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COVID-19 and Economic Recession is Decimating Ranks of Western Anglican Churches

COVID-19 and Economic Recession is Decimating Ranks of Western Anglican Churches
The ACNA has shot past the ACoC in Average Sunday Attendance

By David W. Virtue, DD
June 9, 2020

By now it is becoming apparent that the combination of COVID-19 and a worldwide economic recession is exacting a toll on progressive Anglicans and the Episcopal Church. This is accelerating a decline that began when Gene Robinson, an openly homosexual priest was consecrated bishop of New Hampshire.

The facts are undeniable.

Episcopal Presiding Bishop Michael Curry told a virtual meeting of the Church's Executive Council this week that the financial situation of the church was "uncertain" and budget cuts are in the wind.

Treasurer Kurt Barnes made a budget presentation to the Council which showed that while COVID-19 had no significant effect on income -- including diocesan commitments -- in the first quarter of 2020, payments from dioceses fell significantly in April, with several dioceses deferring their April and May payments and three requesting partial assessment waivers. Stock market declines associated with COVID-19 also have taken a toll on the church's investment portfolio. June will no doubt prove to be worse.

Economists predict that the United States is in for the longest and deepest economic crisis since the Great Depression, Barnes said, and the church should be prepared for economic weakness lasting five to 10 years. Because the effects of declining income may be delayed, the church must identify potential budget cuts now, Barnes and other officers said.

These potential cuts to an already lean budget could be "difficult and painful," said Curry and Gay Jennings, HOD president. It would include staff reductions but done in the Presiding Bishop's Way of Love notions. The "staged reductions" are on the way.

The only upside is that General Convention has been cancelled in 2021 owing to COVID-19 and pushed forward to 2022. The cost of these gabfests involving some 10,000 persons runs between $21 million and $23 million! The deeper question is do these conventions now have any real value? How many more sexualities can TEC embrace before looking like a fully paid up member of the Human Rights Campaign (HRC), the largest national gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender advocacy organization in America! Will General Convention finally convince the powers that be that a resolution to sell 815 2nd Ave. must be enacted upon? And why spend $20 million or more convincing the Church to take climate change seriously? Of course, with recent events, it would give Curry a platform to raise up holy hands and preach loudly about racism and inequality in America. But does it take an expensive convention to tell Episcopalians what they already know. His popularity would undoubtedly soar, riding on the wave of a royal marriage, but it comes at great cost. Can the Episcopal Church afford it?

Furthermore, the investment portfolio of the Church Pension Fund is more sacred than scripture with priests and bishops more concerned with earthly salvation than eternal life. Reparations will be history.

A former Episcopalian asked in an article, Is Political Activism Responsible for the Decline of the Episcopal Church? "The Episcopal Church...has traded the wants and needs of their parishioners for alignment with the social and political views of what passes in this country for the intelligentsia. The evidence of their social and political activism, if not their theological tergiversation, can be plainly seen in both the sermons and the official and informal positions of the Episcopal Church."

"By votes in their General Convention, the reports and activities of Episcopal committees, and/or the opinions of Episcopal priests and seminarians, the church has now glommed onto such political and social movements as climate change, transgender bathroom use, same-sex marriage in the parishes, the academic doctrine of "intersectionalism,"and the divestiture movement against Israel, commonly called BDS. If they were next to criticize Jesus for his failure to acknowledge his "male privilege," would anyone be surprised? Furthermore, is there anything more feckless than the many sermons given by Episcopal rectors to their aging parishioners in the language of political correctness?"

The Episcopal Church has sided with a secularizing culture on a multitude of issues and they wonder why no one is interested in darkening their doors.


The Anglican Church of Canada (ACoC), a counterpart to the U.S.-based Episcopal Church, will cease to exist by the year 2040 according to numbers recently reported by the denomination. Even more dramatically, the Anglican Church in North America (ACNA) has now overtaken the ACoC in attendance.

"There is no sign of any stabilization in our numbers; if anything, the decline is increasing," noted the Rev. Dr. Neil Elliot in a statistical report presented to the Canadian House of Bishops. "Some had hoped that our decline had bottomed out, or that programs had been effective in reversing the trends. This is now demonstrably not the case."

The report includes the first comprehensive set of official statistics since the early 2000s. Data confirms anecdotal stories from across much of the Canadian church that Anglican Christianity is vanishing there. In 1962 (the height of Anglican participation), the ACoC reported more than 1.3 million members, out of a total Canadian population of approximately 18 million, seven percent of Canadians affiliated with the Anglican Church. By 2017, Canada's population had risen to more than 35 million (+94%), but only 357,123 members were counted on the rolls of the Anglican Church there, 1 percent of the population.

New attendance figures are striking. In 2017, the Anglican Church of Canada had an average Sunday attendance of 97,421. The ACNA through its Anglican Network in Canada (ANiC) diocese and The Reformed Episcopal Church's Canadian convocations now has congregations in every Canadian province except for Prince Edward Island, with a total of 135,000 worshippers.


The Church of England is also looking down an empty beer barrel. A 2018 survey of The Church of England revealed that 2.9% or 756,000 weekly attend a parish, down from 895,000 a year earlier. The population of England is 56 million. The Church has 108 bishops.

The rise of online services has prompted a rethink of how the Church of England pays for its 42 cathedrals and 16,000 churches -- of which 12,500 are listed by Historic England -- with dioceses under pressure to merge their functions in education, theological training and administration to save money, said the Times.

"The crisis is going to lead to a massive shrinkage in the number of cathedrals, dioceses and parish churches," said a source familiar with his thinking.

"This has vastly accelerated a dramatic change in the way the Church of England will do its stuff because of declining attendance and declining revenues." There's also been a call to cull the 108 bishops from the herd.

One figure at the heart of the discussions held by the House of Bishops recently said the experience of the pandemic had brought long-running issues to a head: "We are at a crossroads. Everything's a blank sheet of paper. It is allowing us to get back to that question of first principle, what it means to be the church."

God, it would appear, is using this virus like an Old Testament plague to bring down morally corrupt and theologically bankrupt churches. Can anyone doubt now, that the future of Anglicanism lies in the Global South and with GAFCON?


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