6/26/2008

Bishops being accountable, GAFCON promises to continue to muck around, life goes on.

While GAFCON keeps on plugging along doing whatever it is that GAFCON is about, there’s lots going on vis-à-vis Anglican Land having to do with Episcopal Church folk that deserves attention.

Two notifications today of considerable import: (i) Bishop Charles Bennison has been found guilty on two charges related to his mishandling of a sexual abuse case involving his brother. (ii) BabyBlueOnline reports that there will be a ruling from the court regarding the constitutionality of the Virginia law covering division of churches.

Several items regarding Bishop Robert Duncan: (i) a week ago he and other officers of the Episcopal Diocese of Pittsburgh formed a corporation the purpose of which seems to be to maintain ownership of properties and assets of the Diocese separate from the Episcopal Church in case there was a need to do so.(ii) Bishop Duncan delivered an address at the GAFCON leadership meeting in Jordan, (read it HERE). It was distributed to the full GAFCON meeting in Israel, although Bishop Duncan was not in attendance. It was reported that he and his family were in Italy or that he had family obligations. It was also reported that he stayed on in Jordan with members of the Church of the Sudan who could not get visas to travel to Israel. In any even he appears to be the only member of the GAFCON initiating group not present in Jerusalem. One report says that he would only be coming to the meeting in Jordan, period. It will be interesting to see if he appears at all at GAFCON.

It may be that upcoming issues concerning possible deposition of the Bishop of Pittsburgh at the next House of Bishop’s meeting have caused him to be very careful about the extent to which is seen to be active in GAFCON planning – particularly if it is not clear just where that planning is going. He will be going to Lambeth, for at least part of the time. So it will appear, at least on this level, that he is indeed a true son of the Church, taking his part in the affairs of the Communion, etc. Of course the fact that he has incorporated the Episcopal Diocese of Pittsburgh and has charged GAFCON with a reading of the current situation that clearly points to a takeover of the future of the Communion, a hostile one if necessary, will get in the way of his argument.

Tibias Haller has pointed out that the GAFCON insistence that the Anglican Communion has not split will not serve the Virginia argument well.

And Matt Kennedy at Stand Firm has written an article that pretty well spells out the problems of GAFCAN and whatever it is that it will call for at the close of the meeting. It is worth the read. He argues that if GAFCON does not take a forceful stand for serious realignment and quickly, the air will be sucked out of the room and those still left will be comatose. (Those are not his words but mine.)

Now GAFCON itself is reporting the beginning of the shape of its final report. Just who will receive this report, what it is expected to mean, etc, we will see. But you can read the first take HERE. The statement says,

“1. There is a passion for the Gospel, a determination to stay true to the Bible, to continue the work of mission and to do so as Anglicans.
2. There is a profound sadness about the current state of the Anglican Communion and a sense of betrayal and abandonment by the exiting leadership and communion structures.
3. There is a determination to build on the experience of GAFCON and see it become a movement and not simply a moment.
4. There is recognition that for this movement to continue to develop it will require an agreed theological framework and appropriate structures to sustain its growth.
5. There is also agreement that more permanent structures need to be established for those faithful Anglicans who live and serve in provinces that have abandoned the traditional teaching of the Bible.
6. There is a genuine desire to continue to reach out to other Anglicans around the Communion who share our common faith so that we can grow in our witness to the world of God’s transforming power.”

So as it stands the read seems to be: GAFCON is a bible based, betrayed and abandoned, gathering of people on the way to becoming a movement, one that will have a theological framework (read oath of conformity), a world wide structure (not including the betraying and abandoning leadership one assumes), permanent structures (read new Provinces) to take the place of provinces that have abandoned traditional teachings, etc., and inclusion of Anglican like bodies that are not now part of the Anglican Communion.

I fail to see how this is not precisely a recipe for an effort to take over the Anglican Communion, or declare it null and void, replacing it with more amenable structures. As I have said, GAFCON is right – this is not schism. This is hostile take over time.

The thing that now exists – The Anglican Communion, “a fellowship…within the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church” will continue. It will consist of those Provinces, Dioceses, etc in communion with the See of Canterbury. This new thing will be what ever it is and members of it may continue to be part of the Anglican Communion. But they will be a new and different sort of thing – not a province or provinces of the Anglican Communion, but a worldwide Church that is in communion or not with the churches of the Anglican Communion.

When the dust settles, the Anglican Communion might be smaller, which is OK. Big is only important for worldwide churches. For the rest of us big is about family, and the family is always big enough for love and ready to take in more by marriage or birth or community. The Anglican Communion will continue just fine.

