Thursday, October 11, 2007

Depth Perception

"He who has seen one cathedral ten times has seen something; he who has seen ten cathedrals once has seen but little; and he who has spent half an hour in each of a hundred cathedrals has seen nothing at all. Four hundred pictures all on a wall are four hundred times less interesting than one picture; and no one knows a café till he has gone there often enough to know the names of the waiters."

Sinclair Lewis, Dodsworth (New York: Signet Classics, 1967; orig, 1929), 201.

Monday, October 08, 2007

A Provocative Perspective on Evangelicalism

Hardy certainly had an ability to summon up human identity in a pithy paragraph. One of the things I have learned from my time in Pittsburgh is the diversity of Evangelical identity. Even so, there are times and occasions when I find myself instinctively reacting against certain pronouncements by prominent Evangelicals, even when I fundamentally agree with the criticism they're making. I don't know many people who are exactly like old Mr. Clare, but this mindset, I suspect, is not extinct. All of which in no way is meant to imply that the rest of us don't have deficiencies for which we should atone.

"Old Mr. Clare was a clergyman of a type which, within the last twenty years, has well-nigh dropped out of contemporary life. A spiritual descendant in the direct line from Wycliff, Huss, Luther, Calvin, an Evangelical of the Evangelicals, a Conversionist, a man of Apostolic simplicity in life and thought, he had in his raw youth made up his mind once for all on the deeper questions of existence, and admitted no further reasoning on them thenceforward. He was regarded even by those of his own date and school of thinking as extreme; while, on the other hand, those totally opposed to him were unwillingly won to admiration for his thoroughness, and for the remarkable power he showed in dismissing all question as to principles in his energy for applying them. He loved Paul of Tarsus, liked St. John, hated St. James as much as he dared, and regarded with mixed feelings Timothy, Titus and Philemon. The New Testament was less a Christiad than a Pauliad to his intelligence - less an argument than an intoxication. His creed of determinism was such that it almost amounted, on its negative side, to a renunciative philosophy which had cousinship with that of Schopenhauer and Leopardi. He despised the Canons and Rubric, swore by the Articles, and deemed himself consistent through the whole category - which in a way he might have been. One thing he certainly was - sincere."

Thomas Hardy, Tess of the D'Urbervilles (New York: Washington Square Press, 1966; orig. 1891), 168.

Monday, October 01, 2007

Episcopal Church Membership, 2005-2006

Titus One Nine has posted a link to the just-released figures on church membership

I thought I would post the several comments that I made on that site. (I added four additional non-ACN dioceses on Monday.)

A look at the ACN dioceses is instructive (even allowing for the fact that the graphs are hard to read). The only diocese that can feel a degree of satisfaction in fulfilling the Great Commission is that of South Carolina.

Financial giving is up everywhere except in Dallas (a marked drop since 2005).

Baptized membership is down everywhere except in Fort Worth and Springfield (an increase on 2005) and South Carolina (consistently up since 1997). Quincy fell from 2,800 in 2002 to 2,000 in 2006.

Worshipping attendance is steady in Central Florida, Fort Worth, Pittsburgh and South Carolina, down in Albany (since 2002), Quincy (since 2004), Rio Grande (since 2002), San Joaquin (since 2003), and Springfield (since 2002). Dallas reported a marked decline since 2005 (presumably the effect of the departure of Christ Church, Plano).

In some areas, of course, the general population trend is down, but we still need to be thinking in terms of what makes South Carolina (and perhaps some of the missionary parishes already out there) work, if we’re going to be successful in the post-realignment phase.

Percentage Change in Baptized Membership, 1996-2006 (Approximate Change in Number in Parentheses)

ACN Dioceses

Quincy -33% (-1,000)
Albany -20% (-5,000)
Springfield -17% (-1,000)
Pittsburgh -14% (-3,000)
Central Florida -5% (-2,000)

Dallas No change (grew during the 1990s, then fell back)
San Joaquin No change (grew during the 1990s, then fell back)
Fort Worth +5% (+1,000)
Rio Grande +7% (+1,000)
South Carolina +18% (+6,000)

Selected Non-ACN Dioceses

Pennsylvania -17% (-10,000)
Newark -17% (-6,000)
New Hampshire -17% (-3,000)
Connecticut -15% (-12,000)

Florida -12% (-4,000)
Los Angeles -10% (-7,000)
Southern Ohio -8% (-2,000)
Virginia -4% (-3,000)

Upper South Carolina No change
Nevada +7% (+400)

There appears to have been a decline in Nevada between 2005 and 2006, for whatever reason. One further point to note about the above figures. The distinction between loss and gain seems largely to be one of Rustbelt decline and Sunbelt growth. Two ACN dioceses stand out from this trend, however. Albany’s numerical loss is high and its percentage loss is higher than for Pennsylvania or Newark. Central Florida bucks the Sunbelt trend and posts a loss (perhaps what is happening next door is having a ricochet effect).