Several things Mr. Webster says stand out for me, including:
- "Closing churches outnumber new churches by 2.5 to 1."
- "Just over 40 churches each year are closing based on the data we collect and the data we manage very carefully over the last 39 months. And of course each year that suggests that the number of churches closing is about the size of very small, admittedly, Episcopal diocese each year, offset, in very small part, by new openings."
- " ... we anticipate, of course, a larger number of closings in the near future."
The "Episcopal Congregations Overview: Findings from the 2008 Faith Communities Today Survey," which was delivered to the deputies and bishops at the 2009 General Convention, lays out similarly grim data. As I recall, however, virtually nothing was said about any of this at General Convention.
This should be a wake-up call. But aside from the occasional rhetoric about "moving from maintenance to mission," it appears that many of us are okay with the status quo of allowing the elephant to stay in the living room. I hope I'm wrong about that!
Is there, in fact, a sustained discussion at the highest levels of the Episcopal Church that seeks to proactively address the very serious issues raised by Mr. Webster and the "Episcopal Congregations Overview" report? Is there a plan for dealing with our decline?