As for the new thing that is contemplated by GAFCON, it will continue to be a mess for the Episcopal Church and the Anglican Church of Canada, with competing churches springing up here and there with Provincial allegiances to churches clearly not in communion with the Episcopal Church or the Anglican Church of Canada. They will either succeed or not as God wills. But they will not be in line to take over the diocese of The Episcopal Church.
In those places – San Joaquin or Pittsburgh or Fort Worth where such efforts might be tried, there will be a messy time. Likewise for Canada.

But when it is over there will be an Episcopal Church and Anglican Church of Canada presence in those places and ministry by our churches there. What those who leave do will be their business.

And in the Episcopal Church we will still be working (as I hope any of the churches will) to hold people – including our bishops – accountable for their actions.

28 comments:

  1. Yep - they are not leaving the AC.....they realise they are the majority and growing....they got over 300 bishops, representing over 30m Anglicans.


    (TEC gets 0.8m on a Sunday...and most are over 60....TEC won't even exist to see what the AC is in a hundred years.....so, the GAFCON leaders have shown again that they know that they must not be provoked by heretical actions to leave the AC which is theirs anyway)

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  2. Just out of curiosity, aren't there about 800+ bishops representing the entire Anglican Communion? 800 less 300 still equals 500 +/-. Some seem to think 300 "Anglican" bishops trumps everythign.

    And since the princes of THE Church (including Nazir-Ali, Orombi, Akinola, Duncan, Jensen, etc.) are seeking a Roman-style curia in order to control who is or is not a TRUE Anglican and then set up a new extra-Canterbury Anglican Communion, then 30 million lay people have no meaning (nor 2.3 million either -- which is about what The Episcopal Church in the US and abroad) has. In fact, Anonymous, unless you're a primate, you won't have much of a voice or place either. I wouldn't be in too big a rush to jump on the GAFCon bandwagon.

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  3. **Two notifications today of considerable import: (i) Bishop Charles Bennison, and (ii)constitutionality of the Virginia law covering division of churches.**

    Mark,
    with respect I would say that there is a third. It is the manner that you deprecate GAFCON as though the folks are nothing but reactionaries with nothing of importance to consider. TEC is DYING. Understand? Scandalous clerics abound more and more, shrinking numbers increase, ASAs are plummetting (even in Chane's metro diocese), and the Church is aging rapidly. All of this says that the revisionist/liberal hands that have steered this Church for 40 years have messed up....and seem to thrive on killing us off.

    Shall we continue to do so, or isn't it time to start listening to people from the GROWTH portion of the Church?

    Twenty years from now, if we stay this course, the pensions will be secure, the vacant properties will endow the remnant of TEC, and the Church will have shrunk to half of its current size.

    What's your plan? Steering away from worldwide catholic orthodoxy IS NOT WORKING and continues to isolate us from mainstream world Christianity. God is judging TEC.

    Scary.

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  4. "-this Court finds their (Diocese of Virginia and TEC) arguments unpersuasive, not least because their arguments are predicated in no small measure on a characterization of this Court’s April 3rd opinion that bears only a PASSING RESEMBLANCE to the opinion itself".

    -Judge Bellows' ruling against the Episcopal Church and the Diocese of Virginia.

    CANA wins in secular court.

    Thousands of Virginians are on their way out of TEC.

    Judge Bellows of Virginia is of the opinion that TEC does not deal in reality (shocking). The eleven thriving Virginia parishes who have endured the years of revisionism of TEC's leaders are now winning in court. Backed up by the Virginia Attorney General no less.

    The grave digging for TEC started by spoons, and went to shovels, and now the secular courts are digging the grave with a backhoe.

    Hello?!! A return to catholic orthodoxy had better happen before this whole Church washes down the drain.

    But I guess that a uniform micro-Church has always been the goal of TEC's current leadership.

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  5. So, who gets to test people's blood at the church door to see who is orthodox or heretic, gay or straight? Who's going to volunteer to inspect the closet queers to make sure they stay celibate?
    "Here for Holy Communion? Bend over and cough."

    Feh!

    By the way, those of you who are promising to overwhelm the decadent liberals with a right wing Golden Horde, a Christian version of Muhammad's army, remember which denomination is now the fastest growing in the USA; "None of the Above."

    I seem to recall an ancient movement whose leader was arrested and executed, and whose 12 remaining followers all abandoned Him and fled for their lives. Not my idea of $ucce$$.

