://wwrtc.blogspot.com Art Deco

    What is wrong with these people?

    Nothing. You are fixated on silly niche causes.

  • Jim.

    It’s a little surprising that there’s such a push by the Episcopal leadership to sue dissenting congregations for their buildings… if there’s too much infrastructure for them to support, dissenting congregations are doing them a favor by taking those buildings off their hands.

    Meanwhile, the Mormon church (whose positions on social issues for the most part have more in common with Scripture than with pop culture, even if they’re more than a little fuzzy on the first chapter of the Gospel of John) grows apace.

    That’s because they get out there and evangelize with a message that shows people how important it is to be in church. Their church is not a values-optional social club taken over by moral “innovators” who want to make outrageous claims about what Christianity gives its blessing to. It means something to be a Mormon.

    We should all pray that the Episcopal leadership cracks open its dusty Bibles (yes, Leviticus and St. Paul too) to discover the message that it’s supposed to be conveying. God’s message… not Robinson’s or Schori’s. That will be the ultimate source of renewal.

    It will be interesting to watch a new Reformation coming to the Episcopalians… seminaries will once again become active and dynamic places as they try to determine exactly where they went off the rails, and separate the sheep from the goats (as it were) amongst late-20th century Episcopal theologians. Determining which teachings are Biblical and which are not can re-invigorate Scriptural study in a big way.

    Perhaps that is starting to happen already, but the news hasn’t caught up with it yet.

  • Steve Billingsley

    Wow…looking at M.Simon’s comments and his reference to the medicinal cannabis movement it makes think he may have partaken in a bit too much of the “medicinal cannabis” himself. What a convoluted mess of unconnected thinking….

  • http://facingzionwards.blogspot.com/ Luke Lea

    The mainline churches have forgotten where we came from and how we got here. You could say the same thing about our secular elites in general.

    The answer, btw, is that we came from servitude and we got here by generations of sacrifice, both voluntary and involuntary, i.e., both Christian and not-so-Christian sacrifice.

    The people in China are perfectly aware of where they are coming from and of the countless crimes and sacrifices they have been forced to bear and continue to bear.

    In my opinion that’s why Christianity is growing so fast in China. It’s a way to justify, and to forgive, what is happening to them. The elites should be grateful for the possibility of forgiveness but they are made paranoid by their consciousness of guilt.

    Meanwhile, back in the West, we need to start studying our history again. A people without history is lost.

  • Eurydice

    @Art Deco – Hmmm, I’ve never thought of a calling in the Church to be “working in a field which has no operational measures of competence” or that faith could be measured in an operational way, but I suppose if that’s the new definition of religion, then it’s no wonder congregations are getting smaller. After all, we can stay home and watch all sorts of unmeasurable incompetence on TV, and we can do it on Sunday while wearing our pj’s and eating waffles.

    It seems to me that the Episcopal church is a victim of competition. Its choice to be inclusive of outsiders has butted up against secular humanism, and who needs to go to church for that? The whole point of religion is who’s in and who’s not – and this is the “moral authority” I think Prof. Mead is dancing around.

  • http://www.americanlibertyleague.org David MacGuire

    I was once a fairly active Episcopalian but after my church became, in essence, a Unitarian church with incense, and after being hit on by TWO Episcopalian bishops, [names of two bishops deleted -ed], I have gone back to the Russian Orthodox roots of my grandmother and couldnt be happier.

  • http://wwrtc.blogspot.com Art Deco

    The whole point of religion is who’s in and who’s not

    If you [please refrain from disparaging other commenters], I suppose you would see it that way.

  • thibaud

    #7 – “The Episcopal church is now more than three times smaller (under 700,000 Sunday worshippers) whilst the Church of Uganda is more than three times larger, at about 10 million”

    “Inspiration from abroad,” as Mr Mead says.

    Uganda shows us the way here, just as Ghana shows us the path forward when it comes to healthcare.

    http://blogs.the-american-interest.com/wrm/2012/06/04/driving-down-healthcare-costs-inspiration-from-abroad/

  • thibaud

    Uganda? I’ll take Sweden or Germany, thanks.

  • Dutch 1960

    It is not always about “me”. It is about others, and quietly doing what you can for others, without reward but for the fact of the work having been done. Faith entities that fall away from that are doomed, and become empty shells of what they claim to represent. I don’t think names need to be named, the examples are legion for any who simply open their eyes and pay attention.

  • Frank Arden

    My church is the largest (and second oldest, St. Johns, Savannah) in the Georgia Diocese. We have remained vibrant and traditional (dare I say conservative?) in spite of the elitist progressive reformers who are running the ECUSA into the ground.

    For instance, we are one of the few churches who still use the 1928 BCP in our old High Church solemn masses.

    But our relationship with our mother church is more and more a tragic ballet than a communion. Although our size and firm beliefs have allowed us to continue to worship with out much interference, we feel increasingly isolated and offended, and even frightful sometimes.

    Personally, I am not a fan of this African solution for many reasons, but even if we wanted to leave, the courts of Georgia will not allow it if the ECUSA opposed it.

    We are left without remedy. It’s sad.

  • Kris

    To corroborate our host’s point: No offense meant, but yawn.

    Bart@7: “Despite?”

    MSimon@11: Regardless of the merits of the underlying issue, your comment is somewhat reminiscent of the attitudes commonly blamed for the Episcopal decline.

    @18: “names of two bishops deleted -ed”

    Awww! Just when it was getting interesting! :-)

    thibaud@21: “Uganda? I’ll take Sweden or Germany, thanks.”

    Even the persecuted Jews of Europe wouldn’t take Uganda. By the way, WigWag thank you for filling in.

  • thibaud

    Kris – you’ve flipped your Wig.

  • http://wwrtc.blogspot.com Art Deco

    If you [please refrain from disparaging other commenters], I suppose you would see it that way.

    Dr. Mead, his original comment was a disparagement, his assessment evinced no familiarity with the mundane reality of religious observance, and the practice of social exclusion and inclusion is vibrant in high schools and such, not elsewhere. The remark was fair and you are wrong to delete it.

