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By David W. Virtue, DD
July 14, 2021

One by one they dribble out of The Episcopal Church. A bishop here, a clergyman there, a parish here and parishioners there. It slowly adds up.

Slowly, but surely, The Episcopal Church is being depleted of people. We still don't know what COVID has done to overall church attendance.

As long as there is no scandal, the Episcopal Church is glad to see the back of orthodox bishops and clergy as they leave. Why and what does it really matter if bishops like Love, Howe, Bena, Herzog, Wantland, Ackerman, Iker et al., leave? After all, why would you want someone to stay if they did not share the same progressive views as you do about the faith once for all delivered to the saints? Why have a thorn in the flesh when you can have it removed?

Inclusion and diversity are words without substance. They are devoid of meaning. Inclusion means to include people who agree with you about sexuality, and diversity means nothing at all.

What hurts is the financial damage it causes when clergy leave and take parishioners and their checkbooks with them. Will the diocese of Albany recover from the departure of Bishop William Love and the parishes and parishioners who left with him? The diocese was not in great financial shape to begin with; Albany and the surrounding towns are hard spiritual and financial pickin's. Albany is the most post-Christian city in America. The Episcopal Church is not now nor ever going to make new converts.

TECs primary wealth still comes from aging, white, wealthy Episcopalians who have undergone anti-racism training. These wealthy have written guilt-ridden reparations checks, that has extracted from them the last vestiges of dignity and humiliation in order to guarantee them a place in the church's columbarium. There is the Church Pension Group and the stock market, of course, which continues to soar. Toss in Trinity Wall Street and the money can roll in for decades and fund any lamebrain idea that comes into Bishop Michael Curry's head.

Why anybody would give money to a dying organization like TEC will always remain a bit of a mystery. It's a bit like renewing your dues to the Playboy mansion (a modern-day sexual cathedral), even after Hugh Hefner has died and the building is up for auction.

Even liberal bishops know, and TEC journalists have written, that TEC will see its final long-suffering parishioner disappear as the last sermon is preached on climate change or racism in the year of our lord 2040. The death of TEC could be much sooner of course, but its death is imminent; it, like taxes, cannot be avoided.

There are no plans to really grow the church, regardless of how much money is thrown at wannabe church planters. If your goal is simply feeding the poor, establishing a hydroponics farm in Alabama and making people feel guilty for being white while promoting meals on wheels and providing free laundry services for strangers passing in the night, all that will be left are the washing machines. One doesn't need a prayer book to operate them.

There is an inevitability that leads to death said William Shakespeare.

TEC started committing slow spiritual suicide at about the time John Shelby Spong announced his 12 heretical theses attempting to undo 20 centuries of doctrinal truth telling.

The decline has only accelerated since then. Presiding Bishop Curry has toned down Spong's revisionist rhetoric and replaced it with love and revival talk, but it is not proving a winning growth strategy.

The average age of an Episcopalian is well into the sixties. There are no future generations coming along to fill pews.

Furthermore, the birth and growth of ACNA is a huge embarrassment for Curry, and a constant reminder that what he is selling no one is buying.

Despite some recent difficulties, the ACNA is still on a growth trajectory because Archbishop Foley Beach is committed to gospel proclamation, evangelism, discipleship and church planting. His bishops are equally committed and so they press forward, making disciples, planting churches, even in a time of COVID.

Curry cannot match that. For him, it is more important to feel the pain of homosexual couples denied the right to adopt kids than announcing the Good News of Jesus who frees us from our sins. To do so, Curry would have to recognize that it is not just adultery, (the last remaining sexual sin in TEC), but fornication and homosexual behavior that are equally sinful behaviors requiring repentance and amendment of life. Curry will not go there and neither will his bishops.

Money won't save TEC. TEC has an estimated 400 million it can draw on. Bankrolling the Lambeth Conference gives TEC a lot of cache, bankrolling causes in Global South provinces promoting homosexuality has been met with rebuff from heavy weight Anglican provinces like Nigeria. Money has proven to be the great leveler and manipulator. Who would not accept an all-expenses paid trip to Canterbury, bask in the glory of what was once the Edenic center of Anglicanism, visit with the queen at a garden party at Buckingham palace and chew the fat with primes inter pares Justin Welby! If you whine about something he will surely apologize to you as that is his forte.

TEC functions like a blind man without a guide dog or white cane. The Church keeps hitting walls and doesn't understand why, when they are offered a gospel way out, they refuse it and keep on hitting walls and continuing to support woke issues that haven't a prayer of growing churches.

But the data is all too clear. Ryan P. Burge of Eastern Illinois University writes; "One of the most troubling things about the future of the Episcopal Church is that the average member is incredibly old. The median age of an Episcopalian in 2019 was sixty-nine years old. With life expectancy around 80, we can easily expect at least a third of the current membership of the denomination to be gone in the next fifteen or twenty years. That's problematic when membership has already been plummeting for decades."

In 2009, 725,000 people attended an Episcopal church on an average weekend. According to their own data, the Episcopal Church has about 1.8 million baptized members. Thus, about 40% of members actually attend on a regular basis. That's been declining steadily over the last decade. A typical year sees attendance dip by 25,000-35,000 people. That represents a 2-3% year-over-year decline. By 2019, the weekly attendance was 547,000. In percentage terms, the Episcopalians have seen their attendance drop by a quarter in just the last decade.

Ryan noted that pledged donations will continue with little reason to expect that the money is going to run out for Episcopalians anytime soon. In fact, the total amount of plate and pledge has actually risen between 2014 and 2019. In 2014, the denomination received about 1.3 billion dollars from their members. By 2019, that had increased by about fifty million dollars. That's surprising given that the overall attendance in the tradition has declined during that same time period.

Ryan calculates that "plate and pledge" annual offerings between 2014 and 2019 were "truly stunning."

"In 2014, the average Episcopalian gave $2057. By 2019, that figure had increased nearly four hundred dollars per year to $2469. That represents a 20% increase in donations in just six years, while inflation has only increased by 13.7%."

There are two possible reasons for this. Remainers are very committed, who are big givers to the cause, are giving more. The other is that many Episcopalians have died in the last few years and they have given a portion of their estate to the church. This would obviously drive up the overall "plate and pledge" donations and possibly inflate these numbers.

"Recall that the average Episcopalians are in their late sixties today, which means that the average attendance (which was about 550,000 in 2019) will likely be around 300,000 in 2030. That's an average loss of 25,000 per year just through death. The church will be baptizing less than 10,000 infants per year.

"When 25,000 people are leaving through death and only 5,000 are being replaced through children who stick around -- the end is near. I don't think that it's an exaggeration at all to believe that the Episcopalians will no longer exist by 2040," says Ryan.

Financially the denomination has $400 million in trust, $11 billion in a pension plan for retired clergy, and another $4.5 billion in assets held at the parish and diocese level. To put it bluntly, money is not the issue. This means that denominational leaders can prop up dioceses like Nthn. Michigan with less than 400 people simply because it can. Recently, Executive Council approved grants up to $40,000 for every diocese, emphasizing revival amid pandemic -- no formal application necessary, no strings attached. The emergency relief totaled more than $4 million. Chump change.

Barring a tremendous revival, the end is coming very quickly for TEC and revival is doubtful when God has already set up an alternative reality in the ACNA. You can't revive a dead corpse.

For more go here: https://religioninpublic.blog/2021/07/06/the-death-of-the-episcopal-church-is-near/

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