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  6. To Annonymous and to Allen,

    So you say TEC is a dying entity and I say I still love this Church.

    I love the creeds, the liturgy, the mystery of the Sacraments. I love the freedom to question and the freedom to doubt. I love the value given to the ideal of inclusive love for all. Will we die out holding these ideals? Will we be here in 100 years? I have no way to know. It's all about faith. It is what is right for me and what makes sense to me. So you won't compromise your ideals and I won't compromise my ideals. The difference between you and me is that I can accept that your views are different, forged in some different context, and still come to the communion rail with you recognizing that we have a kindrid faith and love of our Lord, and that we are all forgiven sinners in that moment.

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  7. Mark, you wrote:

    "As for the new thing that is contemplated by GAFCON, it will continue to be a mess for the Episcopal Church and the Anglican Church of Canada, with competing churches springing up here and there with Provincial allegiances to churches clearly not in communion with the Episcopal Church or the Anglican Church of Canada."

    A shame, that. It might have been nice if TEC had read their own writing on the wall years ago and, in order to avert the "mess", TEC had decided not to rend the fabric of the Communion and had done something positive to mend matters instead of sitting on their collective hands while legions of Episcopalians found a more faithful expression of Christianity, huh?

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  8. As part of an Episcopal family that attends a church within a very short distance of Truro and Falls Church, I say, let all of them go. If they want to go ahead and form their own little echo chamber society, fine. We've lived without them for quite some time now, and I have to say, from a churchgoing perspective, I don't miss them.

    I say that with one admonishment: at some point, you pseudo-orthodox reasserters or someone close to you will likely be faced with the news that one of your kids or their friends is gay. I hope you'll be exercise some of what little civility you have left and refrain from trying to re-educate the "sin" out of them.

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  9. Allen:

    You wrote:

    with respect I would say that there is a third. It is the manner that you deprecate GAFCON as though the folks are nothing but reactionaries with nothing of importance to consider. TEC is DYING. Understand? Scandalous clerics abound more and more, shrinking numbers increase, ASAs are plummetting (even in Chane's metro diocese), and the Church is aging rapidly. All of this says that the revisionist/liberal hands that have steered this Church for 40 years have messed up....and seem to thrive on killing us off.

    In my hopefully relatively humble opinion, there is but one reason for the decline of the Episcopal Church and it has nothing to do with "revisionist/liberal hands" and everything do to with the fact that, as Christians of the Episcopal flavor, we simply rely to heavily on institutional inertia and the attitude that "if you build it, they will come" and generally seem unable to "commend the faith that is in us" to anyone. See my comments here.

    I don't think that GAFCON or splitting off from TEC is going to help that at all--there is much more courage required to stay and be leaven in the loaf than to leave.

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  10. Oh Dear Counterlight --the 12? --Don't forget the faithful women my dear. Would have to raise your number to at least 15!

    As to anonymous, Allen and Wyclif --Don't forget that Hitler was democratically voted in to office--by a mjority. Hate to descend to that nazi thing so quickly, but a church built on exclusion and condemnation is not a church belonging to Christ. And, besides, it really is true --size isn't everything.

    blessings, --margaret

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  11. John-Julian, OJN28/6/08 2:02 PM

    Hmmm...it seems you're attracting the opposition, Mark. That must be a sign that you are making sense.

    I'd like to ask Wyclif a simple question: when TEC was warned that the consecration of +Gene NH would "rend the fabric" of the Church, what could who have done that would have satisfied you?

    +Gene was canonically and legally elected, and the election was canonically and legally confirmed. Who could have "stopped" it? How? What could have been done to avoid consecrating him even if that was seen as desirable? There was literally no legal or canonical way to stop it -- nothing anyone could legally or canonically have done to stop it. A bishop (even the PB) could have refused to participate in the ordination, but there were dozens of others who would be there. THERE WAS NO WAY TO STOP IT because it was fully legal, proper, and canonical.

    What would you suggest? The only thing I can think of would be for some to bring a presentment against +Gene, and we all know that that would fail (cf. Walter Righter"s case).

    So, what could TEC do to "make it right" if that is what TEC wanted to do?

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  12. Tom,

    Thanks for your thrust and parry on the issue. You are respectful, so here goes:

    TEC is offering what few want.

    That's why we're dying out.

    Catholics, paraChurches, and the African Anglicans are growing. They have this in common: dynamic worship, focus upon the unique divinity and salvation only found in Christ, and clear teaching that doesn't bode well with the culture.

