Religion and Ethics Weekly:  A Look Ahead to the Likely Major Religion Stories of 2008

Posted by Kendall Harmon

[BOB] ABERNETHY: One of the things that will certainly be going on in the New Year is more and more of something that we've already seen, which is this closer relationship between religious organizations in the United States and those in other countries. Rachel, you've been writing a lot about this.

Ms. [RACHEL] ZOLL: The growth or explosion, really, of Christianity overseas is having an impact within the United States. As just one example, the United Methodist Church, which is considered and is and always has been very much of a middle class American church, if the current growth trends continue will become a majority African church within the next couple of decades. They're already dealing with the fact that there are Methodists from the Philippines and from Korea who are planting churches within the United States as well, and they're trying to figure out the relationship there. Another impact of it is that a lot of very entrepreneurial, very evangelical-minded or evangelically minded African pastors are coming over here to plant churches in the United States. Now, for people who don't watch these things closely, they are puzzled. Why does, in a very religious country, does anyone need to plant more churches? But these are very fervent believers, and they think that the American church has lost its spirit and has become co-opted so much by the culture that they're here to save us.

ABERNETHY: Meanwhile, some U.S. Episcopalians are separating themselves from the main Episcopal Church and putting themselves under the authority of Nigerians or others in Africa or South America. Bring us up to date on that.

Ms. ZOLL: Sure. The Christians overseas tend to have a very theologically conservative view on the moral issues that we're grappling with here, and what's happening is that theological conservatives in the United States are making common cause with like-minded conservatives overseas. The Episcopal Church is not cracking up. It's a very small comparative number of churches that have actually left the Episcopal Church, about 55 as of this date out of more than 7,000 congregations in the United States. But it's not just the numbers. It's the -- a lot of those churches are some of the most vibrant churches within the Episcopal Church, and just recently an entire diocese voted to leave.

ABERNETHY: But do you expect more of that separating?

Ms. ZOLL: It's not clear how many more will happen, but what we know that what will happen next year is a lot of litigation, and that is going to be very difficult for the Episcopal Church and for people who are trying to leave. It's going to be expensive. It's going to be ugly, and it's going to take a long time to play out.

Read it all but do not fall into the trap of thinking that only whole parishes by voting action to depart from TEC measures the degree of the problem.

As I noted earlier

You can see what is going on, [the TEC leadership is] ... playing games with numbers and categories. "Few" leaving actually means "congregations," and congregations means congregations defined as a whole. This is collapsing all four categories into a very narrow and misleading picture of group number 2.

People know that in reality it is very difficult to get whole parishes or dioceses to take significant decisions about ANYTHING, much less something as important as this. Given the degree of opposition and hostility faced in numerous quarters from diocesan and national leadership, and given how many Anglican reasserters (such as your blog convenor) have been advocating a stay and be opposed but be faithful stance, it is actually surprising that the numbers from the four categories are this large.

The key point is, taken together the four groups illustrate a VERY SERIOUS problem. Good leadership owns the actual situation and then tries to deal with it, it does not try to redefine it narrowly and pretend it is less than it is

Filed under: * Anglican - EpiscopalEpiscopal Church (TEC)TEC ConflictsGlobal South Churches & PrimatesSexuality Debate (in Anglican Communion)Same-sex blessings* Culture-WatchLaw & Legal IssuesMediaReligion & Culture

Posted December 29, 2007 at 1:09 pm [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

1. Susan Russell wrote:

The part of the story Rachel didn’t get was how hard is going to be for people who are trying to STAY ... St. Nicholas, Atwater, for example. And for some wider context on that whole sorry mess, here’s some background from San Joaquinian Stephen Bentley’s comments on an earlier report about his:

“Now you’re witnessing a hint of the lies and underhanded dealings of what [Schofield] can do and has done in closing missions who disargee with him.

Trinity in Madera, St. Dunstan’s in Modesto and St. Stephen’s in Stockton were closed and the property sold in order to place money in the warchest of J-D for the anticipated departure from TEC. If you were to look at the 2009 Budget you would see that positions were eliminated and programs cut, putting more money into the already top-heavy administrative budget, topping a wopping 51 percent. J-D and his cohorts have been preparing for this since the first vote last year using the excuse that these missions and programs were not financially stable for the diocese.

