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Church of Canada Gone in 20 Years?

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A new report that is being called a “wake-up” call for the Anglican Church of Canada shows they may not be around by 2040, according to Religion News Service.

A report commissioned by the Anglican Church said their numbers have fallen from 1.3 million members in 1961 to 357,123 in 2017. The data was delivered to the Council of General Synod meeting Nov. 7-9 in Mississauga, Ontario, by the author of the study Rev. Neil Elliot, RNS reported.

For decades the Church has continued its liberal slide regarding views on Scripture and same-sex marriage. In July, it narrowly fell short in the number of votes needed to amend its canon for approval of same-sex marriages. While church leaders and others debate reasons for the Church’s decades of decline in members, Elliot said the numbers remain troubling.

“Projections from our data indicate that there will be no members, attenders or givers in the Anglican Church of Canada by approximately 2040,” said Elliot, an Anglican priest in Trail, British Columbia.

The prediction, RNS noted, is based on the following information:

  • church statistics from 1961 to 2001,
  • subscriber data to the “Anglican Journal” (the church’s official publication),
  • and Elliot’s survey of parish rolls, average Sunday attendance and “regular identifiable givers across Canada.”

It’s information, he told church leaders, “we really, really have to take seriously and we can’t dismiss lightly,” RNS reported.

One leader called the latest report on the Church’s continued decline in membership “dire,” RNS reported.  Others voiced hope of finding creative ways to boost church membership.

“We need to take it very seriously,” RNS quoted Geoff Woodcroft, Bishop of the Diocese of Rupert’s Land in Manitoba and northwestern Ontario. But he added he did not consider it a “death knell” for the Church.  He noted they are pursuing “new experiments to live out more fully the call to engage the world as the body of Christ … It’s a challenging time, but also a hopeful time.”

Though the Church narrowly voted not to amend its canon in July to sanction same-sex marriage, some voiced dissatisfaction with the results, according to a report by Christianity Today.  Despite the vote, the dioceses still maintain the option of deciding for themselves according to their “contexts and convictions” on the issue.

But Bishop Joey Royal noted, “In a church that affirms the ‘One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church’ I can’t make sense of what local option means in this context or in the global Church.”

“This is something that has not yet been fully acknowledged despite repeated pleas from all across the Communion to not proceed with same-sex marriage,” the suffragan bishop told the Anglican Planet. “The truth is we’ve unleashed a monster and no one — not conservatives, not liberals — can predict how this will all play out in the coming years.”

In 2004, the denomination first passed a measure to “affirm the integrity and sanctity of committed adult same-sex relationships,” Christianity Today reported. In 2005, Canada legalized same-sex marriage.

Despite the ongoing shift in theology and views on same-sex marriage, an earlier report by Christianity Today found Canada’s Anglican churches and mainline congregations “with conservative theology were growing faster than their liberal counterparts.” The report went on to say a team of sociologists suggested that “conservative theological beliefs — including emphasis on Scripture as the ‘actual word of God’ and belief in the power of prayer — may be the saving grace keeping attendance up at 9 of 22 Ontario churches studied.”

The study’s lead author David Millard Haskell said, “Most people, especially academics, are hesitant to say one type of belief system is better than another,” Christianity Today reported. He added, “if we are talking solely about which belief system is more likely to lead to numerical growth among Protestant churches, the evidence suggests conservative Protestant theology is the clear winner.”

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