    We'll keep fighting this issue out until there's nothing left to fight over because we won't exist except as a museum curiosity.

    We have cathedrals, missions, and attractions galore...but no agreed-upon message and no heart except in a few vital pockets.

    The message of TEC: we value your spiritual journey.

    So, why shouldn't I save my effort and just go down to the Christian Science Reading Room or Unitarian Church?

    This Church is institionally sick as is evidenced by the General Convention wheel-greasing that seems to occupy self-important types.

    We're blowing it. Admit it: if it weren't for the endowments and the plate money of the aged, could what we offer sell to anyone anywhere? Where is this Church truly successful? I mean OVERNIGHT we Episc-Anglicans noted a paraChurch raise up on a hillside near us. They came out of nowhere. We're still struggling after 80 years. They arose and sucked the whole community in.

    Difference: clear message versus confused identity.

    Period.

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  13. For Anonymous:

    For my part, anyone - including gay folk - are welcomed and should not be frisked, bullied, and shunned. However, because we have a clear hurdle from Scripture and ancient/modern catholic tradition to deal with, we cannot endorse such lifestyles. Yes, come and be welcome. Participate. Lead in the laity. But be willing to live with the tension of the hurdle and stop bullying Scripture and catholic tradition to cave to endorse what CANNOT be.

    If that makes people feel bad, then so be it. Be welcomed, but do not dictate change that is false except in this culture that agrees with nearly anything.

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  14. Margaret, I stand corrected.
    You're right. While the men were all fleeing for their lives, the women were there (quite publicly) with Him to the very end.

    Indeed, we all know who swept the German elections of 1932, just about everywhere except decadent liberal (and very GAY) Berlin.

    How did that work out?

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  15. Catholics, paraChurches, and the African Anglicans are growing. They have this in common: dynamic worship, focus upon the unique divinity and salvation only found in Christ, and clear teaching that doesn't bode well with the culture.

    The Catholic Church in the U.S. has lost more members than any other church in America. Read about that here.

    And I'm afraid that church teachings in Nigeria and Uganda do indeed "bode well" with the culture; they precisely mirror the culture, in fact. That's what the prelates always say, themselves: We can't approve of homosexuality because it's against African culture. See here for that.

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  16. None of these folks seem to have ever visited my shamelessly liberal gay-friendly parish here in Sodom on the Hudson (aka New York).
    We are attracting new members all the time, and most of them are under 40. We draw in a lot of visitors every Sunday, most from just off the street.
    Far from contracting, our pastoral programs are expanding.

    Fr. Mark must be hitting a real nerve somewhere to be attracting so many detractors. Good for him.

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  17. But be willing to live with the tension of the hurdle and stop bullying Scripture and catholic tradition to cave to endorse what CANNOT be.

    Hmm. We are to stop "bullying Scripture and catholic tradition." But it's OK for you to bully human beings, and force them to break their promises and leave their partners and families in order to be part of the church and to develop their faith.

    But now that I think of it, that actually sums things up perfectly. And it's why I could never, ever subscribe to that particular brand of Christianity. People really are more important than tradition, you know.

    Anyway, it doesn't matter. As I've said a million times already: you can't keep gay people from the Gospel, no matter how hard you try. Sorry about that.

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  18. Two responses, from somewhat opposite ends of the spectrum:

    John-Julian: I've heard the "we couldn't do anything" argument before, and it is not correct. The Bishops Diocesan or the House of Deputies COULD have refused to consent to +Gene's election. They've done so before with duly elected bishops (for far less controversial reasons) and Standing Committees did so recently by initially refusing to consent to Mark Lawrence's election. It CAN be done and COULD have been done. Whether is SHOULD have been done is open for debate, but choices were made. If another bishop is elected who is a gay or lesbian person, then the Bishops Diocesan and/or Standing Committees will need to determine if they wish to consent to his/her election.

    Allen: If what you are saying is true, then the Episcopal Church should be an oddity among Mainline Protestant denominations due to our "confused identity." We should be in worse shape than other Mainline Protestant denominations. We're not. The fact is that Mainline Protestantism is dying and it is NOT because of "revisionist/liberal hands" it is, as I once again assert, that as a denomination we have been lazy and have not mined the riches that our ours that that the world is indeed looking for--spiritual formation, beautiful mysterious liturgy, a place for silence and contemplation, permission to ask questions and wrestle with scripture, to name just a few.

