Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Guess Which Denomination Has The Lowest Level of "Highly Involved" Members

According to the Pew Research center the Episcopal church at 13% has the lowest percentage of highly involved members of all the mainline denominations. The Anglican church did a little better at 26% while the Presbyterian Church USA scored 31%.

"Evangelical" churches fared better with the Southern Baptists hitting 44% and presidential candidate Dr. Ben Carson's Seventh Day Adventist's scored an amazing 56%.

Roman Catholics only hit 16% looking very much like the Episcopal church in this analysis.

One might think that the good news is that most people in the low hanging churches are at least moderately involved, but...
Pew explains that this is “in part because while many of their members attend religious services, they do not participate in a prayer or Scripture group on a weekly or monthly basis.”
Unfortunately for most Anglicans and Episcopalians, it appears that they are punching the time clock on Sunday and doing little else in the way of prayer and Bible study. As detailed here on numerous occasions, this means that their exposure to the Bible is extremely limited and all too often consists of the watered down version of the truth provided by a Sunday lectionary that either avoids or expurgates most of the difficult passages. Plus, the lectionary cycle commonly used repeats on a three-year cycle so that pewsitters wind up hearing a limited set of Bible stories and often hear the same sermon every three years. With so much of the Bible going unread, this must have long lasting effects on such things as the ability to spread the Gospel message and to make moral judgments based on solid theology. This no doubt explains in part the numerical and moral decline of the Episcopal church.

What would the Episcopal church become if a greater percentage of its members became more involved in Bible study, evangelism, prayer, and worship? The current progressive bishops and priests who make up the majority of clergy in TEc would be in trouble. Imagine masses of previously uninformed pewsitters waking up to the falsehoods being foisted on them. A lot of Episcopal clerics would be filing for unemployment.

Those priests and clergy have something to be thankful for this year because it ain't gonna happen anytime soon.


  1. The problem has a long history going as far back as the nineteenth century. In 1830s the Tractarian movement arrived in the United States, followed closely by the Ritualist movement. The two movements would influence both thinking and practice in the Episcopal Church. In an increasing number of parishes the celebration of Mass stressed over the reading and exposition of God’s Word. The private study of the Bible was discouraged. The latter was the result of the influence of two tracts written by Isaac Williams “on reserve in communicating religious knowledge.” Before Tract 90 these two tracts were the most controversial of the Tracts for the Times.

    The Anglo-Catholic movement was not the only movement in the Episcopal Church that did not encourage the private study of the Bible. So did the Broad Church movement. However, it was a major factor in the growing Bible illiteracy of Episcopalians. It also helped to create an environment in which liberalism could flourish. Episcopalians were taught that the role of the Church was to interpret the Bible for them.

    By the end of the nineteenth century the Episcopal Church’s Evangelicals whose practices included prayer meetings, adult Sunday school, and private Bible study had left the Episcopal Church and joined the Reformed Episcopal Church or in the case of liberal Evangelicals had become Broad Churchmen. Within the Episcopal Church developed strong anti-Evangelical sentiments. Their origins are traceable to the Anglo-Catholic movement. These sentiments included the rejection of everything that was perceived as Evangelical—revivals and similar events and various forms of evangelism as well as prayer meetings, adult Sunday school, and private Bible study.

    The Episcopal Church would develop what might be described as an anti-Evangelical identity. To Episcopalians Southern Baptists were the quintessential Evangelicals. If Southern Baptists did it, Episcopalians did not.

    During the 1960s and 1970s the Episcopal Church experienced a short-lived Evangelical revival. It was also swept by the charismatic renewal movement. In some quarters of the Episcopal Church there was a renewed interest in the Bible. The Episcopal mission and later parish in which I was involved in the 1980s and 1990s was unusual in that it had weekly Bible study groups and weekly prayer and praise meetings. Parishioners attended these gatherings as well as the Sunday morning services.

    In 2001 the church would experience a major split. It would lose its longtime Evangelical and charismatic church members. They would be replaced by Anglo-Catholic and liberal Episcopalians. Anglo-Catholic eucharistic devotions and labyrinth walking would replace the weekly Bible study groups and the weekly prayer and praise meetings.

    The church never did fully recover from the split. It would plateau. While it survived the events of 2003, these events damaged the public image of the Episcopal Church in the community, which was politically and socially conservative. By 2007 the church had become a mission again.

    The priest who served as the church’s vicar and then rector for 22 years emphasized attendance at the Holy Eucharist, reception of the sacraments, and adherence to the moral teaching of the Church. His theological outlook was Anglo-Catholic.

    He had no personal interest in church planting and evangelism. He went along with the Bible study groups and the praise and prayer meetings because the Evangelical-charismatic members of the church wanted them. He himself did not lead any Bible study groups or teach any Bible classes. His involvement in the praise and prayer meetings was limited to a monthly Eucharist and healing service in which he anointed the sick.

    1. It is interesting that the PEW results show similarities between the RC numbers and the TEc numbers and visitors have often noted similarities in worship services. I think the aversion to rector led serious Bible study may be in part due to poor seminary training with a focus on pastoral care, cultural, ecumenical, and racial sensitivity training, etc geared more towards what currently draws people into ministry in TEc. This produces Biblically illiterate priests who are in no way prepared to spread the Gospel to an unbelieving world but who are perfectly suited to lead a scripted liturgy and give out hugs and handshakes to the Sunday crowd.

  2. Pewster,
    I believe this is the first time I have seen a comment that was twice the length of the posting. :>)