  • Eurydice

    @Art Deco – so happy to be spared the disparaging comment, but you don’t know me well enough to judge what I would or would not be likely to think.

    The idea of “who’s in and who’s out” seems like an oversimplification, but it’s not a new concept and every religion practices it. Those who align themselves with the beliefs of the religion, by practice and/or by birth, are in – those who don’t are out. I’m not saying this to denigrate religion, I’m just stating reality. It’s a dilemma that all religions have faced and continue to face as the world becomes more secular – how much should a religion try to stay in step with the secular world?

    Some let the secular world in to the point that there’s no difference between the two. Some, like my own Greek Orthodox church, hold on to the ways of a 1,000 years ago. I prefer the old ways, the mysterious beauty of chanting and incense and New Testament Greek liturgy, but I can’t deny that the churches which have switched to English translations and Protestant-style bombastic sermons are the ones which are growing.

  • Jim.

    @Eurydice-

    One of the more important points made repeatedly in Scripture is the fact that it was designed to reach out to those who are “out” and convert them to those who are “in”.

    Go and make disciples of all peoples, baptizing them in the name of God, and teaching them to obey everything Chrst commanded. It’s the “Great Commission”, and the Episcopal church’s problems stem from their not being committed to it.

  • Steven E

    The fate of the Episcopal Church is simple enough to explain. “Be in the world but not of it” is not merely a command, but a practical sociological necessity. What does the Episcopal Church believe that one would be ostracized for saying at a Harvard faculty cocktail party? Then one does not need to go to an Episcopal service to reinforce your beliefs, and there is no reason to give money to the church to affirm a commitment to the belief.

    Oh, if the Episcopal Church actually wielded power, that would make a substitute reason for attendance and donations . . . but it doesn’t, anymore.

    Let me add that the same issues I addressed above will deeply wound the Republican Party. The last bastion of Prohibition.

    So, do you actually think Obama is a Republican, or have you managed to not notice his actual policies and practices?

  • http://wwrtc.blogspot.com Art Deco

    1. Euridice, I do not know you from a cord of wood.

    2. No, that is not ‘the whole point of religion’. Associations have purposes and there are boundaries between those associated and those not. The point is to pursue the collective purpose. The point is not to draw the boundaries for the fun of drawing boundaries.

    It’s a dilemma that all religions have faced and continue to face as the world becomes more secular – how much should a religion try to stay in step with the secular world?

    It is not a dilemma unless you place a positive value with staying ‘in step’ and never mind the content of that. Highly conventional people do place such a value.

  • Kris

    thibaud@25: “Kris – you’ve flipped your Wig”

    Nah, I’m just wagging it.

  • Eurydice

    @Jim – Yes, of course, conversion is the way to bring people in. But I don’t know if that’s the issue here. From what I can tell of Prof. Mead’s article, the issue seems to be the bringing in of openly gay, lesbian and transgendered individuals. That’s the only concrete issue I’ve seen from him and the other commenters here. The rest has been vague language about loss of moral authority, leftist politics, and the selfish interest of parties involved (which doesn’t seem particular to the Episcopal church).

  • Dutch 1960

    Lots of interesting ideas. I think jetty in #2 nailed it. I will remember that one.

  • http://wwrtc.blogspot.com Art Deco

    the issue seems to be the bringing in of openly gay, lesbian and transgendered individuals. That’s the only concrete issue I’ve seen from him and the other commenters here. The rest has been vague language about loss of moral authority, leftist politics, and the selfish interest of parties involved (which doesn’t seem particular to the Episcopal church).

    1. The Episcopal Church is not the only denomination imploding.

    2. Homosexuality seems to addle a certain sort of bourgeois. The best I can discern, attitudes toward it are an identity marker, differentiating the subject from various ‘thems’ they dislike. The addlement is unusually intense among the sorts attracted to contemporary clerical occupations, the churchocracy, & seats on the vestry.

    3. Attendant upon that is a mutual exchange of ego satisfactions between male homosexuals and their aspirant patrons.

    4. Keeping in mind in all of this that cutting a path to salvation has not for some time been on the mind of most in the pews anyway. They are there for various reasons, mostly, I think, out of a taste for what the clergy offer week after week (which is very seldom any serious teachings on metaphysics or morals). You get a mess of blancmange about our ‘relationship with God’ or some such. You want relationship advice you ought to read Carolyn Hax; she’s low overhead.

  • ari

    I’d have thought the rot set in earlier. In the 50′s, the authors Massey had an hemophiliac son. The wife went to her local pastor and asked to put up a flyer asking the congregation to donate blood so that they could harvest the clotting factor in the serum. The bishop recoiled, quite physically, from what I remember reading. He thought it was exposing weakness, or imposing. The family ended up in Europe, rather than continue to face raising their son in that circumstance.

    And, let’s see, the memoir about a bishop in new york, by his daughter, exposing him as a profligrate sexual omnivore. Nine children with one wife, and then homosexual flings on the side. While any number of people focus on the reprobate, I wonder how the poor chickens felt, getting preyed on by a “man of the cloth.” I can’t quite bring myself to say “man of god.” Nobody censured him.

    Or Margaret Mead working on the catechism, to shift it in her own, mixed up, favor.

    That’s a generation of rot, right there.

    On the good side, when I’ve a liberal friend who loathes the church with some magnificent, animated, clueless passion, I invite them to attend an Episcopal church. They either become members, or leave shocked that a church is more liberal than they, themselves.

    I wonder, though, in its humble and not very orthodox state, if it’s exactly the right congregation to begin picking up the pieces of the damage they, themselves wrought. A single mother, with multiple children by different men, would be worshipping in a community where there weren’t conventional families thick on the ground. That would have to be more comfortable than a suburban, married folks and kids primary, church.

    Or, say, someone who has struggled through the thickets of new age bookstores…they wouldn’t be expected to burn their books or abjure their years of casting horoscopes or throwing salt over their shoulder. They’d be considered sincere seekers.

    I do really wish pastors would stick to teaching from scriptures. we had a guest minister from the campus church last sunday. half his sermon was brilliant- the part involving the readings of the day- and half was the warmed over platform of the democratic party. he was whining that no one talks about global warming anymore. It was painful. he was preaching to the people who had published the work dismantling that sort of nonsense. It was really painful. He was so good at his core competency, and so bad at everything else.

