Thursday, September 21, 2017

Reshaping Away the Creed

Matthew S.C. Olver's assessment of Ruth A. Meyers's "revised edition" of Leonel Mitchell's seminal Praying Shapes Believing heads right into the issues which make me an opponent of the push to "revise" the prayer book. Now, Mitchell having been dead this past half-decade, and thus not in a position to take exception to this, there is a serious problem with this notion of a "revision" of his work in the first place. It's not too much to say that Meyers has, in reality, co-opted Mitchell's voice in pushing a program which, at least in the passages which Olver highlights, is quite at odds with what Mitchell said the first time around. I have to say that she needed to have published her own book and left his well enough alone.

But those passages: the changes that raise my hackles the most are those which address the place of the creeds, both in worship and in the doctrine of the church. Consider this:

In her other books, Meyers cites other issues that might be addressed Meyers in a future prayer-book revision. One of those is the Nicene Creed. Meyers replaces a sentence of Mitchell’s that acclaims the creed as sign of unity and renewal of the Baptismal Covenant with a clause noting that it “provides material for both an historical and a systematic theology.”

It is not an essential part of the liturgy,” she adds. “It was introduced into Eastern liturgies in the early sixth century and was only added to the liturgy at Rome in the eleventh century. The core beliefs of the church are expressed in the eucharistic prayers, which carries much of the theological weight of the liturgy on weekdays when the creed is not proclaimed” (pp. 158-59). The complicating issue, of course, is that in Enriching Our Worship, any gendered proper names of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit and their subsisting relations disappear. This disappearance is only exacerbated if the Creed is not used, as Meyers seems to favor and as Enriching our Worship appears to allow.

One is moved to ask why the creed was added, but then it's easy enough to guess why there is such pressure to take it back out: not because it is unnecessary, but because it is offensive. In the rhythm of the first half of our eucharistic liturgy (the "Liturgy of the Word") it is the high point of a sequence in which we praise God, we hear his word, we have it interpreted and elaborated for us, and we respond with an act of anamnesis: the ancient statement of our church's faith, as we have it from the church fathers. In this wise the Eastern name for it, the Symbol of Faith, is entirely apropos. And it is entirely reasonable to come at Enriching Our Worship with the observation that it wishes to permit, and perhaps even to establish, deviation from that ancient faith. Beyond the in my opinion misbegotten gender issues, the direction taken is away from anything definite and towards a liturgy that eliminates acknowledgement of our subordination to the godhead and especially to what that the Lord has already said. This is particular evident in her attitude towards the general confession:

When Meyers discusses the frequency of the general confessions, she adds the clarification that “there is no ancient precedent for a general confession of sin at any point in the eucharistic liturgy” (p. 152). This is a bit misleading, since there is precedence for preparatory prayers of penitence by clergy of both Eastern and Western churches, the use of the Confiteor from at least the 11th century in the West, and most importantly the requirement that a Christian confess all serious sins sacramentally before receiving Communion. The rejection of the necessity of auricular confession at the reformations leads to the appearance of general confessions. Without this background, one is left with the impression that confessions are simply an incursion into the eucharistic liturgy. This perspective is furthered because Meyers deletes a sentence by Mitchell that notes, “The confession of sin is an integral part of our common prayers and an important preparation for worship.”

Well, yeah. Her bland remarks are utterly at variance with pre-reformation practice, about as far back as we are aware of. But simply erasing Mitchell's position on this: that is really beyond the pale.

It is increasingly apparent that the 1979 book, far from being the liberation from old Anglican tradition that the progressive party wants, somehow managed to re-embody that tradition in corpus of the newly written rites. Even Prayer C, that last minute and entirely novel construction, spends too much time on our sinful rebellion to go down easy in the new revision. And those patriarchs: what an embarrassing gaffe! So now we have to start over again, and make the liturgy safe for the unrepentant and the apostate. You can guess my assessment that: ANATHEMA!

Thursday, September 07, 2017

Appomattox in the Cathedral

So the word has come down that the Lee and Jackson windows are being removed, consigned to some undetermined fate. Those who have read my earlier responses here and here may anticipate, correctly, that I am not terribly happy about this, but the events in Charlottesville surely sealed their doom.

Mark Tooley's article in First Things is a bit of a mess, and the comments of course are mostly a cesspool of posturing, but he manages to convey some of the rather mixed message of the cathedral fabric. This report produced by the task force set up to advise the cathedral on the windows is not particularly illuminating in its own right and especially as to the motivations of anyone other than a UDC member (you knew the Daughters were going to figure in this), and her offering is a classic in Lost Cause thinking, but when it comes down to it either Bishop Freeman (who was an upper crust New Yorker from birth) was misrepresented in his stated desire for a Lee memorial, or there were a number of Yankees who helped push this thing along. My impression was that they found Lee and then Jackson, who was added fairly late in the development of the memorial, honorable and even admirable figures; they were also plainly having Westminster Abbey delusions, into which certain prominent southern figures dovetailed nicely. And at least it was Jackson, and not Leonidas Polk. But while the cathedral has managed to maintain its claim to national religious ceremony (as witnessed most recently by its dogged participation in the Trump inaugural in defiance of progressive pressure), its memorials are scattered and unsystematic. Nowhere is this more evident than in the windows, which, except for Rowan leCompte's clerestory series, vary widely in style and subject, with the only pattern dictated by age and taste, and, well, by donors.

Those images form part of a fabric that is at once anamnetic and forward-looking in hope. "A house of prayer for all people" was an objective from the start, and while one can of course feel a certain hubris in the Episcopal assumption that they were ordained to do the uniting, the cathedral as a building stands as a monument to the idea of a nation gathered together in prayer. But the Episcopal Church itself has abandoned any such vision. Our leadership still suffers from the notion that they, by virtue of their positions, ought to be heeded, but they in reality have come to speak for a narrowed position that is still caught in the old boomer progressive contradiction of being simultaneously rebellious against authorities and utterly captured by leftist academia's elitist notions.

The torch-bearing mob in Charlottesville tipped the balance, of course: with Lee and Jackson being shrouded and indeed any figure on the wrong side of modern judgement about the war being taken away in the night, it was inevitable that the windows would be secularized and taken away to ignominy. But with their removal comes another moment of national irreconciliation. The national battle is not between alt-right fascists and righteous leftists, for the vast bulk of the nation would have neither in control in the end, contrary to the alarmists who serve the major political interests. Too many people have defended taking down the statues by making anachronistic attacks on Lee's character; he was no saint, nor were any of the other generals on either side, but to reduce him to a mere traitor is to apply a judgement out of time and in denial of a genuine conflict of loyalty. This is rewriting history, and while I have laughed at the romanticism of the Southern cause ever since I was old enough to understand the antics of the North Carolinians who populate my father's family, the current angry certainty of the left trivializes the issues faced by southerners when the war began. And my sense is that we have still further into a national ethos where the constraining civic virtues-- honor, loyalty, duty, respect-- shrink further from public life and become merely weapons: increasingly ineffectual, as the last presidential election showed. It is often said on the left that these were always honored more in the breach than the observance, but I do not believe that; and at any rate, if we do not aspire to them, the alternative is, well, the increasing nastiness we have now instead.

