The Bishop of SouthEast Florida has a new theory about why ECUSA membership has declined so much over the years.:
He says : But they forget to mention that the main exodus from our denomination was not because of Prayer Book changes or the ordination of women or the acceptance of gays and lesbians, but it was mainly due to the departure of white persons who refused to worship next to a black person who had dared to enter into their beloved homogeneous, culturally friendly environment through cracks that were being made by our clergy and laity to end segregation and discrimination.
Some of you may wonder how he could argue that a church where everyone was enlightened enough to joyfully accept every new innovation, was also a church where most people were so backward and racist that they wouldn't sit in the same pews as people with darker skins. The answer lies in Newark.
Newark is cutting-edge, the home of Episcopal innovation. Newark requires an exceptionally large group of active laity --even lay readers -- to take mandatory anti-racism training. But Newark also loves to kill mostly black parishes where people tend to adhere to traditional faith, and don't have the means to fight back.
In 2005, Rev. William Guthrie, the rector of one of the Diocese's larger black parishes (Christ Church, East Orange) , wrote a letter to the Bishop and Presiding Bishop, about how much the black Episcopal community felt alienated by ECUSA's obsession with the gay & lesbian agenda.
Courageously, Rev. Guthrie allowed the letter to be published on a widely read conservative site, Titus One Nine. In part, Guthrie said:
After the widely publicized decisions of the 2003 General Convention, we lost five stalwart families (who could no longer walk with us because of these decisions) at Christ Church, East Orange. The giving that year in terms of the stewardship campaign and the every member canvass plummeted by $20,000 as people voted with their feet and their pocketbooks regarding the general direction in which ECUSA is moving.
Christ Church, East Orange seems to be OK--at least for now. But just a few miles away lie the corpses of what, just a year or two ago, were three integrated, black majority parishes, who favored traditional worship.
The first to go was St. Mark's in West Orange. One of the oldest parishes in the diocese, St. Mark's had a large building badly in need of repair, but with an endowment that would cover the expenses. Because they were only allowed to draw on the income, the parish went to court in order to change the terms. In the meantime, the diocese loaned the parish money for repairs, but at some point, it tired of the arrangement, closed the parish, sold the building (built 1827) --and of course, pocketed the remaining endowment.
Less than two years later, the Diocese closed two mostly black High Church parishes. All Saints was in Orange, one mile east of St. Mark's, while Trinity Montclair was just over 3 miles to the west. All Saints was shut down in October 2006; Trinity followed in February 2007. The diocese could, logically, have merged these two similar parishes. Had it thought ahead (and had that endowment not been so tempting!) three parishes could have been merged. The sanctuary at St. Mark's was more than big enough, and the proceeds from selling the other buildings would have paid for a lot of repairs.
Here's what the Dicoese did instead-- First, All Saints was merged with Holy Innocents in West Orange, a small, affluent, liberal parish that had spent years under a feminist rector, recently retired. Shortly after the merger, it was announced that the combined parishes had chosen a partnered lesbian as their interim.
In the meantime, Trinity was put through an " innovative, informal merger" with Christ Church,Bloomfield/ Glen Ridge. The Christ Church-Trinity connection actually makes some sense. They are near each other, they are both traditional, and have complementary demographics. Christ Church has a huge sanctuary, but no rector, and no money to pay one. Trinty had a much beloved rector from Nigeria or Uganda; its property was small, but in a good location and the income from the proceeds would have paid a rector's salary for many years.
Would have paid--for the Diocese insisted that the merger be kept "informal." Thus, Trinity was declared extinct, the Diocese will pocket the proceeds, Trinity's rector has had to leave the Diocese to find work, and the combined Christ Church/Trinity parish remain in the iron grip of a very clever, very revisionist interim. The traditionalist chair of the search committee was barred from making a report to the Vestry and resigned in frustration. The current search committee chair has a several-generations long connection to the parish, and does not believe the Nicene Creed.