jQuery Slider

You are here

TEC: The Church Is Not a Building - Parochial Report

TEC: The Church Is Not a Building - Parochial Report
Yet millions have been spent trying to retain parishes and dioceses from defecting to the Anglican Church in North America

By David W. Virtue, DD
November 1, 2021

The Church Is Not a Building, according to observations and insights from Narrative Responses to a 2020 Parochial Report of the Episcopal Church by Elena G. van Stee, University of Pennsylvania.

The Episcopal Church is being forced to face the reality that it is in deep trouble.

As the COVID-19 pandemic forced churches to close their physical doors in the spring of 2020, Episcopal congregations across the United States and around the world began to re-imagine what it means to be the church. Physical distancing became a reality.

Though all churches encountered significant challenges during the pandemic, barriers to engagement were not experienced equally across The Episcopal Church. The responses suggest that congregations in poor and rural areas; those with limited clergy, staff, and volunteers; and those with aging congregations were especially challenged by the circumstances of the pandemic. Some of the most vulnerable congregations ceased operations altogether. For some churches, the pandemic also sparked new community-focused initiatives and local partnerships.

The pandemic challenged many long-standing assumptions about Episcopal identity. When churches were prevented from continuing standard operations, clergy and parishioners were forced to re-evaluate core principles and practices.

Many expressed a renewed recognition that the church is "not a building" but rather a people. Taken together, the narrative responses paint a complex portrait of loss, grief, innovation, hope, and change that offer new insight into The Episcopal Church's past, present, and future ministry to the world.

So, with dioceses being forced to merge and parishes across the country closing, (and many more will), the question that must be asked is why TEC was willing to spend some $50 million in property lawsuits to retain properties that would have, over time, closed anyway!

Jeff Walton, Anglican writer for the Institute on Religion and Democracy noted that this figure does not include litigation expenses by Episcopal dioceses against departing parishes, which potentially number much higher. Others have estimated that number in excess of $200 million!

For TEC the Church is a building, and when these buildings are finally sold, the one group not permitted to buy them are Anglicans. This was made abundantly clear by former Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori, who said she would sooner see them sold for saloons or even to Muslim religious groups, as happened in upstate New York.

The Midwest is fast becoming a graveyard of failed parishes and dioceses. Does anybody really think that the Diocese of Nthn. Michigan with less than 300 parishioners can rightfully be called a diocese? Mergers and acquisitions is now the name of the game.

The report further said this: considered as a whole, the narrative responses paint a portrait of a year characterized by loss and grief as well as innovation and growth. Churches experienced unprecedented challenges and opportunities that varied greatly across the denomination and cannot be reduced to a simple narrative of denominational growth or decline. On the one hand, the pandemic exacerbated and exposed fault lines of inequality, particularly with regards to human and financial resources. On the other hand, the circumstances of the pandemic inspired innovative new initiatives, fostered intra- and inter-personal growth, and provided new opportunities for the church to be the hands and feet of Christ in the world."

If you believe that churches should open up space for pubs, and parking lots for the homeless and laundromats for those on donated clothes, it will hardly come as a surprise that when all is said and done, when the church closes, "the hands and feet of Christ" will be the port-o-potties left in the parking lots.

Of course, if you are Trinity Wall Street with assets valued at $9 billion (yes, you read that right), it really doesn't matter if all you have is a paid choir, a part time priest and 50 aging parishioners, you can keep the church doors openly permanently. With that kind of money, you could fix the problems of the failing Episcopal Church in Haiti, the largest diocese in TEC, which is flailing around looking for help. You might even be able to bail out entire nations with that kind of loot.

The real problem of TEC is the loss of people who will never come back post COVID; a near total failure to reach young people even with woke messages of racism, climate change and homosexual marriage. They are not winning tickets for church growth. Most importantly, the Episcopal Church's total failure to preach an unalloyed gospel of repentance and faith in Jesus Christ as both Savior and Lord, virtually guarantees that glossing secular issues with a creed will only increase columbarium inhabitants. Bishops United Against Gun Violence Network will likely get a yawn from GenZers most of whom could care less about the issue, although it will make the bishops feel righteous that on such an issue the NRA might sit up and take notice, or not.

On money; many dioceses and congregations are holding their own, though one suspects that the money is coming from wills rather than plate and pledge, but money is money, and if the few are giving more who's to complain; TEC bishops can rail on about anti-racism training and climate change to aging parishioners who are comfortable as long as there is a nod in the general direction of the Prayer Book.

It is interesting to note from the 2020 Episcopal Clergy Compensation Report of the Church Pension Group, that one quarter of compensated U.S. male Episcopal clergy identify as LGBT! This far exceeds the overall U.S. population, notes Walton. The queering of the Episcopal Church has not worked since Gene Robinson was given a miter; if anything, it has contributed to its overall decline.

Presiding Bishop Michael Curry keeps railing on about race and 'beloved community' but the compensation report reveals that 89% of compensated clergy are white and about 2% are black, this is significantly different from the U.S. population, notes Walton.

To cap it off there are lots of second career female clergy: the 44-55 demographic is an especially large portion of compensated clergy, but the ordaining of women has also not seen a run-on church growth. The real kicker is that fewer than 7% of clergy are under 35, a guarantee that young people will not be knocking down episcopal doors to hear some woke sermon on the joys of sodomy. It also appears that even high-profile Episcopalians like the late Colin Powell, and Pete Buttigieg, Secretary of Transportation, have not increased church attendance. The Episcopal Church is being left to sink or swim on its own with the words, "the Church is not a building" ringing in its ears.


Get a bi-weekly summary of Anglican news from around the world.
comments powered by Disqus
Trinity School for Ministry
Go To Top