Why is it when the words ‘scandal’ and ‘Anglican’ pop-up together in the news, you can be sure it’s your regular customers? (And don’t blame me, I don’t make the news.)
Membership in the Episcopal Church continues to slide amidst wrangling over gay bishops, women bishops, and purse-string scandals, the most recent debacle erupting in the high desert sands of New Mexico.
In Albuquerque the Cathedral Church of St. John was seen headed toward eventual bankruptcy as its members deserted to other less-ornate, smaller Episcopal churches. Then the cathedral accountant sounded an alarm. In effect, he accused the church leadership of complacency in the sloppy way the cathedral was run. Immediately the area’s bishop rushed to quash the bad mouthing with an apparent cover-up.
Membership had spiraled down, a decline proportionately similar to the national loss in recent decades. A 2010 national headcount revealed 1,951,907 defectors from what had been 3.6 million members, church records show. Membership in 2011 held at 2,006,343, down 2.48 percent, according to the National Council of Churches.
According to disciplinary records of both faiths, bishops for both the Episcopal and Roman Catholic churches in the United States do have a record of covering up scandals, at least temporarily. Of reported cases, Catholic bishops tend to hide sexual abuse. Episcopal bishops tend to offer a mixed bag, according to published cases.
This most recent attempt to hide wrong doing has come with the muted ferocity of a mountain thunderstorm in the peaceful valley of the Rio Grande, where the largest wildfires in New Mexico history have roared practically unabated for months.
Under a blanket of smoke and ashes, Bishop Michael L. Vono has spent months digging into allegations that the dean of his territorial cathedral misused Sunday collection money from parishioners for his personal enjoyment, including lots of expensive wine, which he was accused of imbibing to the extreme…
You can read more about this here. And then a little further on (and closer home):
… The back and forth of wrong-doing charges emerged in the midst of the on-going worldwide conflict among Episcopalians about gays, women bishops, and same-sex marriage. About 400,000 former parishioners have split to what’s called the Traditional Anglican Communion formed in 1991. Reuters reports only about 2,500 members in the United States; the rest are in India and African nations. But all is not peaceful on that front either, according to London-based The Guardian.
The former Archbishop of that same Traditional Anglican Communion, John Hepworth has been served papers alleging that he misappropriated church funds while he was the Archbishop in Australia. Hepworth had sought, in vain, acceptance into the Roman Catholic Church via the Pope’s invitation. Hepworth had applied for and been rejected for the Pope’s open offer to traditionalist Anglicans. At one time Hepworth had claimed that he had been raped by three Roman Catholic priests four decades ago. The accusation apparently didn’t sit well in Rome.
The Pope has not been “hands off” all traditionalist Anglicans, however, according to The Guardian. In addition to setting up ex-bishop Steenson in the United States to recruit disaffected Episcopalians, the Pope has, according to The Guardian, donated $250,000 to a similar effort in Great Britain. But that effort so far has yielded only 1,200 members, including 60 priests. The Guardian speculated that number may change when the Church of England welcomes women bishops. In the United States, the head of the Episcopal Church is a woman, Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori. She’s on record as not wanting to discuss membership numbers; “I don’t play the numbers game,” she has said.
Meanwhile, quiet negotiations continue between the disaffected traditionalist Anglicans and the gay and women bishops supporters in the church, seeking a compromise…
On that sad note, it’s 23:39 so I’m off to bed… Do feel free to comment while I enjoy that naturally recurring state of suspended consciousness and inactivity, far far removed from all the confabulation.