  • Erik Powers

    “…it is never safe to call a church dead, no matter how compromised or temporizing it may appear; it is called by God’s name, it has His eye upon it, and at any moment he may sweep away the surface with purifying fire.” – Brother Andrew, “God’s Smuggler”

  • CatoRenasci

    Something very similar has happened in what was the mainline Protestant denomination in New England: the Congregational Church, which merged with the Evangelical & Reformed Church in 1957, forming the United Church of Christ (UCC – often jokingly known as Unitarians Considering Christ).

    Always relatively theologically liberal in the sense on little dogma (the right of private judgment about scripture has been a key doctrine since early days), Congregationalists were nonetheless morally upright, Biblically-based, and conservative in personal practice and habits.

    The UCC has steadily marched to the left since the early 1960s, and membership has dwindled steadily since around 1970.

    Today, it’s a mish-mash of feminism, liberation theology (Rev. Wright is UCC affiliated), social justice cant, and Democratic activism.

  • http://datechguyblog.com datechguy

    To have moral authority, one must believe in morality

  • http://www.americanelephant.wordpress.com The Elephant’s Child

    I believe this in simply another effect of the takeover of our society by the noxious idea of political correctness, non-judgmentalism, and from Steven Hayward — the elevation of compassion to a political principle. How can you talk about right and wrong if you cannot be judgmental?

    Most of what I learned from my parents about how to behave, came from their conversations about other people and events, rather than what they told me to do. I learned from their judgments what was acceptable and what was not.

    Conversations about sin or compassion become difficult if you can’t be ‘judgmental’ about any behavior. Political correctness has been the source of a remarkable amount of trouble.

  • http://www.jpfo.org james solbakken

    Jesus Christ is merely spewing the hypocrites out of His mouth, just like He said He would. Duh. What did everyone expect to happen when supposed “Christians” moved to embrace sodomy?!?!?!?!?!

  • thule222

    “On the first Feminian Sandstones we were promised the Fuller Life
    (Which started by loving our neighbour and ended by loving his wife)
    Till our women had no more children and the men lost reason and faith,
    And the Gods of the Copybook Headings said: “The Wages of Sin is Death.”

    from The Gods of the Copybook Headings
    by Rudyard Kipling

  • http://www.thedonovan.com/the_farm Beth Donovan

    I’m Catholic, and damned proud of it. My Episcopalian husband and his family have become more and more embarrassed every year.

    They screamed – Hurray, we will have gay priests, and suddenly, my sister’s-in-law husband of 33 years, the choir guy, father of 3 children, decides, oh, cool, Gay is OKay. I shall leave my family and still be good with God. Of course, he waited until her parents passed away and left her with a goodly sum – he gets to get half of that.

  • Former Piskie

    The main issue is not the sexual revisionism but rather how the Episcopal denomination had to wring Scripture/Christianity like a mop, squeezing it to the point where religious objections were wrung out of it. In the end, they squeezed everything out of the mop so that it was devoid of cleansing water. As someone right described it: Unitarians with incense.

    That guy 2,000 years ago is treated like Voldemort. His name must not be said out loud in any Episcopal sermon. It is sadly amusing to see the contortions that the presiding “bishop”, Katherine Jeffert Shori goes through so as not to mention the name of the religion’s founder.

    And if you think the last decade’s decline is bad, the demographics for the future are HORRIBLE. Go to any parish and all you will see in the pews is blue haired ladies. They have burned through most of their parish endowments. It will be a horrifying site. You have to think the PCUSA and ELCA brain dead to follow in the footsteps.

    The good news is that Anglicanism lives in the form of the Anglican Church of North America.

  • MassJim

    I quit the church when the Bishop of New Hampshire married a man of his own faith and a female priest announced that she was a practicing muslim but did not see any conflict with her being a member of the Episcopal clergy.

  • Jeffersonian

    I was an Episcopalian by marriage. Around 2001, years before Gene Robinson, my “bishop” came to our parish and said while “I am the way, the truth and the life” was all well and good, if you want to know the mind of God you needed to look at Buddhism, Islam, Shinto, etc. too. It was the first time I wanted to stand up after a sermon and give a Christian rebuttal. We didn’t last more than a few months after that incident.

    There is no reforming TEC. Even now, after the lurid freakshow that was the General Convention, the movers and shakers in what remains of this “cult for upscale Western sodomites and a few attendant fetishists” (Mark Steyn) regards the plummeting membership as a healthful pruning of deadwood. Only when the smoking ruins lay about their empty heads will it dawn upon them.

  • Amphipolis

    They spent their last penny of moral authority taking Falls Church from its congregation.

  • JB Mohr

    It is not only the Episcopal Church that is in decline. A few years back the one of the largest Lutheran churches (the ELCA) entered into a partnership with them, which has caused significant dissension within the denomination resulting in significant loss of churches and parishioners.

  • Roz

    Pope Benedict has created a home for devout members of the Anglican and Episcopal Churches akin to the structure followed by Eastern rite churches that maintain allegiance to Rome while maintaining their own liturgical traditions. The welcome mat even extends to married clergy. The procedures were announced late in 2009. The British Ordinariate was established in Jnauary, 2011, North America was established last January and Australia was created just last month. The last I heard, 30 former Episcopal priests were to be ordained as Catholic priest for the American Ordinariate by the end of this summer.

  • Mike Allen

    Today the Episc’ls, tomorrow the Catholics. Two sects that drifted far away from Scripture a long time ago.

  • B Dubya

    The Church of England, the Anglican and Episcopal offspring of that church carried a basic flaw of character and charter which appears to have been fatal.

    In Britain, the Church of England was created and maintained as an organ of the Monarchy, a thing not answerable to Jesus Christ, but to Henry VIII and his heirs.

    Faith in the governing heirarchy of the church has always been a matter of expedience, and the rot started in the 16th century has finally eaten the soul out of it.

