"Top 25 U.S. churches reported in the 2012 Yearbook of American & Canadian Churches:Of course the Baptist stats would be much more impressive if they weren't divided - about 26 million all up. Ah, unity!
The Catholic Church 68,202,492, ranked 1 [ranked 1 in 2011], down 0.44 percent.
Southern Baptist Convention 16,136,044, ranked 2 [ranked 2 in 2011], down 0.15 percent.
The United Methodist Church 7,679,850, ranked 3 [ranked 3 in 2011], down 1.22 percent.
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints 6,157,238, ranked 4 [ranked 4 in 2011], up 1.62 percent.
The Church of God in Christ 5,499,875, ranked 5 [ranked 5 in 2011], no update reported.
National Baptist Convention, U.S.A., Inc. 5,197,512, ranked 6 [ranked 6 in 2011], up 3.95 percent.
Evangelical Lutheran Church in America 4,274,855, ranked 7 [ranked 7 in 2011], down 5.90 percent.
National Baptist Convention of America, Inc. 3,500,000, ranked 8 [ranked 8 in 2011], no update reported.
Assemblies of God 3,030,944, ranked 9 [ranked 9 in 2011], up 3.99 percent.
Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) 2,675,873, ranked 10 [ranked 10 in 2011], down 3.42 percent.
African Methodist Episcopal Church 2,500,000, ranked 11 [ranked 11 in 2011], no update reported.
National Missionary Baptist Convention of America 2,500,000, ranked 11 [ranked 11 in 2011], no update reported.
The Lutheran Church— Missouri Synod (LCMS) 2,278,586, ranked 13 [ranked 13 in 2011], down 1.45 percent.
The Episcopal Church 1,951,907, ranked 14 [ranked 14 in 2011], down 2.71 percent.
Pentecostal Assemblies of the World, Inc. 1,800,000, ranked 15 [ranked 17 in 2011], up 20 percent.
Churches of Christ 1,639,495, ranked 16 [ranked 15 in 2011], no update reported.
Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America 1,500,000 , ranked 17 [ranked 16 in 2011], no update reported.
The African Methodist Episcopal Zion Church 1,400,000, ranked 18 [ranked 18 in 2011], no update reported.
American Baptist Churches in the U.S.A. 1,308,054, ranked 19 [ranked 19 in 2011], down 0.19 percent.
Jehovah’s Witnesses 1,184,249, ranked 20 [ranked 20 in 2011], up 1.85 percent.
Church of God (Cleveland, Tennessee) 1,074,047, ranked 21 [ranked 22 in 2011], down 0.21 percent.
Christian Churches and Churches of Christ 1,071,616, ranked 22 [ranked 23 in 2011], no update reported.
Seventh-day Adventist Church 1,060,386, ranked 23 [ranked 24 in 2011], up 1.61 percent.
United Church of Christ 1,058,423, ranked 24 [ranked 21 in 2011], down 2.02 percent.
Progressive National Baptist Convention, Inc. 1,010,000, ranked 25 [ranked 25 in 2011], no update reported.
Total membership in top 25 churches: 145,691,446, down 1.15 percent."
That is our Protestant achilles heel. It is also an Anglican achilles heel. Unified Roman Catholics 68 - Divided Protestants best competitor 16. Game over!
Seriously, it is interesting here on ADU to raise questions about the lack of unity in the Communion and to receive answers such as 'unity is not about institutional unity' or 'unity is not more valuable than truth' or 'unity shouldn't trump justice.' These are Protestant responses. I cannot imagine a Catholic theologian saying, 'If we have to divide the church we will do so in order to secure social justice.' Rather, the point of catholic theology is to work out the application of the gospel through a church in mission which does not divide, not even in its institutional framework.
To an extent we Anglicans 'get' some of this because we have, at least, given the Covenant serious consideration. Even in TEC there is an interesting development in the run up to the GC whereby one proposed motion re the Covenant (essentially to reject it in toto) is being rivalled by another motion which tries to accept as much of the Covenant as possible (head to Preludium to follow this). Could we Anglicans go a bit further on unity, actually could we go a lot further?
Speaking yesterday with a colleague I was gratified to find that he supported the Covenant precisely because he values church unity and sees the Covenant as building unity among Anglicans. Reflecting on that, and also another conversation earlier in the week with a colleague who stressed the role of the Covenant in building our church into the 'one, holy, catholic and apostolic church' of God, I offer the following thoughts.
Our Anglican crisis which presents as a crisis in our relationships ('division', 'schism', 'impaired Communion') is a crisis of truth. On certain matters we do not agree what the truth is, or in other words, what God's will for the church is. Unity is never disconnected from truth and the repair of disunity must involve the finding of truth, an achieving of concurrence on God's will for the church. The 'one' church of God is always the 'holy, catholic and apostolic' church of God, and each of the three qualifiers, holy, catholic and apostolic relate to the matter of truth (what is the right way to live, what do Christians believe together, what did the apostles teach): unity and truth, truth and unity, the church cannot escape the pairing.
The Covenant both affirms what we believe as Anglicans and provides a means for discernment of truth, especially in relation to claims of innovation. Many claims of innovation provoke no question of universal concern about what God's will for the church is. Some claims do. The Covenant offers a way to agree together on an innovation of significance.
[I have changed this paragraph slightly] Is the negativity across significant parts of the Communion betraying a lack of confidence in knowing the truth? If so, this lack of confidence is contiguous with developments in human life through which the spirit of post-modernism, pluralism, and individualism blows. In today's world, as this spirit blows, the surest truth we have is the truth we see with our own eyes, or with the eyes of our tribe or 'tribe' (i.e. a smallish group to which we belong). The possibility of truth for everyone is too big a challenge (it would appear), so people back away from it. Are we Anglicans backing away from the Covenant because we have this wind swirling through us too? I recognise that there are a variety of reasons for opposing the Covenant and some opposers would not in any way agree with this analysis!
In the process Anglicans may be becoming very confused. On the matter of homosexuality, for instance, we want truth to be both contextual (our national church has the right to decide its response to this matter) and universal (no one anywhere on the planet should be subject to bigotry). If there is no God and no divine will for the church, we may live with such confusion. But to be the church is to make a claim that God exists and has a will for the church: in the end either the confusion dies or the church dies.
The tragedy of the Covenant, if it should be lost from us, is that it will have been lost because of a loss of vision for the truth of God as truth for everyone. Out of that loss of vision flows a host of concerns about the Covenant. Some of these concerns are about hypothetical effects and many such concerns are about those effects effecting me, or my tribe or 'tribe'. But the great matter of the Covenant is whether we wish to be Anglican churches in an Anglican Communion which is being drawn ever deeper into the fullness of one, holy, catholic and apostolic church, that is, the church for everyone.
But that betokens agreement on the truth and we appear to be disinterested in securing that agreement no matter how painful and how long that might take. Easier to settle for continuing to having the right to pursue the truth as I and my group understand it.
To ++Rowan's credit, he has tried these ten years to work for a Communion in which together we might continue to engage in the search for God's truth for everyone. I hope history is kind to him and makes its judgement against those who colluded in working for a lesser Communion, one engaged in upholding the right for each church to do what it thinks best in the light of the truth it has seen for itself.