Michael Green: Mission in North America Today

I come now to evangelism within the Episcopal Church. And I have to confess that this part of my presentation is going to be very short. Because it is almost impossible to speak of Evangelism and the Episcopal Church in the same breath in the USA. Practically no evangelism is undertaken by the denomination as a whole, though there are churches which are a glorious exception to this sad state of affairs.

During the Decade of Evangelism the TEC took no part but instead lost scores of thousands of members. Frank Griswold whose erstwhile diocese declined by about 30,000 during his time as PB, bravely spoke of doubling the denomination by 2010, but instead people walk away in their thousands. It is often said that TEC has 2 and a half million members but this is entirely misleading. Not only do a mere 700,000 appear in worship on a given Sunday but when people leave, the churches will not transfer their membership to a non-episcopal church and instead they stay on their lists as inactive members, thus illicitly swelling the numbers reported. The PB is able to maintain that only a small minority of churches have left, though they number in their hundreds. But she does not disclose the fact that not only is there deep unrest in many who remain and feel unable to break away because of emotional links with the past, but when you start assessing the numbers of people who have departed, they are disproportionately large. Flag ship churches are leaving, with their thousands of members. For example, Christ Church Plano, a well known Evangelical Church, has left the denomination and gone to AMiA. It has more members than the whole of the PB’s diocese. And the intentional way that lawsuits are being brought against the two biggest churches in TEC, The Falls Church and Truro in Virginia shows how worrying all this is to the leaders of TEC. Those two churches between them have more than 6000 members, and they and their finances are now lost to TEC.

If we ask why evangelism is at such a discount in TEC, the answer may well be complex. One reason is that evangelism is not and never has been in the DNA of Episcopalians. TEC has been an acknowledged refuge from the enthusiasm of the Baptists! Moreover, the average age of members in the congregations is so high, up into the late 60s across the country, and this of course militates against active evangelism. The future for the denomination in sheer terms of numbers is bleak”¦ the average number in a congregation being about 75. But also there is a theological blockage. On the one hand the belief seems to be that so long as they are baptized people are automatically Christians, irrespective of repentance and faith and the gift of the Holy Spirit ”“whereas in the NT all three elements figure in Christian initiation. The other is that the policies of the TEC are inclusive, which is wonderful, but inclusive without the need for transformation, which is not wonderful. You are welcome just as you are with no need to change. All lifestyles are acceptable.

A State Governor who has had to resign because of his divorce and taking up an active homosexual lifestyle has been accepted for ordination training in TEC. Not only all lilfestyles but all beliefs seem to be acceptable in the Episcopal Church. Only the other day a woman priest who has become a Muslim claimed to belong to both faiths ”“ without any rebuke from her bishop. The influence of Jack Spong is widespread and has never been repudiated by TEC. I find that repentance and faith is rarely mentioned in Episcopal pulpits, and the name of Jesus is scarce. As for the Holy Spirit he is generally associated with the votes of the majority. The church is moving in the direction of an undifferentiated Deism. Belief in the deity of Jesus, an objective atonement and the reality of the resurrection are constantly discounted among influential Episcopalians, while the people in the pew prefer not to enquire too closely. And the PB herself has made it plain that all religions lead to God. No wonder the church leaks!

This is one of the papers presented at the Oxford Consultation. The final section contains some wonderful examples of Anglican evangelistic initiatives in North America.

Read it all here.


Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, * Christian Life / Church Life, Episcopal Church (TEC), Evangelism and Church Growth, Parish Ministry, Theology, Theology: Evangelism & Mission

27 comments on “Michael Green: Mission in North America Today

  1. Northern Plains Anglicans says:

    It is interesting that TEC’s own Congregational Development people will admit most of this quite publically – at least as far as cultural resistance to evangelism, aging membership and lack of intergenerational transmission of faith. http://www.christiancentury.org/article.lasso?id=2566
    Of course they then turn around and try to minimize the impact of “inclusion without transformation” and heterodox teaching. We’ve even heard one argue that many of those who are dissenting/leaving from TEC have “personal problems going on.”

  2. pendennis88 says:

    A correction: that state governor did not resign ” because of his divorce and taking up an active homosexual lifestyle”. He resigned because he was a crook who put his paramour on the public payroll in an anti-terrorism position for which the paramour was not qualified. If all he had done was divorce and come out, he’d still be governor.

    But I can’t resist retelling the old joke: The 90’s were the decade of evangelism in the episcopal church. About quarter of the denomination left. Many became baptists. [Pause] I guess it worked! [Ta-dum]

  3. samh says:

    I believe that at one time, Evangelism was once part of the DNA of PECUSA. The Church was once active in missions across the frontier of the new nation of the United States. Of course, over the last two centuries you could say there has been a bit of a change.

  4. Chip Johnson, cj says:

    Actually, Greg, Redding was inhibited by her canonical diocesan…in Rhode Island…while the one who licensed her operations as catechist and formation director at his cathedral for the past ten years thought her duality was ‘interesting’.

