Standing for everything will get you nowhere fast…

 

G.K Chesterton is reputed once to have opined: “It’s not the man who stands for something who scares me.  It’s the man who stands for everything.”

Sadly, it appears the same is true when it comes to peoples’ religious affiliations.

Remember when the United States was considered the dominion of the White-Anglo/Saxon-Protestant (WASP) man?

Well, it seems that the once-powerful Episcopalian denomination in the United States which once stood for something and now stands for everything has come upon very tough times.  It now counts less than 2M as members.  In fact, a statistical report produced by the denomination notes that its member rolls have shrunk by 40% between 1965 and 2010 even as the U.S. population has increased by more than 50%.

Consider some of the grim statistics:

  • In 1965, there were more than 3.5M+ U.S. Episcopalians.  In 2010, there were 1,951,907 members.
  • The denomination’s 10-year change in active  membership (2000-2010) dropped 16% while attendance decreased by 23% to 657,831 in 2010.
  • Parishes are closing.  In 2010, 100 parishes closed.
These statistics certainly don’t bode well for the future of the Episcopalian denomination in the United States.  As the remaining Episcopalian congregations increasingly age, they will become increasingly disconnected from Episcopalian youth.
Is there a causal relationship between being “progressive”—all of that diversity and inclusion stuff—and the death of once-powerful Christian denominations?  Perhaps “yes” in the sense that the more traditional wing of the Anglican Church is growing.  Perhaps “no” in the sense that membership in mainline Protestant denominations is declining across the board which could have much to do with a culture whose members are charmed by secularism, materialism, and consumerism.
But, one thing is for sure.  The statistics suggest that short of divine intervention, Protestant denominations which stand for everything are going to have a very difficult time surviving into the next generation.
To read the 2010 statistical summary of the  Episcopal denomination, click on the following link:
http://www.episcopalchurch.org/documents/Domestic_FAST_FACTS_Trends_2006-2010.pdf

7 Responses to Standing for everything will get you nowhere fast…

  • It’s not progressiveism per se, but the inherent dynamic of all Anglican-inspired ecclesiologies, which can be summed thus: neither standing for something nor everything, but, sadly, nothing. This is what you get when you wed reformed theology to high ecclesiology: nonsense on stilts. It was odd in the 16th century, and it’s odd today. The only thing that’s changed is the manifestation that the oddness takes–so the progressiveism you note.

  • I think there may be some interesting parallels between the attitudes of the leadership
    of the Episcopal denomination and many of the leaders of congregations of Catholic
    women religious. Both groups have been willing to fall into the embrace of the “Spirit
    of the Times”. Neither group sees much worth in the traditions entrusted to them by
    previous generations. And neither group looks upon the ruination they have brought
    upon their organizations with much concern– actually, there seems to be a quiet satis-
    faction.

  • I think WJ has a good point, but I’d tweak it a little bit: Anglicanism’s fatal flaw is to try to paper over irreconcilable differences. As historians have noted, it is a political settlement of a religious dispute, pretending that diversity of belief was instead merely diversity of practice. And nearly five hundred years later, the problems with such have become insurmountable.

    If nothing else, the nasty exercises of power by the petty, shallow woman in charge of the American branch have proven to be very clarifying in this regard.

  • I note with fascination the lavender and pink colors everywhere in the two photos that accompany this blog post.

  • The problem with this traditionalist Catholic meme is that it never cites the numbers for the Catholic Church. I can’t remember the exact stat but worldwide, the Catholic Church is in worse shape than the Anglican Communion in relative terms. Without immigrants, those numbers for Episcopalians seem like they can apply to American Catholics.

    Sure conservative circles are thriving but “progressive” Christianity had a great run. It was only fairly recently that progressives lost religion, leaving only the conservatives behind. Also, if you go to these thriving conservative Evangelical churches, they’re conservative at the core but they’re the opposite of traditionalist. Forget guitars, they have rock bands. Forget altargirls, they have female pastors. If anything the lesson seems to be “guard the basic tenets but modernize everything else.”

  • Well, the Episcopalian Church might seem like it’s shrinking, but when that next generation comes along…oh, that’s right, never mind.

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