Poll

Note: I will be reposting material like this (lightly edited for clarity) because some of you missed it before, and because an increasing number of you came to this blog long after I had worked out my thesis.

Some of you are aware that I informally polled members of a discussion group about their introduction to Anglicanism. Here’s what I found.

In a discussion group of over 450, I received responses from almost two dozen people, of whom three-quarters were converts who fully explained their entry into our tradition. All were pious-but-disaffected Protestants. Their inquiry into the ancient Church led them to want access to the whole communion of saints. Most were clergy. Several were personally invited to church or given reading material by an Anglican they knew.

These results resonate with history. Anglo-Catholicism has been heavy on converts, and especially convert-clergy, for the duration of its existence. To my knowledge, there is nothing else like it in any faith. Could this even be a charism in some way?

This study was informal and undoubtedly skewed by its sample demographic, a group that was overwhelmingly clerical (therefore male) and interested enough in church politics to join a church-themed discussion group in the first place.

That said, these results are consonant with research presented here, and my own experience. In every Anglican church I’ve been to, most converts of any age are educated Evangelicals who have come to realize that their assumptions simply weren’t true. A smaller number of converts were apathetic “nones” or unchurched Romans, rather than people who have consciously broken from religion.

All felt the need for rootedness. While they always frame it as an intellectual imperative, I think it’s really also an outgrowth of existential loneliness and despair. We must build on that.

Currently, to reach Millennials is to reach the small contingent of Evangelicals who are tired of “Church lite.” These Evangelicals grew up in a milieu in which Anglican meant Episcopalian, and Episcopalian meant “Church lite with Wicca thrown in.” They may take the Canterbury trail, but most go to Rome or the East; once there, some end up in toxic Orthodox convert parishes, or Sedevacantist chaplets.

If that trend continues, we should expect the remains of creedal US Christianity to one day be heavily influenced by the extremes of Orthodox convert culture, and by a certain breed of hidebound Sedevacantist who fears the Jew and the Mason more than he loves our Lord. Our society is already unstable, so we had better pray on our knees that it doesn’t get to that point.

Finally, it should be abundantly clear that the postmodern condition has stripped every demographic of the moral conviction necessary to make substantive decisions. Our enemy isn’t atheism, it’s apathy.

  • If Anglicans develop a signature “brand” of outreach that Middle American Evangelical inquirers can understand, we may thrive. We’ll do what Methodism almost did.
    • This outreach will likely consist of face-to-face interaction and personal invitations to church. We should also talk to former Mormons and Romans. All have problems with facing the past. They may try another church, but not the one they left.
      • Some of you may still think that Episcopalians will join the Continuum en masse when the scales fall from their eyes. You must understand: They don’t know what a Continuing Anglican is.
  • If a drastic social crisis does not soon challenge the basic tenets of postmodernism, (which historically is how -isms come to an end), the number of potential spiritual inquirers of any age will remain vanishingly small and intellectually-oriented. At this time, there’s nothing we can do but get to this demographic first, while increasing our retention.
    • We have lost and will continue to lose that battle without devising a new form of Anglican media while cultivating a parish culture that retains children.
      • We must have more children. It’s an easier and quicker way to grow.
    • Many of you talk about how we should give up power, money and respectability to become purer. That’s a joke. We need to hold onto as many of those things as we can in good conscience. We’re going to need every last resource we can muster. None of them are inherently wrong if we steward them well.
  • If Evangelical study of the Early Church turns out to be a fad, our pool of inquirers will dwindle to almost nobody. It’s unlikely, but something to think about.
  • If our country’s economic structure and workplace demands continue to ruin family stability and keep birthrates down, it may already be over for all churches.
    • Money and common sense can have greater value than sincerity and pluck. That sounds bad, but it’s true. We must discuss large families, parochial schools, gentrification, and media outreach NOW OR NEVER. If one new law or economic trend makes it any harder to settle down and have a large family in a stable environment, Anglicanism is already nonviable. By the time we learn how to sustain our tradition, there won’t be any of us left to do so.
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