12/11/2008

The Refined Art of Smoke and Mirrors in Anglican Land

How many dioceses belong to the Anglican Communion Network? As of today the Network pages list ten. This in spite of the fact that the Diocese of Central Florida withdrew some months ago, and that today the Diocese of the Rio Grande withdrew. That makes eight. But then the ACN doesn't really care since they are in the business of disbanding, sending all the organizations that are part of it to the church in formation as the Anglican Church of North America. As soon as the Common Cause Partnership was formed, the ACN was on its way to being history.

How many people are part of the new Anglican Church of North America? The number being touted mostly by the CCP and its leader and Moderator is 100,000 in church on Sundays. I did a bit of a studyon this some weeks ago and thought that perhaps the CCP had in it something like 7% of the Anglicans belonging to the Anglican Church of Canada and The Episcopal Church. Now, over on The Anglican Centrist, the numbers come in at about 5% of TEC/ACoC membership.

Then there is the matter of the number of people in the Diocese of Pittsburgh who became part of the ACNA Diocese of Pittsburgh. The ACNA Diocese says "the entire Episcopal Diocese of Pittsburgh, including all of its congregations and clergy, is now part of the Anglican Province of the Southern Cone. The diocese expects a small group of the diocese's 210 clergy and a minority of its 70 parishes to withdraw from the diocese and reorganize under the authority of The Episcopal Church." Now it turns out that of the seventy parishes at least 27 are meeting as part of the continuing Episcopal Church Diocese of Pittsburgh. They represent about 40% of the Diocese prior to the exodus of the realignment clergy and laity.

The great numbers look as if they are the product of exuberance.

We can certainly hope that the Archbishop of Canterbury listens to Bishop Chane of Washington and that his bean counters get the point - the great groundswell of support for leaving The Episcopal Church and the Anglican Church of Canada, and o yes, let's not forget The Anglican Church of Mexico (part of North America) just doesn't seem to be there.

24 comments:

  1. Sir, what the ABC knows is that GAFCON has 30m ASA....and TECUSA has 0.7m and falling......if he has to choose (and he does), it is not a difficult choice ultimately as TECUSA's "new thing" is not growing like a mustard seed in the US in the last few decades....and it is TECUSA which is out of step with most of the AC and not ACNA.

    Sadly, TECUSA is likely to compromise its principles yet again re BO33 and stay in the AC after GC09, causing further division - but we live in a post GAFCON world and you might find the AC requires TECUSA's yet to be yes and its no to be no going forward...not much to ask really

    ReplyDelete
  2. Mark+, you are assuming unfairly and without foundation...and I happen to know otherwise...that those who were doing the number crunching chose to take whole dioceses into account without regard for parishes that remain in TEC. That is not true and I believe the 100,000ASA is rounded down a bit actually. The statement that there are 700 parishes is, as some have said, an overstatement...there are 656 exactly...again, not counting parishes remaining in TEC. Anglican Centrist, in his count, seriously underestimates the number of parishes in jurisdictions like Uganda, Kenya and Southern Cone (not affiliated with departing dioceses). That averages out to a high per-parish distribution of 152 asa per parish. Nobody is claiming that. But the reality in the new province is that there are a very large number of very large evangelical parishes that bring in more than 1000 every Sunday. There are also a large number of parishes that are around the 50-100 range. And some plants that are in the 30-50 range.

    No one is trying to lie about numbers despite your apparent sense that we are. If you look at the constitution you will see that care is taken to ensure that the size of a diocese is tacked to yearly ASA...a diocese must have at least 12 parishes over 50 ASA each and over 1000ASA as a whole before it can be considered a "diocese". This is a minimal standard, admittedly, but it is a standard. This prevents a "diocese" being created by a guy with episcopal aspirations and a bible study that runs out of his garage. It also means that we are trying to assess our common mission on a real estimation of our size.

    We want this thing to succeed and that means being honest with ourselves about numbers. It makes no sense to do otherwise.

