Further Thoughts on the CEC
It's been awhile since I've posted on this blog. Much of my time has been spent moderating several sections of the Ancient-Future Catholic forum, owned by fellow blogger David Bennett. Some months ago, we decided mutually that the time had come to shut down discussions of the CEC on that forum, and overall, I believe that this has been a wise move. Some CEC discussion has continued on the On Our Way Home forum, but at a much slower, and less frenetic pace than before.
Now that the dust has cleared somewhat, we can perhaps have a better picture as to what has actually happened, and what is still going on.
Total Episcopal Departures from the CEC since May 2006:
Bishop Philip Zampino, formerly Bishop of the Mid-Atlantic Diocese and Abbot General; now Prelate of the Communion of Corpus Christi.
Bishop Fred Fick, formerly Bishop of the Great Lakes Diocese; now a bishop in the Communion of Christ the Redeemer.
Bishop Don Miles, formerly assistant Bishop of the Great Lakes Diocese; now a bishop in the Communion of Christ the Redeemer.
Bishop Rich Lipka, formerly Bishop of Delmarva Diocese; now the President of the Communion of Christ the Redeemer.
Bishop Phil Weeks, formerly Missionary Bishop for the CEC; now a bishop in the Communion of Christ the Redeemer.
Bishop Ken Myers, formerly Bishop of the South-Central Diocese; now Vice-President of the Communion of Christ the Redeemer.
Bishop Rick Painter, formerly Bishop in Arizona; now the Secretary-Treasurer of the Communion of Christ the Redeemer.
Archbishop Randy Sly, formerly Archbishop of the Eastern Province; now a layman in the Roman Catholic Church.
In addition, there have been dozens, if not hundreds of priests and deacons who have left for other bodies, dozens of churches who have left for other bodies, and thousands of laity which have left for other bodies.
The "Exodus" continues, but has been slowed to a trickle. I do expect more losses, but not nearly at the rate we've seen over the last 9 months or so.
Is, then, my earlier post on the demise of the CEC incorrect? To paraphrase Mark Twain: "Are the rumors of the death of the CEC greatly exaggerated?"
No, I don't think so. It may still be possible for the CEC to survive as a meaningful entity -- but I would not bet the rent on it.
What has happened positively:
There have been some positives.
1) The CEC is finally being honest about its own numbers here in the United States. For many years, those in the CEC (including those in ministry) were treated to enormous exaggerations as to churches and parishoners. In the United States, the CEC is now admitting to about 4,000 souls.
2) The CEC is finally taking a stand on doctrinal issues (like the Canon of Scripture). Lack of clarity on fundamental points of doctrine has always been a shortcoming of the denomination. It appears that this is beginning to change.
3) The CEC is finally taking a stand on a unified liturgy. This has also been a shortcoming, as not only styles of worship would vary around the country, but so also would fundamental and theological aspects of the liturgy. It is difficult to have a unified doctrine if there is no uniform liturgical worship. The CEC is finally coming to grips with this.
4) The CEC seems to be making at least a minimal attempt to regularize its reporting, both with regard to parish records and with regard to financial accountability. This may be "too little, too late" -- but, nevertheless a start is being made.
HOWEVER -- the NEGATIVES certainly outweigh the positives:
1) Honesty about numbers is a good thing. The numbers themselves look very bad -- and when analyzed, look much worse. 4,000 persons -- 90 churches. That adds up to about 45 persons per church. Not very viable. But there's more. 6 of those congregations are cathedral parishes, which tend to be much larger than the typical CEC congregation. If we assume an average membership of 150 for those six congregations (which is conservative indeed) we're left with about 3,100 persons in 84 parishes/missions. That adds up to about to about 37 members per congregation. But it gets worse than that. Among those 4,000 people, are between 300 and 350 clergy! For 90 churches! Most members of the CEC clergy have families, and many of those families are quite large. Just assuming an average of 4.5 members per clergy family (which again is conservative indeed) and we see between 1,800 and 2,000 members of CEC churches who are either clergy, or families of clergy. That number approaches 50%. This is not viable denominational growth!
2) Taking a stand on doctrine and on liturgy is also a good thing. However, in the case of the CEC, the stand taken is essentially "We have decided that we are a Protestant denomination". If that is truly what they want to be, that's fine and dandy. But that is not the song which was being sung EVEN ONE YEAR AGO, much less from the beginning of the denomination. Yet the current leadership is pretending that this is not the case. One immediately thinks of the "doublespeak" talked about in 1984. Those of us who remember how it was at the beginning cannot be fooled.
3) The beginnings of accountability are not enough. The current leadership of the CEC has still not "come clean" about the events of the past year (and honestly, much further back than that!) Clergy and laity who still ask questions are being insulted by bishops. The cries of the literally thousands who have asked for information, and yes, for justice, have been mocked and ridiculed. Attacks have been made against forums and blogs (including this one) yet certain leaders have no hesitancy in printing their own views and opinions. Lies have been told, and continue to be told. Reputations have been tarnished, and continue to be tarnished. Relationships have been broken, and continue to be broken.
In other words, in spite of the loss of 8 bishops, dozens to hundreds of clergy, and (depending on which set of figures you read) up to 75% percent of the laity in the United States, a certain cadre within the remaining leadership is still continuing "business as usual".
I pray for those left in the CEC. I pray for healing and for reconciliation. But I also pray that "the truth will out".
Labels: Anglicanism, CEC Issues, Christianity, Ethics