The real story in the recent release of statistical data by TEC is in the demographic profile of the Church that heralds itself as the living symbol of a diverse society. On the same page amidst self-congratulatory rhapsodies about antiracism, advocacy and justice, TEC was naïve enough to publish a colourful pie-chart illustrating the demographics of inclusion: The Episcopal Church in 2009 TEC is 87.0% White/Non-Hispanic. In other words, if ever there was a bastion of Anglo-American culture, this is it — just like it always was. The remaining 13%, divided among five separate demographic categories of the population, gives meaning to the word “tokenism” in a modern society.
What does 87% signify, and compared to what? The only figure to compare it to as a measure of “diversity” would have to be the US Census. This gives us a demographic average with which to compare specific aggregates of American citizens, religious and otherwise, randomly distributed across the population. The national demographic profile is 65.6% White/Non-Hispanic. In other words the “inclusive Church” is less inclusive than the kingdom of this world in the area of race.
Probably few statistics (other than a breakdown of personal gross income relative to the population) puts the lie to the last forty years of the Episcopal Church’s attempt to remould itself as a progressive institution. If you’re the WASP church par excellence (the waters being muddied by the Scots-Irish you pick up along the way) and you want to show how you’re really reaching out to other groups, the success of that effort will show up in your attendance. In the case of the TEC, it isn’t. In fact, TEC’s biggest challenge these days is to get anyone to show up.
Back in 2007 in my reply to Susan Russell, I outlined the difficulty TEC was going to have in getting members of the LGBT community to arrive on Sunday morning. I rest my case. If after forty years of “social justice” emphasis TEC can’t do better with racial diversity, how can it expect a better performance when it comes to sexual orientation?
Being a part of (and especially working for) a Pentecostal church has really driven home what it’s like to be in a really ethnically diverse body of believers. Nothing shouts the fulfilment of the promise of Pentecost than this. My biggest concern of late is that, given the general siege mentality we’re seeing in the sons and daughters of Albion these days, we’ll blow the advantage that God has given us, and that’s one reason why I took my leave from church employment last year.