Wednesday, June 17, 2015

The State of the Episcopal Church: Spin Control from 815

From the pre-General Convention propaganda effort by the Episcopal church comes this classic piece of spin from "The Episcopal Church House of Deputies Committee on the State of the Church" which was put out as a press release by the Episcopal Church Office of Public Affairs on  May 14, 2015 and meant to be used as an insert for the Sunday bulletin in Episcopal parishes. Here are the pertinent details, but pay particular attention to "By the Numbers" and "For Reflection."
The Committee on the State of the Church has partnered with Forward Movement, working together to offer an overview, or “snapshot,” of the 38- page report.  This summary report is available as a PDF document in two formats — as an 8 1/2 x 11 full sheet here or as a half-sheet suitable for use as a bulletin insert... Congregations are encouraged to print and distribute this information so that Episcopalians across the church will gain an awareness of the state of our Church
I was encouraged to distribute it as a fisk.
• What constitutes a worshiping community is an emerging and changing definition. How we count congregations and measure the vitality of congregations is changing.
What an opener, "an emerging and changing definition." If that doesn't define revisionism, nothing does. And they have to change how we count and measure because the numbers we are getting from measuring things by the traditional methods look terrible.
• Many dioceses and congregations are discovering how to measure and fund mission instead of adhering to traditional models of maintenance and budget priorities.
In other words, there are a lot of leaky roofs out there.
• How we communicate is undoubtedly changing at all levels. Face-to-face (and virtual face-to-face) meetings create opportunities to break down isolation and to reflect on what unites us in the Church. More change in communications is likely; more collaboration is also likely, especially in the form of mission hubs.
A "mission hub"? I guess that means two or more churches joining hands and marching together in the local gay pride parade.
• Fewer congregations report being in conflict than in the previous years. Money has replaced issues of sexuality as the most commonly reported topic of conflict.
That is because so many have left the Episcopal church thereby reducing conflict through house cleaning. With fewer people, money then becomes the primary problem.
• Dioceses that were once in conflict and have reorganized after a portion of the members left The Episcopal Church continue to explore creative ways to “be church,” quite possibly leading the way for new ways of thriving and serving. 
Exploring creative ways to be church? Isn't that what landed us in hot water to begin with?
• Many dioceses are addressing leadership needs by more fully engaging all the baptized in ministry roles.
That is because smaller parishes cannot afford full time clergy.
• There is new energy for the task of clergy formation. Seminaries are exploring alternatives to the traditional three-year residential model of formation and are reconfiguring their efforts with positive motivation and momentum.
Seminary education is overpriced and potentially toxic.
• Collaboration, rather than competition, among the ten seminaries of The Episcopal Church is an important focus for the future.
Seminaries are going broke.
• Dioceses are exploring local options for those preparing for all kinds of ministry, including the priesthood and the diaconate.
Liberal dioceses raising up liberal priests. That ensures further decline.

And now for the truly dreadful,
• Average Sunday Attendance (ASA) has dropped from 80 to 61 in the last thirteen years.
Staggering losses.
• The 2010 US Census reported 72 percent of the population as non-Hispanic white, while in 2009, The Episcopal Church reported 87 percent as non-Hispanic white.
We are diverse and welcoming... heh.
• The number of congregations that reported having a female rector or vicar rose from 24 percent in 2005 to 30 percent in 2008, and to 36 percent in 2014.
Do you think this could have anything to do with the drop in ASA?
• The two most commonly cited priorities for provinces are youth engagement (IV, VI, VIII, and IX) and outreach (VIII, IV, II, and I).
A priority for sure, but what are you teaching our youth?
• Nearly half (45 percent) of domestic parishes and missions are served by clergy who are not full-time.
That will rise.
• The average age of those ordained continues slowly to rise;currently the average age is 48 years old.
I don't think that is a bad thing, let the old failures age out.
• The advanced—and still advancing—age of the Church’s membership, combined with a low birth rate, means that the Church loses 16,000 people a year—nearly the equivalent of one average-sized diocese per year through deaths over births.
• In 2014, 38 percent of Episcopal congregations (versus 28 percent in 2010) report that their financial condition is good or excellent. At the same time, 62 percent of congregations are in some kind of financial stress in 2014, as compared to 72 percent in 2010, and only 44 percent in 2000.
 The improved economy may be shifting some of those numbers.
We need to change the ways in which we assess vitality. A vital church is defined by more than just people in the pewson Sunday mornings. What other questions do we need to ask?
They want to change the way they measure things because the old method is generating too much bad news.
A proposed resolution that lets us assess more accurately who we are follows the SOTC report. Look for it at General Convention.
I can hardly wait.
Also, and more importantly, we need to make changes in our systems so that we become more vital and healthy. We must build upon our sacred traditions but also be willing to adapt and embrace new ways of being Church.
How has that been working thus far?
The bottom line is that the numbers suggest decline.
"Suggest" decline?!?! Doh!
Still, while many of these statistics are alarming or negative, the SOTC report offers hope and optimism, not despair and resignation.
You have got to be kidding.
The State of the Church Committee heard too many good things to call hospice or ring the death knell just yet.
No need to call Hospice because the undertaker is already carrying off the body.
God is at work! The question is not “are we dying,” but rather “where is resurrection occurring?” We are, after all, an Easter people!
The question is not "are we dying," but rather, "are we dead yet?"


  1. This is deconstruction allowing for continued institutional delusion. This is like a diabetic eating a dozen donuts, experiencing hypoglycemia and calling it a "vision quest".

    1. It is like the captain of the Titanic announcing that the cruise ship has provided a new swimming pool on decks 3, 4, and 5.