The decline and fall of the Anglican Church of Canada

Anglican Church of Canada clergy remind me of Lewis Carroll’s Cheshire Cat.

Each year as the ACoC gets a little smaller, its clergy, smiling happily in a delirium of denial, armed with nothing but a fake gospel – a malaise that precedes fake news by far charge with renewed vigour towards the precipice that augurs their employer’s extinction. Eventually all that will be left will be the silly grins on their faces.

Still, it gives us Anglican bloggers something to write about.

Read it all at VOL:

By any measurable standard, the Anglican Church of Canada is in serious decline with little hope that the numbers can or will be reversed in the foreseeable future.

In one diocese after another the third largest denomination in Canada is declining, its demise now almost certain as it focuses on a host of social justice issues to the neglect of evangelism, discipleship and church planting.

The Anglican Church of Canada which is squeamishly shy about publicizing how many people attend its churches, has published no complete statistics for membership and average Sunday attendance since 2001, although the ACoC did claim a membership of 545,957 in 2007.

Today, by all measurable standards the average Sunday attendance in the Anglican Church of Canada is around 320,000. If this is correct, in 40 years the average attendance will be 19,200 or less. As there is no wave of Millennials aching to fill Anglican pews this figure is probably exaggerated.

A recent academic study of Canadian churches revealed that conservative churches that held to the faith grew, while liberal ones that focused on social issues were dying. They surveyed some 2,200 churches and, based on their sampling found, without exception, the clergy and congregants of the growing mainline Protestant churches held more firmly to traditional Christian beliefs, such as the belief Jesus rose physically from the grave and that God answers prayer. The clergy of the growing churches were the most theologically conservative and the declining church clergy the least.

This news has not filtered down to Anglicans in Canada, who believe that brokering pansexuality into the churches as a justice issue (plus a whole host of other social issues) is more important than bums in pews vs. bums in the bed.

Several dioceses have revealed the dire straits they are in, largely we suspect because if they hadn’t told us, real estate agents would. The list is by no means complete, as most dioceses are reluctant to say or reveal their closures unless a local newspaper runs a story about a church being sold to a Muslim group or an evangelical start-up.

[…..]

Nationally, between 1961 and 2001, the Anglican Church of Canada lost 53 per cent of its membership, declining to 642,000 from 1.36 million. Between 1991 and 2001 alone, it declined by 20 per cent.

According to the report, the dioceses – “like most across Canada” – are in crisis. The report repeats, without qualification or question, the results of a controversial study presented to Anglican bishops five years ago that said that at the present rate of decline – a loss of 13,000 members per year – only one Anglican would be left in Canada by 2061.

Anglican clergy protest outside immigration detention centre

Anglican revs Andrea Budgey and Maggie Helwig are protesting Canada’s detention of “hundreds of migrants” on Rexdale Blvd. Neither Budge nor Helwig were arrested.

Meanwhile, in Sweden, a wheelchair-bound woman was gang raped by six asylum seekers, none of whom were being detained at the time.

And in California, an ACNA priest spent time praying outside an abortion mill hoping to save the lives of some of the babies entering the snuff clinic. He was arrested.

Does anyone else see anything lopsided in all this?

From here:

The Reverends Andrea Budgey and Maggie Helwig, surrounding the immigration detention centre on Rexdale Blvd with No One Is Illegal, on International Human Rights Day. Hundreds of migrants, mostly refugee claimants, are held in indefinite detention in Canada. Three people have died this year while detained by Canadian Border Services.

Women priests: it’s all about money and touching

Let me preface this by admitting that I am ambivalent about Anglican women priests: I think there are good arguments on both sides.

That being said, I find it very difficult to sympathise with a binary gender category that, having attained the status of their polar opposite binary gender category in every regard other than filthy Mammon and inappropriate touching, is still whining that they are paid less and touched more (or, perhaps, touched less?) than their polar opposite binary gender category.

I thought being an Anglican priest was a calling, a vocation, not an ecclesiastical rendering of capitalist profiteering. And I would really like to know the ratio of priestly female/male inappropriate touching incidents. Have you ever encountered a female priest you longed to touch inappropriately?  Me neither.

