The Christian Century magazine published an article last August, written by Bill Sachs of the Episcopal Church Foundation entitled The Episcopal middle: listening to congregations and subsequent correspondence was published in November under the heading Episcopal decisions …
The article makes clear that the situation is not a simple one:
SOON AFTER the Episcopal Church’s General Convention of 2003, an unanticipated phenomenon became apparent. Though lay leaders and clergy frequently described themselves as dissatisfied with the convention, they were unwilling to align themselves with either supporters or opponents of its most controversial actions — electing Gene Robinson, an openly gay man, as bishop of New Hampshire, and allowing the blessing of same-sex unions. More often than not, it was difficult to elicit whole-hearted dissent or support.
Leaders contacted by the Episcopal Church Foundation often depicted their dioceses and congregations as defined by a “20-20-60” breakdown: 20 percent endorsed the convention’s actions, 20 percent were against them, and 60 percent came down “somewhere else.” As one prominent lay leader expressed it, “I’m not drawn to either extreme and I don’t know where to turn.”
…the majority of Episcopalians are neither totally for nor against the actions of the church’s national body. They view the General Convention’s decisions as compelling a position on a complex issue before the church at the grassroots was ready to take a position.
And in the follow-up, Sachs summarises as follows:
…My point was that the convention’s actions do not reflect the outlook of the majority of people in the pews of Episcopal churches, as the Episcopal Church Foundation’s national survey and a variety of interviews and conversations have revealed. Members of local churches consistently describe the priorities of the convention, and the priorities of their congregations, as being distinctly different. Hence the foundation concluded that somewhat more than 60 percent of all members of Episcopal churches neither fully endorse, nor fully dispute, the convention’s decisions. Local leaders and even some bishops have stated to the foundation that the church was ill prepared for the actions the convention took. Thus a majority of Episcopalians report that they view the convention from afar and view its actions as imposing conclusions they are unprepared to endorse.
Kendall Harmon drew attention to these articles on titusonenine in December: On Bill Sachs and the Episcopal Church Situation from Parishioner’s Perspectives and more recently he cited these articles in a comment here responding to claims that:
The truly disaffected are a small minority of all Episcopalians. …It’s easy to get the impression that these folks appear to be a larger group than they actually are, as they generate quite a bit of noise.
and also that
…the “opposite camp” represents the majority of ECUSA members 😉 I’m basing my use of the term “majority” on how votes went on both +Robinson’s confirmation and resolution C051 at General Convention 2003, as well as on the very small minority of U.S. dioceses joining this “Network” thing.
In response, Kendall said:
David Huff’s comments are simply untrue. Interested readers may look at the two Christian Century articles here to see but one of many examples of evidence to show this.
Those elected have long been seen to be less than fully representative of the parishes and dioceses which elect them, in a number of cases quite graphically so. As for Network dioceses, the support is not limited to dioceses, first of all, and there are many supportive parishes he does not mention, but he also does not mention the hostile environment which some encounter in the Episcopal Church when they seek to find out about the Network of affiliate therewith.
I see little comfort for Kendall in Sachs’ analysis:
…such dismay is not the prelude to endorsing the conservative response as exemplified by the American Anglican Council (AAC), which looks to create an alternative church. The majority of Episcopalians value honest acknowledgment of differences and engagement with them. They intend to be collaborators in an open-ended process of discernment, one in which accommodation of diversity, not foreclosure of it, matters.
Fewer than a dozen of the church’s more than 100 dioceses are poised to seek an alternative ecclesiastical structure.
The American Anglican Council does not publish any statistics on individual membership. Before the events of GC 2003 it had around 200 parish affiliates, and now it has, I believe, around 300, or some 5% of ECUSA parishes. The NACDAP does not publish any statistics on affiliation by parishes outside the affiliated dioceses, and within those dioceses there are significant minorities who do not support the Network. It seems likely that outside those dioceses the number of Network-supportive parishes is similar to the AAC number.