Friday, November 4, 2011
We FEW, we band of brothers... ah... sisters ah....people?
New statistics from the Episcopal Church show the group's loss of more than 200,000 members and 300 parishes between 2006 and 2010, bringing membership to its lowest since the 1930s. Episcopalianism peaked numerically in 1959 with more than 3.4 million members. Since 1968, however, it has lost over one third of its membership. Meanwhile, 57 percent of Episcopal congregations have seen their typical Sunday attendance decline by over 10 percent since 2006. Fewer than one-fifth of all congregations have experienced an equivalent growth in Sunday worship attendance.
At some point all the fanfare for inclusivity, prophetic presence, social and economic justice, etc., will have to give way to the stark reality that the Gospel is the only thing that grows a church and there is very little Gospel being spoken among these Episcopal congregations... very little talk of the cross, very little call to repentance (except to repent of homophobia, Islamophobia, etc.), and very little belief that the Word of God (Scripture, Bible) has much truth in it...
The ELCA is headed down the same road of mainline Protestantism. You can put a good show on but if you don't believe much and don't speak the Gospel as Jesus defines it (that the Son of Man must suffer, die, rise, and repentance and forgiveness be proclaimed in His name...), well, what difference does it make? We can get ritual and ceremony at nearly any sports event in town. We can get the diversity gospel from any public TV or radio station or the big 3 networks (for that matter). Why would we need a church to tell us we are okay just as we are, that everything will work out in the end, and that the most important thing we can do is to stick up for a socially significant minority?
Sad... Very sad... I spent a good deal of time with a very conservative Episcopal priest while a student in Winfield, KS, and I will always remember his wisdom and counsel for its orthodoxy, faithfulness, and honesty. Where have all the good priests gone? What happened to a once proud Christian church body?
You might think somebody would wake up and return to their senses... at least you could hope...