Thinking Anglicans

ECUSA attitudes analysed

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.

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David Huff
David Huff
16 years ago

Which makes my point again 🙂 If 20-20-60 is a reasonable guess, then we have 80% of Episcopalians *not* supportive of the hardcore AAC/Network. Additionally, as Simon mentions above, even in Network dioceses such as my own, there are *significantly* large minorities who do not support their agenda. As a member of a local Via Media USA affiliate, I could rattle off half a dozen parishes from the top of my head which support our group’s work, incl. one parish which is one of the largest in the nation. So I stand by my previous stmts. The truly reactionary AAC-supporters… Read more »

Columba Gilliss
Columba Gilliss
16 years ago

it is quite typical of us Episcopalians to just wish a probelm or disagreement would go away. We deal, as families often do, with individual situations quite well but not with taking positions. Inviting us to discussions or asking us to read papers just does not work.However, letting us get to know people who are personally involved does. That is how attitudes towards women priests have been changed.

Dave
Dave
16 years ago

DHuff wrote: “Which makes my point again 🙂 If 20-20-60 is a reasonable guess, then we have 80% of Episcopalians not supportive of the hardcore AAC/Network.” David, if it’s 20-20-60 then 80% of Episcopalians are not supportive of ECUSA’s hardcore liberals either! Is ECUSA just a liberal humanist movement for societal redesign? I was aghast when the Bishops and GC approved Gene Robinson’s nomination, knowing that the rest of the Anglican communion were asking for at least a delay, and that ECUSA’s own theological group had also been unable to resolve the gay sex issue either. It was as if… Read more »

David Huff
David Huff
16 years ago

Dave wrote: “David, if it’s 20-20-60 then 80% of Episcopalians are not supportive of ECUSA’s hardcore liberals either!” Quite true, no arguement here. But the question at hand for the ECUSA is whether the current unpleasantness is worth splitting the church over or not. I think it’s clear from Sachs’ article that neither the 20% of “liberals” nor the 60% of “middle-of-the-road or somewhere else” folks think so. It’s only a small minority of hardcore “conservatives” who champion this position (and I know for a fact that not all “conservatives” are on-board with this agenda). So whatever subset of the… Read more »

Dave
Dave
16 years ago

DHuff wrote: “So whatever subset of the 20% of “conservatives” who simply can’t abide +Robinson and resolution C051 have a choice: learn to live with the rest of us, or go in peace. Staying, but continuing to be divisive and nasty, is both futile (based on the numbers above) and more importantly doesn’t help anyone.” David, I’ll make the same point again. It is just the 20% of hardcore “liberals” in ECUSA who support the driving through of these devisive and unbiblical changes to christian belief and practice; and they are the ones being nasty to anyone who stands in… Read more »

RB
RB
16 years ago

Hmm. Twenty percent means one out of every five Episcopalians. It apparently includes 12 dioceses, including David Huff’s own diocese. If those 12 dioceses and that 20% “go quietly,” I doubt the results would be anything like quiet. That 20% will not be spread evenly through the country, but will be concentrated especially in the South and Midwest (“red” areas). In those areas, it would mean massive church closings (if the congregation don’t try to take the buildings with them); a lot of these tiny Episcopal churches could not stand that loss. I’m sure David would be happy to know… Read more »

J. Collins Fisher
16 years ago

Apples, meet oranges. David Huff and Dave’s _Rashomon_-like dispute underscores the point of political theorist George Lakoff: the one who *frames* the debate, controls its outcome. If _The Issue_ is “changing what the Bible says about homosexuality,” then that 20-20-60 split is read “80% essentially agree w/ me”, and if _The Issue_ is “changing traditional Anglican polity, in order to split the Church,” then the 20-20-60 split is read “No, 80% essentially agree w/ me.” Is there a way out of the impasse? Not as long as each side insists on its frame, and refuses to see the Truth of… Read more »

J. C. Fisher
16 years ago

“And, inside or outside of the Episcopal Church, we will prevail. We always have, and we always will.” Probably so, RB. That’s what _bullies_ demand: *Power*. Power over others, powers to define who’s in, and who’s out, power to frame the debate (and declare just what the “Scriptures as they are plainly read” say: it’s always _conveniently_ like their *own* agenda). And while they wield power, at the same time bullies always moan and cry, and blame their victims. It’s in knowing my ultimate powerlessness, here on Earth, that I look to Heaven: where the last will be first (and… Read more »

David Huff
David Huff
16 years ago

JCF wrote
“(and declare just what the “Scriptures as they are plainly read” say: it’s always conveniently like their own agenda)”

Which reminded me of one of my favorite quotes:

“You can safely assume that you’ve created God in your own image when it turns out that God hates all the same people you do.” ~Anne Lamott

Dave
Dave
16 years ago

JCF wrote: “no one’s “changing what the Bible says about homosexuality,” because the Bible says nothing about homosexuality.” Hi JF, DH. I wrote about “the gay sex issue”, not homosexual orientation. Men having sex with men is condemned every time it is mentioned by the Bible’s writers, including an apostle or two. That has also been, and still is the teaching of the christian church; and the rest of the communion repeatedly asked ECUSA to refrain from actions that they had been told would be devisive. ECUSA really can’t claim to be either catholic or apostolic any more, nor a… Read more »

J. Collins Fisher
16 years ago

“I wrote about “the gay sex issue”, not homosexual orientation.” No. Sorry, Dave, it doesn’t work that way. “Gay” in its contemporary usage, means the same thing as “homosexual”: “being sexually/romantically-oriented to those of the same sex.” Ergo, it is *just as nonsensical* (anachronistic) to speak of any kind of condemnation of “gay sex” in the Bible, as it is to speak of a condemnation of homosexuality. *The issue is same-sex sexual orientation*: innate (most likely genetic/prenatal in origin), immutable, life-long, completly capable of being healthily (and _faithfully_) expressed, and *by any fair-minded evaluation, God-given*. If one doesn’t *understand* this,… Read more »

Dave
Dave
16 years ago

Hi JCF. What I’m saying is that the act of gay sex is written about in the Bible. What you said a few posts ago was the “the Bible says nothing about homosexuality”. The bible doesn’t use the word homosexuality, but I still think that this arguement is very weak if you mean by it that we can find nothing of relevance in the bible. There are other moral/ethical issues facing us today that were not addressed at all in the bible (human cloning for instance) but even then we can extract principles from the bible to help us in… Read more »

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