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The Episcopal Church’s Collapse

More sunny news for your Sunday morning: numbers from the Episcopal Church show a stunning collapse in church attendance between 2000 and 2010.  [1] It’s down 23 percent overall, with some dioceses in far steeper decline than that. Pittsburgh, for example, has lost 73 percent of its churchgoing Episcopalians over that time period. That’s nearly three out of four Episcopalians in Pittsburgh, gone within a decade. San Joaquin saw four out of five of its people stop coming to church in the same period.

No diocese is growing, but a handful of them — Tennessee and South Carolina, for example — kept losses down to single digits. Maybe some of you readers who are Episcopalians can explain why. It can’t be simply a Southern thing; other Southern dioceses experienced losses on par with TEC in other regions.

According to TEC’s figures, only about 700,000 Episcopalians are in church on Sunday morning. There are megachurches in suburban Dallas that have more worshipers on Sunday than most Episcopal dioceses. That’s not hyperbole.

I found this out via the blog of Sherry Weddell [2], the Catholic lay evangelist, who writes:

To compare, CARA estimates that on a given Sunday, there are about 22 million Catholics in the pews in the US vs. approximately 657,000 Episcopalians.  In other words, there are roughly 33 times as many practicing Catholics as practicing Episcopalians.

This is not a time to gloat but to thoughtfully ponder.   A group I spoke to recently about evangelization wanted to look to the experience of mainline Protestants to see what they were doing.  Seriously?

If we are serious about evangelization, we would far, far better look to the experience of our evangelical brothers and sisters.  49% of American evangelicals weren’t raised as evangelicals while Catholics have the second lowest number of converts of any American religious faith.

Indeed, Putnam & Campbell [3], sifting the data, found that if not for the large influx of Hispanic immigrants, Catholicism in the US would be declining at a rate comparable to that of mainline Protestantism.

But no Christian church should gloat, and not just out of politeness, either. Putnam & Campbell documented that all Christian churches are seeing declining numbers. We are living through a great shift in religion and society now.

UPDATE: The Episcopal Church’s House of Bishops voted today to make it against church law not to consider transgenders for ministry. [4] If the House of Deputies goes along with it, as it is expected to, this becomes Episcopal Church law.

100 Comments (Open | Close)

100 Comments To "The Episcopal Church’s Collapse"

#1 Comment By IanH On July 9, 2012 @ 3:19 am

You’re so silly Scott. The church isn’t “obsessed” with sex as you seem to have convinced yourself. They merely have certain views that they are not willing to compromise on.

#2 Comment By John Mark Ockerbloom On July 9, 2012 @ 3:32 am

“But if you lack the skills to do it yourself, which is the case with the vast majority of people, you have to trust a scientist. And scientist don’t always agree, even if science is verifiable. Then again, people disagree about all kinds of things that are supposedly verifiable.”

True. However, it is somewhat easier for a well-educated person to assess the quality of arguments than it is for them to directly assess the findings of fields requiring expert study.

I am not an expert historian, biologist, or lawyer. However, some time watching people debate online whether the Holocaust happened, whether species arose by evolution or by some form of creation or “intelligent design”, and whether paying income tax is required or optional, revealed some recurring patterns in how people argue when they have facts and sound expertise on their side, and when they do not. (You do need at least some basic understanding of the relevant fields to assess some of the arguments, but it generally does not need to be as deep as an expert’s. You also need to take the time to assess facts and arguments brought up by a variety of people, and not just in forums like one-on-one debates for live audiences, where dramatic and rhetorical value can obscure the value of the underlying arguments.)

So if I’m looking at other debates in science and scholarship, and on one side I see people engaged in the full debate who seem well informed and argue in good faith, I am inclined to believe them over the side that seems to just consist of people who do *not* show themselves to be well informed, who argue in ways that are clearly bad faith, or do not engage with the full range of reasonable points brought up by the other side, and prefer instead to keep hammering on characteristic talking points that don’t hold up under close scrutiny.

I’ll freely admit that this is not an infallible method of finding the truth. It’s theoretically possible that I could encounter some revolutionary truth that seemed to be just defended by cranks, but where I’d missed noticing a few experts that could prove their argument against the mainstream. But I’m pretty confident by now that that’s not the way to bet.

#3 Comment By Geoff Guth On July 9, 2012 @ 4:00 am

rr, the difference is that with science, even if I lack the technical skills to run the LHC, I can be confident that the scientists who do are using a simple method that I can understand, namely the testing of a theory via empirical means. And I can also be confident that the scientific consensus will change based on observable data.

This recent discovery of data suggestive of the Higgs boson is a good example. If they hadn’t found it, physicists were prepared to abandon the Standard Model over the issue. Finding it is another piece of data suggesting the Standard Model may be an accurate description.

That’s the difference between religion and science. Scientific views change as we gain more observations and information. Religious views are set in stone. I don’t need to know the ins and outs of the experiment to grasp that.

