Since the election of an openly gay bishop in 2003 and a female presiding bishop in 2006, reports of dissension and division within the Episcopal Church and its parent body, the Anglican Communion, has been prevalent.
Such unrest isn’t unfamiliar to Episcopalians along the Gulf Coast.
Several years ago, parishioners of a handful of congregations in the Pensacola, Fla.-based Episcopal Diocese of the Central Gulf Coast — including what’s now Christ Church Cathedral in Mobile — left the Episcopal Church. In 2006, Daphne’s Church of the Apostles, started as an Episcopal mission congregation, dissolved its ties to the area diocese.
But on the cusp of the diocesan convention next week, Bishop Philip M. Duncan II indicated that the diocese’s days of division and departure may be done.
“I think that many of the people who wanted to leave have left,” Duncan said. “I’ve had people tell me that they may not agree with everything that the Episcopal Church is doing or the Anglican Communion is doing or that the diocese is doing or even that their own church is doing. But it really is about keeping the family together and not entering into a new schism. Because what some have said to me is that when churches divide, and this is probably true historically, they divide and then they keep dividing.”
And so we have another version of the current TEC leadership seeking to defend the status quo. News flash–Christianity is not about stagnation, it is about abundant life (John 10:10). The diocese of the Central Gulf Coast has declined .5% in membership from 2001-2006 according to the Episcopal Church’s own office of statistics. From 1996 to 2006 the baptized membership there went from 20,434 to 20,723. From 2003 to 2006 the Average Sunday Attendance in this diocese went from 7,646 to 7,099 (a decline of over 7%). I am confident that during this period the overall population in this diocese grew (Florida and Alabama as entire states certainly did from 2000-2007) so in economic terms this is a real decline.
I am sorry but these are portraits of stagnation and, yes, decline. Stagnant waters are calm, but that is not necessarily a good thing (Jesus certainly flunks by that criterion). The gospel is not about being “calm.”
In any event read it all.