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.