    I was raised as an Episcopalian, confirmed in the Episcopal Curch as a youth in Washington State, but I can no longer, in Christian concience, attend services led by any person ordained by it.

    It is not for Caesar to order things of the spirit, and the Church that I knew is now wholly Ceasar’s.

  • Don Algeo

    re Eurydice: Argh! *despite*

    Dispit, Dispite, Dispitt, ancient forms of Despite, in use during times when Jesus was perhaps the main thing.

  • LogicalSC

    They rejected Christ and now God is culling his children from this decaying edifice.

  • SonofaMitch

    M.Simon was perhaps onto something: medicinal marijuana (with a religious branding) could be a way to fill those pews. “The stained glass, the robes, like wow, man….” Breathe new life into a failing business model. Sounds like doctrinal objections would be the least of the problems.

  • Dan In Kansas

    I am happily Anglican, and was on the vestry of my church. The decline of the Episcopal Church is not nearly as complicated or based on teh gheys as many of commentariat here would have it.

    Quite simply, Episcopalians tend to be a) Episcopal by birth and b) as cliquish and unintentionally snobby as any prep school grad could ever hope to be.

    The result is that Episcopal churches tend to be “back of the head” churches. You know everyone’s name there, and that’s about it, unless you went to high school together.

    To me what’s saddest about this is that the Anglican rite — Communion every week, chanted Psalms, actual wine at Communion instead Welch’s grape juice — is deeply moving and gives Christianity something it direly needs in our day and age: a real liturgy that connects every Anglican with churches around the world.

    Also, I will praise the great work done by Episcopal Relief and Development.

  • thomass

    Eurydice says:

    “So, is this what you think the problem is or are there other factors involved?”

    Whoa… doesn’t matter what he thinks or what I think either. It matters what the former members thought… You can debate either of us and it won’t change what happened.

  • BooMushroom

    He’d say you’ve got to stand for something or you’ll fall for anything
    You’ve got to be your own man not a puppet on a string
    Never compromise what’s right and uphold your family name
    You’ve got to stand for something or you’ll fall for anything

    Now we might have been better off or owned a bigger house
    If daddy had done more givin’ in or a little more backing down
    But we always had plenty just living his advice
    Whatever you do today you’ll have to sleep with tonight

  • ChuckB

    I’ve lived across the street from an Episcopal church for more than thirty years now. It’s alway full on Saturdays and Sundays. The weird part is that it’s full of Koreans and Hindu’s. I don’t know if there are actually any Episcopalians there.
    Years ago my wife, who is Catholic, observed that the Episcopal Church seemed to be more of a gay/lesbian social club than an actual church.

  • thomass

    Steve Billingsley says:

    “Wow…looking at M.Simon’s comments and his reference to the medicinal cannabis movement it makes think he may have partaken in a bit too much of the “medicinal cannabis” himself. What a convoluted mess of unconnected thinking….”

    Heh, before his punch line when he talked about various churches supporting denying medicine in the name of the good I thought he was going to bring up obamacare… oh well.

  • the wolf

    What’s notable about organizations that compromise their principles to satisfy the requirements of those not in the organization rarely gain new members and invariably lose the ones they have.

  • Linds

    It’s always amusing, albeit a bit sad, to see non-Episcopalians [complaining] about Episcopalians. Seriously, if the denomination bothers you enough, go be a Bible-thumping Baptist or go join a non-denom mega church. It looks like plenty of people have done just that. It’s sad, but predictable.

    The problem isn’t all on the side of the Episcopal leadership. It’s also a crisis in our religious culture. Religion has been transformed by decades of watching hellfire-and-brimstone, we’re-better-than-they-are, you-either-believe-like-I-do-or-you-go-to-hell preachers shouting on TV, along with a culture that eschews meditation, tradition and individual thought for Broadway-esque praise bands and multi-media presentations in mega churches. Mainline churches can’t compete.

    Maybe my diocese isn’t as liberal as some (the Diocese of West Texas *rocks*), but this notion that the Episcopal church has somehow left behind scripture and Jesus doesn’t match my experiences at all. We just can’t compete in a society that looks for “entertainment value” and a holier-than-thou attitude in the church experience. It’s like if they aren’t being told that they’re always right, they don’t feel like they’re in church. Every time I try out one of these immensely-popular evangelical churches, I walk away feeling uncomfortable and empty. But maybe that’s because I’m a cradle Episcopalian. I’m used to something with a bit more substance to it.

    I also don’t get the implication that Episcopalians don’t give to the greater community. Every Episcopal church I’ve attended, no matter how small or poor, has had an active outreach program. Assuming some of these commenters have actually darkened the door of an Episcopal church, what dioceses are you guys coming from?!?

  • 698uy08y9u8

    “The numerical decline, bad as it is, matters less than the collapse in the moral authority of the church. The Episcopal Church has made many controversial pronouncements on social issues; at the latest General Convention the church declared that transgendered persons cannot automatically be barred from the priesthood. One can agree or disagree with some of these individual decisions, but what is striking over time is the decline in the moral weight of the church.”

    You failed to mention the cause and effect relationship between the numerical decline and the controversial pronouncements on social issues. The church committed suicide by changing it’s morality out from under it’s members. People left the church because the church turned left.

    There is also the phenomenon of conservative believers from third world countries coming to the west as reverse missionaries collecting.

  • Marty

    Why bother with organized religion when you can just call yourself a secular humanist and be at the same place the Episcopal Church hierarchy wants to get to.

  • Geoff

    Anglicans are doing just fine. Just not where rich white people are. You have to go to places like Nigeria.

  • http://www.turningthingsupsidedown@blogspot.com Tom Woodward

    I wish the author had taken the time to research this whole thing. Respectable researchers tell us that the drop in attendance and membership is an across the board phenomenon and is probably more due, in the Episcopal Church, to the moralizers like those who frequent this site than any actions the Episcopal Church has taken.
    Sorry, guys and girls, the Good News of the Gospel is that we are saved by Grace through faith. Period. As much as you want to make the gospel into a litmus test based on your own likes and dislikes, that is not what the Bible says. Jesus does lay down two tests: the Beatitudes and Matthew 25. If following those two tests (that’s all he has) costs you membership, that’s the cost of discipleship.
    If you disagree with me, show me where Jesus contradicts this. Show me where we are saved by anything other than grace through faith in Jesus Christ. That has got to be good news for those who set up standards for others they would not accept for themselves.