    Matt

    ReplyDelete
  3. It appears to me that religion as a whole in the USA is on the decline after almost 30 years of conservative evangelical hegemony in politics, religion, and culture.
    There has long been a trend toward secularism in this country, now accelerated by the dominance of the religious right over the last 8 years.

    My fear is that the Episcopal Church-of-the-New-Thing-Because-the-Old-Thing-Doesn't-Work-Anymore-and-makes-Dogs-Bark-and-Babies-Cry-Whenever-It-Enters-a-Room will get unjustly tarred and feathered with the reactionaries as we see the rise of an angry secularism as narrow minded and proscriptive as the religions it hates.
    Dawkins and Hitchens are just the other side of the same coin as Pat Robertson and +Akinola. We shouldn't chose between one side or the other. We should toss the whole coin in a well.

    ReplyDelete
  4. Nom de Plume12/12/08 9:03 AM

    Why all this obsession with numbers, anyway? It's no different than obsession with (pardon the expression) penis size, and the constant pulling out and stroking of the numbers is more than vaguely masturbatory. So what if the schismatics number 100,000? What if it's a million? 10 million? Who cares except them? Newsflash: size doesn't matter!

    ReplyDelete
  5. This growing myth of the 100,000 being ASA needs to be knocked on the head. All the announcements and press on the ACNA claimed the 100,000 was membership.

    Timothy Morgan, who was at Wheaton, wrote in Christianity Today that ACNA:

    "comprises 656 congregations, 800 clergy, 30 bishops, and 100,000 people in regular worship."

    http://www.christianitytoday.com/ct/2008/decemberweb-only/149-43.0.html

    'People in regular worship' does not = ASA.

    I mean, the combined ASAs of Fort Worth, San Joaquin, Pittsburgh and Quincy before the split was only about 19,000, about 40%. It will be much less now, especially since one third of Pittsburgh are staying. We could generously give them 15,000.

    Earlier this year CANA claimed an ASA better than 79 of TEC's dioceses'. That would give them about 9,000.

    RECs TOTAL membership is 12,000; and AMiA claimed 15,000 members over 81 congregations a few years back - we could now give them a membership of 25,000 over their 140. Why should we presume the ASA percentage is any higher in these than in Fort Worth, etc? But we could give them a generous ASA of 50% which would be 18,500.

    So, that's an ASA of only 42,500 for nearly 500 of the claimed 656 congregations. Do the other 156 churches (Kenya, Uganda, etc) really make up well over half the total ASA?

    (Even if we say ALL of REC and AMiA members attend, that would still leave 156 churches making up 40,000 of the ASA!)

    And 656 does not = 700.

    Mark

    ReplyDelete
  6. Counterlight...pls face facts.....you hate the "religious right" (I guss) and I am no fan......but it is a bit right to blame them for TECUSA (hardly the "religious right"!) being a dwindling denomination! Liberals have to take responsibility for the unattractiveness of their "new thing" and admit that not many Americans or Brits are interested..... and that even in Anglican circles, it is the conservative and charismatic parishes that have grown strongly..... liberals will never get their own house in order while they blame everone else for their own failure in the last century...time to face reality....take responsibility for your own ministry's decline in TECUSA

    ReplyDelete
  7. Perhaps the number crunching, Matt, is less about the numbers themselves, and the assertions of some of the effects of this new entity on the Episcopal Church, argued from the numbers. So, such details of whether there are 700 congregations per se concern me less than arguments about how many have "departed" the Episcopal Church; nor do statements of 100,000 communicants per se concern me as much as how many have left the Episcopal Church over our current issues. That is certainly not true for members of REC, nor of many members of AMiA congregations, nor of many members of the disparate congregations across the South that sought connection with Kenya. I don't know that you've said so, Matt; but there have been those who asserted, or at least strongly implied, that 100,000 folks in ACNA is 100,000 folks less in the Episcopal Church; or that 700 congregations in ACNA is 700 fewer congregations in the Episcopal Church. Those are simply not the facts.

    The Episcopal Church has lost members, along with most American churches (including, especially in the past five years, the Southern Baptists and other notable evangelical bodies). While some have certainly left over current issues, many have not (perhaps most, considering how many churches are so affected). Whether this is really the end of the Episcopal Church, or simply a pendulum swing in American culture (note, Observer), or the end of the world as we know it for all Christian bodies remains to be seen, and will remain so for some time to come.