    In "Christianity for the Rest of Us" Diana Butler Bass has documented this over and over again--congregations who intentionally practice spiritual disciplines grow. Even Bill Hybels recently said that Willow Creek made a mistake in not teaching about basic spiritual practices like prayer, personal devotions, and bible study. We do all that, and at our best we do it very well. Complaining like you do is like complaining that the curriculum of a school needs revision when few of the teachers are teaching it and fewer still of the learners are learning it. We have what we need, we just need to use it!

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  19. bls and Tom, don't confuse Allen with the facts. His assertions, if he actually believes them, might make some kind of sense, if the business of the church was mere numerical strength. But as the information he presents can clearly be shown to be false, and he has access to that information, I'm afraid we are dealing either with barefaced lying or invincible ignorance.

    As an anecdotal bit of evidence, the local RC parish in my neighborhood has lost 90% of its membership over the last 20 years. That is not a typo. My own parish has remained remarkably stable in its membership in comparison. I realize that neither is a good example for the whole of either the RCC or TEC. But the fact that the RCC has lost more members than any other denomination (only offset by immigration -- in some places, not my part of the Bronx!) should say something about a church that takes a resolutely negative stand towards homosexuality, and the dangers of doing so.

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  20. "The fact is that Mainline Protestantism is dying and it is NOT because of "revisionist/liberal hands" it is, as I once again assert, that as a denomination we have been lazy and have not mined the riches that our ours that that the world is indeed looking for--spiritual formation, beautiful mysterious liturgy, a place for silence and contemplation, permission to ask questions and wrestle with scripture, to name just a few."

    I don't think the mainline is dying, though - at least, not moreso than anybody else. The fastest-growing group is still the "unchurched" - and as we've said, the Catholics have lost more people than anybody else. What Fr. Haller says rings true to me as well; Catholic schools and churches continue to shrink around here and hundreds have been closed and sold.

    But, I do agree with you that we have been lazy about spreading the word about our faith and approach to faith. I think we do have a golden opportunity right now - when so many young people especially are so turned off by what they see of Christianity - to let people know that they are all welcome in our place and that there are deep and beautiful treasures to be mined in the Christian faith.

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  21. Not long ago, I was readig a moderate conservative blog where the blogger - in reference to a church planting conference he'd attended - commented about something to the effect of "the kinds of churches that are thriving and the kinds of churches that are declining."

    Sometimes that language is code for "conservative and liberal." In the discussion, he agreed that the difference between thriving and declining churches (speaking principally of the local church) usually had little to do with "liberal / conservative" orientation, but with a more itangible variable about focus.

    To oversimplify a long conversation, thriving churches are those which are focussed outward - focussed on mission, focussed on sharing the Good News. Declining churches were those focussed inward - focussed on maintenance and on "chaplaincy" to those who were already members.

    I've adressed these issues in several recent posts at simplemassigpriest - including the well-received "beer sermon."

    An earlier poster noted that our mission methodology used to be "build a church and they will come to fill it." That may have worked once. I don't know. I'm not that old - and I'm nearing the half-century mark.

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  22. "I'm afraid we are dealing either with barefaced lying or invincible ignorance".

    Such inviting comments. Such liberal toleration. Such arrogance.

    As is often the case, there is the mistaken impression that if it's true in New York then it must be true everywhere....as if Manhattan is the centre of the known world and the rest is all burb.

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  23. Oh, Allen, such a predictable response.

    It has nothing to do with liberalism or arrogance; we are talking about demonstrable facts here. I don't have to tolerate falsehoods, whether intentional or based on ignorance. You were even provided a link. So go read the article.

    Perhaps I should not have offered my anecdotal evidence (nor from Manhattan, btw, but the Bronx). The broader facts are available to you, and if you want to, you can look them up. The recent Pew study showed that the RCC has had the greatest losses in membership of any US Church. This is nationwide, not just in NY.

    So you can keep insisting that TEC is dying, but the facts do not support you.

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  24. as if Manhattan is the centre of the known world and the rest is all burb.

    Allen, the Bronx isn't in Manhattan. It is a de-facto burb.

    If you are going to prove Fr. Haller right as well as miss the point and take a bash at NY, at least get the geography right.

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  25. Last time I checked 815 2nd Avenue is in Manhattan.

    Last time I checked the New York City government offices were in Manhattan.

    That was my reference.

    It's still true.

    Living in New York often shows.

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  26. Now to Fr. Haller's point.

    When I read your referenced article, I still run across this with you this:

    "Still, despite the loss, Catholics remain steady at one in four of all Americans, the nation's single largest religious group".