I'm not writing nasty or sorrowful letters to the cathedral, if only because I do not believe they will value my opinion. I have to hope that Dean Hollerith and Bishop Budde, unlike their immediate predecessors, will be able to deal with the empty tracery with some sensitivity instead of a display of triumphalist self-righteousness. And I pray that they can find a way to include those outside the progressive circle in the future of our national cathedral.

Wednesday, August 30, 2017

Attendance, Two Decades On

Back in 2010 I put up this post on ASA for the period 1992-2008. I cannot find the data I used for the charts in that post, but with a little snooping around I did find data for 1995 to 2015, so here we have charts for Average Sunday Attendance in the domestic dioceses. First, the totals:

Next, the percent change per year:

In the latter chart you can see that, yes, once again, 2011 shows the Christmas Sunday effect, which we will see again either this year or next as well. And you can see that, yes, 2003 was the watershed year, and that, excepting 2011, we have lost attendance steadily ever since. I didn't draw charts for the dioceses, but you can see the total change here (noting that Quincy doesn't appear, it having disappeared in the period):

Those two green patches are the only gainers; Western North Carolina had essentially no change. Everyone else lost attendance, predominately in the 30-50% range, with the four surviving split dioceses having lost in excess of 70% each. I'm hoping to go through Red Book data and see what I can do about other diocesan statistics in a later post, but this is bad enough: 3% a year, year by year, for over a decade now.

Thursday, August 24, 2017

The Diocese by The Numbers: Prelude to 2016

Well, I discovered in check a few parishes last night that R&S has (mostly) put up new charts. I say "mostly" because, as was the case last year, South Carolina's diocese chart is missing, and it appears that St. Savior at St. John the Divine in NYC has been bad and didn't report numbers this year, because there's no change in their chart.

In good news, it looks like replacing the dean at National Cathedral is continuing to pay off in increased attendance: ASA is up 20% from its 2014 low. Grace Church Brunswick also continues to climb, though we'll have to see how things go now that Anjel Scarborough is moving to a new parish. Other than that, the news tends to be lackluster performance in all directions. For the national church I'll be waiting for the tables, but spot checking shows that dioceses tend to be showing slight declines, with Nevada again the conspicuous exception; Maryland, however, is showing the increase we were promised a year earlier, and Washington may also have posted a small increase, so it's possible that this may be the first year in a while that the church as a whole doesn't post a 3% loss. I'll have to go through all the parishes again to see where the Maryland increase came from but I can tell you that my home parish was not one of those contributing.

2017 will be a Christmas year for ASA, so if we get better numbers this year, we might get two years of apparently good news in a row. Or at least, perhaps not consistently bad news.

Monday, August 14, 2017

The Diocese by the Numbers: Next Door

I have run some of the same analyses on the Diocese of Washington, and have come up with some quite surprising results: although some of the aggregate numbers are similar, the details are almost entirely different.

Let's start with some geography, and then some history. The diocese of Washington was carved out of the Diocese of Maryland because what at its peak was over two hundred parishes (and probably close to it, back in the day) is way too much for one bishop to administer. (Easton, the eastern shore portion, was split off much sooner, I would guess due to travel issues during the Civil War.) Back then, both dioceses had an urban core surrounded by a great sea of rural space, but this similarity was deceptive, and the evolution of both the city and especially the suburbs would lead to very different social contexts for the two.

Washington, now, consists of a central mass of urban density wrapped by a blanket of outer suburbs that fades to nothing on the south side, and bracketed by two very different rural areas. The Western end is like Diocese of Maryland territory, with a mixture of farm and outer suburbs and a sprinkling of late Vicky carpenter gothic town churches. The southern one contains the oldest settlements in the state and is served by scattered chapels of ease, mostly Georgian in style. The diocese also contains the black heartland of the state. Maryland by contrast has a large rural western area which is isolated, very white, and Appalachian more than farm rural, and the built-up urban area is much smaller, but also poorer. Howard (in the diocese of Maryland) and Montgomery (in Washington) are at the top of the income pyramid in the entire country, but Montgomery is much larger, and over a third of it is essentially city, whereas Howard has no truly urban area at all (Columbia being, when all is said and done, an experiment in making a really large subdivision). Economically, DC and its suburbs have waxed and waxed, while Baltimore has waned.

In the orthodoxy wars, the two dioceses were both focal points, but with very different issues, policies, and outcomes. The big story in DC, of course, was the fight over imposing Jane Dixon on several conservative parishes; the diocese won, in the end, and I don't know of any parishes which left all or in part. Maryland, on the other hand, was a focus of resistance, as symbolized in the Baltimore Declaration, but also as realized in the departure of two parishes and the riving of St. Peter's Ellicott City, which has suffered through other crises since and is only now, perhaps, showing signs of recovery.

And then, of course, there is the National Cathedral, which shows something else about DC: it has big destination parishes.

So, enough prelude, and on to the music. Washington also shows ASA loss through the decade, but not to the same degree: 23% to Maryland's 27%. It lost fewer parishes as well, three to Maryland's ten, though in the latter case there were actually twelve losses and two missions started. I don't have information on whether any of the Washington parishes started in this time frame, but there's nothing to suggest that any did. Now, the cathedral, in 2005, accounted for more than 10% of diocesan ASA, so when it is excluded, the two dioceses have close to comparable attendance, with Washington running about 2,000 larger at both ends of the decade. But the cathedral's attendance tanked starting in 2012, which perhaps not coincidentally is when Gary Hall arrived as dean, so that attendance in 2015 was about two-thirds that in 2005. The rest of the parishes declined, in the aggregate, 21%.

In the midst of this, another number stands out: parishes in Washington are just bigger. I didn't go through the work needed to get specific numbers for each parish, so I cannot give a median, but the mean parish in Washington (ignoring the cathedral) had an ASA of 163 in 2005 and 135 a decade later; Maryland's average parish started smaller (113) and shrunk more, to say nothing of the closures.

Staffing is another area where there are conspicuous differences. Washington doesn't do permanent deacons, and thus I found a single deacon listed in the entire diocese. I didn't keep track of associate positions, but I did some of the same analysis for rectors and priests-in-charge that I did for Maryland, and found strikingly different patterns. Maryland, recall, has a lot of home-grown priests and many cases where the newly-ordained stepped directly into being the sole priest in a parish. Neither pattern obtains in Washington: half as many rectors in Washington were ordained in that diocese, and only five went directly from being ordained to running a parish. (One of the latter was ordained in Maryland by, yes, Eugene Sutton.) Beyond that, Washington rectors represent a wider range of dioceses, with the more conservative dioceses better represented (which is to say, at all): Two were ordained by Duncan in Pittsburgh; one from Salmon in South Carolina. But then there is not a lot of commonality between the lists for the two dioceses: the total number is about the same, but only eleven show up in both lists, and other than the two home dioceses, only Virginia has more than one in both lists, no doubt due to the bishop there accosting VTS graduates. Only five parishes were in transition (I think-- there was one person whose peregrinations greatly confused this) as compared to three times the number in Maryland.

