4/08/2013

The seven percent solution: Has ACNA topped out?

Back in 2008 I wrote a piece titled "The Seven Percent Solution: The Numbers in the Common Cause Partnership." In it I quoted the Moderator of the Common Cause Partnership, later aka the Archbishop of the Anglican Church in North America (ACNA). He said, 

 “…we have worked together in a group called Common Cause Partnership. Right now that is eight jurisdictions, both US and Canadian. Those jurisdictions together represent 30 bishops, 800 clergy, 700 parishes, a worshipping community of about 100,000. That makes it larger than a third of the provinces of the Anglican Communion in that sheer number of people who worship on Sunday. We are committed to one another.”

ACNA these days says the following on its web pages:

"The Anglican Church in North America unites some 100,000 Anglicans in nearly 1,000 congregations across the United States and Canada into a single Church."


Elsewhere on the same web site it states:

"The Anglican Church in North America has 810 congregations and 235 Ministry Partner congregations in 58 U.S. states and Canadian provinces."

So the numbers are a bit confusing... there are not 1000 congregations, but rather 810, with other as Mission Partners. 

I suggested in my 2008 post that ACNA (then the Common Cause Partners) may have pulled as many as seven percent from TEC. I think that is about right. 

Still there are odd little signals that seem to suggest things are topping out for ACNA. The "Mission Partners" are apparently not minded to greater union with ACNA. And Bishop Anderson over on the American Anglican Council site opined in a very odd piece that " Even now, as the full realization of the revisionists' capture of the Episcopal Church becomes more and more apparent in the local church, people are still leaving, though in smaller numbers than before."  

 While a good percent of ACNA members may have come from The Episcopal Church in the past, and "people are still leaving, though in smaller numbers..." , there are not likely to be new defections of diocesan leaders and large portions of congregations. South Carolina may be the last of such efforts.  New congregants are likely to have to come to ACNA by other means.

ACNA rightly has looked to such challenges as Anglican 1000 which proposed to plant 1000 new congregations in ACNA in either five years (beginning in 2009) or before the end of the Archbishop's tenure. Three years into the work and Anglican 1000 has issued a challenge for every parish in ACNA to plant at least 1 congregation in the next two years, or some 1600 congregations. It will be interesting to see how well they do with that challenge. 

The Vicar General of the Anglican 1000 campaignThe Rev. Canon Alan Hawkins, opines over on the Anglican Diocese of Pittsburgh pages that "

"Currently there are 951 churches in ACNA. Since 2009 we have planted 230 congregations. The call is 1,000 before 2014. We have work to do, and A1K is issuing a challenge to our Province to aggressively pursue the prophetic call given to us by Archbishop Duncan and make 1,000 a reality."


Now aside from the big discrepancy between the website report of 810 churches and Hawkins report of 951 churches, there is the more important fact, that four years into the Anglican 1000 campaign 230 congregations have been planted, leaving some 770 congregations to come supposedly in the next year or so! 

So I suspect there is a bit of the "aim high and take what comes" approach going on here.  But as ACNA matures it will itself have to meet the same realities that TEC and every other denomination has to meet - Christianity is a hard sell in a pluralistic world. 

What seemed a gushing river of people ticked off at The Episcopal Church and the Anglican Church of Canada is now become the trickle of people who come to any and every church because the pluralistic world does not satisfy.

My sense is that in months and years to come some of those who drifted off under the leadership of the first ACNA bishops will drift back into Episcopal Churches. There will begin to be returning folk.  

And what did all this mean? Seven percent couldn't take it (whatever "it" was) and left. That's a lot, particularly when it involves all the attending issues - property, endowments, etc., and vows taken and broken. But is something from which the larger body will recover, sometimes saddened by the departures, sometimes gladdened. (I remember one bishop saying that when Duncan and Schofield stopped coming to the House of Bishop's meetings it was as if a cloud had lifted.)  

ACNA will in all likelihood become "just" another "Anglican" body in North America - there are more than fifty of them. It will be one of the largest, but it is now approaching a defining moment where fewer people will have come into ACNA from The Episcpal Church than from other churches or no church at all. There will be a generation that will not know, understand or care about what gave rise to their ACNA. The ACNA build on strong condemnation of The Episcopal Church will become a thing of the past. The ACNA that is in the wings is post-Episcopal and post-Anglican Communion.
 

7 comments:

  1. An interesting article, Fr. Mark. One wonders what will happen to ACNA once Bishop Robbie retires? Although, the Kenyan Primate recently promised his church's acceptance of ACNA, what will this mean, do you think, in terms of the ACC's relationship to this schismatic body?

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  2. Weren't you intimating that some sort of proxy ought to be in place for the consents process? Wouldn't that mean that conservative dioceses would have difficulty getting a Bishop consented to who made it clear they were opposed to SS blessings? Albany, Dallas, TN, W Texas, etc. Wouldn't they just find themselves in the same place as SC? Not joining ACNA but being treated to renunciation declarations?

    SCM

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  3. SBR
    I would keep an eye on Bishop Love of Albany. He recently moved the diocesan offices out of Albany to the retreat center in the boonies.

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  4. Nice to have you back, Mark.

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  5. Not really, SCM. Simple opposition to same gender blessings has never warranted witholding consents (in any meaningful numbers) to ordination. For example, + Dan Martins breezed through the consent process despite his oposition to gay marriage and his ties to certain people dedicated to the destruction of TEC. Furthermore (if you don't count his signing the amicus brief last year), he is a well liked and successful bishop.

    OTOH, folks like former bishop Lawrence might have a hard time gaining consents. Anyone not blind to the obvious knew right off the bat that his leaving the church (and taking the silver with him) was not a matter of "if", but "when".

    The fiascos in Pittsburgh, Quincy, SJ, and SC should make bishops and standing committees take a second look at giving consents in the future. Once bitten.....

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  6. Yes, the proof of a tolerant attitude toward conservatives can be found precisely in the treatment of +Martins and the amicus bishops -- who filed a brief and defended the diocesan hierarchy in exactly the same manner as the former Bishop of Nevada did in the case of +Jane Dixon.

    We are every day in a new day, and in this new day, it is hard to imagine consents given to any conservative Bishop elected in one of the amicus dioceses. Retaliation. 'See what happened with +ML in SC.' I'm not nearly as sanguine as you are.

    TEC is becoming a niche church, or, what is left of it. And that is a feature and not a bug, so I do not mean it as criticism. It wants to occupy a specific cultural space and is fast doing that.

    SCM

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  7. I never bought your numbers, Mark, and I still don't believe in your 7%. Even if you believe their wishful statistics, many of ANCA's souls come from outside the Episcopal Church. In most places, the majority are former Baptists, Calvinists, Fundamentalists, or members of other, older schismatic "Anglican" groups like the REC. Like AMiA, their appeal is less to members of Episcopal churches, and much greater among nondenominational "evangelicals" and churches like the Assemblies of God.

    Ft. Worth, Pittsburg, San Joaquin, and Co. are the outliers. I think the real number leaving for ANCA or AMiA is really closer to 2%. The majority leaving the Episcopal Church in the last decade have gone nowhere. That is, they just stopped going to any church. Or they moved into nursing homes, lost their ability to drive to church, or just died.

    ANCA's great lie is that by advocating extreme right hate-based politics, they would magically reverse the decline seen in all traditional or mainline churches. Their smaller size just means their denomination is even less relevant than our own.

    BTW, it's good to see you back.

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