In a way, with many issues, like homosexuality, we’re asking religion to be more like science in that, as new data comes to light, religious teachings are altered to accommodate them. This, of course, flies in the face of the understanding that religious teachings are unalterable; much of this blog’s resistance to gay marriage is rooted in its novelty while there’s a conspicuous unwillingness to discuss things that might be considered objective facts we’ve recently come to accept that have a direct bearing, like its innate and unalterable nature.

That reflects a major difference in fundamental world view. I’d suggest that the adaptability of science might actually indirectly support peoples’ willingness to accept social changes too, even when these aren’t determined scientifically. After all, if your picture of the universe is so subject to change why shouldn’t everything else be as well?

#4 Comment By mlindroo On July 9, 2012 @ 5:25 am

David J. White says:
July 8, 2012 at 5:22 pm:

> After all, how many of us have come to
> the conclusion that the earth is round
> based on our own meticulously conducted
> astronomical observations and reasoned
> calculations? I don’t know about you, but
> I know the world is round because I read
> it in a book / was taught it in school.

Um, that’s a very poor example, really. If the world really is flat and not a sphere 12600km across, numerous everyday tasks related to navigation and travel would not match our predictions / expectations! As an amateur astronomer, I can verify that the predicted (calculated) positions of the planets indeed match what I can observe with my own eyes.

I will agree with you that it is difficult for the layperson to say much about global warming. However, I still think it is far safer to trust the scientific consensus rather than religious dogma… If the science does not match observed behavior, the theories will eventually be revised.

MARCU$

#5 Comment By MH – Secular Misanthropist On July 9, 2012 @ 6:09 am

David J White and rr, I’m talking about classes of knowledge and how they differ. Sure the average person doesn’t understand how their DVR works. But they can see that it does, so there is no point in argument and no need for faith. In my communion wafer example, even the Catholic Church says that to human senses blessed and unblessed wafers are identical. So not even the priest who blessed them can’t tell them apart and a big need for faith.

Another difference is that science is not culturally contingent. So two cultures can have different religions, but they share the same scientific knowledge. For example, I have Indian coworkers who are Hindu as well as Muslim and disagree about religion, but agree about scientific knowledge.

rr, scientists agree that the Earth is getting warmer, because that is measurable. Where there is discussion is about the relative importance of human contributions versus natural ones. Disagreements over mechanisms are not uncommon and generally sort themselves out over time.

#6 Comment By JonF On July 9, 2012 @ 6:11 am

Re: 4) Still another result of #1 is a lower birthrate and a lack of meaningful evangelization.

Lack of evangelization, yes, but it’s hard for me to see what a lower birth rate has to do with Spongian heresies. That’s happening everywhere among all peoples, period. It has to do with the fact that children have become very expensive and most people can’t afford the big families of the past. Plus one no longer needs six children to ensure that a couple of them live to adulthood.

#7 Comment By Art Deco On July 9, 2012 @ 6:41 am

No, the implication is that the church has become obsessed over something that Jesus didn’t talk about — sex —

See John chapter 4 and chapter 8.

#8 Comment By Josh Brown On July 9, 2012 @ 7:57 am

My grandmother, who has been Episcopalian for the majority of her life, recently joined a sizeable portion of the congregation in little old Americus, GA and left the Episcopalian organization to join the ACNA movement. Her priest, a former Baptist pastor, was warned by the bishop that the organization was about to crack down on him for resisting the liberalization movement. All the while, my grandmother was suffering from arhythmia and a leaking heart valve. He took the time to come visit her in the hospital after her surgery and give us communion. God bless Father Don Hutchinson.

#9 Comment By Fr. Jonathan On July 9, 2012 @ 8:03 am

The fact that the numbers are going down so dramatically makes it hard for the leadership to maintain the PR fiction that if only we became more “open” and “inclusive” the people would simply flood through the doors. That said, rampant liberalism is not the heart of the problem, merely the result.

TEC, like the rest of North American Christianity, suffers from the moral and spiritual shift within our culture. Even if TEC holds every single view that the average person in the culture holds, there is no general sense of why religion matters, and thus no compelling reason to get up early on a Sunday and go to church. Those who mimic the culture will disappear faster than those who don’t, but everyone is a kind of downward spiral right now related to the fact that we are still operating as if we are the Church in Christendom rather than the Church in a decidedly pagan mission field.
But within TEC uniquely, there is the problem of the loss of a sense of what classical Anglicanism actually is. For more than a hundred and fifty years, Anglican churches around the world have been losing that sense of our theological identity, running after “church parties” and their faddish theologies rather than getting back to the basics of our own Reformation. The result is that we have no idea who we are and thus no one else does either. We don’t know why we exist, so we have been ceasing to do so.

#10 Comment By The Anti-Gnostic On July 9, 2012 @ 8:58 am

Actually, Christ Jesus was pretty rigid on the point: He didn’t come to remove a single jot from the law, and to even lust after another woman was to commit adultery. So I tend to think He would disapprove of gay circuit-parties.