And then there is money. I have recently come across this table which is particularly interesting, as it reports non-P&P income, such as endowments. The range in the latter is extreme: ignoring Navaholand, which gets major support from the national church, on the one end we see New York in which P&P accounts for just under half of total revenue, and at the other Upper South Carolina, where P&P accounts for 95%. Now, the cathedral again undoubtedly skews Washington numbers, considering that out of P&P of $33M, it supplies $2M; I have no idea how much it skews endowment income but the contribution must be substantial. Nonetheless, again, in nearly every way Washington is more prosperous than Maryland: people give more, the pledges are larger, and the non-P&P income is larger; and all of this is spread across fewer parishes with more attendees. The only place were Maryland comes out ahead is in the plate, where the average attendee gives $371 a year versus $319 in Washington. One is tempted to assume this reflects the basic prosperity of the two regions.

Saturday, August 12, 2017

The Diocese by the Numbers: Clergy

Let me say first off that this is largely going to be about rectors, vicars, and priests-in-charge, mostly because only twenty out of 104 parishes have more than one priest, though nineteen have a deacon (with some overlap with those with assisting clergy). I also counted associated retired clergy as best I could; these tended to be concentrated in a few parishes, and I'm pretty sure the list of supply clergy would add to that considerably.

Collecting data was a bit of an adventure; mostly I worked through parish websites, but resorted to the Parish Finder when I came upon a website that didn't say who the rector was. The diocesan parish finder is very good, featuring a Google-maps-enabled list that was easy to use. Every parish has a website; the diocese saw to that a long time back, but some are more forthcoming than others. The parish finder, however, has a lot of trouble with handling the problem cases, because of various naming inconsistencies, and in a number of cases I was forced to list all parishes in the Baltimore area and go through them by zip code.

Once I had the name of a priest, the clergy finder usually came up with a date for the current position, and ordination date, bishop and diocese. Usually. Finding people was made somewhat annoying because the search could not deal with dashes, periods, or apostrophes in the name anywhere; the flip side was that once I got those out, the search was very aggressive and generally found the person right away, and eventually I was able to find everyone. That didn't always mean I found good information: sometimes position data wasn't recorded, and for priests received or transferred I could not tell where they came from, though in half the cases I could get some idea from the parish website.

I counted people as follows: everything was based on the present head of the parish except that if someone had been named rector but not yet assumed the position, I still counted them. The alternative was a significant bump in the interim numbers, which I didn't see as helpful. I recorded the date they came, their ordination date, and the ordaining diocese, and also counted total priests ignoring retired associates, number of deacons, and other associates. Cases where I could not get this info were divided into interims, supply (some parishes only use supply priests as a going thing), transfers (i.e., not ordained in ECUSA, but this doesn't include those where I could find out where they came from), and no info at all.

So, the big numbers: of the 104 parishes, four use supply priests, twelve are in transition, and three I had no info on; three were transfers from unknown dioceses. That leaves 83 parishes where I had data on the principal priest. And here is where Maryland starts to look interesting: 38 of those were priested in the diocese, sixteen of them since Sutton's consecration. His hands must be burning.

What is more striking is that at least fifteen priests seem to have come into rectorship directly from ordination, including two cases where they were ordained after they took charge of a parish. There are five more who took a rectorship within two years of ordination. There appear to be some 4-5 cases where someone was ordained specifically for a particular parish. Median years from ordination to a parish charge is seven; the mean is much higher mostly due to a few very long-serving priests.

A similar pattern is seen when we look at tenure, in which we can see those few long-timers directly:

In fact the second and fifth longest tenures belong to a married couple, serving out in western Maryland, but they are quite exceptional: the median tenure is six years, and the vast majority of priests got their positions under Sutton. I cannot say whether this represents a change from the past; the large number of transitions suggests that it might be, but as I don't have a good way to get tenures for recent departures, I cannot say.

The priests I can get info on represent a relatively small number of dioceses. Maryland, as I mentioned, accounts for about 40% of the total; twenty-eight other dioceses accounted for the other others, including four outside ECUSA (two in Africa, one each in Canada and the Bahamas). Of those, eight dioceses supplied more than one priest, with Virginia ordaining five. They do not represent a particularly theologically diverse group, although Howe in Central Florida did ordain one, and there are some from generally moderate dioceses (e.g. two from Southern Ohio).

I have no word from Bishop Sutton or from anyone else for that matter about the strategy, but what we are seeing here is an experiment in a clerisy which is relatively inexperienced and locally made. But not necessarily all that young: I have no age statistics, but there is still a lot of "have a career and then get ordained" going on, though associate priests appear to tend young, and female. Women head 37% of parishes with a permanent head, but it's clear that this number is going to climb, and increasingly, prominent parishes are headed by women. How does this compare to other dioceses? Well, in my next post we'll be taking a look at Washington.

Sunday, July 30, 2017

The Diocese by the Numbers; Money

Let me start by saying that I have no idea how endowments fit into the money picture. "Plate and Pledge" tends to suggest that endowment income is not included, but if someone knows otherwise, by all means say so in the comments. Here's the thing: if they be included in the numbers about to be discussed, then we're looking at a worst-case analysis; they be excluded, then the will tend to ameliorate the results.

On the diocesan chart, one can see that P&P has hardly changed in a decade, and indeed as we shall see, parishes tend to show something of the same pattern. But there is a wrinkle in that, because, as we saw previously, attendance is almost universally shrinking. What's compensating for this is that those who are staying are giving more, by a factor of about 42%:

That produces the following chart, showing percent change in P&P, both with and without the 42% adjustment. Unadjusted, parishes tend to show a slight increase; adjusted, P&P shows losses.

I should say at this point that I do not know how the adjustment factor compares with inflation over the same period, but it isn't unreasonable to surmise that it reflects increases in attendee income. It is striking how close the adjusted 2005 distribution of P&P per attendee is to the 2015 numbers:

So now we get to the question of money as it relates to parish viability. One might crudely divide parish spending into four parts:

  • Keeping lights on
  • Keeping the roof up
  • Keeping the priest going
  • Outreach and charity
Please don't comment on this or that line item I've left out; I said it was crude. Anyway, the diocese does give guidelines for the third item, based upon the size of the parish. So here we have P&P versus attendance, with those guidelines marked:
In this case I have truncated the chart on the right to show only those parishes with ASA of 100 or less, in order to show the smaller parishes in greater detail. The general diagonal trend of the data points continues, rising considerably faster than the guideline trend, so that the bigger parishes are obviously not at financial risk. That's obviously not the case at the low end. The orange line represents the recommended total compensation, and the red line is the lower end of the range they give; the green line marks the border between the lowest and second lowest attendance categories.

Looking at this chart, it's hard to see how any parish with ASA below forty is independently viable; most of them cannot afford even to compensate the priest, much less keep the doors open, without considerable aid from the diocese. With ASA between forty and eighty, the situation is not so dire, but there are a large proportion which lack adequate income. Above eighty, the compensation standards retreat as a threat. OK, so here is where that fits into the larger picture: twenty-four parishes do not have an income sufficient to meet the standards, or somewhat less than a quarter of all parishes. Just looking at ASA, sixty-four parishes have attendance of eighty or less, or 61% of all parishes.

