Episcopal Diocese of Central New York looks for new path

“How people understand religion and seek truth in God, that’s changed dramatically,” …[the Rev. Karen C. Lewis] said. “No longer do we have churches filled on Sunday with 500 or 600 folks.”

The process has included a questionnaire sent to every congregation and inviting each person to participate. Nearly all of the congregations in the diocese responded, Lewis said.

“It’s to discuss what in the church excites them, what defines them,” she said. “If it’s a passion, then people will buy into it.”

The two-day summit includes representatives from each congregation who will discuss how their church can create programs based on the priorities and experiences culled from the surveys.

“As a result, we will staff, budget, prioritize,” Lewis said.

The idea, she said, is to encourage a bottom-up approach rather than implement plans created by church officials. As of Thursday, 281 people representing 72 parishes were registered.

“Ministry occurs in the local congregation,” she said. “They’re the ones doing the work Christ has called them to.”

The diocese includes more than 19,000 people in 97 congregations in Central New York, north to Alexandria Bay and south to the Pennsylvania border. In 2002, the diocese listed its membership at 23,000 people; in 1995 it was about 25,000.

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Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, Episcopal Church (TEC), TEC Data

18 comments on “Episcopal Diocese of Central New York looks for new path

  1. rwkachur says:

    The leadership of TEC really needs to get its talking points straight. Are they a “niche church”, as was discussed yesterday, or are they to be surveyed to see what their passions are and if they will “buy into it”. Is it a mass market or not? What is the point of surveying the people in the church to find out why people aren’t coming? You survey inside the church to see what you can do to keep the last of the people in it. It sounds as if Rev. Lewis is taking the marketing track.

    I’ve commented on this before, but the degree to which church (not just TEC) thinking is dominated by the culture is part of the tragedy. TEC has been a 5-7 years behind western culture on social issues — whether you agree or disagree with the assessment. The use of commercial language, as if commercial success is equivalent to what God wants, is also symptomatic. The irony is TEC, unlike the derided non-denominational evangelicals, seems to be having very little “commercial” success.

    As for churches with 500+ members, TEC has driven them out with great efficiency.

  2. robroy says:

    The diocese includes more than 19,000 people in 97 congregations in Central New York, north to Alexandria Bay and south to the Pennsylvania border. In 2002, the diocese listed its membership at 23,000 people; in 1995 it was about 25,000.

    That is a really strange and euphemistic way of saying church membership has fallen from 25,000 in 1995 to 23,000 in 2002 and now to 19,000, today, a 24% drop. The more than phrase makes it sound like good news. Average Sunday attendance show a similarly bleak picture, 8104 in 1995 to 6190 in 2005 or a 23.6% drop. See a chart here. For a background discussion involving Father Matt Kennedy, see here.

    It would be refreshing and perhaps shocking for to hear a reappraiser talk about the crisis of the Episcopal church. Instead they talk about how healthy it is and implementing “faith-based karate program at St. Luke’s Episcopal Church in Camillus.”

  3. Grandmother says:

    IF one didn’t know anything about TEC, one might wonder what the difference is between this “organization/church”, and just a regular run-of-the-mill benevolent society of some sort.

  4. hyacinth says:

    The Diocese of Central New York had parishes that had 500 – 600 on a sunday morning! Oh dear! I’ve spilt tea all over myself laughing hysterically! When and where?

  5. AnglicanFirst says:

    The message that builds a believing and practicing church that claims to be part of the Church catholic includes the words “personal salvation through acceptance of our Lord Jesus as Savior” and “changes in one’s personal behavior in accordance with the teachings of Scripture.”

    If these two things aren’t the intent of a person then all of that person’s MDG and other church activities are irrelevant.

    Pluralism is not the answer and syncretically introducing things such as “karate” from other cultures is meaningless.

    Changing one’s behavior, that is in direct conflict, read sinful conflict, with Scripture and with the earliest traditions of the Church catholic is essential. Teaching otherwise smacks of heresy and rejecting Scripture and tradition and smells a whole lot like apostasy.

    By the way, Central New York used to have a beautiful cathedral-like church in downtown Utica that maintained a great high church liturgy. The last I heard, it had to merge with another Utica parish in order for both parishes to ‘stay afloat.’

  6. RevK says:

    Is there any diocese in the Episcopal Church that is not losing membership?

  7. Occasional Reader says:

    This is sad and wrongheaded in every possible way. It caters to the whims of those who should be missioners, leaving the impression that the church exists to “serve them” rather than that they belong to a redemptive eschatological movement of God to the world. Moreover, the poll is for the wrong people. If anyone should be polled (a questionable move, but justifiable depending on what one did with the results) it should be unchurched people. Say what you want about the mega-church movement, they at least get that they exist for the benefit of non-members (something learned from William Temple, I might add!).

