Thursday, August 6, 2009

The "U" shaped church?

Some of the South Dakota Deputies coming back from the Episcopal Church General Convention have been using the term "U shaped church."

This portrays the denomination as dominated by large coastal cities, with a gully in between reflecting "flyover country."

There is some good insight in this, but it is not entirely accurate.

It is true that the "issues" driving the denomination are pretty much big city, media attractive ones. But this is not confined to the coasts - Episcopal congregations in Minnesota, Iowa, Nebraska and Colorado buy into the General Convention agenda. Once it finds a Dean, Calvary Cathedral in Sioux Falls will be beating the same drum.

It is true that flyover country is largely irrelevant to most folks at GenCon. Our deputies always come back with humorous stories of folks who have no idea where South Dakota is on the map. But it is also true that GenCon subsidizes a large part of the Diocesan budget here, mainly to maintain a denominational presence on the Reservations. So GenCon certainly has some say in what goes on here.

I think the reality is that churches in the trough of the "U" are not in any particular geographical region, but are outside of the largest regional cities and diocesan centers. Sarah Hey of Stand Firm has made several astute comments that both "liberal" and "conservative" Episcopalians/Anglicans are fighting over people and property in those larger cities, while churches in less populous, lower status and limited resource areas are left to wither:

"As I predicted now years ago, liberal TEC will have relatively-speaking thriving parishes on the west coast in urban areas, and in the NE in highly populated urban areas, and one thriving parish in each of the ten major cities in the SE. Alternate Anglican entities will be capable of establishing relatively thriving parishes in the large urban areas like Raleigh, Atlanta, etc, and in a few exceptional pockets like Plano, Texas, Falls Church [VA], etc, etc. The rest of the US, in the rural areas, and in the large patches of fly-over middle America, and in between the two or three massive cities in some industrialized states . . . A wasteland.

And so far, neither [Anglican Church in North America] nor liberal TEC seem to really grasp that reality. The only parishes and dioceses within TEC who will be able to resist that nearly overwhelming trend will be parishes that have strong, strategic, lay and clergy leadership focused on renewing and reforming their small patches of blue sky, establishing green isles of sanity, and forming protective bulwarks against the rampant heresy and overweening bullying of the national church."


dave said...

"And so far, neither [Anglican Church in North America] nor liberal TEC seem to really grasp that reality."
Exactly right. This fits our congregation in St. Paul very well. Our geographic isolation really forces the congregation to hang together and find creative ways forward.

TLF+ said...

dave - thanks for the comment. Stay in touch and if any of you there have insights you would like blogged, feel free to send 'em. More voices need to be heard from our lowly part of the "U".