From here:

Four decades after the first women were ordained in the Anglican Church of Canada, much progress remains to be made, say female priests who profess to have struggled with everything from unequal pay to inappropriate touching by some parishioners. Last week (28 November to 1 December), 40 female priests from the Anglican Church of Canada gathered at St James Anglican Church in Stratford, Ontario, for “Unmasking the Feminine,” a conference marking the 40th anniversary of the ordination of women in the church. For participants, the event seemed an occasion both for celebrating the achievements made in advancing the rights of women and being mindful of the challenges many say yet remain.

Church protests oil and gas pipeline

The Anglican Church of Canada hates burning fossil fuels, preferring instead to power both its theology and thuribles from smudging smoke.

Since the ACoC believes oil pipelines are built on stolen native land, its hard to escape the conclusion that all its churches are built on stolen native land, too. That must mean the ACoC is going to give it all back to the natives from whom it was  stolen. It will be a cold day in synod – or hell – before that happens.

From here:

Church supports First Nation Canadians in battle against new oil and gas pipe

A major new oil and gas pipeline through the British Columbia region of Canada has received government backing despite protests from indigenous peoples groups. The Tsleil-Waututh First Nation described this week’s decision as “the beginning of a long battle” to stop the project. Last month, the Anglican Church of Canada’s Council of General Synod (Cogs) passed a resolution by consensus in which they expressed “their support for Indigenous peoples and their desire to grow and deepen that trust both within the church and without; in asserting and advocating their right to free, prior and informed consent concerning the stewardship of traditional Indigenous lands and water rights, and in acknowledging and responding to their calls for solidarity.”

Bogus unity is worse than honest disunity

Now that same-sex marriage is settled, the Anglican Church of Canada is concentrating on presenting a united front “as a form of witness to the world”, in contrast to this “time of political division”, a snide reference, I presume, to the US elections.

Here is a tweet showing Michael Thompson exhorting the church to indulge in a little faux-unity hypocrisy for the sake of its witness…. or should that be coffers?

unity

The only problem is, there is no unity in the ACoC: a number of bishops walked out of the last general synod after the same-sex marriage vote; later, they registered their dissent. Aboriginal Anglicans want to distance themselves from same-sex marriage. I know it falls somewhat short of rioting and property destruction but, in the Anglican world, this is disunity.

As an aside, I do hope Thompson has noticed that voting in the US elections – a slightly more ambitious exercise than the ACoC general synod – went much more smoothly than the GS2016 voting debacle run by…. you guessed it, Michael Thompson.

Still talking about same-sex marriage

The Anglican Church cannot stop talking about same-sex marriage. The more words that are spoken, the less that is said, an endless stream of fustian vacuities circling the certain knowledge that the outcome is inevitable; a gathering of CoGS clergy weaving an elaborate pretence of impartial objectivity, willing puppets, eyes blinkered and strings pulled by the spirit of our age.

It’s not unlike a description from Anthony Powell’s masterpiece, A Dance to the Music of Time:

The image of Time brought thoughts of mortality of human beings, facing outward like the Seasons, moving hand in hand in intricate measure, stepping slowly, methodically sometimes a trifle awkwardly, in evolutions that take recognisable shape: or breaking into seemingly meaningless gyrations, while partners disappear only to reappear again, once more giving pattern to the spectacle: unable to control the melody, unable, perhaps, to control the steps of the dance.

Here is a more prosaic account from the Journal:

Despite hopes expressed by some members that the Council of General Synod (CoGS) will be able to shift its focus away from same-sex marriage during the next triennium,  this did not happen just yet.

The Council spent much of the second day of its fall meeting brainstorming how it can ensure that productive discussions of the motion to amend the marriage canon will happen on the provincial and diocesan level over the next three years.

The motion passed its first reading at the July meeting of General Synod, but because same-sex marriage is a matter of doctrine, it requires a two-thirds majority vote at two consecutive General Synods. In preparation for the next General Synod in 2019, dioceses and ecclesiastical provinces have been asked to continue to study the motion in preparation for the second and final vote. CoGS has been mandated to support this work.

As several members noted over the course of the day, it might not be a straightforward task.

