At least eleven Anglican Primates are declining invitations to attend the annual Anglican Primates meeting beginning in Dublin today. They object to the inclusion of U.S. Episcopal Church Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori. The eleven boycotting primates represent about 80 percent of the global Anglican Communion’s roughly 80 million members.
On New Year’s Day this year the Rev. Mally Lloyd, Canon to the Ordinary in the Episcopal Diocese of Massachusetts, married the Rev. Katherine Ragsdale,
dean and president of the Episcopal Divinity School in Cambridge, Massachusetts at St. Paul’s Cathedral in Boston. Bishop M. Thomas Shaw presided at the ceremony attended by 400 friends of the brides. Refraining from same-sex blessings was one of the moratoria previously requested by leaders of the global Anglican Communion. Actual ‘marriages’ were not even considered.
The effect of such single minded determination to push ahead with a progressive theological agenda despite the pleas of the rest of the Church has its effect.The Anglican communion as a whole is being destroyed by a part of it which in turn is destroying itself in the name of progressive theology.
Prior to their current positions, Ragsdale served as vicar of St. David’s Church in Pepperell, while Lloyd was for six years the rector of Christ Church in Plymouth, both in Massachusetts. Both congregations have declined significantly according to the diocese’s self-reported statistics.
The diocese of Massachusetts itself has seen membership shrink over the past decade, with weekly attendance dropping from about 24,000 in 2001 to about 18,000 in 2009. This decline has been mirrored by Episcopal Divinity School, which is struggling with diminishing finances and student seminarian numbers. In 2008, the school had to sell many of its historic buildings to neighbouring Lesley University for $33.5 million in urgently needed income. The decline of the Episcopal Church in Massachusetts reflects the U.S. Episcopal Church’s national decline.
Meanwhile, the numbers of orthodox Anglican congregations which have broken away from the US Episcopal Church are growing. Anglican churches throughout Africa and in Asia continue to grow in membership. Orthodox global south primates are increasingly unwilling to submit to traditional leadership by shrinking, heterodox Western churches. Bishop Shaw’s cathedral wedding for two prominent lesbian priests will likely accelerate that trend.
Progressive theology and ecclesiastical practice is a disease which causes great pain and distress in its dying.