Saturday, December 14, 2013

The Episcopal Church: The Year in Review

By David W. Virtue
December 13, 2013

It has not been a good year for The Episcopal Church.

Any way you cut it, 2013 will be viewed as a failure of intent, legal losses, increasing numerical decline and the failure of gay sex advocates pushing gay marriage (and Rites) to obtain any traction for making parishes grow.

As one Episcopal bishop after another rolled over to allow parishes and their priests to use experimental Rites for same sex blessings, churches continued to wither and die with small parishes across the nation largely held together by family money. More parishes could no longer sustain full time paid priests, resorting to part time non-stipendiary priests and increasingly small mission churches.

A typical case is the Episcopal Diocese of New Jersey, the sixth largest in the nation, has 47,092 baptized congregants but an Average Sunday Attendance (ASA) of only 14,000. A diocesan profile, published last July, mentions "institutional decline," "cultural change" and "economic distress" as some of its most pressing issues. Some 67 congregations (out of 151) in the diocese function on less than $150,000 a year, and are, therefore, unable to hire full-time priests or carry out effective missions. Many have closed as a consequence. Attendance among those aged 20 to 40 is at its lowest in years. This diocese is more typical than not of the rest of the denomination.

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