The Church must necessarily be obsessed with sex. How do you think the children that Jesus said we should suffer to come unto Him are made–storks? What else is the Church to do with a bunch of horny young men and women but tell them to get married and start f—ing?

#11 Comment By Justin St. Giles Payne On July 9, 2012 @ 9:00 am

As opposed to discovering that it might make demands on them which they prefer not to accept, because that might interfere with what they way they want to live their lives.

But Christianity doesn’t make any demands. If you want to construe your Christianity as consistent with a life of cheating on your wife with prostitutes, all it takes is “the forgiveness of God and your wife” and, apparently, you’re not even guilty of a crime (judging by Sen. David Vitter, at any rate.) There’s not even a need to stop – all men are sinful, so what’s a little sin when we’re all forgiven by the blood of Christ? All you have to do is ignore the Bible; most Christians haven’t even read it.

There’s never been any problem in Christianity with its “demands.” If you’re a gay Catholic, why, that’s just evidence that the Church, with its prohibitions, isn’t a perfect expression of “real” Christianity. I’m sure, David, that even your Christianity is a perfect reflection of allowing (or even excusing) the things you want to do and abjuring the things you don’t.

Honestly, the notion that people leave the faith to live as they like is just a tired canard. Just look at all the Christians who live that way anyway. Christianity places absolutely no practical restrictions on its followers. If you want to sleep in on Sunday, there’s even night services.

#12 Comment By ES On July 9, 2012 @ 10:49 am

Clarification: the massive declines in Pittsburgh and San Joaquin are the result of those dioceses (along with Fort Worth and Quincy) leaving TEC to form ACNA. The reconstituted rump TEC dioceses in these jurisdictions account for the small numbers. TEC is in a death spiral, to be sure, but the headline statistics you cite aren’t really reflective of that.

#13 Comment By sdb On July 9, 2012 @ 10:51 am

“Religious views are set in stone.”
Really? Tell that to the protestant reformers…

#14 Comment By sdb On July 9, 2012 @ 10:52 am

“But Christianity doesn’t make any demands.”

What an obtuse statement. Churches may not all practice church discipline well or consistently, but yours is a remarkably sophomoric description of Christianity.

#15 Comment By sdb On July 9, 2012 @ 10:54 am

“Another difference is that science is not culturally contingent.” That might be true of physics and chemistry, but it is certainly not true of psychology and economics. But then if you restrict science to physical science, you are leaving out a pretty wide swath of human experience.

#16 Comment By rr On July 9, 2012 @ 11:41 am

quote: “rr, scientists agree that the Earth is getting warmer, because that is measurable. Where there is discussion is about the relative importance of human contributions versus natural ones. Disagreements over mechanisms are not uncommon and generally sort themselves out over time.”

Yes, of course scientists agree that the Earth is getting warmer, but some disagree on the degree of human contribution to said warming. Perhaps they will sort this
disagreement out over time. But perhaps they won’t. And even if they do, it could take time on an issue in which the stakes are huge and time may be of the essence. If human activity does indeed contribute to global warming, humans need to make changes or we will all suffer dramatic consequences in the near future. On the other hand, these changes (i.e. cutting back carbon emissions) would likely be very expensive. If human activity isn’t significantly contributing to global warming, cutting back carbon emissions would needlessly hamper economic growth, which would also negatively impact the lives of millions.

One could also raise the issue of a disease in which scientists and doctors disagree about the treatment. If you have such a disease, as with the issue of global warming, saying that scientists will eventually work out their disagreements over time is cold comfort. In other words, this assumption that scientists will work out disagreements (which is an assumption based on faith since none of us know the future, including the future of scientific research and consensus) really doesn’t cut it. On issues in which scientists currently disagree, and some of these issues are quite serious, we are no better off that the communion waffer example that you give.

#17 Comment By sdb On July 9, 2012 @ 11:45 am

I agree that science is the best way of gaining knowledge about how nature works. But most people have no clue how science works or why. When I teach intro physics to engineering majors, I always give them the Mechanics Baseline Test – like most beginning honors engineering majors, they start with essentially an Aristotelian understanding of motion. These are students who did quite well in high school, and have shown quite a bit of interest in science. They may know a lot of factoids and can sing the tune about why science is so great, but the fact of the matter is that in practice, they approach science the way people approach religion – a set of facts handed down from on high to which they must give assent in order to be part of the group. The scary part is that there is little evidence that this changes much after four years of college (Eric Mazur’s work on pedagogy in this regard is particularly instructive). What we learn is that the appeal to authority is very hard to break.