    To me, growth isn't just judged in influx of members, but in "staying power" (strength in the cultural winds). The culture that keeps eroding the Church must be met by a Church that grows in its maturity and convictions. The Catholics *among others) have grown to meet such assaults by the dominant culture. That growth is more importantthan bodies in the seats - but that too can be a piece of the indication of growth.
    The Catholics and others are growing if they meet and surmount the ever-present cultural realities.

    Certainly TEC's current reality and expression have no signs of growth:

    1. Downwards ASAs,
    2. Closing seminaries,
    3. Reliance on the UN to be the mainstay of our largest mission project (which BTW gives absolutely no credit to Jesus Christ),
    4. Clerics who flirt with Islam, Druid affinity, etc., etc., etc.,
    5. Long-standing bishops who were praised for years and then villified when they became critics,
    6. The loss of one diocese with at least two more to follow,
    7. A Virginia Judge who even notes that TEC's best legal minds do not deal well in reality,
    ...and on and on.

    Aside from certain metro pockets where population and the density of parishes dictate large numbers, can you show me WHERE TEC is growing in ASAs, and stability? As far as the culture, TEC's current expression often blesses whatever Caesar rolls out (California).

    Haven't we, in fact, become the chapels and chaplains for diversity rather than the "dividing sword" Gospel that will create division?

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  27. Haven't we, in fact, become the chapels and chaplains for diversity rather than the "dividing sword" Gospel that will create division?

    That's odd; most of the time we get accused of, and criticized for, causing division.

    Make up your minds, why don't you?

    I can never figure out why people who continually cause no end of turmoil and trouble in the church - and who broadcast far and wide that TEC is "apostate" and "heretical" and even "a cancer" - then turn around and ask us why we're not growing. (And also dictate conditions on what we can count as growth! Apparently we have to drop "certain metro areas" this time.)

    Allen, give it a rest. What does a Virginia judge's opinion about legal matters have to do with growth in TEC? How can you make a big deal about 3 priests in TEC and their "affinities" - and yet give the Catholic Church as a shining example of "steadiness," when it shuffled pedophiles from parish to parish and covered up for them? And FYI I do believe I've heard a few of the "Global South" bishops praise the MDGs, too.

    Really: enough with the tired old claims. They are nothing but a sad litany of grievance endlessly repeated by the so-called "orthodox." And everybody knows it by now.

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  28. Allen,
    I'm not going to belabor this; you really do seem to be unable to grasp the significance of what you are reading; for example, by lauding the RC "staying power" when the article points out that it is only immigration that offsets the losses to that church from the people "born" into RC families. That is not "staying power" but "zero sum" -- and if the state is successful in cutting back on immigration, it will staunch that flow; and the children of those immigrants are leaving in droves.

    As to the litany of complaints, as bls noted, several of them are irrelevant and others premature (the Virigina case is far from settled and will no doubt be appealed; yes, the judge says the TEC lawyers didn't understand him -- but they were giving him the benefit of the doubt on an outrageous decision. It is the judge who doesn't understand the SCOTUS decision that led to the Dennis Canon). The fact of seminary closings in TEC is of some concern, but it may well be that it is time for the seminaries to wrestle with changes in society that they've not really caught up with -- such as the age of seminarians. As to the couple of eccentric priests -- they've been removed from office.

    The one issue that makes some sense to look at is the ASA. The problem is, the decline in ASA in TEC is neither precipitous nor unusual when you look across the board at all of the churches -- including the "conservative" churches. Even the mega-churches are showing a downturn (they probably grew due to novelty more than anything else; and that wears off soon.) If you compare "liberal" dioceses like NY (which is far from urban -- it is over 100 square miles, and includes every kind of church from major urban program parish to tiny country village church; and every socioeconomic and ethnic category you could imagine) with conservative dioceses like Pittsburgh or San Joaquin, in terms of ASA they are almost identical -- all showing a relatively stable profile over the last decade. If you want to argue cause and effect, show some evidence that links them. For instance, my parish has this summer experienced a dip in attendance -- but I can guarantee you that it is more about the fact we don't have air conditioning, and many of the members drive to church (and as working people can't afford the extra gas costs), than any dislike for the church as such, or any of the "issues" you think are so important to them.

    Are there things to be concerned about -- sure. But the apocalyptic language about the Church "DYING" as you say, is an exaggeration. It is not supported by the facts. TEC is working on addressing the real issues, which revolve more about failure to do outreach, and resting on our laurels.

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