Wow… a youth program not fianancially stable. It’s no wonder there are no young people coming to the Diocese of San Joaquin. They are being told they are not worth spit for shionola.

This isn’t a time for saying “I told you so”, it’s a time to ask, when is something going to be done to put a stop to this madness so faithful Episcopalian in the Episcopal Diocese of San Joaquin can get back to doing the business of the mission of the church rather than being worried that another mission will be closed if they don’t submit to the will of the Anglican Bishop of the Southern Cone.”

Stephen Bentley,
Youth Minister,
Episcopal Church Of St. Anne, Stockton,

December 29, 2:21 pm | [comment link]
2. BabyBlue wrote:

Katharine Jefferts Schori has done an interview for the progressive organization Interfaith Alliance where - yet again - she minimizes the crisis.  I totally agree with you, Kendall, that leadership means admitting the crisis is real and not playing these word games.  The need to deny, deny, deny the situation on the ground just continues to astonish me.  In court it took repeated questioning until Schori finally admitted that she did not vote yes on the Primates Communique in Dar Es Salaam - but she under penalty of perjury and so was forced to answer honestly, but she spent a long time trying to deflect.

This seems to be the strategy from 815, to pursue aggressive litigation and to continue to project an “All Is Well” image to the press.  But circumstances continue to deteriorate and at some point, she is going to have to take extreme aggressive action that will cause the press and other observers to not permit her to sweep her actions under the rug with words of “carrying on our mission” (as Susan advocates it seems) or perhaps she will have an epiphany and begin to follow the direction of Communion to stand down and negotiate.  One wonders what it will take for that to happen.

As we learned in court as well, when Schori uses the word “mission” she does not mean Gospel mission but protecting the franchise as a “mission strategy” (hence, properties can be sold as saloons but not for Anglican Communion-recognized churches).  That will breakup the franchise because - in fact - the Episcopal Church has divided! 


December 29, 2:49 pm | [comment link]
3. robroy wrote:

Sarah Hey states that the ideological liberals like Susan Russell don’t care whether they have a Pyrrhic victory or loss (Outright victory is not an option.) The only liberal voice that I have heard sanity from is the Anglican Scotist who wrote:

The fact there is still—after four years—a shouting match that is getting worse and worse serves the Separatist cause. It is in their interest to see TEC continue to be distracted from Mission and to continue to contract while being preoccupied with a never-ending “crisis” increasingly manufactured by the separatists themselves.

which is not very credible (the bad orthodox “created” this mess. Yeah right. Who tore the fabric of the Communion, again?), but also this:

When there’s a shouting match in front of the store, people will be disinclined to come in. They won’t have the time or energy to figure it all out and to see what is going on—they’ll move away from the margins to somewhere else: not in all cases, but in enough cases that we should be worried.

It bodes ill that the ideological liberals are in the drivers seat.

December 29, 3:02 pm | [comment link]
4. Br. Michael wrote:

4, That’s a typical reappraiser argument: “The bank robbery was peaceful until the police arrived and shooting started.”

December 29, 3:06 pm | [comment link]
5. Susan Russell wrote:

And I ... not surprisingly ... disagree. I’m not hearing “all is well” from anybody involved in this whole sorry mess. What I am hearing from our national church leadership is [a] contrary to the “spin” of the schismatics the sky is NOT falling and the vast majority of Episcopalians are focused on the Gospel mission (yes, “Gospel mission”—the Good News of God in Christ Jesus made available to all) and ready to get on with the work of the church.

Yes, there’s division in the church. It’s a sad thing but an inevitable thing given the determination of those who’ve been working, striving, praying, fundraising and politicking since long before Lambeth ‘98. They are reaping now the fruits of the spirit of division sown with intention and commitment to their cause: splitting the church they’ve failed to re-create in their own image.

“Stand down and negotiate” is AKA “roll over and capitulate”—and it isn’t going to happen. Happy New Year, everybody!