  • SukieTawdry

    I was raised in the Episcopal church. It had nice trappings, lovely rituals and a vibrant membership of society’s movers and shakers. It was as good a place as any to learn about God. It seemed an ideal church for a WASP (we were members of a Low Church), an ideal church for those with a conservative bent.

    It was a pretty undemanding denomination. One was expected to obey the Ten Commandants and live a reasonably Christian life, of course, but beyond that nothing was prohibited (other than that which God had already prohibited) and nothing in particular was required (not even, when it got right down to it, good deeds). Just performance of the “two great and necessary” sacraments and belief (the Apostles Creed about covers it). The bishop told my confirmation class that when he put his hands on our heads, we would feel the Holy Spirit enter us. And he was right, we did.

    It all started to go wrong in the 70′s (like so much else). The General Convention started seriously screwing around with the Book of Common Prayer and issuing “contentious resolutions.” It plunged into liberal politics with resolutions about social justice, affirmative action, gay rights, living wages. In 1976, it gave the go-ahead to ordain women and in 1977, the first priest to be openly gay was ordained (a woman as it happens). Some years later it would celebrate a priest who left his wife and family to pursue life as a non-celibate gay man by electing him bishop. To say that it had ceased to play to its audience or to understand its market would be understatements. No wonder the church is dying.

    But, you know, we WASPs are a dying breed, so maybe its appropriate that our mother church die along with us. One should always bear in mind that we have no idea where the church would be today, or if indeed there would be a church today, if the Pope had granted Henry his annulment.

  • Bill Woods

    As a Unitarian, I want to welcome all our new adherents…

    “I am the very model of a modern Unitarian,
    Far broader than a Catholic, Hindu, Jew or Presbyterian.

    About most any problem I am teeming with a lot of views,
    I’m full of fine ideas that should fill our church’s empty pews.”

  • Doug Breston

    It’s far worse than your numbers show. TEC, once an individual is added to the role of members, remains on the role for life. Even repeated requests to have one’s name removed will not cause it to be done. Heck – it’s been YEARS since i left, and they STILL show me by name. So, you see, the official TEC attendance numbers are extraordinarily inflated and absolutely bogus.

  • FrancisChalk

    The Episcopal Church has become part of the “Christian Left”, which is to say it has succumbed to and co-opted the values of the Left. The Church seems oblivious to the fact that the core philosophical belief underpinning Marxism/Socialism/Communism is atheism. Marx and his followers were extremely astute at deceiving the masses as to the true nature of their beliefs. Marx, and the modern day Left of all stripes, very purposefully targeted the key institutions of society—academia, government, charities (to name a few), and the church—for the sole purpose of infiltrating and subverting these institutions to do the work of the Left and advance the worldwide Socialist/Communist movement.

    Thus, when good Christians (who should arbor the atheist Left in all its forms) start to succumb to the trappings of the Left, these Christians cease advancing Christ’s cause and instead inadvertently advance the Marxist cause. The West, capitalism, freedom and Christianity are all at war with Marxism/Socialism. If the Episcopal Church hierarchy doesn’t understand this, it will cease to exist as a religion—as it should.

  • http://wwrtc.blogspot.com Art Deco

    It’s always amusing, albeit a bit sad, to see non-Episcopalians [complaining] about Episcopalians.

    Sorry, Linds. Baptised into that congregation, now nearly fifty years ago.

    The church committed suicide by changing it’s morality out from under it’s members. People left the church because the church turned left.

    I will offer a different hypothesis.

    The General Convention is grotesque (a phenomenon which I understand originated around about 1965), but I suspect the common-and-garden experience of parish life is salient here. If my own experience is representative, you have had a cohort-to-cohort decline in the quality of the clergy. I have met a couple of Episcopal priests born after 1933 who did not have ‘twerp’ written all over them; neither was a parish rector. One was a retired businessman who was dispatched to unstaffed parishes for short term assignments and one was a lapsed professor doing mission work in Africa.

    I knew a vicar who was intellectually serious (giving meaty sermons on the day’s readings) and who had what I will call presence. He was born in 1913 and died in 1997. He did not say much about where the rubber hits the road, but unlike the repellant little man who presided over that parish, he said things worth hearing. No one born after about 1949 is more likely than not to have had their youthful religious instruction from a man of that cohort.

    Here we are. The sermons are tripe, the coffee hour is banal, the catechesis haphazard at best. Well, be here and be with our community and have a ‘meal’, blah blah. I do not think you will find my contemporaries or people half a generation older or younger are bitter at the church. They just have other things to do on Sunday and cannot see the point of what is being offered.

    A while back a Franciscan priest offered what he had once been told about homilies: if you do not mention one of the four last things, you have wasted your time. I am not sure I ever heard an Anglican vicar mention one of them even once.

  • ari

    well,no. the church can’t stand behind medical marijuana. that’s sort of one of the hallmarks of christian civilization: sobriety. It’s how we’re the west, and they were the rest. now that the rest of the world is becoming christian and sobering up, we’re up for competition.

    if you read the new testament, it reads like an AA or NA tract for a reason. the greeks were going to hellenic temples, and drinking opium-soaked wine. It’s how they had “dreams and visions.” The range of the greek gods is the range of opium production across europe into asia, basically. drying out and the catechumenate are the same length of time for a reason- they are the same practice, more or less. At least that’s what fans of opium and morphine write, on their websites cursing the happiness-destroying practices of christianity.

    so, sobriety, orphanages and hospitals are the three hallmarks of a christian-oriented people, even before they are recognized, or a majority, or even not-oppressed. when these fall into disrepair or disrepute- that’s the measure of falling away from a christian culture. It makes for interesting world-watching. california drug-enforcement, canadian hospitals, the NHS healthcare crises, and the stats on adoption- namely, it’s not happening, while abortion claims so many victims.

