Thursday, October 21, 2010

Episcopal leaders remain in denial: stats show media gimmicks and pandering fail to reverse church decline

There is a display of Episcopal Church statistical charts assembled over at Stand Firm. They are the 10 year (1999-2009) displays of "membership" (always flaky - see the Bp. of Iowa's good critique I linked earlier in the week), financial contributions and average Sunday attendance (ASA - the more reliable measure of active participants).

As you will see, the trends are all about decline. This is true even in The Diocese of California, which is the San Francisco see of The Episcopal Church.

As the stats display, the front-and-center LGBT agenda of the denomination has not created any momentum, even in the most LGBT friendly city one can imagine.

A couple of the comments in the thread explain the leadership issues clearly. I especially like this one:

"TEC didn’t correctly account for the fact that the people who share their worldview don’t see much need for organized religion. It drove away the people who cared, and then turned to receive the applause of the crowd. The crowd did indeed applaud, but it also curtly declined the offer to join the congregation. It didn’t care about TEC or its ideas. The crowd simply wanted to see the old religion put down lest it trouble the conscience. When the show was over, the crowd went home and sought after other distractions. Now TEC is mired in multitudes of lawsuits with spiraling legal costs even as its membership hurtles toward a demographic cliff."


Anonymous said...

I came across your blog and I felt I need to tell you that your words are very hurtful, and seem to lack empathy of any kind. I understand that you enjoy things a certain way, we all do... but as a gay man who was bullied in Churches and scared to enter a church for fear I would be singled out as the lone sinner, I can now say I have found comfort and the love of Christ in an Episcopal Church (not a super "liberal" one either). I really can't understand why you are so angry about things, or so mean about it. You sound like a holy man, isn't that enough?

TLF+ said...

We are talking past each other, anonymous. That is the position in which TEC's put us.

I'm no more holy than you are. I am, like you, seeking that same comfort in love of Christ. Because of Jesus, you are my brother and I am yours, even in disagreement or even in estrangement or conflict.

Bottom line, I am not asking the church to toss out people like you or congregations like the one that nurtures you in Christ.

But you will one day have to see that LGBT people have been marched out as human shields for a mixed agenda because right now you are the object of public sympathy. It costs too much to be sympathetic when that requires me to accept radical abortionists, a centralized church autocracy, liberal protestant disdain for the Bible and all kinds of other stuff the various "consultation/coalition" groups bundle in with "inclusion."

As an ordained person I am expected to look out for the well being of the church. TEC leadership promised growth by advancing LGBT activists; now that there's no growth (there is, in fact, accelerated decline), the PB is saying, "Well, numbers don't matter. We're a small church."

You probably won't experience great empathy in people like me who have been lied to again and again and again in the purported "dialogue" about LGBT concerns.

Less than a generation ago, I graduated from General Theological Seminary, NYC and passed all seven required areas of the General Ordination Exams on the first try. Today, I couldn't get into the ordination process, let alone pass the tests.

TEC doesn't pass the smell test. Not because gay people come to seek Christ like the rest of us, but because TEC lies about what that means and what it is doing.

And brothers though you and I be, that kind of church is going to warp our relationship.

Grace said...

I see justification in your response to anonymous. It's as though you say to your brother "I'm justified in being unempathetic because of church politics."

Is there a justification in not feeling for our brothers/sisters ever?

TLF+ said...

Grace - we continue to talk past one another. I am saying "The church has been dishonest;" the response seems to be, "Why do you have gays?"

The church's misconduct is not a justification of me doing anything.

The "thinking person's church" has become the "church that tells you what you can think."

TLF+ said...

My last post question should have read "Why do you hate gays?"

Grace said...

I certainly understand the pain that you and other conservative members (present and former)of TEC feel/felt. That pain which is caused by the overarching umbrella organization is real and palpable. Undeniably so. I see it clearly in my own home parish and the pain we experience there. I empathize. I do.

The response to Anonymous saying that you cannot feel empathy for those who are gay as a result of the umbrella organizations actions towards you and other conservatives (which are frankly, imo indefensible) seems to be a human but less than ideal response. If we could truly empathize with each other, then maybe we could stop talking past each other and start talking with one another.

So I don't believe that you hate gay people. I do "get it". I wish you could see the other side and the pain/destruction of lives that is caused by non-acceptance.

SometimesWise said...

Grace - what do you mean by "non-acceptance"?

If a parish bullies a member, makes him feel like he is the lone sinner, do not accept him as a full child of God - if that is "non-acceptance", then there are many parishes guilty of that - and we all, as Christians, should hang our heads in shame.

If a parish (or priest or preacher) stands up and tells the truth that God's word says that homosexual behavior is not His way for us, and it is something that should be avoided, NOT blessed and sanctioned...that is not bullying, and it is INDEED non-acceptance - not of the person, but of the behavior. There should ALSO be non-acceptance of adultery, dishonesty, cheating, etc, but that is not out on the front lines these days.

TLF+ said...

I've written at some length on some of these issues over the years and have always affirmed that the principal LGBT need in the church is a sense of safety and security in the midst of a hostile society.

I did not express myself well in my answer: empathy is impaired, not because his pain and concerns are not real, but because the politics of the church is always lurking and warping the conversation.

It is too convenient by half to keep arguing that, because I disagree with the way TEC has gone about "the agenda," I simply don't know/care about/understand LGBT people. I lived 40 years in L.A., attended a major university there, have lived in Europe, NYC (at an Episcopal Seminary) and I'm not cloistered from life.

Which is why I can see the profound hash of things being made by TEC leaders, NOT by gay and lesbian people who want to be close to Jesus and neighbors.

Am closing comments after this. We have a family medical situation to deal with this week, and we are all talking past one another in the church. I need to take my attention and energy where it is needed, useful and welcome.

God bless you all - seriously - may Christ be with us all and give us peace.