Why is the Episcopal Church near collapse?

Prominent bishops are pulling out. Convention-goers were told headquarters had spent $18 million suing local congregations. Members are leaving at a record rate. This is no longer George Washington’s church – once the largest denomination in the colonies.

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U.S. Catholics out-number the Episcopal Church 33-to-1. There are more Jews than Episcopalians. Twice as many Mormons as Episcopalians. Even the little African Methodist Episcopal denomination -- founded in in 1787 -- has passed the Episcopalians.

Among the old mainstream denominations reporting to the National Council of Churches, the Episcopal Church suffered the worst loss of membership from 1992-2002 — plunging from 3.4 million members to 2.3 million for a 32 percent loss. In the NCC’s 2012 yearbook, the Episcopal Church admitted another 2.71 percent annual membership loss.

Convention attendees were told that they had spent $18 million this year suing their own local congregations — those which have protested the denomination’s policies by trying to secede. The New York hierarchy has consistently won in court – asserting that the local members signed over their buildings decades ago. As a result, some of the largest Episcopal congregations in the United States have been forced to vacate their buildings and meet elsewhere.

So now, convention delegates were told, the denomination is the proud owner of scores of empty buildings nationwide – and liable for their upkeep in a depressed real estate market where empty church buildings are less than prime property. It’s the classic “dog in a manger.” The denomination has managed to keep the buildings – for which it has little use. However, they made their point – refusing to

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allow the congregations which built the facilities to have any benefit after generations of sacrifice, donations and volunteerism.

“One former Episcopal priest wrote me, ‘The irony is that after all their property suits to get control of empty buildings, they now are losing their main property.’

“But this cost cutting measure may not be enough to salvage the long term solvency of the Episcopal Church. The church is hemorrhaging money like crazy and no one seems to know how to turn off the spigot.”

“The accelerating fragmentation of the strife-torn Episcopal Church USA,” writes Christian author Charlotte Allen. “ in which large parishes and entire dioceses are opting out of the church, isn’t simply about gay bishops, the blessing of same-sex unions or the election of a woman as presiding bishop. It is about the meltdown of liberal Christianity.

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