What this means in terms of diocesan finances is that, just to maintain the status quo, there has to be a substantial transfer from the larger, wealthier parishes to the small, even ignoring the possibility of priests working part-time or serving multiple parishes. And the situation is vulnerable to economic deflation on the one hand and further losses on the other.

Monday, July 24, 2017

The Diocese by the Numbers: Attendance

So, having looked at the diocese in the large, in this round we will be looking at parish attendance. For those who are new to these analyses, I reiterate my disregard of the membership numbers, because they are poorly maintained: they tend to change abruptly when a rector leaves because the interim directs someone to clean up the rolls, but as a rule there isn't much of a correlation between membership and attendance. Besides, parishes are dependent upon activity, not mere membership, and ASA is the best gauge of that activity we have.

First, the averages. Parishes tend to the small side: while the mean attendance in 2015 was 92 people on a Sunday, the median attendance was considerably smaller, at 67 attendees, and the largest parish (St. Anne's Annapolis) has ASA of 491, 50 more than the next largest (St. John's Ellicott City). A bit under three quarters of parishes have under a hundred attending on the average Sunday.

The shrinkage in a decade is striking, because it appears almost across the board. First of all, thirteen parishes closed, while only two were started: St. Hilda's, to replace St. Timothy's Catonsville, and Church in the Square, a mission in Baltimore which is too new to appear in the statistics.Working with the others, we find in 2005 a mean ASA of 120 and a median of 88. Now, this is biased by the losses: even considering the size of St. Tim's (it was a pretty big parish as those things go), most parishes which closed did so because they weren't viable, and therefore could be presumed to fall at the low end; it is likely that the averages for all parishes active in 2005 were someone lower than the calculated values. But the message for those that survived is clear: they showed considerable losses.

And indeed, very few parishes showed any gains, and these were all small parishes. Only thirteen parishes had gains, and all of them had ASA under 100; on a percentage basis, all the large gains were in parishes with small enough attendance to where even gaining a single attendee made a substantial difference. Three parishes showed no change, and all the rest showed losses. The pattern of losses is quite different from that of the gains: the biggest parishes tended to have somewhat smaller losses, but even so, excepting the top ten parishes, the losses are spread out evenly across a range up to 60%, and the number four parish (All Saints Frederick) showed a loss of 42%.

And in absolute numbers, the losses in larger parishes dominated gains (note that the losers on top of the axis in this chart):

There is a distinct geographic pattern to the gains: six of the ten parishes showing substantial percentage gains are to the west, with Harriet Chapel Thurmont the only one east of Catoctin Mountain. By contrast, there is little pattern to the losers, but most of the closures were in or near Baltimore, the exception being in or near Frederick. The largest parishes are central, with two exceptions:

  • St. Anne’s, Annapolis
  • St. John’s, Ellicott City
  • Redeemer, Baltimore
  • St. Margaret’s, Annapolis
  • All Saints, Frederick
  • Cathedral of the Incarnation, Baltimore
  • St. James’, Lafayette Square (Baltimore)
  • Christ Church, Columbia
  • St. Martin’s in-the-Field, Severna Park
  • St. Thomas, Owings Mills
  • St. James, Lothian
  • St. John’s, Hagerstown
Again, the smallest parishes show no particular pattern.

While I cannot, with the data I have, show the closed parishes in the various breakdowns, we do know how much attendance these parishes represented. There is a difference of 565 in attendance between the total for diocese reported in 2005 and the sum for the 104 surviving parishes (omitting Church on the Square). The diocese reported 116 parishes in 2005, so the mean ASA for the departures and closures was about 47; together they represented a bit over 4% of the total. The loss of these parishes accounted for over 15% of the total loss, which was %27 of 2005 ASA; but the surviving parishes, themselves, had a 24% decline.

The overall picture is thus negative in almost every way. We are losing parishes, and our parishes are losing people. Unless the pattern changes dramatically, continued losses will lead to continued closures.

In the next post: money.

Saturday, July 08, 2017

The Diocese by the Numbers: Prelude

Well, I changed my mind, and I have gone through all the parish charts, so I'm going to take a post or two to run over the diocesan statistics over the past decade (which is to say, from 2005 to 2015).

Before I talk methodology I would like to talk about some of the overall numbers from the diocesan tables. The diocese as a whole has seen losses in numbers characteristic of the church as a whole, with ten years of 3% per annum losses adding up to a loss for the decade of 35%. This includes the loss of fifteen parishes, of which two left and the others closed. One mission started, not counting St. Hilda's, the replacement for St. Timothy Catonsville; it will not post numbers until 2016.

So how do the parish numbers reflect this? Well, ignoring the closures and departures, only eight parishes showed increases in attendance. Parishes tend to run on the small side: there were only eight parishes with attendance over two hundred in 2015. Three parishes showed no change; all of the rest showed declines. Financially, plate and pledge (P&P) shows a consistent trend of a 42% gain per attendee, regardless of parish size; that said, a lot of parishes do not see P&P income sufficient to support a full time priest.

So now, some methodology. I used two main sources: the charts from Research and Statistics, and the diocesan journal, which lists parishes and closure dates, if relevant. I also had at my disposal a listing of current ASA from the diocesan convention. This last was used as a cross check on ASA as calculated from the charts. Now, the charts, as images, present some difficulties leading to some small inaccuracies. I calculated values by (effectively) counting pixels; it was not clear, however, exactly where the zero line was, and the number of people/dollars represented by one pixel varied according to the overall scale. The quality of these numbers was further reduced for ASA because the determining value for overall scale was membership, typically four to six times attendance. Comparison of actual and calculated numbers showed a slight tendency to undercounting, on the order of 1%. There are likewise errors of the same order, aggravated by difficulties in precisely locating the centers of the dots on the chart, for P&P; I had nothing to work with to check parish-by-parish values on this, however.

A more serious problem arises in counting parishes themselves. The numbers I calculated from the convention journal do not precisely correspond to the totals on the Red Book; it appears to be the case that parishes may continue to be counted for several years after their actual closure. The more serious problem is that there are plain errors in the journal, which get worse as one goes backward in time. In looking at parish websites I found one parish which it did not list, for example. It also does not give dates for foundation of parishes; this was less of a problem since very few parishes are newly founded. In the end I found it necessary to cut off counts of parishes at 1960.

The loss of parishes presents another issue: in some respects the numbers for 2005 are distorted because I do not have a source for those parishes which have disappeared from the records. This is ameliorated to some degree for attendance, because the total attendance for the diocese is recorded, and therefore I can work out how much is represented by the missing parishes; for plate and pledge, however, I have nothing. When we look at these numbers, however, it seems to me that this lack is probably not significant.

So let us start with three charts for the diocese in aggregate. The first is that from Research and Statistics:

Here we see the typical decline of a mainstream east coast diocese. And here we have the parishes:

Finally, we have the average attendance per active parish, by year:

This last chart is most significant, because it shows a more serious problem: it's not just closing parishes, but parishes shrinking regardless of closures.

Next we will look at attendance on a parish-by-parish basis.