To compound this, most people don’t know how to distinguish between reliable scientific claims and junk popularizations. Consider the typical stories that get posted in the science section of newspapers or get blurbed on the radio (think John Tesh giving factoids to make you “smarter”). One week chocolate is good for you, the next it is killing us. In one generation, “the scientists” tell us formula is the way to go, in the next not breast-feeding is practically child abuse. Did you hear that we found life on another planet? Well actually, we found a planet with water, only not really, it was a planet a distance from a star where water could exist. But to the public sloppy popularization and sensationalism of results is just a message that you can’t trust scientists. The evidence the public has makes it clear to them that scientists are always changing their mind, they are often wrong, and usually in the pockets of BIG_______. This isn’t because science isn’t a reliable guide to knowledge. It is because the knowledge people have of science is incredibly incomplete. So they have no way of distinguishing between the reliability of claims that wine prevents (causes) cancer, fatty foods make us fat (slim), CO2 emissions are driving up global temps, all living organisms descended from a common ancestor, and the universe is 14Gyr old. After all “scientists” are always changing their mind. But the science they hear the most about is about red wine, sleeping, and weight loss. And it isn’t coming from New Scientist or Scientific American (much less peer reviewed journals) – it is coming from Yahoo news, John Tesh, or the science page of the local paper.

So how’s the public to know that the claim that the earth is warming is more reliable than the claim that eggs are bad for you? They are left with trusting authorities. Just as the average Catholic parishioner doesn’t understand the complicated Thomistic arguments for transubstantiation, the average Joe on the street doesn’t understand how science is all that special a way of knowing, the limits of falsification as demarcator for science, etc…. So I think David J White is exactly right to say that the average person approaches scientific knowledge exactly the way s/he approaches religious knowledge.

#18 Comment By rr On July 9, 2012 @ 11:50 am

quote: “In a way, with many issues, like homosexuality, we’re asking religion to be more like science in that, as new data comes to light, religious teachings are altered to accommodate them. This, of course, flies in the face of the understanding that religious teachings are unalterable; much of this blog’s resistance to gay marriage is rooted in its novelty while there’s a conspicuous unwillingness to discuss things that might be considered objective facts we’ve recently come to accept that have a direct bearing, like its innate and unalterable nature.”

I don’t think this is a good example. Ideologically changes, not scientific changes, explain why some people in the West now see homosexual behavior as morally acceptable.
I don’t think science is quite certain about the innate and unalterable nature of homosexual attraction. Personally, it doesn’t matter a bit. It wouldn’t change my view on the moral question either way, and I fail to see why it is relevant to the debate at all, although again the science of this is far from pat.

At any rate, what sometimes passes for “science” is often ideology masquerading as such. For instance, eugenics and racism were once seen as scientific. Indeed, eugenics was once on the cutting edge of science. Yet it is now discredited as see. The possible influence of ideology on science (which is true on both sides of the global warming debate today) is just another reason to be skeptical of the notion that scientific knowledge is somehow superior to other forms of knowledge.

#19 Comment By Alex Y On July 9, 2012 @ 11:55 am

“Another difference is that science is not culturally contingent.” That might be true of physics and chemistry, but it is certainly not true of psychology and economics. But then if you restrict science to physical science, you are leaving out a pretty wide swath of human experience.

Oh, I don’t know that it’s true even of physics and chemistry. Paul Feyerabend certainly didn’t agree with that proposition.

#20 Comment By sdb On July 9, 2012 @ 12:07 pm

Speaking of the self-correcting nature of science, this only works in an ideal world. In the real world, it is a lot messier. Consider, the recent work by Leslie John et al. they estimate that 9% of academic researchers in psychology have falsified their data. 2/3’s have misreported their data (see figure one in the attached paper).
[5]
[6]

Maybe these problems are restricted to psychology. But maybe not… How’s the public to know?

#21 Comment By sdb On July 9, 2012 @ 12:21 pm

Alex,
You are exactly right. And it isn’t just Paul Feyerabend that made this claim. Cushing’s work on the history of quantum theory is enlightening in this regard. I set aside physics and chemistry because the case is much less intuitive and difficult to make in a comm box.

#22 Comment By MH – Secular Misanthropist On July 9, 2012 @ 12:58 pm

rr said, “On issues in which scientists currently disagree, and some of these issues are quite serious, we are no better off that the communion waffer example that you give.”

I think you are overstating your case. It is in principal possible for a scientific consensus to be reached in an area like global warming. Afterwards scientists could then communicate that knowledge to other human beings and it might prove useful. Of course it might be too late, but sometimes it stinks to be human.

Short of dying and talking to God, or finding oneself roasting in Hell, I don’t see how it is possible to know which religion is correct and which claims are true. Once you are dead there is no possibility of communicating this knowledge to living human beings for their use. Worse, the whole enterprise seems to revel in this fundamental lack of falsifiability.

#23 Comment By MH – Secular Misanthropist On July 9, 2012 @ 1:04 pm

sdb said, “Maybe these problems are restricted to psychology. But maybe not… How’s the public to know?”

When the bridge falls down the public will know the engineers were duped by bad science about the strength of a new material. Yeah that kind of stinks, but the world is a harsh place at times.

#24 Comment By rr On July 9, 2012 @ 1:45 pm

quote: “I think you are overstating your case. It is in principal possible for a scientific consensus to be reached in an area like global warming. Afterwards scientists could then communicate that knowledge to other human beings and it might prove useful. Of course it might be too late, but sometimes it stinks to be human.”

