(GR) Episcopal land wars in Maryland: is this story truly doctrine-free or not?

…there is no painless way to cut a shrinking pie. When churches age, fade and die, someone gets the assets.

I am not arguing that the Sun team needed to add a dozen inches or more to this story to get into a deep discussion ”“ yes, demographics and doctrine often mix ”“ about why so many of these oldline church pies are shrinking and facing the demographic reaper.

But, in this case, readers certainly needed to know a bit about the statistical health and finances of the local diocese, since those facts are directly linked to claims made by the angry parishioners about why their beloved little church ”“ with its nice views of the water ”“ is being sold out from under them.

It’s that old journalism saying: Follow the money.

So how is the Episcopal Diocese of Maryland doing, in terms of finances, converts, babies and demographics? How many other little churches are threatened and how much might the church leaders make by selling some of them? This are fair questions during hard times. Sun editors needed to push their reporters to ask them.

Read it all.


Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, * Christian Life / Church Life, * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, Economy, Episcopal Church (TEC), Housing/Real Estate Market, Law & Legal Issues, Parish Ministry, Stewardship, TEC Bishops, TEC Parishes

4 comments on “(GR) Episcopal land wars in Maryland: is this story truly doctrine-free or not?

  1. TomRightmyer says:

    When I was ordained in the Diocese of Maryland in 1966 the diocese assigned us for two years to be assistants. I went to Annapolis and in 1968 was given a choice of Middle River or a new plant in Joppatowne, MD. Middle River was marginal almost 50 years ago, prosperous and growing during the war when the Martin plant was busy, but on the decline since. Faithful people, generous, loving, but too few of them for a viable parish. Holy Trinity Essex, nearby, benefitted from a state requirement that churches taken for road projects received replacement value. It moved and built and now seems to be going strong, perhaps because the people of Middle River have joined it. Joppatowne, where I went, did not grow big enough and has been served by part-time clergy in recent years. Even the large old churches like Old St. Paul’s downtown have fallen on hard times. I’m sorry Middle River was closed but I think many small town and even county seat churches will close in the next generation.

  2. MichaelA says:

    I found this a very frustrating article – I could not understand what the journo was trying to say. He asked a lot of question that I could have asked myself, but no answers, even at a fairly basic level. Perhaps its because I am a foreigner and miss the nuance that others get.

    In essence he says that there is a small church that the diocese is trying to close down and sell, and its small congregation is unhappy about it. Sure, but why is that bad, or good? Terry gives no context for making a judgment.

    Whilst I am no defender of the Episcopal Church, the fact is that healthy dioceses sometimes do need to make decisions like this. My diocese (Sydney) is in very healthy shape by western church standards, but sometimes it closes churches, sells the building and folds the parish into another. It happened to my church (actually we were the foldees rather than the folded , so we got to stay in our building). That caused a lot of hurt and pain, but taking the long view it was the right decision: We are in an old established area of Sydney and the Archdiocese is doing its best to finance church plants in the new housing estates. Small old parishes that aren’t viable in themselves will be “encouraged” to fold into others so as to release funds to plant the new churches. And with 600,000 people expected to move into new areas of Sydney over the next 5 years, the need is huge.

    So, why is Dio Maryland’s decision in this case anything but responsible stewardship of sparse resources?

  3. Sarah1 says:

    RE: “Small old parishes that aren’t viable in themselves will be “encouraged” to fold into others so as to release funds to plant the new churches.”

    In my diocese there are “small old parishes” which have become “even smaller” because so many conservatives have left the parish and new people who are Episcopalian or even simply sacramentally and liturgically inclined Christians moving to the diocese understandably do not consider the Episcopal Diocese of Upper South Carolina an appropriate place for practicing the Christian faith.

    So the question is . . . why are formerly “small” parishes becoming “smaller” and thus on the selling block? Could the reason potentially be a doctrinal one? In my diocese, again, “small” parishes in small town have been utterly decimated by liberal rectors arriving and driving parishioners away and thus hastening the parish’s end.

    That reality being played out in diocese after diocese kind of means there would be more bitterness than usual over a parish closing since it certainly might not have happened but for the ghastly leadership of a diocese and of parishes!

    I suspect that may be what the journalist is questioning.

  4. MichaelA says:

    Sarah that makes sense (and its very sad that its happening).