The Episcopal Church parallels English decline

News Analysis

By David W. Virtue

LONDON, UK-A traditionalist Church of England priest says that the
imposition of women bishops will confirm and finalize a long-standing
drift from Catholic teaching and place all hope of corporate reunion
finally beyond reach.

The Rev Robbie Low, a member of Cost of Conscience, a traditionalist
organization with Forward in Faith, writes in the June of issue of New
Directions that "reunion will continue piecemeal as faithful Christians
move away from the Anglican Church into the historic Communions."

More worrying, writes Low, will be those who will be broken-hearted,
betrayed, despairing and go nowhere. "Their experience of Church
authorities being so uniformly dishonest, they will shy away from
institutional encounter again."

Low blasted what he called the feminization of the Church of England.
"The CofE has experienced the very opposite of the growth promised by
the feminizers. Twelve years has seen one in five worshippers disappear.
The overwhelming majority of those have been men."

Low said studies showed that male church-going is the decisive influence
in children. "It is not surprising to see children's attendance in
free-fall over that period. The 45/55 male/female split of a decade ago
is now a 37/63 split of a much smaller number of regulars."

Men, he wrote, will see a decreasing place for themselves in an
organization dominated by militant feminism and bloodless males.

"With the growing triumph of the homosexual lobby and key appointments
for many of its senior supporters, men will continue to drift away and
so will their children. On current trends, in a decade or so the Church
of England will be down to half the 1990 figures and staffed mainly by
masculine women and feminine men," said the former Vicar of St Peter's,
Bushey Heath, Diocese of St Alban's. Low now lives in Cornwall.

The state of the CofE parallels what is going on in the Episcopal Church

A recent report by the Church Pension Fund says clergy enrollment is way
down, and unless there is a significant turn around ECUSA will, in time,

The number of white males going into ECUSA's full time pastoral ministry
is down 90 percent since the 60s and those filling the pulpits today are
middle-aged, angry, divorced,
lesbian women.

The pulpits are being filled with feminized, homosexualized, simpering,
emotionally weak men, women (not all bad) types, but nearly all
liberals, who have no ability to make churches grow because they have no
discernible gospel.

Pension Fund leaders bemoaned that with the growing shortage of clergy,
especially white males, and the dominance of women and homosexuals who,
because of their theology cannot make churches grow, that this will, in
time, impact the Church Pension Fund itself.

The facts are that nearly 3,500 parishes have 37 members and future
prospects for finding suitable clergy grows dimmer with each passing day.

The report, prepared for the CPF late last year expressed alarm that not
enough young people were being attracted into the ordained ministry,
with far-reaching implications for The Episcopal Church itself.

A sobering analysis of church attendance revealed that on an average
Sunday, 17.5 percent of the people in the pews are attending only 3.3
percent of Episcopal churches. At the same time, only 15.4 percent of
Episcopalians attend 47.5 percent of Episcopal churches on an average

The CPG asked the question, Are we still a denomination of small
churches? "If the Church Pension Fund is to provide benefits to its
members, we must be concerned with the fit between clergy and their work
Are we attracting a sufficient number of younger people to the ministry?
Are there jobs for them? Are they prepared for and supported within the
multiple models in which they are asked to serve so that they can expect
to serve full careers? Are they working in healthy environments? Are
they experiencing burnout?"

The report raised the alarm about institutional wellness and asks the
questions are their healthy work opportunities and environments for our
clergy? The report bases its statistics on Canon Keith Brown formerly
Canon Missioner in the Diocese of San Joaquin, a specialist in
leadership and management issues related to congregational and diocesan
growth and health.

If an institution is defined by its bricks and mortar, the Episcopal
Church is an institution of small churches. The report asked, "what does
this mean for our clergy?"Financial pressures are often severe, the
future may be uncertain, and the priest is called upon to do almost

The report concluded two things. "The church must do more to help these
clergy and it must seriously study approaches to team ministry now being
widely discussed." The report then sounded a major alarm. "A very
dramatic picture emerges. There is a precipitous decline in the number
of younger men. In the 1960s, men under 35 comprised 75 percent of each
year's total number of ordinands. This group has fallen by 90 percent -
from 278 a year to 25 - and they are now only 10 percent of the average
annual total." The report also said that the number of older male
ordinands has remained essentially steady.