Sure, in principal possible for a scientific consensus to be reached. But so what? The reality today is that we don’t have one, nor do we know if ever or if when we will have one. I’m not sure how the theoretical possibility of something happening in the future changes life today with respect to this issue or other similar unresolved issues.

quote: “Short of dying and talking to God, or finding oneself roasting in Hell, I don’t see how it is possible to know which religion is correct and which claims are true. Once you are dead there is no possibility of communicating this knowledge to living human beings for their use. Worse, the whole enterprise seems to revel in this fundamental lack of falsifiability.”

Well, I suppose this is a problem if you are a logical positivist (or something close to a positivist) and place such a premium on falsifiability in all areas of knowledge. It would also create epistemological problems on other issues besides religion as a number of important things in life, for instance love and ethics, simply aren’t falsifiable. Then again, if your epistemology is a bit broader (as is mine-logical positivism is illogical and self-refuting IMO), it isn’t so much of an issue.

#25 Comment By sdb On July 9, 2012 @ 2:18 pm

“When the bridge falls down the public will know the engineers were duped by bad science about the strength of a new material. Yeah that kind of stinks, but the world is a harsh place at times.”

Huh? People built safe bridges before we knew anything about the underlying science. A lot of engineering can proceed by trial and error and result in successful design even if we are ignorant of the underlying science. On the other hand, bridges do fail even though we have a pretty good mastery of the underlying physics and material science involved. Maybe the engineer screwed up his calculation, maybe the supplier cut corners on materials, maybe something unforeseen happened. I don’t see how the relative reliability of bridges has anything to tell the general public about the reliability of our knowledge of physics.

#26 Comment By David J. White On July 9, 2012 @ 2:24 pm

I’m sure, David, that even your Christianity is a perfect reflection of allowing (or even excusing) the things you want to do and abjuring the things you don’t.

Despite your assumption that you can read my mind, Justin, actually my Christianity is not just an exercise in affirming what I want to do anyway. It masets standards that I aspire to and work towards — and, I admit, in regard to which I often fall short — but it does make deomands on me and has practical consequences in the way I strive to live my life.

If you really can’t understand that for people who take their faith seriously, it places demands upon the way they live their life, and is not just an exercise in self-justification, then we’re just going to keep talking past one another.

#27 Comment By Justin St. Giles Payne On July 9, 2012 @ 2:46 pm

Churches may not all practice church discipline well or consistently, but yours is a remarkably sophomoric description of Christianity.

It’s not meant to describe Christianity. It’s meant to describe how easy it is to either “interpret” the Bible such that you can do what you like but others can’t be allowed to do what they like, or to pick and choose from a Chinese menu of Christian doctrine and get a build-your-own-faith to purpose.

Oh, sure, sometimes there’s a little bit of meaningless inconvenience so you can convince yourself you’re a good person – no meat on Fridays, give-ups for Lent – but Christianity demands almost nothing. The notion that it’s ever been an obstacle to living like one wants is risible.

#28 Comment By MH – Secular Misanthropist On July 9, 2012 @ 4:25 pm

sdb said, “I don’t see how the relative reliability of bridges has anything to tell the general public about the reliability of our knowledge of physics.”

The bridge example was a stand-in for all the various devices humans build. Sure it is possible to engineer things with trial and error, and humans did this for generations. But cost and reliability tends to improve as theoretical underpinnings are understood. In addition when they do fail forensic investigations use the same knowledge to pinpoint possible failure modes the designers didn’t foresee. Societies have a vested interest in this improvement as resources are limited and need to be allocated to multiple areas.

Now if our understanding of the theoretical underpinnings are flawed, then failure becomes far more likely. For example we know quantum mechanics works because we build devices that depend upon quantum mechanicals principals. If it didn’t work then those devices wouldn’t work either. Likewise genetic engineering depends upon knowledge obtained by biologists.

#29 Comment By MH – Secular Misanthropist On July 9, 2012 @ 4:56 pm

rr, I put a premium on falsifiability because I like to evaluate the probability that someone is lying (either to me, or to themselves). As John Mark Ockerbloom said above, watching the methods someone uses can help you evaluate that probability, even if you don’t understand the specifics. Moreover, in my experience the theoretical possibility that you can test someone’s claims tends to reduce their probability of deceiving you or themselves.

For example I know the quality assurance department will test what my peers and I produce. Now we know that QA can’t test everything, but it’s really embarrassing when someone creates junk. So this tends to focus our minds and we all do a better job. Conversely if there’s no possibility to test someone’s work, then there’s no way to evaluate that probability. I know from personal experience that people tend to get lazy and slack off in such situations.

As a I said above, religious claims seem squarely in the untestable category. So how do I know if I’m dealing with a crazy cult or the real deal? Without anyway to evaluate the probability I tend to assume the worst.