  5. bob carlton says:

    I do not argue with many of Green’s observations, tho his POV on the Cath & Baptist is much more generous than with TEC.

    What surprised me was his suggested approaches. Modernity spawned a “church growth” phenomenon, that has more in common with Wal-Mart than with the Didache. When some like Eddie Gibbs, former McGowan chair at Fuller and as orthodox as they come, points out that “that most people either believe evangelism is merely inviting people to church, or else they believe it is everything the church does; but if evangelism is everything, then it is nothing. We’ve turned the Good Shepherd into Little Bo Peep: if we leave them alone they will come home.”

    Church is not a place one attends but a community to which one belongs. The community shares in mission and spiritual practice, rooted in a common story whose emphasis is on the continuing work of the Trinity here and now, always drawing from our past.

    One of the greatest enemies of evangelism is the church as fortress or social club; it sucks Christians out of their neighborhoods, clubs, workplaces, schools, and other social networks and isolates them in a religious ghetto. There it must entertain them (through various means, many of them masquerading as education) and hold them (through various means, many of them epitomized by the words guilt and fear). Thus Christians are warehoused as merchandise for heaven, kept safe in a protected space to prevent spillage, leakage, damage, or loss until their delivery to their eternal rest.

    Rather than measuring the church by its attendance, what if we considered measuring it by its deployment ? Rather than only counting people in the pews on Sunday, looked at the hands of Jesus lived out Mon-Sat ?

  6. Karen B. says:

    I forget what date the news of Redding’s inhibition broke, but it could well have been after Green had written and submitted this paper for the Oxford Consultation.

    I too noticed a few factual errors, but I don’t think any undermined Green’s primary points.

    It was encouraging to read of some of these initiatives. I look forward to the day when some of these initiatives will be the “hot” Anglican news on the blogs, not all the garbage about lawsuits etc etc.

  7. Chazaq says:

    “the policies of the TEC are inclusive”

    Not so. TEC’s policies are amazingly NON-inclusive, as evidenced by the fact that every week, TEC non-includes a gowing pile of former Episcopalians. Judge a tree by its fruit.

  8. Philip Snyder says:

    Bob – Deployment Mon-Sat should result in greater attendence on Sunday. If congregations are growing, there is usually a reason.
    There is a difference between discipleship and evangelism. In order to work in the world as the Body of Christ, you must first be a member of the Body of Christ. Evangelism is about helping people become members of the Body of Christ. It can include inviting people to church on Sunday and a lot more. It can include “Thirsty Theology” or “Pub Proclaimation” where we present the Christian message in a non-parochial setting.

    I’ve been to an Evangelism seminar by Michael Green and I am friendly with Carrie Boren. They are wonderful evangelists whose love for Jesus is infectious and the help to lead others to where they can receive new Life in Jesus’ name.

    Phil Snyder

  9. APB says:

    Someone once observed that the Episcopal idea of evangelism is similar to taking an aquarium to the pier at the beach and waiting for a fish to jump in. And like most good humor, there is an element of truth to it. Two of the most successful recent plants in the local TEC diocese, after the obligatory first meetings in a school cafeteria, acquired prime land which many people pass daily, and had large residential areas and a mall nearby. The fairly traditional Beloved Moderate parish has 800+ members, and the more openly Reasserting parish is now a CANA parish back in temporary quarters, but has already closed on an excellent site for their new church home. Other plants are doing well, but none of the others have the location, or growth, of these two. It will be interesting to see whether the REC remnant of the second church will be able to rebuild.

  10. nwlayman says:

    Well, if we want to quibble, Ann Redding, currently lay status and counting, is merely in full communion with the Anglican Communion *and* a Muslim. Precision is important, isn’t it?

  11. bob carlton says:

    Phil, the congregations that I have been a part of that were most vibrant viewed mission as much broader than church growth. Separating evangelism from disciplieship is like separating ventricles of the heart – it just leads to dis-ease.

    One need only look at parts of the mega-church movement to see the fallacies of statements like:
    If congregations are growing, there is usually a reason.

  12. dpeirce says:

    I understand about the decline in the official membership of TEC; never-the-less, I’m going to offer a contrarian comment on this story:

    TEC has been a *MOST* successful evangelizer for the gospel it believes. It and its fellow liberals have succeeded in contaminating an entire world with that “gospel”. There probably are now more people in the US who believe in instant gratification than there are faithful Christians of all denominations put together. No numbers on that, of course, but just look around: who controls the movies, the TV, the songs, the books, the schools, and (shortly) the politics?

    TEC simply doesn’t CARE if it loses members; its main gospel is destruction of the Church anyway, so that doesn’t bother them in the slightest. The only important thing is that their pensions be well funded… thus their intention to keep the property.

    When you try and measure TEC’s loss by numbers of members or parishes, you miss the point. The mission of Church evangelism is to make change in society; they have done very well in their version of that mission, which is destruction of faith. *THEY* are the ones who have gone out into society and changed it, not faithful Christians.

