Tuesday, April 03, 2007

Church attendance may be dwindling...

...but the Canadians are DOING something about it!

According to Peter Blachford, General Synod treasurer of the Anglican Church of Canada, many parishes have all but abandoned keeping statistics on membership. The most recent data available is for 2001.

This suits many of the laity just fine, judging by the featured letter for last month's 'Anglican Journal'.
Dear editor,
I find myself strangely heartened by General Synod treasurer Peter Blachford’s observation that many dioceses have given up updating membership statistics in favour of more important activities (Church statistics hard to come by, January Journal). This, surely, is how it should be. Jesus told Peter to feed his sheep, not count them. Besides, it is a vain and slippery task to determine at what point a person should be included in Anglican ranks, and at what point he or she can be said to be on the outside. In my experience, many who have long ceased to darken Anglican church doors continue to refer to themselves as Anglicans. By the same token, there are many regular adherents who, if pressed, would admit to some considerable degree of agnosticism along with some doubts about the centrality of the Articles of Religion. Are they Anglicans?

It probably does not matter except to those who would prefer to over-organize our spiritual lives and to entomb our various denominations into manipulable little boxes.

My advice is for congregations to continue downplaying the pointless task of amassing membership statistics and get on with the work of breaking down denominational walls, among other barriers to faith. If journalists, students and directory publishers cannot handle that – tough. Let them do the counting.
Rolf Pedersen
Guelph, Ont.

Well, I won't argue with the "strangely" in the first sentence. For the rest, I'd point out that one of "our various denominations", the United Church, is experiencing all the same financial and membership problems the Anglican Church is. And it would be hard to find any "Article of Religion" whose centrality could pose an obstacle to membership. Yet, according to the January article, this utterly nebulous Protestant church keeps SUPERB records, and always has. Their information and statistics coordinator has a perfectly sensible approach:
“If you are going to look at trends, it’s valuable to have accurate numbers to base policy on. Is a trend real or imagined? The best way to know for sure is to have the hard data,” said Mr. Broadhurst.

But some people find that ignorance, if not blissful, at least gets one off the hook when it comes to answering embarrassing questions, like "How many people have left the Anglican Church in the past 6 years?"


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Mark Steyn likens behavior like this to the difference between Churchill and Hitler in WWII. After the blitz, Churchill used to tour the devastated areas, surveying the damage to get an idea what German capabilities were, how the Londoners' morale was holding up. The Fuehrer, OTOH, would drive around Berlin, in ruins from Allied reprisals, with the curtains drawn on his limo. He couldn't be bothered to know the truth.

11:09 pm  
Blogger Nicholodeon said...

As I understand it, the only dogam existing at this time chez les anglicans is "I believe whatever has been believed by anyone at any time and in any place, if it please me so to do."

Do they still consider themselves to be a Christian body? In keeping with the current Roman Pontiffis teaching, we Orthodox restrict the use of the word 'church' to refer only to those communities that retain a valid episcopate and a viable Eucharist, i.e. The Church of Rome and the Orthodox Churches.

Referring to the pumpkin pie, actually it's one of the four basic food groups.

10:15 am  
Blogger Ellie M said...

This is the equivalent of sticking one's fingers in one's ears and shouting "I can't HEAR you, nyah nyah!!"

1:19 pm  
Blogger Dr. Mabuse said...

It's a bad sign no matter how you look at it. The synod treasurer offers a basic excuse: times are tough, parishes have to cut back personnel, there just isn't the money to keep statistics. I don't know if I entirely believe him - counting people doesn't require expensive equipment or specially trained personnel - but even if it's completely true, this is a picture of a crumbling organization, one that's advancing into senility and losing its memory and history. And that's the *best case* scenario. The WORST case is that record-keeping is being deliberately abandoned for dishonest reasons, because people know something is dreadfully wrong, and are trying to hide from that knowledge. It's like someone with a mysterious pain that he won't go to the doctor to have checked out. And not only are they trying to cheat reality, they are trying to sound virtuous by doing so, implying that only people who are spiritually stunted could care about something as vulgar as NUMBERS, and they've progressed far beyond such base concerns.

2:25 pm  
Blogger little gidding said...

This, surely, is how it should be. Jesus told Peter to feed his sheep, not count them.

Rolf seems not to have heard of the parable of the lost sheep--the shepherd knows he's lost one of his hundred sheep, that he only has ninety-nine, so he sets out to find the one that he's lost ...

You have to count your sheep to know you've lost one out of a hundred.

3:52 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Considering a diminishing congregation is actually easier to count then a burgeoning one, it's most likey that the Good Doctor's worst-case scenario is the most likely one.


9:40 pm  

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