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Jesus was left out of the Episcopal Jesus Movement -- not in name, but in deed

By Mary Ann Mueller
VOL Special Correspondent
July 13, 2022

The COVID-shortened Episcopal General Convention was a waste of time, talent, and treasure. Nothing was generated out of the long weekend Baltimore Convention which advanced the Gospel and furthered the Kingdom of God.

Instead, deputies and bishops focused on fast tracking Bishop Barbara Harris (Massachusetts suffragan) to Episcopal sainthood; championed unrestricted access to abortion; demoted a noted Episcopal theologian, cancelling him and putting him out with the trash; created a virtual Prayer Book to house the growing "authorized" liturgies for trial and experimental usage; dealt with The Episcopal Church's supposed "legacy of racism;" focused on increasing the church's multilingual, multilinguistic, and multicultural witness; folded TEC's former Diocese of Fort Worth into the Diocese of Texas; urged Congress to make "Lift Every Voice and Sing" a national hymn on equal footing with the Star-Spangled Banner;" determined that the climate crisis as the overarching issue that affects all the other issues of social justice; and created the Director of LBGTQI and Women's Ministries.

Presiding Bishop Michael Curry is a powerful Southern black preacher. In his opening 27-minute sermon, he referenced the Name of Jesus 61 times. Outgoing House of Deputies' President Gay Clark Jennings, in her 10-minute sermon referenced Jesus' Name 32 times. Bishop Eugene Sutton (XIV Maryland), a black Southern preacher, also referenced Jesus' Name 32 times in his 28-minute long Sunday sermon. Incoming House of Deputies, President Julia Ayala Harris only referenced Jesus 12 times in her 11 minutes sermon. Harris is laity and not clergy, so therefore she has not been schooled in sermon writing or homiletics.

Jesus' Name is easily dropped from the lips of The Episcopal Church's top leadership, but that doesn't translate into transformative action on the Convention floor.

The above litany of General Convention actions reveals nothing to increase church membership, the celebration of the Sacraments, or the church's bottom line. The Episcopal Church is going downhill and slowly dying on the vine.

"General Convention took no action that will change the current trends of declining membership, attendance, adult baptisms and stewardship measured against inflation," the V. Rev. Kevin Martin posted on his Facebook.

Dean Martin is the retired Dean of the Cathedral Church of St. Matthew in Dallas, Texas, and he is considered one of the foremost Episcopal experts on congregational development.

"If these trends continue, I have these predictions," the Dean continued. "This was the 80th General Convention, there won't be a 90th."

Tentatively, the 90th General Convention is slated for 2051. The location has yet to be determined.

"The next Presiding Bishop, who follows Michael Curry, will be the last Presiding Bishop of The Episcopal Church as we know that office today," Dean Martin explained. "The church's budget and resources will continue to shrink, forcing restructuring of staff and ministries."

Michael Curry, then XI Bishop of North Carolina, became the 27th Presiding Bishop in 2015. His single nine-year long hitch is to expire in 2024.

The 81st General Convention is slated to be held in Louisville, Kentucky, hosted by The Episcopal Diocese of Kentucky. However, the 80th General Convention contested the selection because since Roe v Wade has been overturned, Kentucky's trigger law banning abortions kicked in.

The Presiding Bishop defines the Jesus Movement as: "The ongoing community of people who center their lives on Jesus and following Him into loving, liberating and life-giving relationship with God, each other and creation."

When the Presiding Bishop was elected, the membership of the entire Episcopal Church (both foreign and domestic dioceses) stood at 1,917,182. The latest 2020 figure is 1,736,882, a loss of 170,900 souls or 9.4% shrinkage.

(Remember COVID has skewered the 2020 Parochial Reports because the churches were forced to shut down not only in the United States, but around the world.)

The ASA in 2015 was 634,348. The 2020 ASA stands at 483,108 for a loss of 151,240 or 23.8%.

Adult baptisms took the biggest hit. In 2015, there were 4,200 baptisms worldwide in The Episcopal Church. After COVID hit, the baptisms dropped to 1,649, a loss of 2,551 adults seeking Episcopal baptism, or a shedding of 60.7%.

The Plate & Pledge in 2015 was $1,313,719,167. In 2020, Plate & Pledge dropped to $1,292,571,340 or a drop in income of $21,147, 827 or 1.7% fewer coins were being dropped in the collection plate.

The inflation calculator says that $1.3 billion in 2015 would be worth $1.6 billion in today's marketplace.

Dean Martin also feels that The House of Bishops will shrink in size during the next two decades to half its current size. There are 115 currently working bishops, including sitting diocesan bishops ordinary, co-adjutor bishops, bishops' suffragan, provisional bishops, and assisting bishops.

More and more shrinking dioceses are turning to retired bishops as their provisional bishop or sharing a bishop with a neighboring diocese.

The former Episcopal Diocese of Fort Worth just folded into the Episcopal Diocese of Texas, and the three Episcopal dioceses in Wisconsin -- Eau Claire, Fond du Lac, Milwaukee -- are looking at unifying into a single statewide diocese.

Current Episcopal provisional bishops include:
**Western New York: Sean Rowe (VII Northwestern Pennsylvania);
**Eastern Michigan & Western Michigan: Prince Singh (VIII Rochester);
**Eau Claire: Matthew Gunter (VIII Fond du Lac);
**Southern Ohio: Wayne Smith (X Missouri);
**Milwaukee: Jeffrey Lee (XII Chicago);
**Rochester: Stephen Lane (IX Maine); and
**West Missouri: Diane Bruce (Los Angeles-suffragan).

Mary Ann Mueller is a journalist living in Texas. She is a regular contributor to VirtueOnline

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