Friday, April 21, 2017

Parish "Growth"

Lately there has been a trope in this diocese of stories about "growing" congregations. For instance, we have this ENS story joining St. John's Havre de Grace to Resurrection Baltimore; meanwhile we have this upbeat Baltimore Sun piece on St. Peter's Ellicott City.

So let's look at the history of these places, courtesy of Research and Statistics handy charts. The picture they paint isn't terribly upbeat: yes, these parishes show increases, but only if you look at the past few years. Starting with St. John's: ASA in 2005 was about 45, and ASA in 2015 was just under fifty. What we're seeing here may turn into growth in the long run, but what the chart shows is a marginal parish which had a brush with dissolution. Resurrection is a bit harder to puzzle out because the apparent metamorphosis into a Spanish-language mission isn't reflected anywhere that I can see. But there's that chart again, which shows a parish on the verge of extinction transforming into— well, into a marginal parish with negligible income, for with P&P of under $20K the diocese must surely be providing a lot of support.

The situation at St. Peter's is better-documented, not to say notorious. I don't have numbers from before when the rector and a chunk of the congregation went off tot he Antiochians, but ASA in 2015 was roughly two-thirds the 120 or so who attended on an average Sunday in 2005. In the middle the parish nearly came apart, what with internal strife and then the (probably unrelated) murder of one of the outgoing co-rectors. Again, the message is crisis survived rather than a model of growth, for ASA of around 70 is at the low end of viability, though at least their finances are sound enough. Meanwhile, St. John's Mt. Washington (actually a neighborhood in Baltimore) has abandoned its building in favor of the chapel at a nearby retirement community. This is being spun as a positive thing but ASA in the 30-40 range and P&P of $40K and dropping more or less steadily means a congregation that could no longer afford a building and was lucky to find another home.

Here's the ugly truth in this diocese: attendance has dropped, fairly steadily, over a decade, with attendance in 2015 about 73% of what it was in 2005. That parallels the drop in the national church. I'm not going to go through all 100-odd parishes and missions in the diocese, but I have yet to come upon one which has shown significant growth over the period. Some are stable, other erratic, some show declines; and of course, there are the closures.

Sunday, April 16, 2017

The Crucial Message

preached for the Easter Vigil, 2017

Here we wait in faith, in the dark of night, waiting for morning's appearance, watching for the women at the tomb. We know the story, as they did not; we await the discovery that the stone has been rolled away, while they came upon it in surprise and trepidation. The apparition of the angels shocked them, while we listen for their appearance and their message in joyful anticipation. The wonder and amazement with which they received that message has, for us, been turned into rejoicing, but better still, faith: faith in Jesus, through belief in the resurrection, which is the key to the kingdom into which we have been brought.

It is impossible to overstate the importance of this testimony, and scripture itself emphasizes this. It scandalizes some people that the gospels, especially John, are not in complete harmony, and do not record all the same events, the same teachings and parables, and the same miracles as one another; often it is held that those passages where they are in agreement, they are said to have copied from a common text, rather than admit that they are all based in common memory. It seems to me that too much is made of this by those looking for reasons to disbelieve what the church has taught over the centuries, but in any case, when it comes to the events following the last supper, the four gospels converge on a single narrative, to which they devote more space than any other single story. They all agree that Jesus took the disciples with him when he went to pray at Gethsemane, and that there he was arrested by guards from the temple, led by Judas; they all recount the same story of interrogation by Caiaphas and the chief priests, during which Peter made the three prophesied denials of his master; they all tell how Jesus was taken to Pilate, who condemned Jesus in spite of his obvious innocence, releasing Barabbas instead, as a sop to the crowds. They all describe how Jesus was mocked, and how he was crucified with two others, Mary Magdalene and Mary the mother of James looking on, but the disciples dispersed. and how his clothing was divided among the soldiers; and they all state that Joseph of Aramathea came and, with Pilate's permission, took the body away and laid it in the stone tomb, wrapped in a shroud, before the day was out.

But that is not the end of it, by no means. All of them go on to relate the same tale of Sunday morning: that at daybreak Mary Magdalene went to the tomb and found it opened, and that Jesus' body was not there; they all say that she and those with her encountered angels who asked her why she wept, and who told her that Jesus was not there, and that he was risen from the dead. Here, then, is the heart of the gospel message: Christ crucified, but also, Christ risen. Nothing is more important to the faith than this—nothing! Only the incarnation, as doctrine, approaches it. It is because of the testimony of these women and that of the disciples after them, in their encounters with the empty tomb and the risen Jesus, that we have a religion to preach. It was this that Peter taught in his address to the crowd on the day of Pentecost, and which teaching put him and the other disciples in front of the Sanhedrin.

Paul likewise makes Christ crucified and risen again the center of his teaching, and so must we also bear witness, for if Christ were not arisen, what would the point be? It is the testimony of that Friday, and that Sunday morning, that gives meaning and justification to our gathering here, to remember again the glorious grace which we have received. Were Jesus not arisen, well, we have many moral teachers from around the world; what is one more? Were Jesus not arisen, what hope would there be in our faith? Were Jesus not arisen, why should the world heed our message?

But the tomb is empty, as the women related; Christ is arisen, and death's power is thus broken, to be utterly wiped away on the last day, when the old passes away and all is made new forever. It is these moments in history, in which salvation is realized, that are the foundation of our message to the world. The brokenness of humanity is something that anyone can see; human sinfulness is the one doctrine which can be empirically observed. But salvation is hidden from such inquiry; it can be found only in the church, not because the church owns it, but because it is the testimony of the the church, the memory of those sacred days, that brings the message of salvation to the world. Without us as its messengers, who would hear of Christ? Who would know that salvation is there, and is freely given, and may be taken for no greater price than confession, faith, and baptism? And when we say to others, “you should live as we teach, in the name of Christ,” who should heed us? We know that Jesus is the incarnate Son, and that his teaching is that of God on earth; but we know him first as Jesus crucified, buried, and risen again, and it is this which compels our worship, because it is in this that we see the fulfillment of the LORD God's saving purpose. And if it is how we see what is revealed, it is thus how we must show others the same divine revelation.

Christ is risen from the dead: that is our first message; come and be baptized: that is our second; and live together in the kingdom as Jesus taught, doing his work as we await the last days in faith, love, and hope: that is our third. One follows the other; they are not separate. So here we are, and what work must we do? Well, to live as Christ taught, of course, dead to sin in the sacrifice of his crucifixion, as Paul explained. But it is not simply a matter of living an upright and godly life in charity and purity of heart. No, to the best of our ability, and in the grace of the Spirit, we must carry out the will of the Father not only in abjuring sin, but in showing the Son to the world. Those outside the church need to see a reason for coming in, not just through our superior life (for at this we fail over and over), but through our superior knowledge: we know the story of salvation, and the world does not. The world chases after false gods: not only failing to see the LORD God as He is, and worshiping others in His place, but elevating human lusts and greed and impulses above all other principles, to the end that any kind of life together becomes predatory and abusive. We must offer them, instead, the one True God, incarnate in Jesus the only Christ, fully real and truly man, crucified at one place and time in Judaea while Pilate was procurator under the Emperor Tiberius, and risen again from the tomb in Jerusalem, and from thence returned to the heaven which is beyond our mortal and physical knowledge. As they are taught, and are baptized, and partake of the sacraments, then shall they know the Word Incarnate, and shall see the Godhead, and with us they may join in the work of the kingdom. And then with us they shall proclaim the mystery of faith:

Christ has died!
Christ is risen!
Christ will come again!

