My most recent post outlined some statistical trends in the Episcopal Church. It was a pleasure to hear from quite a few people in the comments as well as by private email. Although it was published only a couple of days ago, it has garnered almost 300 page views. That’s among the top three on this blog, which went public at the end of February.
I always like learning something new. Since publishing that post, I learned that the Evangelical Lutheran Church of America (ELCA) allows congregations to depart the denomination while retaining rights to their property. I also learned that a controversial decision was made by the ELCA in 2009 which prompted a number of congregations to do just that. Thus, I presumed too much when I indicated that a jump in church closures could be imminent. That’s good news.
I also need to add that just because the majority of Episcopalians are aged 50 and older is no reason to presume that our congregations will close. Theoretically, an indefinite supply of individuals aged 50 and older is available in the wider population. Assuming that we welcome newcomers of any age at a rate which replaces those who leave us due to human mortality, we can continue to exist with our current age demographic for the indefinite future.
However, we can’t presume we will welcome newcomers at a rate that offsets attrition through mortality, because no data supports the idea that we are doing so. In fact, the data shows the opposite (Slide 9. Unfortunately, we don’t know over what period of time these trends were measured.)
These numbers bother me. The fact that we don’t have an organized, open conversation about them which is easy to find and join bothers me even more. Just as with the Episcopal Church’s budget conversation (which has gotten worse, not better, since it was announced that the proposed budget contains errors), we need a coherent, calm consideration of the facts on the ground.
The good news is that the conversation does appear to exist, but it’s scattered in many places. Data is indicating that young people don’t want hymnal revision and that the clergy shortage appears to be real. It’s wonderful to read the data that is emerging, not because the news is fabulous, but because the conversation is not hysterical or alarmist… it is focused on facts and it is faithful to God’s promises for us. I feel grateful to be part of it.
Thank you for reading, thanks to those who leave comments, and thanks be to God for the blessing of being part of the body of Christ in this branch of His ministry. No matter what the data shows, I am so grateful to be here.
Good to meet you! I’m Nurya…
Welcome!Here, a mother and priest chronicles her attempts at practicing resurrection. This sometimes involves small children and organizations known as "church." Other times it just means telling the truth. Occasionally chickens are mentioned. Click "About" for more...
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