#30 Comment By Emily On July 9, 2012 @ 5:56 pm

I am an Orthodox Christian, but was amongst those Episcopalians who converted en masse in the early 90’s. My family is still Episcopalian, though. I remember about 10 or so years ago, my mother saying that her church was being taken from her. It’s true, a small number of people and their extended families (who didn’t attend with any regularity) were part of what was pretty much a hostile take-over. They destroyed the EYC with rumors of wrongdoing, and ousted all of the vestry members who disagreed with them.

Since then, the church has split, and now hers is part of the Southern cone…(is that what it’s called?) The others are still a part of TEC. There is so much hurt there. I haven’t even visited an Episcopalian church in nearly 9 years, and even I’m hurt by all of the things that have happened.

#31 Comment By Lewis Grant On July 9, 2012 @ 6:12 pm

Forgive me if this has already come up, but hasn’t Pittsburgh’s TEC diocese lost a ton of people because they’ve moved over to ACNA (rather than died or left the Anglican world)? Pittsburgh has a pretty strong orthodox Anglican presence.

It won’t be long before liberals are be a small minority in the wider Anglican communion. (They tend not to reproduce.)

#32 Comment By Church Lady On July 9, 2012 @ 7:24 pm

The decline of “Christiany after Christendom” is mostly about what happens to a monopoly after it loses its monopolistic status.

For a long time, Christianity didn’t have to compete, it was protected from competition by some pretty fierce laws and social taboos. This led to a lot of laziness and inefficiency that became calcified and very difficult to break. Now that it has had to compete openly for adherents and loyalty, it isn’t do so well.

The Episcopal Church and many others don’t know how to compete, because they just haven’t had to do it before. They don’t know what to change, or how. And people just aren’t buying the product anymore. It’s not just the EC, it’s all of them. Competition from everything else out there makes it hard to sell Christianity, mostly because it wasn’t actually sold before, it was just imposed by social custom or war. Not for a long time at least.

#33 Comment By rr On July 9, 2012 @ 9:05 pm

quote: “As a I said above, religious claims seem squarely in the untestable category. So how do I know if I’m dealing with a crazy cult or the real deal? Without anyway to evaluate the probability I tend to assume the worst.”

If by “untestable” you mean falsifiable, then there are many important things in life that fall in the same category as religious claims. You can’t falsify someone’s claim that they love you. The same is true for any ethical claims. I am a historian. As such, I would argue that this is the case for my discipline, as is also law and the way trials are run in a court of law. To take an example from History, I can give evidence and reasons why Napoleon lost the battle of Waterloo. However, my claims aren’t falsifiable as another historian can’t well re-create the battle and test my claims. So would you throw out entirely the disciple of History because of this?

I could be reading you wrong, but you appear to be making too much of falsifiability. There are plenty of things that one can offer reasonable evidence for that aren’t falsifiable. Humans simple don’t live by falsifiability as the only or even necessarily the superior standard of knowing something. In fact, I would argue that it is impossible for humans to do so. Despite all their claims about science, even logical positivists don’t actually live that way.

#34 Comment By Monterey On July 9, 2012 @ 10:04 pm

The PCUSA is going the same way, for pretty much the same reasons.

#35 Comment By Church Lady On July 9, 2012 @ 10:12 pm

Actually, you can falsify someone’s claim to love you. If they beat you and berate you, but say they love you, it’s pretty easy to conclude that they don’t really love you.

Love isn’t just some inner feeling, it’s an outer action.

As for history, the entire discipline is based on actual evidence. So if you come up with a theory about history, you need to support that theory with evidence. It’s true that often there’s not enough evidence to utterly prove or disprove any given theory, but that doesn’t mean a theory isn’t falsifiable. Any meaningful historical theory has to at least be potentially falsifiable, in that there is the possibility of evidence that could prove it to be wrong. Just because we don’t have all the evidence at our disposal doesn’t mean the evidence that disproved a given theory couldn’t be found. That happens all the time.

When people criticize religious ideas as unfalsifiable, they mean that there’s not even the potential for falsification. Take, for example, the claim that Jesus is the one and only son of God. What kind of evidence could disprove that claim? Can you even imagine any? And if you can, wouldn’t the truly faithful merely say that the Devil planted that evidence, or find some way to argue around it?

Religious claims are not set up like scientific or historical theories. They are not built upon evidence one way or the other. They are built on faith, and you can’t falsify faith, since faith is not built on evidence. Historical theories, on the other hand, are built on evidence, not faith, and while they can be argued in different ways based on differing interpretations of the evidence, they do live and die based on the evidence. Religious claims are not built on evidence, so they do not fall if the evidence is not sufficient to prove their truth.

#36 Comment By MH – Secular Misanthropist On July 9, 2012 @ 10:41 pm

rr, I’d argue that in many areas of human experience we can obtain evidence to support or refute our beliefs. For example if a spouse says they love you, but treats you terribly, then they probably don’t. Conversely if they treat you well, then they probably love you, even if they don’t say so. So actions speak louder than words, but we’re talking about probabilities since we never know what is in the heart of another.

