On religion | Signs of a changing church “climate”? – Times-Standard

Journalist Michael Kinsley added a famous twist to American politics when he redefined a “blunder” as when “a politician tells the truth – an obvious truth that he is not supposed to tell”.

As Reverend Neil Elliot of the Anglican Church of Canada discovered, this term also applies to religious leaders.

After seeing reports from the 2018 General Synod, the denomination’s research and statistics expert produced an analysis that included this: “Our data projections indicate that there will be no members, attendees or donors in the Anglican Church of Canada by approximately 2040.”

Reactions to his candor varied, to say the least.

“I think of it a lot as… people’s responses to climate change,” Elliot said, updating his earlier remarks in a video posted by Global News in Canada.

Signs of changing church “climate”? In the early 1960s, Anglican parishes in Canada had nearly 1.4 million members. But that 2018 report found 357,123 members, with an average Sunday attendance of 97,421. The church had 1,997 new members that year, while holding 9,074 burials or funerals.

Canada’s national statistics agency reported that 10.4% of all Canadians were Anglicans in 1996, but that number fell to 3.8% in 2019.

People have one of three reactions to these kinds of numbers. The first is “denial,” Elliot said, counting one-share options. “People say… ‘It doesn’t happen.’ Then there are people who say, “We can stop it. And then there are people who say: “We can adapt”.

“The language of ‘adapting’ is much rarer, and I’m only starting to hear it (in) the media over the past few months,” Elliot said. “That’s what I’m trying to get us to do in the Church of England. It’s, ‘How can we adapt to it?’ not, ‘How can we stop it?’ or … people burying their heads in the sand.

The decline is real and cannot be denied, he said. However, he is convinced that this “decline will bottom out, or change. In other words, IF we are going to take advantage of it to reframe who we are. If we keep saying, “No, we’re all talking about a prayer book that was written 400 years ago,” then people will… come to our door and say, “Nah. I do not think so.

Various reports indicate, quite logically, that Anglicanism is not the only struggling religious tradition in Canada, a country where religious trends tend to emerge earlier than in the United States.

Membership in the United Church of Canada, created almost a century ago by the merger of four major Protestant churches, peaked at 1.1 million in the 1960s. Official reports for 2018 showed 388,363 members, 120,986 of whom regularly attended services. Meanwhile, Roman Catholicism now makes up 32% of Canadians over the age of 15, according to StatCan, up from 46.9% in 1996.

In the South, leaders of the American Episcopal Church continue to see similar trends. In official 2020 figures, membership in the denomination fell to around 1.57 million – from 1.64 million a year earlier, and down from a claimed 3.4 million members in the 1960s Average Sunday attendance in 2020 – a year that included pandemic figures – fell to 458,179 from 518,411 a year earlier.

How low can things go? The denomination’s official 2020 spreadsheet showed that in the extreme case of the Northern Michigan Diocese, average Sunday attendance fell to 233 out of a total of 908 diocesan members, spread across 21 parishes.

At this point, Episcopalians feel like they are living in the “narthex” between the church life they once knew and the realities seen in the world around them, noted Presiding Bishop Michael’s speech. Curry — via Zoom — at last fall’s House of Bishops meeting.

“We’re kind of back to our physical church buildings, but kind of not. Narthex. We wonder how many will come back,” he said. “The rest will always come back. Narthex.

At this point, Curry said his priests and people could not dream of an easy recovery, but of a “new and reformed church, not formed in the way of the world.” …No longer focused on empire or establishment, no longer obsessed with preserving institutions, no longer supporting white supremacy, or colluding with anything that hurts or harms a child of God or society. creation of God.

Terry Mattingly runs GetReligion.org and lives in Oak Ridge, Tennessee. He is a principal investigator at the Overby Center at the University of Mississippi.

Jerry B. Hatch