On one of the Anglican blogs I read: A sociologist has observed that one sign of a dying organization is that it will try to exercise increasingly tighter control over its shrinking membership. Average Sunday attendance across the Episcopal church in 2010 was 657,831 in the United States. That compares to 856,579 in 2000 (a 23% decline in only ten years). In contrast the Anglican Church in North America now numbers over 1000 congregations and reported an increase in Average Sunday Attendance of 15% in one year (2010-2011). The ACNA also reported that 13% of its congregations were in the process of planting a church during 2011.
That does not mean the Episcopal Church will die quietly. In fact, the Presiding Bishop (we have mentioned Bp Schori before) is being vindictive toward any and all (retired or active) bishops who fail to toe the line with the Episcopal Church and its ongoing property and jurisdictional struggles against more conservative Anglicans. Seven (or nine, as one counts it) bishops have been charged because they were friendly for the Diocese of Quincy (IL) lawsuit with the Episcopal Church. The breakaway Diocese of Quincy has filed suit against the Episcopal
Church in an Illinois Court, asking the court to clarify its rights to
the name and assets of the diocese. It is intending to leave -- not as an individual parish but as a whole diocese.
The issue is germane for Lutherans as well since some in the ELCA have complained about the same adversarial treatment against those congregations seeking to leave the ELCA with their property in tact. It would seem that the ELCA seeks the same control over the process of leaving as well as the rules under which a parish might leave -- protecting itself and even vindictively seeking control away from the majority who wish to leave (even when that majority does not meet the proportional requirement of the ELCA -- just recently adapted for even more control).
I confess that I do not understand it all. Either it is a blatant move to seek assets to sell and prop up the bleeding Episcopal Church or ELCA OR it is a vindictive power play to punish those who wish to leave. It is certainly one aspect of the Church not acting very churchly and seeming rather small in heart. Those who complain about the rights of the minorities in these various situations should be reminded that the minorities have the opportunity (in nearly all cases) to join existing congregations staunchly within the realm of the Episcopal Church or the ELCA -- thereby strengthening those existing congregations. But, that said, it is certainly news of a disconcerting nature... such childish actions by those who claim spiritual maturity.
Unlike these groups, Missouri nearly always lets those who want to leave, well, leave -- property in tact unless hindered by a mortgage to LCEF in which some complications arise. And, in fact, it is the greater wisdom to have those go and to wave good bye to those who have a different confession or no longer wish to play by the same rules as the rest of their brothers and sisters. It would be better all the way around if those in opposition to the church and its confessions/practice would choose to leave rather than change them -- whether Lutheran or Episcopalian or whatever... I do not like this nor do I welcome such defections but how long can a divided church body remain viable?
Before those who think this applies to Missouri, I might suggest that the things that divide Missouri have yet to be fully addressed in a candid and confessional conversation. Instead, in Missouri (as elsewhere), we have dealt with things by discussing constitution and by-law more than what Scripture says and our Confessions teach. I would suggest we give this latter tack a go before throwing up our arms and insisting that we are not of one mind. But, sadly, like our cousins in other church bodies, our disagreements tend to revolve around the organizational rules more than the real Biblical and confessional issues themselves...