The church remains deeply divided on the issue. There are those who believe same-sex marriage has been put off for far too long already, those who insist that homosexuality is a serious sin and those who believe some accommodation for gay and lesbian Anglicans is necessary, but aren’t yet ready for marriage.

Some CoGS members, among them, the Rev. Lynne McNaughton, of the ecclesiastical province of British Columbia and Yukon, said their dioceses have already held meetings to discuss the next three years. Others, like John Rye of the ecclesiastical province of Rupert’s Land, compared debates over same-sex marriage to the film Groundhog Day, in which the protagonist re-lives the same day over and over again.

The Rev. Vincent Solomon, of the ecclesiastical province of Rupert’s Land, said people need to learn how to listen to each other if healthy discussions are to be had—a point that the Rev. David Burrows, a CoGS member from the ecclesiastical province of Canada, agreed with.

An Anglican Theology of Money

The Anglican Church of Canada has produced a report on The Theology of Money in which it denounces capitalism, a system that, apparently, is mired in “structural sin”. In its place, the report seems to be proposing Marxism branded with the stamp of an ecclesiastical imprimatur.

This would all be a little less risible if the senior ACoC clergy eager to impose economic strictures on the rest of us, earned less than six figures annually themselves. But, then, as a group of literary pigs have noted: all animals are equal, but some animals are more equal than others.

I remember a number of years ago attending a meeting where Fred Hiltz, speaking in his usual soporific monotone, became almost animated when announcing some wonderful news: not that revival had overcome every obstacle carefully placed in its path and visited the ACoC, but that a major donation was on the horizon, a bequest from a dead – even more dead than usual – Anglican, as I recall.

Of course, Western civilization is obsessed with money and its acquisition but it’s not the system that’s at fault, it’s the people living in the system: us. That includes (I do like to be inclusive) clergy and a church that is forever begging for financial support.

Here, the church version of the Occupy (anything but the cathedral or the bishop’s house) Movement is explained by Rev. Maggie Helwig, a regular at the Toronto gay pride parade:

On October 18, an Anglican Church of Canada task force has released “On The Theology of Money,” a report calling the faithful to embrace a “vision of ‘enough’” when it comes to material wealth.

Many Christians in the 21st century are torn between their faith, which teaches that hoarding wealth is wrong and that Christians should support each other, and an economic system that values individualism, limitless growth, and commodification, says the Rev. Maggie Helwig, a priest in the diocese of Toronto and member of the task force.

Using Biblical texts, early church teachings, contemporary theology and political theory, Helwig’s essay, Non nobis, Domine (Not to us, Lord) provides the main substance of the report, a result of two years of research, reflection and study.

Helwig makes the case that the current economic system and the value it places on money are antithetical to authentic Christianity, and should be seen as a kind of “structural sin.”

The essay takes its title from Psalm 115, which attacks the idolatrous worship of images made of silver and gold,  “the work of human hands,” and argues that the money economy, as it is currently practiced today, is a similar form of idolatry.

Citing stories like God’s feeding of the children of Israel with manna in Exodus 16, to the early church practice of holding goods in common described in Acts 2, Helwig points out that the Bible consistently teaches that Christians are called to be satisfied with what they need, and to share with those who have less—an argument she believes is backed up by the Bible’s frequent denunciations of lending money on interest.

She notes, however, “This vision of ‘enough’ is not only very different from the ever-spiralling growth of the money economy, it is actually hostile to it. If we are satisfied with simple, basic human lives of good work and mutual care, we will ‘fail’ according to the terms of our economy.”

Furthermore, Helwig argues that, because the capitalist economic system sees no intrinsic value in human life, it is completely indifferent to the suffering of those who find themselves unable to succeed on its terms.

“The inability of the market alone to ensure adequate human lives for the majority of the population is increasingly clear, as the gap between rich and poor, both globally and within nations, increases,” she says, quoting a report from Oxfam, an international confederation of groups working to fight poverty, that shows inequality as having grown dramatically over the past 30 years.

“These statistics speak of human lives stripped down to the voracious needs of an economic system’s implacable internal logic,” she adds.

