Saturday, December 12, 2009

A picture of the departure of traditional Christians from the Episcopal Church

The Diocese of Upper South Carolina is electing a bishop today. (Result is in and at the bottom of this post)

The first ballot is in, and TitusOneNine linked to the diocesan web site:

Ballot #1
December 12, 2009, 1:47 pm
Ballots cast: Clergy 114; Lay 232
Ballots voided: Clergy 0; Lay 0
Needed to elect: Clergy 58; Lay 117

Clergy votes
Lay votes

The Very Rev. John B. Burwell

The Very Rev. Dr. Philip C. Linder

The Rev. Canon Dr. Neal O. Michell

The Rev. David F. O. Thompson

The Rev. W. Andrew Waldo

The Rev. Jerre Stockton Williams, Jr.

The Rev. Robert Brown (from the floor)

(I marked the three candidates with a traditional Christian theology in red.)

What's this saying?

  1. The denomination's clergy ranks are anti-traditional. Even if all the clergy votes for traditional candidates combined behind one, there would not be enough to elect. The clergy selection and deployment process weeds out traditional Christians.
  2. There just ain't that many traditional lay people left. Not that all are revisionists, but many are "institutionalists" who want little more from church than a pleasant hour's service and some social time. Upper South Carolina has some good traditional leaders among the laity. They organized well enough that a diocesan survey came out decidedly traditional. Traditional leaders blogged and circulated some off-the-wall stuff from candidate Waldo - and he still makes the strongest showing on the first ballot.
  3. What lay people say they want and what they do about it do not match up. Neal Michell in particular brings a strong and credible background in church growth and development - one of the Episcopal Church's weakest areas and one that most lay people say is most important to them. But when push comes to shove, Michell cannot get elected (this is not his first nomination for bishop). Revisionist clergy will not support him and there are enough lay votes to keep him competitive but not to elect.
  4. Episcopalians are embracing stasis - which in a declining denomination means decline. Folks who mouth revisionist slogans and whose congregations have declined keep being elevated to diocesan leadership, while people like them take their place at the congregational level. This means death by attrition given every current membership and participation marker of the denomination: Episcopalians are older than the U.S. church average, and there is no growth by birth, evangelism or transmission from parents to kids.

Note: just saw the second ballot results: Waldo is now only 8 clergy and 15 lay votes shy of election. (You can check it out here). The traditional clergy have indeed rallied to Michell, and they have nowhere near enough votes to influence the outcome.

And another Note: on-site report that Waldo is elected.

The impact of traditional Christian exodus from the Episcopal Church isn't just at the crazy national conventions in the news - it is now a fact of life at the diocesan and parish level.

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