    ReplyDelete
  8. I understand that you might be skeptical of any numbers put out by a "church" group, and that it is in the interest of TEC to cast doubt and aspersions on anything that the new group is doing. They have tried that for at least five years now and it has not stopped the slow dissolution of the church I have known and loved all my life. I cant count how many folks have vanished into other denominations as a result of the nasty fight going on in Anglicanland. The American church in it's arrogance thought it could do anything and suffer no consequences. Alas, the rest of the world does not see it that way. Most of all, I, like many others, am really confused. What in the world does TEC or PECUSA or whatever they call themselves stand for these days? Are there any lines that they will not cross in fear of political correctness?
    I don't see any. We are all sinners and need repentance and redemption to be whole in this life and the next. I am way off topic but needed to say these things as a way of trying to deal with numbers that reflect the kind of confusion and division that exists. TEC- just let them go. If you cant stand on your own, you do not need to continue to exist. If the new guys in town cannot stand up on their own, they will fade away. Or perhaps the miracle will happen- both groups will get about doing the work the Lord has commanded us to do, and both branches will grow in strength, prayer and wisdom. One can only hope.

    ReplyDelete
  9. What I have seen in the five churches I've served is the family replacing the church. People still come to church, but the family will take precedence if it comes to making a choice.

    Christmas Eve numbers have been decreasing because the people I have served travel to family in other locations. For split families, I most often have those in which the children go to the dad for Christmas Eve, and the dad is not part of the church.

    I do not wonder at all that the people I do see in church on Christmas Eve are those making their annual pilgrimage, or people whose local Episcopal Church will not see them this year because this is the year they come to my town to visit family (I've had a phone call from a state in the south making sure we're having the "midnight service" because the person calling is going to be in town this year).

    The place of church in the lives of people is shifting. Maybe it's time to return to our Jewish roots, where most of the important religious rituals take place at home. Imagine the church as the place where people learn those home rituals and come from time to time to connect with the larger community from which the rituals come, or, as they do now, for the "hatch, catch, match and dispatch" rituals that take place in community, or for the annual mass repentance and absolution.

    Just thinking out loud. Don't expect anyone to agree or to like what I've just written. Thinking about and listening to and for what is going on now is the mode I'm in right now. Peace, and a blessed Advent 3 to all.

    ReplyDelete
  10. All of this perseveration and critique of what has been hailed as nothing but "a few who don't want to be with us"?

    If it is nothing, move on. Critique the continuing saga of what is actually STILL in TEC straining relations, ignoring canons, setting themselves up as an ad hoc General Convention, etc., etc., etc., etc. If TEC's bread is so much better than someone else's manna, then eat your bread and enjoy it.

    ReplyDelete
  11. "Maybe it's time to return to our Jewish roots, where most of the important religious rituals take place at home."
    What a great idea. TEC won't even have to alter the way it counts its members since it trumpets as members about 1.5 million who do just that -- stay home. And if we count soccer games, Sunday brunch, shopping at the mall and sleeping in as religious rituals, we will have finally evangelized the entire nation and made it "Christian" in true Episcopal fashion.

    ReplyDelete
  12. Matt, AKA GOod Shepherd Weekly, thanks for the comment.

    Anglican Centrist worked the numbers out to about 5% TEC/ACoC, I worked it out at about 7%. My numbers were based on CCP's numbers at about 200,000 total, assuming 1/2 were present as "regular in worship." I did assume that was roughly the same as ASA, but never mind.

    I did not challenge the 100,000 as the number of people in my estimate. I was indicating that the Anglican Centrist concluded that about 5% of TEC/ACoC people were part of this new thing.

    When it all shakes out, the numbers don't really tell the story. The story is people being able to get about being Church. The real story at Good Shepherd has a lot more to do with celebrating Christmas and breaking bread and hearing the Word. But meanwhile the media story will be about winning or losing the trial. (BTW, I read your note on that and appreciate your peace in the midst of all the goings on.)