[……]

Helwig also believes Christians should have a voice in the political arena, pushing for more redistributive economic policies and resisting trade agreements that “have been proven to limit the ability of persons and societies to make choices for the local common good.”

Fred Hiltz meets the Pope

Along with Justin Welby, Fred Hiltz met the Pope recently to discuss unity between Anglicans and Catholics. It’s odd that Hiltz felt he needed to travel 7000kms to talk about a “united witness to the gospel” when he could have taken the GO train 30kms to talk about the same thing with Anglican Network in Canada leaders.

From here:

hiltz-popeBut there is a growing desire in both churches to see unity as more than an end in itself, said Archbishop Fred Hiltz, primate of the Anglican Church of Canada, reflecting on his recent trip to Rome.

“The unity of the church is not for the church itself, and if it is, we might as well stop talking,” Hiltz said in an interview. “The unity of the church has to be in the interest of a common and faithful and united witness to the gospel, and the gospel is clearly for the world.”

For further confirmation that the whole exercise was little more than a posturing sham, we need look no further than the fact that the latest divisive antics of the ACoC were not even discussed:

For example, the Anglican Church of Canada’s move toward solemnizing the marriages of same-sex couples puts it at odds with Roman Catholic teachings on marriage. However, Hiltz said it was not an issue that came up for him or for any of the leaders of provinces that have made similar decisions.

“There was no kind of public calling into question the integrity of the Canadian church, or The Episcopal Church, or the Scottish Episcopal Church,” he said. “The focus was elsewhere.”

An Anglican hunger for Thanksgiving justice

The Anglican Church of Canada wants to end poverty (Bishop Jane Alexander is co-chair of the End Poverty Edmonton Task Force), an ambition that we might be tempted to think a trifle arrogant since the Church’s founder said it couldn’t be done.

No one seriously thinks the ACoC can actually do it, of course; it can’t even deliver Biblical sustenance to its own flock. That means it’s up to the government or, to put it more plainly, taxpayers, most of whom don’t attend an Anglican church, anyway, so that’s a good plan.

Read it all here:

At their first joint assembly in 2013, the Anglican Church of Canada and the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Canada passed a declaration committing their churches to “advocate for renewed federal funding” and for an “integrated national collaborative strategy and greater accountability on the part of provinces and municipalities” in addressing homelessness and substandard housing.

Whatever you do, though, don’t mention abortion. Sorry, I know I just mentioned it. That is because killing the unborn is the biggest injustice that will be visited on the defenceless this Thanksgiving but the ACoC hasn’t the guts to stand up for murdered unborn babies. So I won’t mention abortion. Oops, there I go again.

Fred Hiltz responds to dissenting bishops

Once the vote to change the marriage canon to permit same-sex marriage passed at General Synod, a number of bishops released a statement expressing their disagreement with both the process and the outcome. They also reaffirmed their commitment to stick with the Anglican Church of Canada come what may, a resolve that does little to fortify any influence they may think they have.

Now Fred Hiltz has responded to the statement. He makes his support for same-sex marriage quite clear and, reading between the lines, in spite of protestations to the contrary, I can’t believe there will be much tolerance for dissent.

From here:

While he affirmed the bishops’ commitment to offer “pastoral care and loving service to all irrespective of sexual orientation,” he noted that for many LGBTQ (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer/Questioning) Anglicans, “pastoral care” would include the solemnization of their marriages—which the bishops have expressly said they will not do. “For me, my brothers, the question you ask is really a question for all members of the church. To what extent can we and will we make room for one another? To what extent will we pastorally accommodate one another?” Hiltz said in his letter.

The bishops are, rightly, worried about the conscience clause:

Hiltz also challenged their claim that the resolution, which contains a conscience clause, “does not provide adequate protection for the consciences of dioceses, clergy and congregations.” He asked the bishops to explain what such protection would look like, and how it would apply for those in their dioceses who are in favour of same-sex marriage.

One answer to Hiltz might be this: when a bishop or clergyman refusing to marry a same-sex couple is either hauled before the Human Rights Commission or is civilly sued, the ACoC must pay for his legal defence. Of course, that won’t stop liberal bishops refusing to hire orthodox clergy or making their lives so disagreeable that they quit for a saner environment – but some things are too much to hope for.