Those Vanishing Episcopal Parishes

Every so often I begin a reading of the Bible through.  I try to vary the translation I use, so I’ve read translations such as the Vulgate, Louis Segond, Reina-Valera, New American Bible, Douay-Rheims, CCD and of course the Positive Infinity New Testament.  This time I had a copy of the original TEV New Testament from the American Bible Society, first published in 1966.  I liked it so well I went to the used book store to get the whole Bible, and for my Roman Catholic and Orthodox visitors, I mean the whole one: it includes the deuterocanonical and apocryphal books.  (It also has the Roman Catholic imprimatur; I’ll bet they’ll think twice before pulling that like they did on Christ Among Us.)

In any case, the previous owner of the book was a woman who lived in northern New Jersey.  In the Bible was a postcard with her parish’s Holy Week schedule, probably dating from the 1980’s.  A little research revealed that her Episcopal parish was no more; a pretty church, the congregation had folded earlier in this decade and the building was now being used by an independent black church.

Northern New Jersey was, of course, the stomping grounds of John Shelby Spong, its bishop for many years.  Spong inspired one of the earliest “posts” of this website, When Church Becomes Pointless, nearly twenty years ago.  The following from that piece bears repeating:

So let’s take this a step further; suppose you are sitting in an Episcopal pew listening to John Shelby Spong go on about why the basic truths of Christianity have no basis in reality and that those who teach them are a bunch of morons.  Suppose that you finally realize that you think that Spong is right; that all that you’ve said when you’re repeated the Apostles’ or Nicene Creed is false and that the life you have is all you’re expected to get.  What should you do?   You should first realize that life is short and that, if you’re going to live you’d better hurry.  So the sensible thing for you to do is to get up, gather your family, walk out of the church, get into your Lexus or Mercedes, and head to Atlantic City or Las Vegas or South Florida or wherever you need to go to live it up while you still can.

Evidently many in northern New Jersey took that to heart; the Episcopal Church there has bled parishes ever since.  Most of those remaining were those who ultimately left via the coffin.  TEC’s demographics are consistently elderly, largely made up of those who stick around because they’ve always done it that way.  The younger people who really thought he was wrong about Christianity either fled to Evangelical or Charismatic churches, swam the Tiber or the Bosporus, or were the impetus behind the ACNA.

Part of Spong’s problem was that he was a Southerner in a Northern place.  He thought that people would always go to church somewhere, no matter how stupid things got.  This is a common mistake among our ministers.  It simply doesn’t work that way in the Northeast.

Beyond that Spong was an old style radical; he thought that, if we completely changed what Christianity stood for, it would be more acceptable to the modern and post-modern world.  That hasn’t worked out either.  Today’s liberal, imbued with post-modernism, practices a form of deception (and self-deception) that rivals anything Islam can be accused of.  They use words that mean one thing to others but something entirely different to themselves.

An example of this is the controversy over the “bathroom bills” and the Federal government’s attempt to shove “transgender rights” down everyone’s throat in the matter.  Does anyone really believe that “rights” are what’s at stake here?  What they’re really trying to do is to break down people’s modesty; the whole idea of people not exposing themselves to each other–and refraining from sexual activity–is abhorrent to them.  The only solution that will make them happy is the complete integration of bathrooms and locker rooms.

The results of the likes of Spong in the TEC are a harbinger of what’s to come for the Global North, which is why it’s important to study these things.  I’ll close with a comment I made to another post about Spong in 2009:

And that leads to the second level. Spong, I think, has the idea that the liberal West will triumph over many of his “traditionalist” enemies, in and out of the church. But a civilisation (?) with the demographic and financial woes ours has is waiting for its own Valhalla to ignite. To take one issue: most of the world doesn’t have the affinity for the LGBT community that Spong exhibits (and did so at length for the Times piece) and his expectations that the rest of the world will follow his idea to victory are sorely misplaced.

When Spong squared off with the Africans at 1998 Lambeth, he was facing the future. But I think he instinctively discounted that future because it wasn’t white. But nonwhite is the future.

The survival of traditional or any other kind of authentic Christianity will be principally resident in non-Western people.

And that can be extended to humanity in general.

“What you think is the right road, may lead to death.” (Proverbs 14:12 TEV)

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