Saturday, April 28, 2007

Father Jones Speculates on the Five Dioceses Reported To Be Leaving The Epsicopal Church

Father Greg Jones (aka the anglicancentrists) offers some informed speculations as a follow-up to Father Dan Martins' explosive post yesterday about five dioceses leaving the Episcopal Church. As always, you should read all of Father Jones' comments, but here are some highlights:

Dan Martins has said his diocese, San Joaquin, is one of the five. In addition, I am led to believe that perhaps the other two Forward in Faith bishops are also. Forward in Faith began in 1977 as a group of evangelical and Anglo-Catholic Episcopalians opposed to the ordination of women to the priesthood. In 1990, the group became the Episcopal Synod of America. It changed its name again in 1998 when affiliated with the Forward in Faith group in the Church of England which originated in 1992, in the immediate aftermath of the Church of England’s November 1992 decision to ordain women to the priesthood. In addition to San Joaquin, the dioceses of Fort Worth and Quincy are members.

. . .

So who are the other two? It is notable that at the House of Bishops meeting this Spring, the bishops of San Joaquin and Fort Worth didn't come...while most of the other Anglican Communion Network bishops did. The other Network bishops who didn't attend (or participate meaningfully) are the Bishop of Dallas -- who didn't come at all -- and the Bishop of Springfield who sat in the observers gallery for most of the time.

That leaves Dallas and Springfield as the most likely fourth and fifth candidates.

Therefore, I suspect the five dioceses that will be making some kind of bold announcement in the coming days: Fort Worth, Dallas, Quincy, San Joaquin and Springfield.

It is worth remembering that of these Dallas and Fort Worth alone are by far the biggest -- accounting for about 22,000 Episcopalians on an average Sunday. Yet, of that number, a significant portion are are going to stay in the Episcopal Church no matter what the diocese does. In Dallas alone, I know of two moderate churches first hand which account for 2,200 people on a given Sunday -- and both are staying Episcopalian. In Fort Worth there are also several parishes which will go nowhere. Probably 20% of these folks will remain loyal to the Episcopal Church.

The Diocese of Quincy only has 1,100 Episcopalians at worship on an average Sunday, in the whole diocese. San Joaquin and Springfield together account for another 6,500.

All five of these dioceses together amount to about 3o,000 Episcopalians on an average Sunday. But a significant percentage won't leave the Episcopal Church -- perhaps 20%. That means we are talking about a group of 24,000 average Sunday attenders who are likely to leave. This is about the same number as those worshipping weekly in Newark and Long Island together -- two of the most liberal dioceses.

If all ten of the Network dioceses leave the Episcopal Church -- but a moderate remnant stays Episcopal within those dioceses -- we'd lose probably a total of 65,000 Episcopalians on an average Sunday. Currently that would be about 7.5% of our average Sunday attendance in the entire Episcopal Church. This is a significant number -- but as a mass exodus (pun intended) it would be relatively small.

Obviously, there are people in non-Network dioceses who will also leave over the gay question, and other theological issues, but my sense is that most of these have already left for other denominations, Rome, the Anglican Mission in America (Rwanda), or other continuing Anglican offshoots.

. . .

I believe the five dioceses Dan Martins talks about will join CANA.

It makes sense that they would -- these being the most impatient and precipitous of the Anglican Communion Network dioceses. It also makes sense because unlike AMiA -- which has not adopted a strategy of claiming Episcopal property -- CANA defines that strategy. If these five dioceses attempt to take their stuff with them -- the National Church will have to intervene. Moderate parishes within those dioceses will also bring lawsuits against their schismatic leadership -- ala what's gone on in Pittsburgh with the moderate and large Calvary Church.

CANA is shaping up to be a ministry defined not by its orthodoxy, but by it's willingness to violate the letter and spirit of the canons, reports, and processes by which the Episcopal Church and the Anglican Communion have sought to operate as a body. They are willing to go to court. They are willing to split the church local, national and global. They are willing -- and they are in the process -- of redefining Anglicanism according to how it is understood in Nigeria and by conservative extremists in the West.

Sadly, because of their impatience, they are undermining most their own conservative friends and allies. Probably, what they do in the U.S. is what they will do globally -- and they will actually find themselves out of communion with a great many Anglican provinces around the globe. What certainly won't happen is that they will be in communion with 37 provinces, and the Episcopal Church will be all by itself. No -- more likely -- Nigeria, and the 'Global South Steering Committee' will be on their own in their own rigorist Afro-centric communion. And that seems likelier and likelier to happen in the next couple of years at the most.



Read it all. I am no expert, but Father Jones' analysis is quite persuasive. Sadly so.

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