(Tennessean) Liberal churches show signs of strength in Nashville

Posted by Kendall Harmon

[The Rev. Eric] Greenwood, rector of St. David’s Episcopal Church in Nashville, says his denomination has its troubles. But it is still a force for good in the world.

“Everybody gets all excited about sex in the church,” he said. “But the good work that gets done in the name of God and our lord Jesus Christ, it will take your breath away.”

Nationwide, the numbers don’t look good for the Episcopal Church and other mainline Protestant denominations, most of which tend to hold more liberal beliefs. From 2000 to 2010, most suffered double-digit percentage declines in membership, leading some to wonder if those denominations can be saved in the future.

But in Nashville, those mainline churches have showed surprising strength and have grown in membership over the past decade.

Read it all.

Filed under: * Anglican - EpiscopalEpiscopal Church (TEC)TEC Parishes* Christian Life / Church LifeParish Ministry* International News & CommentaryAmerica/U.S.A.* Religion News & CommentaryOther ChurchesLutheranMethodistPresbyterianUnited Church of Christ* Theology

Posted August 21, 2012 at 6:50 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

1. Archer_of_the_Forest wrote:

Everything’s fine and dandy…nothing to see here. Move along.

August 21, 8:57 am | [comment link]
2. Sarah wrote:

A richly ironic story since most of the TEC parishes in that diocese are *conservative* parishes!  The Diocese of TN has done quite well [as far as TEC dioceses go, which isn’t very far].

But why don’t they go investigate the stats of the Diocese of West Tennessee—heh.  Then they can “marvel” over the fact that one part of the state—with plenty of urban area—is doing horribly in “liberal church stats” and the middle part is doing quite nicely. Goodness me, one wonders why that might be!!!

The more I read of journalists the more I think they just shouldn’t write about stuff they don’t know about.  Bob Smietana simply has no knowledge of the distinctions by diocese and/or region of the “progressivism” of the various mainline churches.

Oh well.  “Ignorance shall be his punishment.”

August 21, 11:16 am | [comment link]
3. WestJ wrote:

A church should be “liberal” in that all are welcome to come. We are all sinners in need of God’s redeeming grace. The problem comes when you try to bless something that God does not bless. A church that puts its foundation on social acceptance will not stand for long.

August 21, 1:43 pm | [comment link]
4. Undergroundpewster wrote:

Overall, the Diocese shows a slight decline, not the growth that the article would suggest. Looking more closely at the stats for the Nashville area Episcopal churches does reveal a fair amount of decline with Christ Church Cathedral and St. Philip’s showing precipitous drops, but some smaller churches grew (one appears to be a newer start up). Interestingly, St. Andrews’ plate and pledge was recorded as zero in 2009 and 2010 while the membership is maintained. Is this the parish that went over to ACNA?

August 21, 1:57 pm | [comment link]
5. Barbara Gauthier wrote:

Yes, St. Andrew’s is now an ACNA parish with the Diocese of Quincy.

August 21, 6:14 pm | [comment link]
6. Robert Dedmon wrote:

Writing as a native Tennessean, I would say that Sarah needs to investigate the cultural demography and political dynamics of Tennessee before she draws conclusions.  Curiously she doesn’t mention East Tennessee.

August 21, 7:43 pm | [comment link]
7. Statmann wrote:

ve ranked 95 TEC dioceses,  Dio of Tenn ranks bumer Obe with Memvers up 4 percent. ASA down 9 percent and inflation adjusted Plate & Pledge UP 5 percent.  And East Tenn ranks number ELEVEN with stats of down 5 percent, down 15 percent, and down 5 percent. Tenn is in the Southeast which is the only region showing some vitality for TEC.  I find it hard to believe that it is because of LIBERAL parishes.  But then, I must ask: why do Conservative parishes stay with TEC ??  Statmann

August 21, 8:04 pm | [comment link]
8. Robert Dedmon wrote:

Statman also needs a rest.

August 21, 8:06 pm | [comment link]
9. Statmann wrote:

Lost the initial sentence above.  I ranked 95 TEC dioceses by changes in Members, ASA, and inflation adjusted Plate & Pledge from 2002 to 2919.  Mea culpaa.  Statmann

August 21, 8:08 pm | [comment link]
10. Don C wrote:

Robert, perhaps you could help us out. What particularly about the culture and politics of Tennessee would help us understand this story better?

August 21, 10:01 pm | [comment link]
11. MichaelA wrote:

“She said that starting in the 1980s, many liberal churches and theologians began to rediscover spirituality and the Bible. That makes them very different from liberal churches of the past.”

They are either committed to the Bible or they are not.  If not, then this won’t last.  If they are, then they are ceasing to be liberal.

August 22, 5:02 am | [comment link]
12. Sarah wrote:

RE: “I would say that Sarah needs to investigate the cultural demography and political dynamics of Tennessee before she draws conclusions.”

Oh, I know quite enough to point out the article’s mistaken premise—truth is, the Diocese of Tennessee has a majority of Episcopal conservatives while the two end dioceses do not.  The end result is predictable.  The Diocese of East Tennessee’s peak from the years of 2000 to 2010 was in 2001, and the Diocese of West Tennessee’s peak was in 2000—and since then both have been augering gracefully into the ground with steady declines.  Both are led by revisionist bishops and have a majority of revisionist clergy and have had big departures of traditional laity as a result.


In contrast, the Diocese of Tennessee has experienced good steady growth all the way through 2006, and now is dipping over the last four charted years [2011 stats not charted yet]. It will be interesting to see if it rebounds. But the article was clear that it was comparing the growth of the decade as a whole of 2000 to 2010 in TEC parishes around Nashville, to the rest of the denomination—and in that sense, the Nashville parishes far outstrip the denomination as a whole for that decade.

But now we have a news story chortling that “liberal churches” are showing surprising “signs of strength in Nashville” and using TEC stats there as an example of one of those liberal churches.

Again—the reporter doesn’t know what he’s talking about. 

On a slightly amusing note, the parish of the one Episcopal rector that the article quotes who is rector of St. David’s in Nashville shows almost exactly the same ASA in 2010 as in 2000—maybe a teensy bump, but certainly not an example of “signs of strength in Nashville.”


August 22, 9:41 am | [comment link]
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