While I took a few history classes, I know little about it as an academic discipline. As an outsider it seems that describing what happened is on much firmer footing than why something happened. For the former you could obtain evidence, the latter seems like opinion. For example Mormons claim that native Americans descended from middle-easterners. This could be supported or refuted using DNA markers.

Ethics and law are areas where humans muddle along because we have no choice, but we stink at both. Ethical systems always seem to have blind spots where terrible actions can be justified for the greater good. The innocence project has shown that the error rate in the legal system is appallingly high.

#37 Comment By MH – Secular Misanthropist On July 9, 2012 @ 11:33 pm

Church Lady, that was a great post. I wish I wrote it.

#38 Comment By rr On July 10, 2012 @ 11:55 am

MH and Church Lady,

Presenting evidence for something and falsification aren’t the same thing. One can indeed present evidence, and in many cases a great deal of evidence, for a number of historical events. There are literally hundreds of boxes of documents located in several archives that I examined for my current research.

While there is plenty of evidence for history, history simply isn’t falsifiable. Sure, evidence could emerge that changes our view of the past. But the key is that we can’t recreate a past event to test and re-test our ideas about what happened and why. Sorry, but as a historian, the idea that history is in any way falsifiable or that history can be done in the same way science is done just isn’t true. Again, a number of things in life are this way.

I would actually argue that religion is similar. I don’t pretend to speak for all religions, nor do I care to do so. However, Christianity does certainly have evidence for it, most importantly, although not exclusively, the Scriptures. For instance, the books of the New Testament give eye witness accounts of the miracles and resurrection of Jesus. Now, you may discount these sources or question their reliability. Of course, for a whole host of reasons I see them as convincing. As to your questions Church Lady, in fact those who totally or mostly discount the New Testament do tend to see this as evidence that Jesus was not God’s one and only son.

At the end of the today, you both seem to be suggesting that religion is all about faith, and perhaps blind faith at that. I strongly disagree with such an idea. I certainly don’t deny that faith is needed, but there is in fact evidence. Christianity isn’t about blind faith. Nor do I see faith as a problem. As I’ve tried to illustrate in other posts, humans, who by nature are limited in their knowledge, put their faith in all kinds of things. Faith is part of the human condition. The question isn’t a matter of whether to have faith or not have faith, rather the question is what do you put your faith in.

Humans are also driven by their desires, not reason. Moreover, humans are sinful by nature. In the end, these facts should greatly influence our epistemology. And nor should science and scientific authority exempt from all of this. Anyone who seriously thinks otherwise, particularly those who go so far as to embrace logical positivism, which is hopelessly contradictory and epistemologically naive, is really kidding themselves

I’ll let this post be my last one. I have other issues to attend to now. This thread has about worn itself out anyway.

#39 Comment By MH – Secular Misanthropist On July 10, 2012 @ 7:39 pm

OK rr, I image we’ll touch on this topic in the future.

#40 Comment By AnotherBeliever On July 10, 2012 @ 9:44 pm

How many have joined a more conservative Anglican parish, under an African bishop? This is a growing trend.

#41 Comment By ben On July 11, 2012 @ 9:17 am

A house built in sand.

#42 Comment By Alexander On July 11, 2012 @ 12:04 pm

Insofar as the Catholic Church is run like the Episcopalian Church, it loses adherents. This is something that many recognize, but there are too many that are too stuck in their ways to see that simple truth.

#43 Comment By Church Lady On July 11, 2012 @ 6:53 pm

Been away, but I can’t really see that rr has made an actual point. Of course history can be falsified, if evidence arises which disproves some historical claim.

And of course religion is built on faith, not evidence. The faithful do use evidence to bolster their faith, and some do lose their faith based on contradictory evidence and arguments, but it’s always an issue of faith.

There’s no evidence in the NT that Jesus is the only Son of God. There’s a claim, and a narrative based on that claim, and some people find that claim credible, and others do not, but there’s still no evidence. What, that Jesus performed miracles? Religions around the world are filled with many miraculous claims. Are all such things evidence of being the one and only Son of God? What about Krishna? There’s more miracles attributed to him than to Jesus?

The point is, none of these things are actual evidence of Jesus’ Godhood. They may be evidence that he could perform miracles, but that isn’t evidence of Godhood, any more than the miraculousness of computers and cell phones is evidence that Steve Jobs was a God.

Religion requires faith. Every religious person knows that. And faith can be bolstered by various historical stories and claims, but the basic issue isn’t evidentiary. History, however, requires evidence, and its theories can be falsified by evidence. Just because we can’t re-do history doesn’t mean the evidence isn’t subject to scientific enquiry. We can’t re-do the history of the earth either, but we can conclude from the evidence that it was about 4.5 billion years old, and not 6,000 years old.

You really can falsify the historical claims of religion. But you can’t falsify the faith the religious have in those claims, as the testimony of many fundamentalists shows. That’s a whole different animal.

#44 Comment By me On July 14, 2012 @ 10:46 am

I theorize the ECUSA leadership actually wants to destroy the church, cash in the properties and turn it into a left wing activist foundation like the Ford or McAarthur foundation. It’s hard to believe that they could be so oblivious to declining membership.

