Sunday, October 18, 2009

Crunching the Red Book: 2007

Now that the 2007 Red Book numbers are out, it's time to apply the analysis I performed for the 2006 data. This year I've decided to make a longitudinal comparison for 2004-2007, the years for which data is available on-line.

What is most striking to me is the utter consistency of the numbers. The rates of activities per member (baptisms, marriages, etc.) vary but slightly from year to year, showing a slight decline overall in every category of about 10% over the period. The average rates are as follows:

Baptisms per member: 1.92%
Child: 1.69%
Adult: 0.22%
Receptions: 0.31%
Confirmations: 1.21%
Child: 0.55%
Adult: 0.65%
Marriages: 0.70%
Burials: 1.50%

As before, the rates are in proportion to each other. Burials are a bit more than twice marriages, and the latter is slightly less than child baptisms. The disturbing number, as before, is the departure rate. Baptisms plus receptions together are 50% greater than burials, and adding adult confirmations just makes it worse. Somewhere in excess of six thousand people appear to leave the Episcopal Church every year, or about 2.6% of the total membership; this contrasts with average net losses each year of about 1.9% of the membership.

So who is leaving? The conventional wisdom is that it happens soon after teens leave home. puzzling this out of the data is difficult. It's reasonable to assume that child baptisms roughly represent births to Episcopalian parents, and these happen at over the replacement rate at about 2.4 baptisms per marriage. (Note that there is an error possibility here, because of course not all Episcopalians marry within the church. I'm assuming for the moment that marriages that take people out of the church are balanced by marriages that bring people into the church; I'll account for that assumption in a moment.) Now, according to the CDC, about 10% of the population who survives to age 15 never marries. This is surprisingly consistent with the marriage to burial rate, although accounting for successive marriages would lead to a lower expected rate of burials to marriages. Another factor here is that people who are dying now were generally married a long time ago, mostly when the church was quite a bit larger. There actually should be a substantial excess of burials to marriages. Therefore there does seem to be a large outflow of people who have had children and then left. Probably the larger outflow is those that leave before marrying, but at the moment I haven't figured a way to puzzle this out of the data. One of the contributors to this rate is people who marry out of the church (e.g., to Catholics-- we generally would lose these marriages and the subsequent child baptisms to the Catholic church).

At any rate, the evidence is clear: poor retention is what is causing the church to decline.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

2008: The Numbers

After a not particularly illuminating PR dance between KJS and Frank Lockwood, the 2008 stats have been released. See churchwide totals for 2004-2008 and breakdown by diocese for 2007 and 2008 if you like your numbers numeric; you can get graphs on individual parishes here, but they don't show specific numbers and the scale for ASA is too small.

Looking through the last shows a number of cases where the graph shows unchanged numbers for some years. A bit further investigation shows that, at least in some cases, the reason of these reports is that the parish no longer exists, generally because they've split off; the diocese apparently has simply repeated the parochial numbers from the last year before the split. These phantom parishes, if recorded accurately, would surely noticeably increase the reported rate of decline.

And that decline continues as before: membership is down 3% and ASA is down 3%, values which have obtained ever since Robinson's election and consecration. More noteworthy is that, after years of increases, P&P is also down. Moving on to the diocesan figures, the big story is the departure of over 75% of the Diocese of San Joaquin. The other three departing dioceses hadn't left in 2008, but next year's number will no doubt show substantial losses for those as well, not to mention the possibility the South Carolina and perhaps others may call it quits on ECUSA. ASA numbers are as usual quite depressing, with the only large increases being either foreign (see Haiti, the largest ECUSA diocese BTW) or tiny (Navaholand's 5.3% increase sounds good until you realize that the diocese's total ASA is about the same as the ASA of three median parishes), excepting a few southeastern cases.

Thus, the seemingly relentless decline continues: three percent a year, every year, since 2003, after a decade of stable numbers.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Spiked by the elves

So-- Sarah1 (who I believe to be Sarah Hey of StandFirm fame, though I of course could be wrong), dumps a load on me, and the T19 elves spike my response. Well, it's 2009, and I won't be censored so easily.

Here's her comment.

My response:
Which takes me to Sarah's first false assertion. I'll start by saying that she's changed the subject, or rather, that she has cast a bunch of people into the mix who are objectionable for reasons whose variety essentially belies her own thesis. Bennison, after all, is objectionable as much for the way he hid his brother as he is for his episcopal tyranny. Having seen several flaps about things our presiding bishop has said, I personally cannot penetrate her inarticulate pronouncements so far as to establish exactly how heretical her theology is. Chane-- well, on the one hand there was his "I will chastize you with scorpions" inaugural sermon; on the other hand I have heard that he has actually backed down from the confrontational stance with his conservative parishes that characterized Dixon's interregnum. So, I ask, where is the endorsement of Spong's systematic apostasy in any of this? If you want to claim that Jane Dixon endorsed it, give me a citation! In my hearing she has never said any such thing.