    I wish churches would get that the most important collecting is when they give the children’s sermon- they collect the most valuable part of any household, and all its hopes for the future up at the front of the church. the money is temporary and less valuable, compared to that. I don’t know that any person without children quite understands that.

    My cousin is a gay Episcopal priest. He checks up on me, and tries to counsel me about the faith. So, on one hand, he is faithful to outreach. On the other hand, he had to divorce his wife, and abandon his son, to come out. So there is that whole law and faithfulness issue. Are his bodily appetites so much more important than vows he took as a grownup? We don’t have child marriage. How much sexual integrity does he need? He had enough to have a marriage and a child for twenty years. His wife did not leave him. He left her. I honestly don’t see how he was accepted into the clergy in the first place.

    The ELCA is in fellowship with as many congregations as will have them. It’s part of their core sense of who they are. The vote for choosing to allow gay clergy is so that they don’t lose any of the young people raised in the church. That’s a 15 year investment, to get to full confirmation. These are sheep they don’t want to lose. At least that’s how it’s been explained to me by a pastor who supported the vote in favor. I don’t understand it, necessarily. But I respect that they took 10 years to study and pray, and they had an open vote, with pleadings by both sides.

    Although, honestly, to keep my family in the Lutheran fold, we’re going to have to find an ALC church- the one that split away from ELCA after that vote.

    The vote to allow gay priests….my husband is barely able to accept female pastors…gay ones are a bridge too far for him.

    I’m not sure it’s biblically allowable, and, like I said, I’ve got gay priests as cousins. We know there was a homosocial culture that got squashed flat by Christianity. We don’t know why it was so summarily flattened. They might have had good reasons. The chilliness and rage and destructiveness of gay activists is really different than, say, pro-life activists, and they are both civil rights groups, for instance.

    Ya’ll keep circling the gay priests wagon. well, what about the episcopal priests who preach Marx? Like Bishop Desmond Tutu? His sermons are “marx today, marx tomorrow.” Paul Tillich said his job was reconciling the church to Marxism. That seems like they took the church robes, and bowed down to idols. I know when I read a critique of Marxism with any intelligence, I’m reading a catholic theologian. That’s grievous.

    Also, well, episcopalians didn’t have the kids that would fill they pews. They were the first to support birth control, and among the first to support abortion. at least in pentecostal and baptist land, the notion of “quiver-full” got loose, and that God is creating new individuals in the womb, not just ‘products of conception.’ So, there are ghosts in the pews- the kids that might have been, that aren’t there at all.

  • huxley

    Linda @60: I’m glad to hear that your church in Texas remains intact. But I used to attend a progressive Episcopalian church that just became more gay, more political and more hostile to conservatives with each passing year until I had to leave a few years ago.

    They said they welcomed all, which was true for minorities, but if you were conservative it was rather different.

    From reading the news and diocese bulletins I can tell that the rot I saw at my church has thoroughly infected the higher levels of the Episcopal Church to the very top.

    Overall the ECUSA is as doomed as Mead describes.

  • R.C.

    Well, it’s quite simple.

    The Church of Jesus Christ was intended to be held together by the activity of the Holy Spirit acting through three mechanisms:

    (1.) The Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity of Jesus Christ communicated to the faithful through their partaking of the sacrifice (thanksgiving, paschal, atonement, all in one) of the Eucharist as discussed in 1 Corinthians 11, John 6, and elsewhere;

    (2.) The judicial and disciplinary unity of the faithful under Christ’s appointed stewards, the bishops consecrated with fully sacrificial orders in Apostolic Succession as indicated in Matthew 18, Acts 1, and elsewhere;

    (3.) The doctrinal unity on matters of faith and morals granted by the Holy Spirit working through the Magisterial and prophetic offices of all the bishops in union with the successor of Peter, who has the role of strengthening his brethren, feeding Christ’s flock, and serving as the Chief Stewardly typological fulfillment of the Old Testament position of Head-of-House (e.g. Eliakim son of Hilkiah) who, distinct among all the other stewards, could bind and no other could loose, or could loose and no other could bind.

    That’s how you keep the Body of Christ unified and its witness to the world strong, as Jesus indicates in his High Priestly Prayer: “That they may be one, as thou Father and I are one, that the world will know that thou hast sent me.”

    The Episcopal communion is in full rebellion against Christ’s kingdom with respect to the second and third unifying mechanism, denying in principle most of the serious moral prohibitions Christ teaches to His flock and the authority of Christ’s ministers to teach them. And the Episcopal communion lacks valid orders to effect the first unifying mechanism.

    Thus their last lingering connections to the Body of Christ is ever more tenuous. They reject the disciplinary and moral instructions which come from the Apostles’ successors, like muscles which refuse to hear nerve signals from the head, seizing up in spasm instead. In the name of compassion they refuse to call sin sin, and thus reject any possibility at moral cleansing and sanctification, like a body without a liver or kidneys or an immune system. Lacking the sacrificial priesthood they cannot consume the Eternal Word at table, and lacking a serious submission to the authority of Scripture they cannot even experience the Word in that attenuated way. In this fashion their lifeblood is absent, like a fingertip tied with a tourniquet so tightly as to prohibit circulation.

    So, again, their connection to the Body of Christ is tenuous: Like a mostly-severed limb hanging by a mere thread of skin. We know what happens when a branch does not abide in the Vine; and, John 6 is the only place in Scripture which teaches exactly how to abide in Him.

    Why the surprise when gangrene sets in?

    The only serious hopes for renewal in that communion will come through reform that follows morally and theologically rigorous, traditional, and evangelistic lines and a cultural and devotional shift towards wholehearted, self-sacrificial, and embarrassingly charismatic participatory worship.

    To get an idea how unlikely that is: Picture Katharine Jefferts Schori preaching a sermon that, morally and theologically, sounded like equal parts C.S.Lewis, Oswald Chambers, and John Henry Newman. Picture that old apostate John Shelby Spong repenting his sins and heresy with such humility and submission that he begs to be allowed to stand bare-headed three days in the snows of Canossa.

    Or, if you like, picture pigs flying.

    So I suppose they are not really serious hopes. In lieu of serious hopes, it is either Anglicanorum Coetibus or nothing.