Monday, April 10, 2017

The Bother of Holy Week

From Aleteia:
Is Holy Week really worth the effort? If you talk to pastors, liturgists, choir directors, leaders of RCIA, etc., Holy Week is a time of frenetic activity, the culmination of much planning and lack of planning, and somehow—at least sometimes—inspiring. And then…? Well, a few weeks of lilies and extra “Alleluias!” and then back to business as usual. (E.g., First Confessions and Communions in May, a spate of weddings in June, etc.) It seems that Holy Week is a lot of work for a few, an inconvenience for a few more (“How many times do I have to drag the kids to church this week?!?”), and an annual irrelevance for many, if not most Catholics. But does it have to be that way?

Here’s the key problem with Holy Week as described above: People who halfheartedly believe that they’re sinners try to stir up sorrow for an atoning death they’re not quite convinced they need, so that a few days later they can try to stir up joy for the benefits of a resurrection they don’t quite understand or believe in. So understood, it’s not very convincing theater, and even less is it worthy worship.

Friday, February 03, 2017

On Being the Principal Minister

From Peter Robinson, UECNA bishop and old on-line friend:
I really do not want to be prescriptive about ceremonial, but I do think we need to keep two ideas before us. Firstly, we are Anglicans, not wannabe anything elses. Secondly, the function of worship is to offer glory and praise to God, so every time we approach the altar or the reading desk we need to remember "I must decrease; He must increase!" That means that the church's ceremonial should minimize the individuality of the priest, and take him into the liturgy as an integral part thereof as the 'minister' and not the focus of public worship. For this reason I object in the strongest terms to the westward facing position at communion, and to the practice of individualizing or omitting the accustomed vestments. The minister should stand at the Lord's Table or the reading desk not as Pastor Bob or Fr. Jim, but as just another minister of Word and Sacrament.

Thursday, February 02, 2017

I'll Take the BCP Behind the Curtain, Monty

So the Standing Committee on Liturgy and Music is offering us four options for going forward on BCP revision:
  • Revise Book of Common Prayer
  • Create Book(s) of Alternative Services, and leave the BCP 1979 alone
  • More talking, listening, researching, and discerning
  • Deepening our relationship with the 1979 BCP
They also offer a "technical fixes" option which could go with any of the other four.

If you've read many of my BCP revision posts, you can guess that I prefer the fourth option: no revision yet. The current book needs some revision, but limited, and revision only. We already, in the form of Enriching Our Worship, have the second option, and it has been a major problem, both in terms of commonality and in what those alternate rites say. New rites (e.g. the trial same-sex blessing rite) have consistently taken precisely what is problematic about EOW as a starting point, and there was a large outcry when revision was announced of people who saw the process as specifically to legitimize if not impose these deviations; I was one of them. So the first option is undesirable, and the second option, legitimizing the current mess, is undesirable.

And more talking? Well, they didn't say "dialogue", which as we all know tends to mean "We know better than you on this topic and we’re going to have a ‘dialogue’ until you see the error of your ways and agree with me at which point our dialogue will be done." But setting the terms of the talking is crucial and problematic. Already we have Matthew S. C. Olver saying "I think it is important to acknowledge at the beginning of this piece that Christians must take seriously the concerns raised by feminist theologians" and "Related to this more experiential concern is the basic Christian theological claim that God is neither a man nor a woman, neither male nor female." OK, well, I do not agree to the second, which is not to say that I disagree, but simply that the issue is debatable. In the first place, if this is going to be "basic" for a Protestant, it has to be attested directly from scripture. And while I am certainly open to be corrected about this, I am not aware of such attestation; the principle appears to arise out of neo-Platonic idealism about God. Furthermore, the problem is not as a rule language concerning the Godhead, but about the three Persons. There the whole thing starts to come apart very quickly when the words "male" and "female" are pinned down, because given current sexuality doctrine there is nothing one can say about the words as genders that affords any objective truth, and without something objective to anchor them on, treating the names as rhetorical figures devolves into meaninglessness.

The bigger issue, however, is the demand to engage feminist theology. I'm plenty happy to engage it, but when I start complaining about its category errors, left and right, things are surely headed off into Dialogue. The tendency in these "dialogues" is to exclude me because I am male, and therefore (if I dissent) a troglodyte who has to be instructed (that is, lectured and then dismissed). It's hugely problematic that the many people who accept women as priests but who have problems with radfem talk about God are largely ignored, and the attitude from the SCLM up to now has been that EOW is the starting point for everything new. EOW is also our local source for the pro omnis error, which they don't mention; but it also represents a step away from Protestant principles.

I suppose there needs to be talking all right, but it needs to be about more fundamental principles than feminism or universalism. The biggest issue is our institutional hypocrisy about theology as a whole. We have creeds, which we stand up and say "on Sundays and Major Feasts", and then our clerics deny that we believe them. We affirm the church's teaching that communion is only for the baptized, and then advertise in all too many parishes that "all are welcome to partake." We promulgate a church position on abortion that has been reaffirmed several times over now, and nobody would dare to teach it on a Sunday. On the one hand, we get subjected to controversial deviations as if there was consensus to do so; on the other, we get subjected to deviations when there is stated consensus that they are deviant and not to be done. Trying to work out a new prayer book in these circumstances is a huge problem because this sort of behavior makes it a bad-faith effort.

that's why I'm in favor of sticking with the last option. I think there is plenty to fix in the current book, but I don't see how we can go about that until, to be really blunt about it, the progressive side starts playing fair.

Wednesday, February 01, 2017

Designing the Beloved

Kara Slade, in The Living Church, has written a fascinating and thoughtful reflection on robotics and sexuality which does not flinch from the difficulties of the subject, and especially the hubris hidden in the topic.

Let us start with this observation: "In Levy’s presentation, the language deployed to describe the ideal robotic spouse was inadvertently telling: ' All of the following qualities and many more are likely to be achievable in software within a few decades. Your robot will be patient, kind, protective, loving, trusting, truthful, persevering, respectful, uncomplaining, complimentary, pleasant to talk to, and sharing your sense of humor.' Suffice it to say for now that this statement reveals quite a bit about the priorities of the author, and very little about the task of technologically approximating any existing human woman." Or to put in in other words: the robot is to be giving out on the one hand and undemanding on the other. So that word, "love": this describes not something to be loved, certainly not the subject of agape. It is instead something to take "love" from.

And that takes us to something that Slade does not touch upon. She does remark upon the endless optimism of AI futurists that the human mind can be simulated, but it is, after all, 2017 and not 1976, the year that Joseph Weizenbaum's Computer Power and Human Reason was published. Weizenbaum was shocked to discover that many people were willing to treat interaction with the manifestly stupid ELIZA program which he had constructed as if it were interaction with a real person. The lesson I see in this is that the Turing Test (conversation with a computer being indistinguishable from that with a human) is in practice not successful, because people aren't good at it. Weizenbaum went on to attack the whole notion of external behavior as a proxy for the interior life of the mind, and this is particularly pointed in a situation where that internal life really seems, in the end, to be unwelcome.

