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    Friday, December 09, 2005

    Episcopalians face up to decline (Newark)

    The Episcopal Diocese of Newark, for years the epitome of liberal Protestant Christianity in America, acknowledged Thursday in an unusually candid report that it has suffered a steep slide in membership and needs a bishop who can revitalize its struggling parishes.

    Under Croneberger and his predecessor, Bishop John Shelby Spong, the diocese ordained numerous gay priests and performed blessings for same-sex couples. About 20 openly gay and lesbian priests work in the diocese, which has 27,600 members and 113 parishes.

    "I am extremely pleased that the document addresses head-on the major problem with the Episcopal Church, which is that it's disappearing," said the Rev. Ellen Donnelly, co-rector of St. Michael's Church. "It has been the elephant in the living room that everyone knows about but that nobody talked about."

    Donnelly said the problem reflects the traditional emphasis at seminaries on theology rather than parish management. She said it's crucial that the next bishop attract clergy who know how to build a successful congregation.

    Less theology and more management focus. That should work! Wal-Mart does very well with that approach. The 27,600 souls trusting in their church need our prayers.


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