    My sense is that the press grabs on to every possibility that TEC is going to crash down and fall because of the struggles in this time. My note was to suggest that the strength of the realignment movement may have been somewhat overstated.

    I do agree with your statement, about being "honest with ourselves about numbers." CCP/ACNA will succeed or fail, I believe, on its own and not in comparison to TEC/ACoC. So most of the number comparisons are of only passing value. But the Moderator and others have made observations about the size of CCP membership and compared that to the size of dioceses in TEC, etc and the numbers are media important.

    Nom de Plume asks, "Why all this obsession with numbers, anyway? It's no different than obsession with (pardon the expression) penis size, and the constant pulling out and stroking of the numbers is more than vaguely masturbatory." A wise person, ol Nom, harsh but wise.

    If success=size, and size=sexy, then success=sexy, and for the media, sex sells, so the numbers become important out there in media land, where no one newsworthy succeeds without being sexy, size is news.

    I wish Nom was right, that size doesn't matter, but as a newsflash, it does.

    Sigh.

    ReplyDelete
  13. One thing that might help this number problem is to recognize that the AMiA and (I think REC) membership requirements are more stringent than TEC's. So while in TEC you almost always have a higher ASA than membership, in AMiA and (I think) REC, the reverse is true.

    Matt

    ReplyDelete
  14. Nom de Plume12/12/08 4:53 PM

    I wish Nom was right, that size doesn't matter, but as a newsflash, it does.

    Sadly, I have to agree with you, Mark. Obviously the numbers game is being used as a mechanism to create media credibility. One angry ex-bishop and his deluded followers are a cult in the media, but can 100,000 people be wrong? Actually, yes, they can. How many people believe in a flat earth? in literal creationism? in intelligent design? that global warming is a conspiracy? ...? Answer, lots.

    But it doesn't matter how many people believe that 2+2=7. Yes, if enough do there will surely be a front page story in the New York Times to announce the fact as news.

    Yes, the flashy conferences, and endless documents issued so they can be quoted in future documents, and the claims of large numbers of people whose main mission in life seems to be slagging the Anglican Communion all make for some very sexy news. And for that, yes I reluctantly concede that size matters because, but only because, it makes the whole shell game seem credible. Just like the big returns to the initial investors in a ponzi scheme.

    But this quasi-Anglican ponzi scheme, like all the rest, will eventually fall apart. In the meantime, there is bread to be broken and good news to be preached to the poor, there are babies to be baptised and the dead to be buried. The real Anglican Communion needs to learn not to be distracted from its mission by this crazy, angry, media-hyped ponzi scheme. The tail has been wagging the dog for too long. Now that it has amputated itself, it's time the dog got back to business.

    ReplyDelete
  15. What I find fascinating about all these discussions about numbers and success is that they are essentially contrary to the Biblical experience and have been self serving at best. Jesus' polemical style of ministry often drove people away from him, creating major reaction towards him. He spent much of his time with those considered outside the kingdom of God. Remember how many were there for him at his crucifixion? The authenticity of the Church's ministry is not dependent upon contemporary measurements of success.

    Please get over the success stuff on either side. I find a great deal of vitality in the church as people work to do ministry and mission.

    Jim Von Dreele

    ReplyDelete
  16. Matt said: "No one is trying to lie about numbers."

    While I think "no one" might be a bit optimistic, I generally agree with you.

    I don't think people are so much lying as pulling numbers out of their nether regions.

    ReplyDelete
  17. It seems to me that there are three points to make about 'numbers.'

    First there is a viability issue for both TEC and the holier than God new thing. Without some of us sleepy looking folks in the pews to pay the bills, things like seminaries are hard to fund.

    Second there is a certain recognition issue. Even anti-Americans (cf. Rowan Williams) know that sometimes a few people get angry over trivia. To look like a province, to be a real church, the holier folks need some heft.

    Fhird, the Africans did not get into this to loose money, they got into it to make money (note particularly the unguarded comments of Abp Orambi prior to the Gaffe. Another body the size of REC is not what they are expecting.

