Tuesday, November 26, 2019

Why it matters that Canadian Anglicans are having a near-death experience

Years ago, while I was still an Episcopalian, I tried to get a circle of clergy and journalists to collaborate on what I thought would be a classic work of religion-marketplace humor.
The basic idea: The creation of the definitive collection of jokes about Episcopalians and their unique approach to Christian life and culture. As one priest put it, the Episcopal Church is “NPR at prayer.”
The book never happened, but I learned lots of jokes that I didn’t know in all of the basic categories, from “how many Episcopalians does it take to change a light bulb” quips to jokes featuring “Episcopalians at the gates of heaven and/or hell.” But here was my favorite joke, as I heard it in 1993 (but with a few updates):
The year is 2030 … and two Anglo-Catholic priests in the back of National Cathedral are watching the Episcopal presiding bishop and her incense-bearing wife, an archdeacon, process down the aisle behind a statue of the Buddha, while the faithful sing a hymn to Mother Earth.
"You know," one traditionalist whispers, "ONE more thing and I'm out the door."
The whole point was that it’s hard for religious communions to die. In the end, there are always reasons for true insiders to hang on and hope the pendulum swings back their way.
But I remember that someone else had a joke — I don’t remember how it went — that centered on the idea that, after a few more decades of declining statistics, Anglican churches would be empty, except for elderly clergy at the altars whose salaries would be paid with endowment funds.
That joke cuts to the heart of the news story discussed in this week’s “Crossroads” podcast (click here to tune that in).
As background, here is the top of the Religion News Service story I critiqued in an post with this headline: “Canada's Anglicans are vanishing and RNS can't find any conservatives to debate the reasons why.”

Story here.


rick allen said...

Your post reminds me how, for decades, the Soviet Union's Communist leadership assured us that Orthodoxy was dying, that only a few old women attended divine service, and that, once they died off it would all be over. And decade after decade the few old women were replaced by another generation of old women. And the Soviet Union fell and the rest is history.

I try to always remember I don't know the future. Trends may or may not continue.

Pat, Marcus & Alexis said...

Of interest is the seeming failure of it to be obvious that the Episcopal Church in the Western World has insisted on endless compromise. Claiming to be an Apostolic faith, it's moved further and further away from the Apostolic world, first coming to ignore divorce, then coming license contraception, then female ordination, and most recently suspending the traditional teachings on sex being limited to couples in a traditional marriage.

Such compromise hasn't gained it adherents or respect, outside of the narrow group inside of it urging such compromise. The lesson would seem to be that more respect is gained through adherence to long held principles, even from those who disagree with them.

bob said...

Decades ago Malcolm Muggeridge was editor of Punch. He wrote about how difficult it was to run a satire magazine when the people one was supposed to mock did such a thorough job of doing it to themselves. He was particularly irritated at Michael Ramsey the archbishop of Canterbury at the time. He was so apt to say things that were so bizarre Muggeridge felt despair, he said you try to make up something silly and the man just tops anything you could come up with. Things have only got more difficult in recent times.