Just when you thought you had heard it all, along comes The Episcopal Church’s Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori with a statement that the declining numbers of her denomination could be the work of the Holy Spirit to create “greater fruitfulness.”
Mrs. Jefferts Schori made this statement last Thursday in remarks delivered at the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America’s (ELCA) Church wide Assembly in Pittsburgh. “Some have judged our smaller numbers as faithlessness but it may actually be the Spirit’s way of pruning for greater fruitfulness,” said Jefferts Schori. “If we see ourselves standing at the foot of the cross, any such judgment will be far less important than our response.” Say what.
Between 2010 and 2011, ELCA membership went from about 4.2 million to just over 4 million, representing a loss of more than 212,000 members. During the same time period, The Episcopal Church had a decrease of over 28,000 members, causing the number of members in its domestic dioceses to dip below the 2 million mark. (Note: membership is not Average Sunday Attendance (ASA) which in TEC’s case is less than 700,000.
Jefferts Schori also told those gathered for the ELCA’s Church wide Assembly in Pittsburgh (which elected a woman presiding bishop) about the benefit of diversity in the Christian community. “Jesus has given us to one another – all of us – and we will not live faithfully if we forget who it is we see or seek in those others.”
Pick me up off the floor.
So now TEC’s aging population, who make up the bulk of the church and pay the bills, are being pruned by God to allow “greater fruitfulness.” Message to those over 65, close your checkbooks you have just been pruned. Which begs a second observation. Who and where is the next generation? Where are the Millenials or Generation X and Y, for that matter? Why are they not filling up pews? They are not coming because TEC has no message they want to hear. Dah. Orthodox Episcopalians whom Jefferts Schori might have in mind have mostly left the church, self pruned, not waiting another day to find themselves pruned by revisionists.
At least she admitted that the church is being pruned, a euphemism for dying. When the last church closes in about 20 years, regrettably, she won’t be around to turn out the lights.