    Therefore, Christians need to discover how to go out from their Churches and teach the Good News of repentence and forgivness to society. If they do that, they won’t have to worry about filling their Churches.

    But don’t belittle TEC’s evangelism.

    In faith, Dave
    Viva Texas

  13. bob carlton says:


    Liberals – only liberals – drove the gospel of instant gratification & prosperity ? TEC, even at its zenith, never had that type of force.

    Seems that modernity droves individualism & consumerism as the gospel, supported by big business, big media & globalism. I do not disagree that secular liberals have preached this, but surely you jest to say that secular conservatives – folks like Murdoch on the media front & big bsuiness CEOs – are not just as culpable ?

  14. dpeirce says:

    Well, I wouldn’t call people like Murdoch “conservative” in the moral sense, which I was using.

    No, I’m making the point that TEC, and its fellow liberals, have been much more successful as evangelizers than have faithful Christians. And that judging them by their numbers is to miss that point.

    In faith, Dave
    Viva Texas

  15. Pb says:

    One reason TEC is not growing is because of our infighting. I would not want to join now and I can not in good conscience invite someone to come and get involved in a big fight over the endowment and church property. I can not explain why we have two churches in one denomination. The fight is coming.

  16. Chazaq says:

    “The fight is coming”

    The fight already occurred. Where we go to church this Sunday reveals which side we cheered for.

  17. Jeffersonian says:

    [blockquote] TEC’s policies are amazingly NON-inclusive, as evidenced by the fact that every week, TEC non-includes a gowing pile of former Episcopalians. [/blockquote]

    Indeed, and well-put. TEC’s willingness to permit the practice and advocacy of ideas not just at odds with orthodox Christianity, but utterly repellant to it, force out those interested in the former while retaining the small minority enthused about the latter.

    It’s as if a restaurant declared itself “inclusive” by permitting, even encouraging, patrons to disgorge their food during the course of their meals…something utterly prohibited by less enlightened establishments. In short order, those not in complete consensus with the policy will be driven away, leaving the minority to their revolting consequences.

  18. bob carlton says:

    which side we cheer ? wow, that’s sad

    it reminds me of lincoln’s quote – pray that we are on god’s side

  19. Jeffersonian says:

    [blockquote]which side we cheer ? wow, that’s sad [/blockquote]

    Lawsuits have a way of drawing those lines, Bob. Let’s shed a tear for those getting Dave Beers’ summonses, shall we?

  20. bob carlton says:

    Jeffersonian, the Synod, the IRD & the ACN spent a tremendous amount of time, money & energy drawing those lines.

  21. Sarah1 says:

    No, Bob — GC 2003 did.

    And we warned you about that, but progressives said it would all quickly fade.

    My, how they were wrong.

  22. bob carlton says:

    Sarah, long before GC 2003 the Synod & IRD plowed time & money into these boundaries (and women’s ordination & the prayer book revision before). I do not disagree that the discernment path that TEC articulated was a disaster, but conservatives (or re-asserters or what you want to be called) should not play the victim or blameless here.

  23. robroy says:

    Conservatives blameless? No, we are not blameless but not in the manner that you think (IRD led conspiracies). I don’t know of a single conservative out there without blame. I and almost all present slept through the entire coup d’etat and woke up with the usurpers in power dominating every level of TEC hierarchy. Thank the Lord for Titus and StandFirm for waking me from my slumber.

  24. Sarah1 says:

    Yes . . . I am still waiting for my IRD check in payment for my outrage and disgust.

    And yes, robroy is absolutely correct. The reasserters are not at all blameless, nor victims. We have a lot to make up for in our terrible passivity and incompetence. Hopefully we are on the path of repentance and amendment of life.

  25. MattJP says:

    bob carlton wrote: “the Synod, the IRD & the ACN spent a tremendous amount of time, money & energy drawing those lines.”

    Bob, the only One who drew those lines for me is God. He did it in his word, the Bible. If “the Synod, the IRD & the ACN” are fighting for faithfulness to His word then I am thankful for their fellowship but they didn’t draw the lines.

  26. Larry Morse says:

    Re TEC’s evangelism. I wonder. Do you suppose there are a number of TEC officers who are actively courting martyrdom? That they have fixed they eyes absolutely on goals for which they are not merely willing, but wanting to die? There is something cult-like in the things TEC says and does. Are they sucesssfully evangelizing this special following? LM

  27. dpeirce says:

    #25, Sarah: But it isn’t just a matter or re-taking the Episcopal Church! It’s re-taking a whole society through evangelism. That’s where your vision needs to be. Anything less and you might win one battle but the war is lost. And posters should quit gloating at the decline in TEC’s membership; it represents the destruction of one arm of God’s Army in earth, and is exactly what the inclusivists are aiming for.

    LM, #27, of course some of them are cultic. And, sure, Satan encourages martyrs: he gets them to feel GOOD about dying and going to hell. That way he can laugh at them twice.

    In faith, Dave
    Viva Texas