In the 1960s there were none. In each period since 1976 when General
Convention approved the ordination of women, the number of younger women
has been fairly constant, but small. What the report noted was the
number of older women being ordained. "It is this group that has
partially offset the declining number of ordinations overall." A maximum
of 31 women were ordained 31 in the ten-year period 1980-1989. Some 22
were ordained between 1990 and 1999 and 15 in the years 2000 and 2001
The report noted that if this group suddenly declined the clergy
shortage would be far worse than it initially appears. "As the current
clergy population ages, the church may find that it is not attracting
enough people into the ordained ministry.

A new initiative called PLSE set up by the national church recognizes
the critical absence of young clergy for many mainline denominations,
including the Episcopal Church. As a result, these churches have
developed a new collaborative partnership with the Fund for Theological
Education in an effort to reverse the trend and encourage younger people
to consider the ordained ministry.

"It's an important step as we seek to embrace new leadership for the
future," said Presiding Bishop Frank T. Griswold.

Matthew Price, research director of the Church Pension Fund, said the
number of young people younger than 35 entering the priesthood each year
has dropped from 300 in 1960 to less than 50 in 2000. "The church right
now is in a weak position. But we can do something about it," he said.

Many leaders in theological education are concerned about what the
church has lost.

"We have paid a heavy price in the last 30 years by not ordaining
younger people," said the Very Rev. James Lemler, president of
Seabury-Western Theological Seminary in Evanston, Illinois.

"The price has been that we have almost lost a generation of potential
ordained leaders. We have also lost that kind of energy and vigor that
is brought into the church, and we need to find a way to regain it."

The program, PLSE (pronounced "pulse"), is a Pastoral Leadership Search
Effort that has drawn the participation of the Episcopal, Methodist,
Presbyterian and United Church of Christ denominations. It offers a
safe, web-based environment for young people to ask questions about
ministry with their peers. Trainers frame questions for them and provide
resource information, as well as conferences for young people who want
to consider ordination. The website also points to those parishes and
dioceses that actively recruit younger people.

But three things are mitigating against this effort.

The first is that nowhere are young people invited to enter the ministry
driven by gospel imperatives. Secondly the church's liberal seminaries
are in deep trouble themselves.
Bexley Hall in Rochester recently closed its doors and moved elsewhere
to survive.

Thirdly what sort of an education is being offered in seminaries like
VTS, EDS and GTS that would encourage a young person to pursue a
theological education and enter the church? Most ordinands enter
seminary theologically illiterate and emerge three years later still
theologically illiterate. In fact the number of actual biblical courses
one needs to take are so small; one wonders why one would bother going
to seminary at all!

But what is even more troubling is that the two orthodox seminaries,
Trinity Episcopal School for Ministry in Ambridge and Nashotah House in
Wisconsin cannot find placement for their burgeoning number of orthodox

Revisionist bishops in liberal dioceses don't want them. The
overwhelming majority of ECUSA's bishops have publicly and privately
stated that they will never have an ordinand who graduated from those
two seminaries in their diocese!

If that is the case, then these liberal dioceses are on a suicide watch,
as liberals cannot make churches grow and the doctrine of Inclusion
(read sodomy) actually has the opposite effect. Come as you are stay as
you are is a sure fire recipe for the golf course on Sunday not an
Episcopal parish Eucharistic service.

Who would want to jump out of bed on a chilly Sunday Morning to listen
to anything Charles Bennison has to say? How do you back track after you
have called the Savior of the universe a sinner? A cup of coffee and the
New York Times is preferable and probably more instructive.

The Pension Fund report concluded by saying that over the past forty
years there has been a declining trend in the average number of
ordinands each year, and that while the decline has not been
precipitous, the cumulative impact is significant. The report raises the
disquieting questions, "Will some parishes find themselves without
clergy? What if the number of churches grows? How does the shorter
service for the average priest, ordained at a later age, affect the
number of clergy the Episcopal Church will have in the future? Does this
suggest the church is facing a serious clergy shortage, adding stress to
those already in parish ministry?"

There are many questions but few answers. But one thing is certain, if
the trumpet does not sound a clear theological call, who will get ready
for battle. Liberals have no concept of spiritual warfare, and right now
the Episcopal Church is in a war for its very soul. You enter the battle
at your peril, and if you are not properly prepared woe unto you.

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