And if you you aren't interested in anyone listening, then you jolly well ought to stop jamming the airwaves by talking. What the hell-- who are you trying to save, anyway? It seems to me that you are only preaching to your own little faction and don't even care to increase its numbers. Yeah, there are a lot of dogged partisans out there, and you regularly volunteer (as in this response) to be numbered among them. Let's hit the wayback machine: WRT the possibility of Forrester getting his consents, you wrote: "This is TEC, remember. I think there will be a fine crew of Standing Committees and bishops who do not vote to confirm. But the vast majority of bishops and Standing Committees will do so . . . thus further demonstrating the thing we’ve all been talking about. You then predicted that he would get consents from 3/4s of the bishops, 2/3s at the least. Acto Frank Lockwood, he didn't even get a majority. So what does that mean? I take it at face value: bishops do not think or act as if the various issues are one integral piece.

Your hyperbole about dialogue between a communist and a libertarian exemplifies exactly how your rhetoric pollutes. Communists are ideologues, and libertarians (at least all the ones I have met) are ideologues; but not every Episcopalian is an ideologue, nor every cleric in this church. And even the ideologues are not always ideologues about everything in the same way.

The thing is, I knew Jane Dixon's sermons quite well, because I heard them every Sunday morning the last year or so that I was a parishioner at St. Philips, Laurel. I didn't really like her then, though I came to dislike the direction of the parish to the point where I bailed out. When she became bishop, and especially in her days of acting bishop after Haines's retirement, I might have commented that she was one of those bishops who put the "despot" in despota (EO joke there). But in all my Sundays of hearing her preach, I heard neither the Unitarianism of some clerics nor the Tillichian apostasy that is Spong's theology. She preached middle-of-the-road broad stuff.

This is one of the reasons why the reasserter schismatics are going to lose most of the church: they won't admit that both they and Spong-ite crazies are both small factions. Probably few Episcopalians have so rock-solid a theology as to make the schismatics happy, but I suspect that a majority can say the Nicene Creed without having to cross their fingers. Misrepresenting this just makes the critics of the current regime into a bunch of, well, right-wing, loudmouth, intolerant jerks.

And you don't get points in heaven for this, either, if that's what you're looking for.

Monday, October 05, 2009

Crone-ies Are Our Future

I don't recommend the StandFirm thread which called my attention to this. There is too much snark about the "simple country bishop", and the comments degenerate into argument about homosexuality which is not as snarky as the typical SF commentary, but which is not especially germane to the subject of the post.

That subject is the September newsletter of the Episcopal Diocese of Washington. It's not surprising that it has a lot of material about General Convention, or that this material goes off about how inclusive the church is. One despairs of seeing a convention eucharist anywhere outside of, say, Ft. Worth where traditional vestments are worn and a solemn rite is used; apparently that's not celebratory enough, judging from the pictures. Pep rally liturgy doesn't include me, but we all know that a white college-educated married man who wants Rite II straight up and sky-high is not the guy they want to include. Some of the other features get plenty more snark from the SF folks than they deserve, particularly an article about children's bibles which begins with some snark of its own, but then goes on to suggest, well, editions from surprisingly orthodox sources-- did anyone expect someone from Mt. St. Alban to recommend a book published by Zondervan, never mind Adoremus?

But then we get to the "monthly meditation", and we find ourselves reading about "crones". Now, as Ms. Lanyi doesn't quite get around to admitting, "crone" as she uses it comes straight from the whole Wiccan-Gravesian "triple goddess" fantasy. One gets some sense of how things have fallen from the days when Florence King's south (of Southern Ladies and Gentlemen Fame) was terrorized by Dear Old Things, Rocks, and Dowagers (in her taxonomy), so that it can be suggested in this day that an older woman needs some sort of masonic ritual or some such thing to justify her exercise of whatever womanly power she has. And it's ironic that Ms. Lanyi, having just said that crones need a ritual that doesn't look like something pagan, then proceeds to set forth exactly that sort of ritual. For an Episcopalian, it isn't as though we don't have ample material of our own for such a thing. One can mine the Book of Occasional Services for rites for just about anything, and besides that, one can see between that and the BCP the basic Anglican skeleton for constructing such a rite. A versicle and response, a reading from apposite scripture (and it isn't as though there aren't scriptural models for older women), a psalm, invocation of the Holy Spirit...

Instead, what we get is a neo-pagan ritual addressed, more or less, to a different god. Inside of that is exactly what they world recommends in this age: a ritual of mutual self-affirmation. It seems to me that a genuinely powerful woman would dispense with this and do it the old-fashioned way: through sheer force of personality. On another level, I don't want to ridicule the Red Hat Society for what it really is, but it really ought to be admitted that "When I am old, I shall go out to lunch with a club of other women, all wearing red hats" really cuts the heart out of the poem. The sentiment is much the same, and it is once again the antithesis of taking up one's cross.

I would be more likely to dismiss this as an aberration if I had never seen the trial liturgies of the ongoing round of liturgical revision. They are dominated by the same borrowing from pagan sources, except that the borrowing is concealed by using scriptural texts which, in their liturgical context, are assigned the same readings that the neo-pagans and their new age fellow travellers assign to our scriptures. It's at this point that I turn into a 1979 traditionalist. I see no reason to accept liturgy which is constructed at the dictate of non- and often anti-Christian authorities. But there seems to be no stopping it. Once we get gay marriages dogmatized, it seems as though it will be impossible to subject this stuff to any kind of reasonable theological test.