  • Frank Arden

    Dr. Meade,

    Thank you for a most soulful post. It rises above all the rancor of politics and cheap, easy opinion, yet hits squarely upon the sad dilemma with what we traditional Episcopalians must contend.

    The very title of your essay, “The Light that Failed” reminded me of our friend Shakespeare whose Othello infamously said before he killed his beloved Desdemona, “Put out the light, and then put out the light,” as he twisted the candle out and strangled the light of his life to death in the dark.

    Have not enough dark Othellos of the Episcopal Church done the same to the small life of our precious communion?

    The difference here is that Othello mistakenly, and tragically, thought he had been betrayed, yet and while the elite Madame Shiori, et al, betray and make a mockery of us who believe in a dual system of Ecclesial Law and Social Law.

    The issues at hand are not about homosexuals who claim they have no “choice” to be whom or what they think they are; nor of the transgendered souls who claim to “choose” what they think they ought to be.

    To believe that one’s sexuality is without choice is to abandon the future of one’s genes to Darwin’s Theory of Natural Selection of an endangered species that cannot nor cares not to reproduce. To choose not to reproduce as a transgendered person achieves the same extinction.

    The illogical juxtaposition of these arguments about “choice” should be clear to anyone.

    Yet, they are central themes of vast disagreement in the Episcopal Church.

    I bring this up because the business of homosexuality in the Episcopal Church seems to be the lightening rod of popular controversy, but I don’t believe it lies at the heart of the schism. It’s only an easy and convenient symbol of something much deeper.

    For as long as there was any Church anywhere at all, homosexuals have always been a part of it no matter how much people imagined otherwise. Whether they were congregants or clergy, they were always there just as they are today.

    For myself, I have known gays in my church, just as I have gay friends outside of it. My parents “discovered” they had homosexual friends from high school in 1940. It makes no difference. Friends are friends.

    The problem, you see, is that I, for example, am a lustful heterosexual sinner who has committed outrageous crimes against the Word of God in my thoughts and deeds. Upon this very thing only, I would never presume to pastor a flock, but should much rather kneel behind the pew before me in prayer as a practice for that day I shall kneel again, in fear and trembling, before my Maker.

    Should I ask my priest or bishop to hang my sins upon my shoulders in knighthood, as a badge of honor so to speak, that I might lead some flock to nowhere?

    Should I have a dispensation from sin merely because I would be gay?

    We all want absolution for our sins and, and whether we lust for ourselves, lust for another, lust for the forbidden: no matter how or for what we envy, how many times we bear false witness, in spite of how many times we curse God when our faith is tested, and no matter how many times we find our souls upon Dante’s lowest ring of Hell in a breach of trust against ourselves or anyone else, I believe through our precious faith we shall have forgiveness by the Grace of God through our Savior, Jesus Christ.

    But we should not have forgiveness or absolution through, by, for, because of, and from the Learjet pilot and oceanographer, the great Madame Bishop Katherine Jefforts Schiori and the bumbling old intellectual of Canterbury, neither the gay Bishop Robinson, nor any other supremely confident secular reformer who knows what’s best for everybody and thinks Islamic Law ought be incorporated into Western Common Law (which is rather weird given how homosexuality is a capital crime under Islamic Law).

    My precious Episcopal Church belongs to the faithful: to those who confess their sins and repent, those humble sinners who look to a better day beyond this world and who know the world belongs not to them and certainly not to the petty political correctives of those who would burden us with their mindless project to perfect the world.

    Schiori, et al, would do well to read of Dante’s lowest Hell: that place where trust has been broken.

    Social Law is a fine and desirable thing. We even get to vote for it.

    Ecclesial Law is not democratic and was never thought otherwise, yet the trust is broken by the elites as they shamelessly put out the light, and put out the light.

  • Rick Rock

    Leftwingers took over the churches. I don’t associate with leftwingers.

  • Bill

    We are left without remedy. It’s sad.
    X2

  • Bill

    @Dan In Kansas – you do realize, do you not, that the overhead rates of Episcopal Relief and Development are through the roof ? Well over thirty percent overhead. A tawdry performance compared to UMCOR, whose overhead is around five percent…to say nothing of Food for the Poor, whose low overhead is one of its selling points. And 815 has given up trying to fix itself – this whole buzz about church restructuring is triggered by ineffectiveness and poor management of and by the national church. Even the Executive Council and the PB’s office are now at daggers drawn. Indeed the plight of the Episcopal Church is much like the Kilkenny cats:

    There once were two cats of Kilkenny
    Each thought there was one cat too many
    So they fought and they fit
    And they scratched and they bit
    ‘Til (excepting their nails
    And the tips of their tails)
    Instead of two cats there weren’t any!

  • Mikey NTH

    As an Episcopalian who no longer attends the decline is due to the church leadership being more interested in the social-political issues of the day and less about the gospel. I wasn’t interested in the cause de jour, causes that all seemed to be stuck in the 1950′s-1960′s.

  • Bart Hall (Kansas, USA)

    “…this notion that the Episcopal church has somehow left behind scripture and Jesus doesn’t match my experiences at all.” @Linds #60

    It is late in the thread, and nobody can refute your personal experience, but as a 16th-generation Anglican I can’t let your comment pass unanswered: the question of scriptural authority is the very core of the problem, and “sexuality” is but one symptom.

    The watershed was Resolution B-001 (link below) at the ’03 General Convention. It sought to reaffirm several elements in the church’s Articles of Religion (and even the 1979 prayerbook) relating to the relative authority of scripture compared to worldly councils.

    It failed, by a 2:3 margin, amongst *bishops*, the purported leadership of the church. Most of those bishops opposing B-001 first entered seminary in the late 1960s when it provided them a good way to avoid the draft after their college deferment had ended.

    http://www.americananglican.org/resolution-b00/

  • Jim.

    @Eurydice-

    You missed the second portion of the Commission there… “and teaching them to obey everything commanded of you”, which includes the Law (“not one iota of the Law is to be changed”.)

    People who embrace homosexuality — “openly gay”, in your words — have declared their intention to disobey God regarding what is clearly taught in the Bible (Leviticus, the first chapter of Romans) about morality.