December 29, 3:21 pm | [comment link]
6. SBNF wrote:

I would certainly concur with Stephen Bentley from my experience in Virginia that the separatists/reasserters were planning their move for years, way before Gene Robinson.  Without going into great detail, certain parishes stopped supporting the Diocese years ago.  To paraphrase John Kerry, “they left the Diocese before the Diocese left them”.  (For the record, I did not support the ordination of GR and put that in writing at the time.)

December 29, 3:33 pm | [comment link]
7. Br. Michael wrote:

And apostate clergy are in denial.

December 29, 3:46 pm | [comment link]
8. Philip Snyder wrote:

How long has Integrity and similar groups been working to get their agendas set as TECUSA’s agenda?  Is it only schismatic or political manuvering if conservatives do it? 

I submit that we are reaping the fruits of division sown by those who put political agendas ahead of the Truth as revealed in Holy Scripture and in the Tradition of the Church.  I believe Holy Scripture and Jesus Christ when He said:  “by their fruits you shall know them.”  The “fruit” of the progressive movement seems to be anger, hatred, schism, world wide turmoil, and party spirit.  These are not the fruits of the Holy Spirit.  Remember that the consecration of +VGR was not the beginning of the problems, but only a major roadblock along the way. 
So, before you point fingers at the reasserters, remember that three other fingers are pointing at yourself.

Phil Snyder

December 29, 3:49 pm | [comment link]
9. Words Matter wrote:

IIRC, it wasn’t too long ago that there were 8,000 parishes in TEC, not 7,000 (I think the number is more like 7,200). Now, TEC lost something over 50,000 members last year and the average parish size is, what? 80? That’s over 600 parishes lost in one year, not 55. Furthermore, there are claims that many parishes that left corporately are still being counted in the TEC and diocesan numbers. If that’s true, the picture is much worse.  It isn’t “schism” that’s killing TEC, but attrition, and that’s been going on for 30+ years, at an increasing rate of decline.

December 29, 3:49 pm | [comment link]
10. Br. Michael wrote:

And you better believe that Integrity is well into organizing for GC 2009.

December 29, 4:05 pm | [comment link]
11. Kendall Harmon wrote:

I would be grateful if the comments could focus on the Religion and Ethics Weekly story.

December 29, 4:31 pm | [comment link]
12. Sarah1 wrote:

Fits of giggles here:

“It’s a sad thing but an inevitable thing given the determination of those who’ve been working, striving, praying, fundraising and politicking since long before Lambeth ‘98. They are reaping now the fruits of the spirit of division sown with intention and commitment to their cause: splitting the church they’ve failed to re-create in their own image.”

Just been hit by the irony bus.  ; > )

December 29, 4:33 pm | [comment link]
13. Sarah1 wrote:

Sorry Kendall—I was writing as your were commenting and did not see your request.

December 29, 4:35 pm | [comment link]
14. Cennydd wrote:

Susan Russell, may I recommend that you read Page B2 of the December 29th edition of the Merced Sun-Star, and in particular the Commentary?

December 29, 5:16 pm | [comment link]
15. JackieB wrote:

The thing I find amazing is that no one is focusing on the real numbers.  It is no great secret that the 2.3 mil number is way off.  Very few parishes have purged their records.  But even working with an ASA number of 800,000 on any given Sunday (and that was estimated before the major losses of 2006/2007) that’s not enough giving bodies to heat most of the large buildings of most Episcopal Churches.  Combine that with the culture of death the General Convention Church promotes and anyway you slice it - ECUSA is dying.  You cannot revive something that is dead by bringing in more death as the revisionist are determined to do by continually stripping the Gospel message to that of an all inclusive, anything goes salute.

December 29, 7:28 pm | [comment link]
16. RevK wrote:


..the vast majority of Episcopalians..

..are now members of other denominations or not attending any church.

Had we even kept up with the growth of population over the last 30 years, we should be over 5.5 million members.

December 29, 10:33 pm | [comment link]
17. Sir Highmoor wrote:

“Stand down and negotiate” is AKA “roll over and capitulate”—and it isn’t going to happen. Happy New Year, everybody! - SR
This is what 2008 will be like friends!

December 30, 3:40 am | [comment link]
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