Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Small, smaller, smallest? Tiny North American Anglicanism splinters s'more...

The current Anglican "franchise" in North America, The Episcopal Church (TEC), has less than 800,000 folks in church on Sundays. And those few are aging and dying off.

Back in the '70s, "Continuing Anglicans" walked away from TEC because of changes to The Book of Common Prayer and the ordination of women to the priesthood. Both groups continued to shrink. The Continuum fragmented into various tiny jurisdictions.

Today, with TEC (and the Anglican Church of Canada) devolving into truly wretched parodies of Christianity (a good summary of the rot is here ), North American Anglicans are seeking relief by...

  • Staying in TEC and waiting on God;
  • Staying in TEC and waiting on the worldwide Anglican Communion to come up with some sort of solution to the chaos;
  • Leaving TEC to form a new North American Anglican franchise, with at least some recognition by overseas Anglicans;
  • Just leaving TEC to go to other churches or no church at all.

There are excellent people in all of those groupings. TEC is losing its most able and vigorous leaders, either by watching them leave or by marginalizing those who remain. (Example: My parish is wrapping up a 3-year capital campaign that exceeded all projections. Meanwhile, the diocese just launched a capital campaign of its own - without even talking to any of us or including any of us on the planning team.)

South Dakota (heck, just Sioux Falls!) is a snapshot of Anglican splintering and shrinkage. There are folks in the pews just marking time (based on comments I hear, the best chance for a unified Anglican entity would be something called "I Just Want My Episcopalian Funeral"). There are folks who leave but won't be part of any alternative organization. There are folks who say they want to be Anglican but won't participate until there is an alternative organization. There are folks who leave for other churches. There are folks who... well, you get the picture. And this is in a city with three Episcopal congregations, with a combined average Sunday attendance of under 300.

From every human point of view, this is hopeless. Which is why we need to stay in God's Word and prayer. It was a blessing to run into Psalm 106 this morning. It is a summary of Old Testament history, in which the people constantly forget God and fall away from Him, only to have his love bring new life out of their messes:

Again and again he rescued them,

but they chose to rebel against him,

and they were finally destroyed by their sin.

Even so, he pitied them in their distress and listened to their cries.

He remembered his covenant with them and
relented because of his unfailing love.

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