    Their disobedience to God, their feeling temptation and giving in to it, certainly doesn’t make them any different from anyone else in church. They’re certainly not alone in that; efforts of the Church to make sure they don’t feel isolated are very important.

    The distinction here is that “openly gay” means they have decided to take this disobedience, incidental (but inevitable) to our human nature, into what they think is a positive part of their identity. They have made giving in to temptation a way of life.

    In joining the Church I attend, whether through confirmation or adult conversion, the question is asked, “Do you renounce the devil and all his works and all his ways?”, and anyone unwilling to answer, “I do renounce them” does not continue into communion with the Church.

    Does that mean that anyone who answers “I do renounce them” will never sin again? Hardly! But it does reflect that participation in the Church as a member (and their own salvation) requires them to make an effort (successful only by God’s grace) to let go of sin, instead of embracing it (by an act of human will, successful because we are free).

    CS Lewis points out that in the end, there are only two kinds of people — those who say to God “Thy will be done” who will be with God, and those to whom God says, “thy will be done” who will not be with God.

    Any church that does not teach this, and does not faithfully teach God’s Word in terms of morality, does not teach its adherents what they need to know about God’s Word and about God’s path to salvation.

  • Jim.

    @Rick Rock (74)-

    You should reconsider… re-read the portions of the Bible where Christ Himself makes a point of breaking bread with tax collectors.

  • Jim.

    Oh, for an edit button–

    Sin is not “incidental to Human Nature”. What I meant to address that we all commit incidental sins, as a result of our Human Nature.

    This is why we have repentance and confession every week, in liturgical churches.

    I meant to contrast this with deliberate, repeated, and absolutely unrepentant embrace of teachings against the Bible. That wasn’t quite right though… God’s Grace will even cover these, and they are so common among humans.

    However, the Church has to preach the Law as well as Grace — “Everything Christ has commanded”, which includes the Law. The Church cannot teach Wrong as Right, it cannot teach what is against God’s Word. If it tries to do so, its Light has failed, whatever its attendance.

    Frank Arden (73) has it right.

  • http://powerandcontrol.blogspot.com/ M. Simon

    For all those that complain I’m smoking the herb above. No. I’m Jewish. Just like Jesus.

  • http://powerandcontrol.blogspot.com/ M. Simon

    For further clarification see #11 above.

  • Richard Treitel

    If someone offers you a ham sandwich for lunch, will you invoke Lev. 11:7 ?

  • Thom

    Catholic church attendance is down considerably as well.

  • Eurydice

    @thomass #55 – Well, insofar as I was commenting on Prof. Mead’s article, it does matter to me what he thinks because I didn’t understand what he was trying to say.

  • Eurydice

    @Jim #7 – I didn’t miss the second portion of the Commission. You and I are talking about the same thing, and I fully understand that “openly” gay means “disobedient” in this context. All I’m trying to do is pin down what Prof. Mead is trying to say.

  • huxley

    “…this notion that the Episcopal church has somehow left behind scripture and Jesus doesn’t match my experiences at all.”

    Linda @60: Perhaps not at your church. In a progressive church, though, Jesus is mostly a teacher of social justice, the scriptures are “the stories” we share, and God is whatever higher power makes sense to you.

    At one Easter picnic I asked several regulars of my church whether they truly believed that Christ resurrected from the dead. Only two out of seven did so believe and they were former evangelicals. For the rest, Easter was an agreeable Spring rebirth myth.

    Don’t get me wrong. These Episcopalians are good, decent people that I liked and still like. But they are not Christian as the term has been understood since the Council of Nicea in 325 AD.

  • Donald Philip Veitch

    The “theological termites” were in the structures and institutions long before the 1950s although the laity were widely unaware of that. It took about two generations for the collapsing to begin. For students of 19th-20th century liberalism and Anglo-Catholicism, these twin forces were unopposed and united in doctrinal latitudinarism, indifferentism, and–now–utter incompetence and apostasy.

  • Frank Arden

    Huxley@88,

    You say, “These Episcopalians are good, decent people that I liked and still like. But they are not Christian as the term has been understood since the Council of Nicea in 325 AD.”

    Thank you for that, but Jim, Bill, RC and I have been trying hard to make a very important distinction between Episcopalians engaged in a schism, a broad disagreement, a distinct and different interpretation about scripture that is splitting the “these Episcopalians” apart and was inspired by Meade’s essay to begin with.

    To use the terms “these” and “they” implies that we have failed to explain to you, and perhaps others, is that Episcopalians cannot be painted with the same brush.

    I don’t know about the others, but I am and have been an Episcopalian for my entire fifty-nine years.

    I might add (forgive me Professor Meade if I’m wrong) that Meade was reared in the Episcopal Church as his father was an Episcopal priest in South Carolina when Meade was born.

    You are quite right and astute to define your understanding of being “Christian” based upon Nicea. So do I, but, as a traditional Episcopalian, I fear others who call themselves the same in my church do not have the same understanding as I do.

    When you say “they are not Christian,” you lump us all together when it is exactly the fact that we are in no way together. That’s the point.

    The various reasons why we are not “together” is the fundamental effort of this remarkable discussion.

  • http://www.patheos.com/Progressive-Christian/Convention-2012-Frederick-Schmidt-07-18-2012.html Frederick W. Schmidt

    As always, I am grateful for your thoughtful reflection, even when it brings us face to face with painful realities. All I would offer is a further reflection on the situation from a theological and, specifically, ecclesiological point of view:

    http://www.patheos.com/Progressive-Christian/Convention-2012-Frederick-Schmidt-07-18-2012.html

  • Frank Arden

    Frederick W. Schmidt,

    Thank you for that wonderful article. It reminded me that it is too easy to broadcast our anonymous points of view on these blogs.

    I imagine you do not want to get into the fray of this discussion, but I wish you would if only to force me to better hone my own ideas.

    I wonder, with so many good people on either side of the isle, if it not worth a goodwill settlement allowing two churches to worship in peace.

  • JC Fremont

    It’s been said before: No one needs a church to tell them how to be secular.