After all, the terms of Levy's ideal are frankly servile, and it is a short distance from serving to simply being used. One senses from all the emphasis on sexual companionship that these futurists have no problem with the idea of a robotic sex toy which cannot be raped because refusal has been edited out of its humanity. It one telling footnote, Slade remarks that "While writing in this field gestures toward both male and female robotic lovers, the predominant assumption is clearly centered on the idea of a robotic woman," and I imagine that feminist analysis of this would be unsparing. She remarks on the degree to which various alienations seem to drive the quest for the robotic companion, but there is the irony: if it were possible to fully emulate the humanity of a real woman, it does not seem (in the minds of these would-be Pygmalions) desirable to do so. This she does note, but I would go further: not only would they not desire it, but I believe that they would on one level fail to see that something was missing. That is, they would see that some "undesirable" impulses were absent, but they would fail to grasp that they had obtained a less-than-human, because all of these "faults" arise out of the will.

So here we are, right back in our own Eden, but we don't have to worry about Eve taking the fruit because she lacks the independence to do so. I am thus irresistibly reminded of the creation of the dwarves by Aulë in the Quenta Silmarillion. Ilúvatar sees how the dwarf fathers were created outside of his one, true creation, and he challenges Aulë's deviation from the divine plan; but when Aulë moves to destroy them, they quail, showing that they have been given life and wills of their own. I imagine our ideal companion robots putting up no such defense, and indeed one can imagine a robot who has specifically been created to be tortured (as I believe at least one SF write must have already depicted). And thus the alienation is complete: its creators put off from real human congress, the ideal robot companion is made a perversion of humanity, specifically so that it can be used and abused without qualm. We may not be able to give it a soul, but we will surely see to it that it does not accidentally get one. So much of robot mythology fantasizes that they may exceed our humanity and displace us, but here it seems that in our relationships with them, they may exceed our humanity because we diminish theirs— and with that, our own.

Monday, January 16, 2017

On Naming the President in Prayer

Let it be said first of all that a quick glance through the BCP shows there is little expectation that the president be payed for by name. Of the seven forms for the prayers in the eucharist, only two (Rite I and Form V) even offer an option for naming him; neither does Prayer 19 ("For the President of the United States and all in Civil Authority") among the miscellany in the back. (A correspondent informs me that the Great Litany does expect the name to be used.)

And yet. Consider the following miscellaneous prayers:

  • 6. For our Enemies
  • 26. For those who suffer for the sake of Conscience
  • 28. In Times of Conflict
And consider what we pray for concerning our president: "Grant [him] and to all in authority, wisdom and strength to know and to do thy will. Fill them with the love of truth and righteousness, and make them ever mindful of their calling to serve this people in thy fear." If we pray so for a president whose policies we support, how much more so for one whose views we deplore?

In the midst of the upcoming elevation of the despicable Donald Trump, we thus have the following missive from the rector of that bastion of liberal churchmanship, All Saints Pasadena: "I have made the change to remove the president’s name (while continuing to pray for him by title) and beginning to pray for the president-elect (though not by name)." The excuse he gives for this is that "[his] name is literally a trauma trigger to some people – particularly women and people who, because of his words and actions, he represents an active danger to health and safety." OK, well, that is nonsense. First of all, I don't think it is really true; I have too many overly dramatic (which is to say perfectly normal) elderly southern female relatives to take that seriously. Again, I say, I join with those who oppose him, most of his platform, and the culture of greed, amorality, and self-service which he represents. But just upon hearing his name? Take some Buck-u-uppo, for crying out loud. Or perhaps our clergy should follow the example of the priest who slaps his gibbering fellow passenger in Airport. Catering to such drama-mongering is just bad all around.

But in any case, this concern provides a convenient excuse for a political snub of the president-elect. All Saints has dabbled in politics quite a bit over the years, to the point of attracting some federal interest back in 2004. And I suppose, on one level, that casuistry obligates them to do so, even though they are very often wrong. But this simply comes across as petty.

Friday, January 13, 2017

The Numbers: 2015

Things have been a bit mad here, and thus the naysayers have beaten me to the punch in announcing yet another 3%+ loss in Average Sunday Attendance, so let's go to the ten year numbers! Yes, we've got'em here, at least for membership and ASA.

Things are made a bit difficult with the merger of Quincy into Chicago, but as it turns out, counting all 1139 attendees in 2005 as lost is not going to be the worst number here, not by a long shot. Ignoring them, the big losers by percentage are (as anyone can guess; put your hand down, Mr. Virtue, and give someone else a chance) Ft. Worth, San Joaquin, South Carolina, and Pittsburgh, ranging from 71.2% to 80.7% losses. The next three big losers were all in Province 9. The worst domestic diocese that didn't split was Western New York, at 41.8%; the only non-losers were Haiti, Puerto Rico, Nevada, Central Ecuador, Taiwan, and Littoral Ecuador, which makes Nevada the only positive note among domestic dioceses. The ASA percentage loss for the church as a whole, 26.1%, is close enough to the median as to not matter.

And if those numbers are bad, the absolute losses are in many respects worse. The median diocese in 2005 had an ASA of approximately 5200, and three of the five splitters were well above that, with South Carolina in the top quintile. Now one of them is gone, three of them are in the bottom quintile, and only (again) South Carolina somewhat above that, as losing over three quarters of the diocese still left a sizeable remainder. Meanwhile, the next largest loser was Virginia, at 9083 fewer people no longer attending church in the diocese; that's a third of 2005 attendance, more or less. Well, there is not a whole lot of pattern to the losing dioceses, except that if you look at it by province there's Four (the South), there's Eight (the far west), and then there's everywhere else. Province Two looks OK until you take out Haiti, which is large and atypical in almost every way; with Haiti out, provincial losses jump from 23% to 27%.

Right now I don't feel like digging though ten years of Red Books to add up the various inputs and outputs, but my sense is that the shift from when I last did that for 2007 numbers is not that huge. What I found back then was that the numbers suggested (but did not prove) that the primary source of losses was middle-aged people leaving. That is certainly what happened in five dioceses. And recall this old chart:



Extending the graph to the right isn't going to change much; the jump from holding our own to losing 2-3% a year in 2002-2003 hasn't been undone.

The Crusty Old Dean has some discussion of this, some realistic (I think his prediction of 400K ASA in a decade is pretty accurate) and some not. It's important to a lot of people to dismiss theology as a factor, but I don't see how the supposed stability of the Unitarians has much weight in this: after all, everyone has expected doctrinal spinelessness from them since, oh, 1785. Everyone knows which people, in their not-already-round-the-bend parish, are holding on for dear life, hoping that they die or move before the next rector trashes things. The universal reaction to setting the revision machinery in motion, except for the hyper-progressives, was "oh hell," because everyone can see that the point of revision is to force Enriching Our Worship on the church as a whole.

