Wednesday, June 6, 2007

News Flash: Buffalo Herds Doing OK; Episcopalians Endangered

Super Duper Ueberblogger Kendall Harmon offers a discussion of truth in advertising – using the fuzzy statistics from the Episcopal Diocese of Montana as a case study.

So, we figured we would look in on the Diocese of South Dakota. At their website, they boast 92 Churches .

But, if you investigate their Average Sunday Attendance (ASA), you find it was 2238 in 2005(the last reporting year), down from 2583 in 2004, and THAT was down 10.1% from ’03…

92 congregations sharing 2,238 folks per Sunday yields an average of just under 25 per congregation (and falling).

The largest ASA is 170, at Calvary Cathedral in Sioux Falls. But, as blogger Sarah discovered, that's down from 260 in 2000 - a 34% loss over five years. And that’s in a growing city with some robust economic stuff in play.

And in case you didn’t catch it on another thread, the Diocese of South Dakota is subsidized to the tune of almost ¾ of a million dollars by the General Convention of TEC, and so can probably exist on paper for awhile. And, no worries! The Diocese of South Dakota now boasts a very vocal chapter of Integrity, the Episcopal Church club for LGBT (lesbi/gay/bi/transexual) entitlements. That's sure to bring vital new energy to the churches.

Now, on a serious note, there are many small communities and South Dakota really is a place where towns just go out of existence from time to time. We are not denying the potential for small but healthy churches (and that is the defense often mounted by TEC loyalists around here - "Growth isn't the only measure of success").

But the numbers from the Diocese are not about small, healthy communities. The numbers show decline - in many cases precipitous. And the historic Reservation Missions are vitually empty save for funerals and drive-by baptisms. We still hear TEC folks from other places boast about how "We have a diocese where over half the members are Native Americans!" Yeah, guess that's true on paper. But in terms of vital Christian community, well, you really need flesh and blood - regenerated by the Holy Spirit.

Just for fun, we looked in on Good Shepherd, Sioux Falls, a church teaching the Biblical Gospel and emphasizing prayer and strong lay ministry. Their ASA went from 42 in 2004 to 85 in 2006, and they report that Sundays this year frequently have more than 100 at worship.


oblate-bca said...

Kudos to the clergy and lay people at Good Shepherd in Sioux Falls. How refreshing to know that there is actually a church in South Dakota that has the true teaching of the Word and not some sloppy interpretation that suits an "all inclusive" congregation. My worry is for the smaller mission churches on the prairie that need clergy to bring them that Word! Where is the quarter of a million dollars that TEC sends the diocese of South Dakota going? I'm sure the late (and great!) W. Blair Roberts, who came to South Dakota as a missionary to the American Indian in 1908 and in his later years started Good Shepherd after being "put out to pasture due to age, is rolling over in his grave to see where his beloved Episcopal church has ended up. Shame on them.

Anonymous said...

Good Shepherd might think they are teaching the historical gospel - but they're not.

THe masthead on their site says all you need to know: Episcopal

They have left the gospel, and all they are doing is luring more people to damnation: worse - in some sense - than integrity, they find people who are looking for Christ and give them ECUSA instead!

And for this well, the word millstone comes to mind. Are they on their way out of ECUSA? Or have they chosen "to eat and drink their own damnation"?

TLF+ said...

Dear Anonymous: we thought about deleting your screed, but it is useful.

We can't speak for the folks at Good Shepherd as far as their plans (leave TEC & fight for property, leave TEC & walk away from property, divided congregation with some TEC and some gone, engage whatever is offered post Sept. 30th, etc. etc. etc. There are all kinds of models out there.)

What we CAN say is that the track record of "continuing churches" here in South Dakota is spotty...well, worse than spotty. Most folks just drift off in a huff (another possible model for how to respond to TEC), but they don't regroup and function as the body of Christ on the Plains. Fr. Chip Johnson has a continuing church on the west side of the state, but we don't see the numerous TEC departers rushing in to take part in it or support him.

So we have hundreds, maybe thousands, of former TEC communicants fleeing into a "church" of their own opinions and grudges. If we go by the 39 Articles of Religion, Article XIX, we read, "The visible Church of Christ is a congregation of faithful men, in the which the pure Word of God is preached, and the Sacraments be duly ministered according to Christ's ordinance..."

Cranky people sitting alone harumphing about others, or forming cliques that refuse to work effectively with other faithful Christians, can be (using your chosen terms), "millstones" and "lures to damnation," probably moreso than identifiably faithful people surrounded by an apostate denomination.

Anonymous said...

How sad that the anonymous commenter chooses to misquote and misapply the scripture passage about communion.

On another note, perhaps Good Shepherd is finding "people who are looking for Christ" and actually giving them . . . Christ! It's possible to offer Christ to people, even in ECUSA.

My bet is that Good Shepherd could be saying "here is Christ, friend, but don't pay attention to the national leadership of ECUSA, since they can't find Him".

; > )


Anonymous said...


I thought about trying to find a perfect church but then I realized that if I found one I'd only ruin it by bringing my sorry excuse for righteousness and theology inside it.

I'm a member of Church of the Good Shepherd in Sioux Falls. I worship God there because I find myself in desperate need of Christ, and there I have found people who similarly acknowledge their need; a priest who loves God, God's Word and God's people; an historic and biblical faith practiced and preached; and a community that cares more about seeking God and receiving Christ as their master and rescuer than about posturing for one another or for the world. We're a ragtag bunch and we know it; we know as well that our theology is always going to miss the mark. But we love Christ and are learning to serve him.

To put it in simpler terms, we're a John 6.68-69 crowd, or at least we're trying to be. Do others do it better? Maybe so. But we will continue to love and serve the Lord with gladness and singleness of heart while Christ grants us breath. Does that satisfy you? If not, I'm not worried. We're not trying to please or satisfy you or anyone else other than the one who gave himself for us.

And on behalf of our congregation, let me say that I wish you well. The Lord bless you and keep you, make his face shine upon you and give you his peace.