They certainly aren’t concerned with spreading the Gospel – it’s safe to say St. Paul could not be ordained in the modern ECUSA.

#45 Comment By me On July 14, 2012 @ 10:52 am

The Episcopal Church’s House of Bishops voted today to make it against church law not to consider transgenders for ministry. I
I keep wondering what will be the ‘last straw’ for me. This is coming close.
Why does the ECUSA keep doing this?? It almost seems deliberate.

#46 Comment By Reformed Trombonist On July 17, 2012 @ 7:52 am

> That’s the difference between religion and science. Scientific views change as we gain more observations and information. Religious views are set in stone. I don’t need to know the ins and outs of the experiment to grasp that…. In a way, with many issues, like homosexuality, we’re asking religion to be more like science in that, as new data comes to light, religious teachings are altered to accommodate them.

Well, something needs to be set in stone, even for science, doesn’t it? How about the notion of truth itself? And why should truth exist if existence is just a big cosmic accident, there was once a big bang, and stuff just happened?

Take away the notion of truth, and what happens to science?

Science is a branch of knowledge and its methods are valuable within its context. But science is not the sum of knowledge. It needs a foundation of truth and order — without which, nothing is left that is worthwhile about either religion *or* science.

The idea that a religious truth should be altered because today’s fleeting scientific theories and squeamish scientiists get heartburn in its presence is pretty much the same idea that there is no such thing as religious truth.

The idea of Christianity is that it is a revealed truth — revealed to us by our Creator. If you don’t believe that, you probably shouldn’t be preaching to Christians that they should be willing to give up core beliefs for today’s ephemeral take on what man thinks is true.

The notion that religious truth is somehow made better by watering it down with man’s wisdom, such as it is, puts forth as a serious proposition that religious truth has already lost.

Some truths do not lend themselves to being watered down; you have to take them where they stand or reject them outright. E.g., the Word of the Lord is eternal, unchanging, and truth itself. He is the light of the world. There is no way to the Father but through the Son. The wages of sin is death. All of man’s righteousness is as filty rags. Jesus Christ, the same yesterday, today, and forever. Love your neighbor as yourself. Do unto others as you would have others do unto you. Man does not live by bread alone, but by every word of God.

The word of man is equivocal and uncertain, when not downright false. The earth is the center of the universe. No, wait, the sun is. No, wait, er, huh? The earth is flat. No, wait, it’s round. Flies spontaneously generate from garbage. No, wait, they don’t. Piltdown man represents man at an earlier phase of evolution. No, wait, he was a fraud. Scream, the earth is cooling! No, wait, scream, the earth is overheating! No, wait, well, the climate is changing, scream when we know in which direction!

Science is valuable and should be bickered over incessantly. But ultimately it is based on the notion that truth exists. But if no truth is served by any of it, it needs to be thrown away too.

#47 Comment By Bullmoosegal On July 17, 2012 @ 12:35 pm

I can’t speak to TN’s status, but in SC, quit-claim deeds were issued to all parishes, effectively taking the threat of ugly, drawn-out lawsuits off the table, & refocusing all on bonds of fellowship. Diocese of SC (diff from that of Upper SC) may still leave TEC, but it will be done w/far less rancor than seen in other states. The Bishop showed true pastoral care & love by his actions – I’d say this explains the difference in membership loss for SC.

#48 Comment By Ed Think On July 17, 2012 @ 4:44 pm

This is what you get when you water-down the Bible doctrines…It is called a dead church. Same story for the Lutheran church in Scandinavia…”You shall know the truth and the truth shall make you free”… I watched a few months ago David Jeremiah (since I was at Grandma’s place). He was just speaking garbage, he was enticing and brain washing his followers, encouraging an attack on Iran. He even went farther into saying about a prophecy in Ezekiel that, according to his imagination, the European Union & Russia will join into attacking Israel…You really need to have a very crooked imagination to invent such gross and distorted theological interpretation . . . We need to be careful who our spiritual leaders are, with such wolves in sheep clothing we will end up destroying the great United States of America…I feel many of today’s churches are just forums for the Neocons. We need honest spiritual leaders like Wesley, Luther, Doug Batchelor, Mark Finley… This is one point I am weary about Rand Paul…

#49 Comment By Rick Nevsimal On October 12, 2012 @ 9:07 am

As a Catholic I’m saddened to see the Anglican Church collapse. Christians must stand together and the Anglican Church has the potential to spread the word of God. The historical lesson is clear. When a church moves away from the bible it faces collapse. The Anglican Church got caught up in modernization. It needs to return to the bible to survive.

#50 Comment By William Cutlip On November 2, 2015 @ 3:34 pm

There are hundreds of references to Jesus the Christ in the old testament. Daniel 9 evens tells us when Jesus would appear and when he would be crucified. It also points out that the Temple in Jerusalem would be destroyed 40 years later. Before making comments on the Bible, you really should take the time to actually read it. It’s a fascinating collection of books.