The Diocese of San Diego has seen a drop in Sunday worshipers of about 33% over the past 10 years. In any other business, this type of disaster might result in the firing of the CEO. This never happens in the Episcopal church.
Instead, we get statements like these excerpts,
"I am deeply grateful for their faith, perseverance, and resilience as faith communities. They have embraced the challenge with joy, honesty, and hard work, and they make me proud. It is notable that the vestry of All Saints' is committed to the mission action parish process. The people of St. Anne's and All Saints' will have new opportunities to continue their mission and ministry through creative structures of Christian community."Translation: I hope you know how to swim because I am pushing you into another leaky lifeboat.
"Funds recovered through the sale of property will be re-directed toward expanding ministries where we believe God is calling us to stretch and grow, and to ensure that we offer ongoing pastoral ministry to those most directly affected by these decisions. As this process unfolds, we will draw significantly on financial reserves to care for the communities of St. Anne's and All Saints', and to help them, and other congregations, to grow in new ways."Translation: More successful parishes thank you for the cash. If there is any left over, we may send some back to you.
"I anticipate additional actions and unifications in the coming months. In several cases, I imagine that small, struggling congregations will forge partnerships with neighbors in ministry such as the recent collaboration between St. Paul's Cathedral and St. Luke's, San Diego. Some of these partnerships may lead to actual mergers of congregations."Translation: This is a warning to others, "You may be next."
"I dream of an assembly of strong congregations of various sizes. I see us expanding our presence by developing communities that hunger and thirst for justice and knowledge of God. I see us growing stronger as we adapt to changing conditions. This will not necessarily translate into building new buildings. It may mean that we use our current buildings more, but differently - in greater collaboration with the community and our ecumenical partners."Translation: I know that is not going to happen, but it sounds good, and if all else fails, we can let our Muslim friends use the buildings.
"Each of our congregations will be surrounded by small communities. Reminiscent of house churches of the first century, they may be drawn together by shared ages and locations, or by a rule of life, or by a missional focus. We will have fewer institutions, but more communities, more people gathered around altars, more people involved in ministry, and more souls touched by Jesus."Translation: How many chairs do you have around your breakfast tables?
I don't know what the Bishop has been smoking in order to dream like this, but whatever it is, I wonder if they pass it around at Episcopal seminaries because it seems like most Episcopal bishops share the same dream.
Fret not, San Diegans, the upcoming Prayer Book revision will solve everything, and it will equip you to spread the good news of the welcoming church to an unwelcoming world.