Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Yes, I guess I AM a tad perplexed

So "anonymous" (who seems to have ever so much time to post comments to this blog!) sent me the following "new TEC Hymn" for my comment:

Our gospel is inclusive.
(The other one's passe.)
We welcome all the sexes,
Transgendered, lesbigay.
And though we're loudly preaching
Our relevant good news,
We are a tad perplexed by
So many empty pews.
--Rev. J. M. Deschene, Rhode Island

Well, I am a tad perplexed. But what I'm perplexed about are which pews Reverend Deschene is referring to. Ours are pretty darned full, thank you very much, even in the "dead of summer" when all good Episcopalians used to retire to somewhere else until it was time to pack the white shoes away until Memorial Day. In point of fact we had standing room only at last week's Narnia Kid's Camp. A full house for Sunday's between-services-adult-ed-offering. And a fifty-voice volunteer choir to lead us out on "A mighty fortress is our God" -- one of my all time favs -- as we processed out to love and serve the Lord for another week. Attendance is up. Giving is up. Energy is up.

And it isn't just here at All Saints Church. At Saturday's deanery budget review meeting Bishop Bruno and staff brought us reports that showed diocesan pledged income above budget projections for this point in 2006. Nearly $200,000 above. And parish giving percentages are up, too ... from an average of 10% to 10.5%. The Episcopal Church, it seems, IS alive and well ... how come we don't hear more about that?

Why do we keep hearing about the 600 or so disgruntled members who've left this diocese for greener Ugandan pastures rather than the 60,000 plus who are doing just fine doing justice and loving mercy as Episcopalians?

Why do we have to spend so much time, energy and angst on the four congregations who think they're not Episcopalian anymore rather than focusing on the energy, activity and ministry of the 140+ who are?

That's what I'm perplexed about. Anybody got a hymn for that?


Ann said...

Me too - we just had the report of Wyoming budget etc in our pre-convention meeting (we meet "live"at various sites using the University's compressed video system). Our giving is up, training for our ministires is active, people are busy working in our little part of the vineyard.

Mary Sue said...

There's a hymn for that. "O For a Thousand Tongues to Sing"

Bateau Master said...

Even where we feel there is growth, the stats provided the ECUSA tell us a story of stagnation and decline. More is being given by fewer and fewer. The red doors are too symbolic of turmoil instead of comfort and therefore do not draw the unfamiliar.

Anonymous said...

Susan said . . ..

"Why do we have to spend so much time, energy and angst on the four congregations who think they're not Episcopalian anymore rather than focusing on the energy, activity and ministry of the 140+ who are?"

That, Susan, should be a no-brainer:

Luke 15:3-7 He told them this parable.
"Which of you men, if you had one hundred sheep, and lost one of them, wouldn’t leave the ninety-nine in the wilderness, and go after the one that was lost, until he found it? When he has found it, he carries it on his shoulders, rejoicing. When he comes home, he calls together his friends and his neighbors, saying to them, ‘Rejoice with me, for I have found my sheep which was lost!’

The Pilgrim

Anonymous said...

bateau master has the right of it.

Your parish and diocese may be doing well, but they are the exceptions not the rule. I find it interesting that you speak of four parishes and six hundred congregants in your post, because those numbers are a perfect fit to the size of the average Episcopal congregation: seventy seven people. And that is four parishes in your diocese? Susan, eight entire dioceses have pulled out of the national church. EIGHT DIOCESES.

And what of the dioceses that remain?

The Diocese of Colorado has four parishes closing/consolidating, and another twelve on the chopping block. The Canon Missioner says the decline is partly due to "national church issues." They are experiencing budgeting short falls and are selling off church property -- some of it kept by the diocese when congregations left for continuing churches -- to make up the deficit.

Pennsylvania is one hundred fifty five parishes, down from one hundred and sixty two in 2005. 100 of those remaining congregations are statistically in decline, and less than 20% of pledged income to the diocese has been received. The deficit is attributed to conservative parishes witholding pledges.

Newark declined by fifteen to twenty parishes during Spong's tenure, and it will decline by about forty more under Cronenberg. A third of his parishes "are struggling to keep their doors open" (his words.)

Two more parishes have left in Florida, making a total of either six or eight; I've lost count.

Christ Church Plano has recently pulled out, and its membership was larger than that of your new presiding bishop’s old diocese!

Everywhere that large, orthodox parishes abandon ECUSA for continuing churches or Catholicism or Orthodoxy, they take tithing members with them, and leave huge white elephants of buildings that the diocese cannot afford to maintain. The diocese loses every time. And really, it's not about the money, it's not about the buildings, it's about the souls in the pews, and that too is one that the Episcopalians are losing. Figures from last year show less than a million in the pews on a Sunday morning, and that decline came after '03. The Great Commission says to go out and start churches, not close them.

So good for your parish and diocese, but statistically you are the anomaly in an otherwise pretty dismal picture for the ECUSA.

The Pilgrim


"Eight Dioceses?" Really? Have "pulled out" of the Episcopal Church? Does that mean all their clergy have pulled out of the Pension Fund, too? I'd love to see some more information on this one ...

... as for "an otherwise pretty dismal picture for the ECUSA" I guess time will tell. Is the glass half empty and leaking or half full and ready for newcomers? Maybe we need to revisit the Decade of Evangelism ... and start talking about the Good News rather than the Anglican News.