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Beliefnet News

Why is the Episcopal Church near collapse?

The headlines coming out of the Episcopal Church’s annual U.S. convention are stunning — endorsement of cross-dressing clergy, blessing same-sex marriage, the sale of their headquarters since they can’t afford to maintain it.

The American branch of the Church of England, founded when the Vatican balked at permitting King Henry VIII to continue annulling marriages to any wife who failed to bear him sons, is in trouble.

Somehow slipping out of the headlines is a harsh reality that the denomination has been deserted in droves by an angry or ambivalent membership. Six prominent bishops are ready to take their large dioceses out of the American church and align with conservative Anglican groups in Africa and South America.


Bonnie Anderson, President of the House of Deputies

“An interesting moment came at a press conference on Saturday,” reports convention attendee David Virtue, “when I asked Bonnie Anderson, president of the House of Deputies, if she saw the irony in that the House of Deputies would like to see the Church Center at 815 2nd Avenue, New Yorik, sold (it has a $37.5 million mortgage debt and needs $8.5 million to maintain yearly) while at the same time the national church spent $18 million litigating for properties, many of which will lie fallow at the end of the day.”


“Church Center,” the Episcopal headquarters, up for sale.

This is no longer George Washington’s Episcopal Church – in 1776 the largest denomination in the rebellious British colonies. Membership has dropped so dramatically that today there are 20 times more Baptists than Episcopalians.

U.S. Catholics out-number the Episcopal Church 33-to-1. There are more Jews than Episcopalians. Twice as many Mormons. Even the little African Methodist Episcopal denomination 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 Continued on Page 2

  • http://AddaURLtothiscomment Benjamen S. Long, Pastor

    …how INCREDIBLY sad, to see the “church” stray so far away from the Holy Scripture, in PURSUIT of “compromise, capitulation and tolerance”,

  • http://AddaURLtothiscomment Robbins Mitchell

    Well,after they “consecrated” Archfaggot Gene Robinson,the rest of what we seem them doing now was a foregone conclusion…only a matter of when,not if

  • http://AddaURLtothiscomment Doug Breston

    Left TEC 5 years ago after discovering the multi-decade assault by Integrity & it’s progeny, and TECs submission to Integrity’s demands.

    Was so very angry for a while – forced from my lifelong church, away from me friends, ….

    But then discovered TECs core teachings had NEVER been “Christian” in any real sense, even before the gay invasion. No emphasis on The Word; no personal relationship with Christ; only pomp and artifice.

    Now happy as a clam – saved, growing daily in The Word, filled with the Lord’s love.

    None of us are equipped to understand the Lord’s ways, but one thing is certain: He ALWAYS has a far better plan for us than anything we could possibly devise for ourselves. We simply must trust and follow.

    TEC who???

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  • http://AddaURLtothiscomment Jim Caraher

    In 1998, prominent Episcopalian Bishop John Shelby Spong authored a book “Why Christianity Must Change or Die.” Since then the Episcopal Church has been following Spong’s nostrums to the letter but things don’t seem to be working out very well. Maybe Episcopalians should double back to Bishop Spong and see if he has a Plan B.

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  • http://AddaURLtothiscomment Stephen Koch

    As a social entity, the Episcopal Church is now a cipher. Its views are not respected, and it is without moral or political influence. Do its views deserve respect? Can be trusted with power? Who cares? Since it has neither, the question is dead.

    As a reality check, try answering one question: When was the last time any political candidate sought the endorsement of the Bishop of New York? When was the last time any political candidate even knew the name of the Bishop of New York? Or thought an hour of precious campaign time was worth wasting on a photo-op smirking beside Bishop what’s-her-name?

    In the New York power structure, real estate rules. The church is selling its butt-ugly digs at 815 Second Avenue and will doubtless make a killing from the sale. To be sure, the edifice is hideous. It hurts the eyes. But the land? Beyond price. So why not sell it?
    What really matters is the $18,000,000 in legal fees the Presiding Bishop has so shrewdly spent to lock in the central church’s rights to the property of the congregations it is driving from their church homes. Collecting on only three or four of these confiscated properties will easily recover the $18 million, leaving the Presiding Bishop in a position to seize and reduce to cash large amounts of immensely valuable real-estate that 19th century Episcopalians bought and developed when they really were rich and powerful. It is potentially some of the most lucrative real-esate in the United States. For a hundred-plus years it stood, graced with often quite beautiful tax-free neo-Gothic buildings, serving people who thought they believed in God.

    And now?

    Now, as their congregations lose the face-off with the central church, these buildings are being abandoned. For the central church? Good news. The departing parishioners? Good riddance, A pack of reactionaries and bores are gone, leaving their property to the central church. Let them pray their reactionary prayers in basements and go to hell. The Presiding Bishop can raze the neo-Gothic buildings, sell the land to developers, and score a financial bonanza with few precedents in modern times.

    Thus, the assisted suicide of the Episcopal Church is financially very shrewd. Most congregations will be bullied into submission, and die by slow attrition, Some will have the courage to leave. When they do, they can kiss their property goodbye. As a result, the more their church dies, the more money the Presiding Bishop will have at her disposal,

    That, my friends, is real power—and you can rest assured that the women who run this church rarely forget it. Clear your mind of the sanctimonious chatter about transgendered priests. How many such postulants are there? Five? Ten? Twenty would be a lot. So what? The church has no jobs even for employable priests. Sanctifying homosexuality as a state of grace and transforming left-wing identity politics into the only meaningful definition of sin are diversions, useful mainly for hustling those dreary old-fashioned believers off gold mine property they can’t afford, Cash, not Christ, is king. As W. Mark Felt so wisely advised Woodward and Bernstein, “Follow the money.”

  • http://AddaURLtothiscomment Fred Garvin

    Why bother with religion? You can be a political “activist” without having to get up early on Sundays, singing songs, bake sales or hanging around old ladies of both sexes.

  • Grant Barber

    First, how can an unattributed story be posted here? Second, quoting David Virtue about the state of the Episcopal Church is like asking Rush Limbaugh how the Democrats are doing and treating his remarks as authoritative and factual. Finally, at least in part of the world we Episcopalians are thriving.

  • Reed

    Anglican Orders are Null and Invalid.

  • J de M

    We all can quote from papal encyclicals. Should I start with encyclicals condemning Galileo? Or perhaps the Roman encyclicals against capital punishment when the Vatican State only outlawed capital punishment in 1969 after having executed themselves hundreds of criminals for capital offenses. ( See Bugatti their chief executioner) The opinions of Leo XIII are just that..his opinions. If he had wanted to put his moral authority behind that opinion, he would have spoken ex cathedra, which he did not on Anglican orders.

  • Reed

    Anglican Nuns and Priest orders are invalid also. Only Catholic and Eastern Orthodox Churches have valid orders.

  • Scotty Mcwilliams

    Not exactly true. Just like many protestant denominations, the Catholic Church was founded by men, not Christ. Jesus Church is all who follow him as the way, the truth, and the life. The Catholic Church is a Christian Church, but not the only one. All these Churches do is condemn each other as heretics, well I hold heretical views. I’m a follower of Jesus, but all throughout history the Churches has claimed to be the true Church of Jesus Christ. Yet, there are many Churches then as their are now. (Fact Check me if you must)

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