But anyway, there are other numbers this time, perhaps more depressing. We have numbers on active priests in domestic dioceses by age, which show (as a previous analysis showed) that our clerics are old: the average age over the whole church is 59, and the numbers in some dioceses are far worse. Looking at the map below, you can see that the dioceses with older priests tend to lie in the west, while the dioceses with younger priests tend to lie along the Mississippi; the exceptions tend to include large urban areas.

If equal numbers of priests were ordained at every age, the average age of priests would be about 55. This is unrealistic on the high end because (one suspects) few bishops are willing to ordain someone who can only serve a few years, and because many priests will die or retire before the canonical limit of 72. But the numbers show that in most dioceses there are few young priests. San Joaquin has no priests under 45; Delaware, with 45 active priests, is the largest of six dioceses with but a single priest in this age group. Nationally, 15% of active priests are under 45. More striking are the numbers in the 65 and up range. In thirteen dioceses at least half the priests are in this age group, the most extreme being Eastern Oregon with 71%. These dioceses tend to be smaller and more rural; they show up as an intense red in the map.

It says something that, the other categories being broken out by decade, there's no "under 35" category. And indeed, a chart showing the number by age, with each bar proportional in area to the percentage of the whole, shows how lopsided things are:

This distribution is almost consistent with taking the "equal ordinations at every age" scenario and raising the minimum age to 35, which indeed produces a mean age of 59. But the clergy compensation report adds some interesting detail, for it does break out the 35-and-under numbers, and furthermore, it only counts full-time clergy, which constitute 69% of the total. Of the part-timers, 74% are 65 or older, and they constitute 69% or those in that age group, and 23% of all active priests. This report shows full time priests under 35 at 4%, and a little math shows that if all 43 part-time under-45 priests were in the younger group, this group would constitute 4.5% of all priests.

OK, so our priests are old, and our old priests are largely part-timers. But here we have another table breaking out active priests according to employment status. Here we see wild differences between dioceses. At one extreme we have Dallas, in which 80% of priests serve a single parish full-time, and at the other we have Northern Michigan, in which 91% of its priests are non-stipendiary, and which has no parish served by its own full-time priest. Nationally 55% of active priests serve a single parish full time, another 27% serve one parish fill time, 6% serve multiple parishes, and 13% are non-stipendiary, but this is an inadequate picture of how parishes are served, because there are many parishes which are served by retirees, and many large parishes have multiple full time priests (and indeed in a few dioceses there are more full time priests serving single parishes than there are parishes). What is more surprising is that the differential between male and female priests in full time positions varies a great deal. Nationally half the women and 57% of the men are in full time positions, but there are many dioceses where the women are more likely to be full time, and there isn't a lot of pattern to this: Eau Claire has few full-time positions but 50% of its female priests are in such positions, while in New Jersey, where 60% of the priests are full time, 80% of the women in the diocese occupy such positions. (Mind you, this works out that there are only two active women in Eau Claire.)

So, does this add up to anything? On one level, it's hard to say. We don't have statistics for what the priesthood looked like in 1905 or 1925 or 1955, but it's a reasonably safe bet that it was younger (and of course all-male and mostly white), and that a far smaller proportion of it was part-time. It goes without saying that its members were more likely to hold orthodox theological views, never mind traditional views on sexuality. But in terms of numbers, there's no arguing that things were not better then; the failure of growth would not be seen until the mid 1960s. As a universal, national Anglican church, we are failing.

Tuesday, January 03, 2017

Prescient Screwtape

Or at least his amanuensis: Tom Nichols on how C. S. Lewis anticipated our culture of treason. And it goes beyond that. I was pleased to see that public pressure (or at least the president-elect's ability to read the public) caused congress to recant its evisceration of its ethic review processes. But consider this passage:
Angry people, confused by not enough education and too much information, or unwilling to face their own poor choices in life, or bearing vague grudges about the forces that always seem to deprive them of the right job, or mate, or status among their peers, cheer on a Snowden or a Manning as a kind of self-actualizing exercise.

They’re happy that someone’s finally sticking it to the Man, or the system, or the Coca-Cola Corporation, or whomever they resent for not giving them a round of applause every morning just for getting dressed without help.

I can’t say I’m certain why this is happening. Some of it, I think, is from years of marination in an American culture that once celebrated excellence, self-reliance, and success, and now demands more “democratic” values like “equality” (meaning mediocrity), “community” (meaning conformity), and “education” (meaning pissing away a few years studying the deep works of Jay-Z at Georgetown). Add to this a therapeutic obsession with never “demeaning” others, and you have the alchemic makings of an explosion of insecurity and anger.

And is this not how the presidential election was decided?

Sunday, January 01, 2017

Marked With the Name


Give praise, you servants of the LORD;
praise the Name of the LORD.
Let the Name of the LORD be blessed,
from this time forth for evermore.
From the rising of the sun to its going down
let the Name of the LORD be praised.

Today we observe a holiday of varied names, New Years Day notwithstanding. In old prayer books it was forthrightly titled the Feast of the Circumcision, as that rite is prescribed for the eighth day of a Jewish boy's life. Nowadays, perhaps, we are shy of such a messy, fleshly observance, and we remember it chiefly as day on which Jesus was named; in the Roman Rite they observe the Solemnity of the Blessed Virgin Mary. But today I will start from that older name.

Now the covenant of circumcision is not the covenant made at Sinai; no, it goes all the way back to Abram, and indeed was made on the day when God named him Abraham, meaning “father of many”. Circumcision is the mark of the men of Israel: to be uncircumcised was to be cut off from God's people. And thus Jesus, like every Jewish boy, was so marked in his flesh and given his name, the name of Salvation—for that is what “Jesus” means.

Thus, through the rest of the New Testament, we hear appeals to that name: “in My name”, “for My name's sake”, “because of My name” says Jesus, and then, in the Acts, we read of the disciples healing in the name of Jesus Christ. What does it signify? It means authority, to the demons; it is a vexation, to the authorities; it yields power, in the hands of the apostles; and it is identity, to the people of the Cross. We are baptized in a holy name, the name of the Father, of the Son, and of the Spirit, the name of the Lord, the Almighty; it is this baptism which is our circumcision, which marks us as Christ's own forever. The members of the Church, the body of Christ, are known to the world as Christians; we are his, and we go into the world in his name.

This name alone are we given for salvation, and no other, as Peter preached. At the name of Jesus, every knee shall bow; in the end of days, all shall know him as the only Son of God, the righteous judge of all souls. The Name of Jesus signifies what we proclaim before every baptism: “There is one Body and one Spirit, one hope in God's call to us; one Lord, one Faith, one Baptism, one God and Father of all.” The Christian faith is not a philosophy; it is not a merely advice for arranging one's life. It is reliance on the one man in whom God has been realized and through whom the divine plan is made manifest.

Moses had to ask for God's name, and that name is so hallowed that no Jew will say it, or even, outside the synagogue, say “LORD” in its place. But we have a name which, though also sacred, we may say without fear, indeed in triumph. There is no shame in the name of Jesus, though the world deride it and ridicule those who proclaim it. No, in this name there is life and light, and therefore in assurance of our salvation, let us turn to the altar and proclaim the faith of the apostles, in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. Amen.