  8. Pb says:

    There is a wonderful story about Sir Lawrence Olivier and an English bishop. The bishop told him he had the gift of making fiction seem like truth. He replied that the bishop had the greater gift – making truth sound like fiction. What ever happened to the gospel?

  9. TonyinCNY says:

    The diocese underwent a visioning process when Bp. Adams was elected. Readers may recall that we were the diocese with the canon visionary. He is gone now to a parish in the Diocese of L.A. Now roughly five years later the diocese is undergoing a strategic change process, which begs the question, didn’t they receive a vision from the Lord just a few years ago? I’m sure that the diocese has a ready answer for this critique, but I would think that a vision from the Lord would last longer than five years.

  10. CanaAnglican says:

    #2. robroy,

    What else can one say about a diocese that will contain only clergy and staff within the next 50 years? Many Christian churches find more than 1000 attend on Sunday mornings. (Sometimes in multiple services.) Many of them are growing. They are not TEC. Our CANA church is growing, and we feel very blessed by God to be there.

  11. Philip Snyder says:

    Who (besides a 3 yr old) can be passionate about “I love you. You love me. We’re a happy family.”? People are hungry for Truth and Central New York is giving them “Faith Based Karate.” People want a relationship with God and each other and what isCNY giving them?

    While I don’t believe that modern marketing fits for the church, if you used to have 400-500 people in a congregation on Sundays and no longer have that many, you may want to take a page from business and find out what you changed (or what others changed). Those may be the reason that you are no longer pulling in those people.

    Phil Snyder

  12. Phil says:

    “No longer do we have churches filled on Sunday with 500 or 600 folks.”

    Ain’t that the truth, honey.

  13. robroy says:

    RevK asks, “Is there any diocese in the Episcopal Church that is not losing membership?”

    Yes, quite a few. A more interesting question is is there any diocese that is growing faster than the population? Answer: Only one, the diocese of South Carolina.

    Another question? What diocese is losing the most ground in terms of population growth adjusted decline? There was an analysis that put Katherine Jefferts Schori’s tenure in the diocese of Nevada (the fastest growing state) 99th out of 99. The TEc’s statistician Kirk Hadaway looked at this and tried to spin it but did not dispute it, see here for a discussion on the TEc’s own blog. For this splendid display of leadership, she was awarded the presiding bishopric.

  14. CanaAnglican says:

    Is the diocese of South Carolina still REALLY IN the TEC? I thought TEC has pretty well pushed them OUT. They have a quite effective orthodox Christian witness in SC and therefore do not fit the TEC mold very well. If they are still IN, they may be OUT before too long.

  15. Deja Vu says:

    #11 aks:

    Who (besides a 3 yr old) can be passionate about “I love you. You love me. We’re a happy family.”?

    The answer is: people from severely dysfunctional families that did not give them that message when they were 3 years old. The Episcopal Church has become a haven for these emotionally stunted adults raised in other Christian denominations.
    That is why they are the same people who claim the theology of the crucifixion teaches that “God killed His Son.” From their family backgrounds, it is hard for them to understand the Christian teachings.

  16. Brian of Maryland says:

    Deja Vu,

    If that were the case, then how come TEC is aging and declining all at the same time? Sounds like few of these “emtionally stunted adults” are joining. Sounds more likely that people are fleeing to places they can hear the Gospel.

    MD Brian

  17. NewTrollObserver says:

    #14 CanaAnglican,

    Reports of the Diocese of South Carolina being in schism with TEC, have been greatly exaggerated. That’s not to say that a storm isn’t a brewin’.

  18. MargaretG says:

    A really interesting (though slightly old as it only oges to 2004) analysis of the growth in attendance relative to the growth in population can be found here

    My two favourite tables are this one showing the greatest decline in ASA cf to population growth
    diocese % ASA change % pop change
    1. Rochester -25.449 1.833
    2. Eastern Michigan -23.872 6.919
    3. Central New York -23.812 -2.927
    4. Western New York -23.315 -3.013
    5. Western Massachusett -22.341 5.584
    6. Spokane -22.162 20.932
    7. South Dakota -19.907 8.738
    8. Iowa -19.895 5.201
    9. Northern Michigan -19.885 -0.742
    10. Western Louisiana -19.788 4.245

    and this one which puts the PBs growth in perspective:
    % ASA % pop
    diocese change change
    1. Nevada 9.053 75.314
    2. Arizona -2.502 48.277
    3. Atlanta 9.370 39.609
    4. Dallas 25.553 35.815
    5. Central Florida -8.995 34.663
    6. Utah 7.316 32.897
    7. Colorado -1.072 31.774
    8. Idaho 3.517 31.401
    9. North Carolina 10.215 31.127
    10. Southwest Florida -11.527 29.392

    The formatting is better on the site above