    So the veracity of the numbers matters. One might even note a forth reason -- consider our own set of trolls here. How often do we hear the smearing comments on TEC's size and presumed decline. It is necessary to their delusional morale, I think, to see themselves as the vanguard of the great wave of holiness. Hard to do that if one is a small splinter.

    FWIW
    jimB

    ReplyDelete
  18. Matt Kennedy+ of Good Shepherd Bimington NY province of Kenya stated that there were actually 656 parishes rather than 700. I would like to know what constitutes a "parish" for the new province in ASA or membership. I am particularly interested in Kenyan practice and Matt+ may know as this is his province. My town has an anlican congregation. It is about 3 years old. To my knowledge it has a total membership of about 16, increased by one infant baptism since its formation. It called its first priest/rector, a June graduate of Trinity Pittsburgh, in July. As this rector was ordained by Bishop Atwood, what is the status of this community. Is it Kenyan? Would it be included in its numbers? What kind of status would it have? It meets in the facility of another denomination. Would this worshipping community be considered a "congregation", a "mission church", a house church or something else by ACNA?

    ReplyDelete
  19. Sixteen members?

    In the realm of the so-called "orthodox," I believe, that would constitute an archdiocese or province.

    ReplyDelete
  20. Mark,

    I am amused by how many in TEC are rejoicing over the 27 Pittsburgh parishes remaining. I know you read the HOBD listserv. One of these "faithful remnant" who posts in that group is hardly welcomed- instead, his theology and personal character are insulted, dismissed, and abused. He is, in short, viewed as "wrong" in what he believes. And he is one of the remaining Episcopalians! Is that the welcome you think TEC should give to those who are staying???

    ReplyDelete
  21. Observer, and anon,

    I don't think that numbers are declining in TEC so much because of our committment to the "new thing," that everyone is talking about.

    The reason the evangelical, and charismatic churches grow so strongly is simply because of their strong committment, and emphasis in evangelical outreach.

    If the more progressive churches had the same kind of zeal, and vitality in this area, their numbers could go through the roof, too.

    People are searching out there, looking for answers.

    ReplyDelete
  22. The reason the evangelical, and charismatic churches grow so strongly is simply because of their strong committment, and emphasis in evangelical outreach.

    And then they institutionalize. And then they schism. And then they shrink, Grace. [See re Southern Baptists]

    It really has more to do w/ institutional life-cycles (of all us sinners!) than anything else. The so-called "Mainline" Churches (I include the RCC here) are simply further along in the cycle: more exiting than entering (though some, like the RCC, are propped up by immigrants).

    As long as TEC is faithful, I trust we will persist until it's our cycle to grow again.

    That's what I believe TEC is being&doing (while there's always room for improvement, natch). It's the route that Observer and Allen (et al) would have us go, that would lead to complete irrelevance (contrary to the Gospel), and actual institutional death. (OCICBW)

    God bless TEC! :-D

    ReplyDelete
  23. I don't know JCF. I'm sure there must be a constellation of reasons. And, I agree that increased numbers doesn't necessarily reflect faithfulness to the gospel.

    But, I have to think that an excitement to get out there, and be intentional about seeing people come to faith in Christ, and into the church is bound to help our growth.

    Maybe part of the difficulty is a lack of good spiritual formation in the church which leads people to want to divide for every reason. To me schism is against the will of Christ, and often reflects spiritual immaturity, and selfishness.

    ReplyDelete
  24. JCF - thanks for giving me a laugh at the beginning of the day........TECUSA people using the word "faithful" and talking of church growth is so ironic...you really should not be so naughty with your jokes!

    ReplyDelete

OK... Comments, gripes, etc welcomed, but with comment moderation but with some cautions and one rule:
Cautions: Calling people fools, idiots, etc, will be reason to bounce your comment. Keeping in mind that in the struggles it is difficult enough to try to respect opponents, we should at least try.
Rule: PLEASE DO NOT SIGN OFF AS ANONYMOUS: BEGIN OR END THE MESSAGE WITH A NAME - ANY NAME. ANONYMOUS commentary will be cut.