Diocesan mergers ahead in the US and Canada: The Church of England Newspaper, Sept 10, 2010 p 6. September 11, 2010Posted by geoconger in Anglican Church of Canada, Church of England Newspaper, Kansas, Western Kansas.
First published in The Church of England Newspaper.
Aging congregations and falling attendance may force the mergers of the dioceses of Montreal and Quebec, the Montreal Anglican reports. The diocesan newspaper said the bishops, clergy and lay leaders of the two dioceses were considering proposals that would begin a “process of discernment toward a fuller partnership as diocesan institutional churches.”
In November 2009 Bishop Barry Clarke of Montreal, Bishop Dennis Drainville of Quebec, Archdeacon Janet Griffith Johnson of Montreal, and Archdeacon Garth Bulmer of Quebec met to craft a two year “discernment process.” An agreement between the two dioceses dated Dec 17 proposed a joint committee to look into “opportunities and obstacles to partnership” between the two dioceses.
Last year Bishop Drainville told the Canadian House of Bishops his diocese was “teetering on the verge of extinction.” Of the diocese’s 82 congregations, 50 were childless and 35 congregations had an average age of 75. These graying congregations often had no more than 10 people in church on Sundays, he said. “The critical mass isn’t there, there’s no money anymore,” he said.
Between 1961 and 2001 the Anglican Church of Canada lost 53 per cent of its members, with numbers declining from 1.36 million to 642,000. The rate of decline has increased in recent years, according to an independent report given to the Canadian House of Bishops in 2006 by retired marketing expert Keith McKerracher. The church has not released detailed statistics on attendance and membership for the last ten years.
After the report’s release, McKerracher said, “My point to the bishops was: Hey listen, guys, we’re declining much faster than any other church. We’re losing 12,836 Anglicans a year. That’s 2 percent a year. If you draw a line on the graph, there’ll only be one person left in the Canadian Anglican church by 2061.”
Pressure to amalgamate dioceses has also been felt in the United States, with discussions underway between the rural Wisconsin dioceses of Eau Claire and Fond du Lac. On May 10, Kansas Bishop Dean Wolfe called for a merger of that state’s two dioceses: Kansas and Western Kansas.
He noted that as Western Kansas was at that time without a bishop, the two dioceses had a “unique opportunity, in this brief moment, to engage in a crucial conversation and it is an opportunity which may not present itself again for many years. I believe if our two great dioceses were to join forces it would create an atmosphere of holy excitement and renewed hope throughout our state.”
A merger would permit a “comprehensive evangelism strategy for the state of Kansas as a whole”; “raise the profile of the Episcopal Church throughout the state”; strengthen the church’s youth programmes; offer “higher quality education programmes”; and provide a rationalization of costs and efficiencies of scale for the two dioceses faced with declining membership and revenues.
However, on Aug 21 Western Kansas elected the rector of Grace Church in Hutchinson, Kansas the Rev. Michael Milliken as its bishop. However in a break with tradition in the Episcopal Church, Bishop-elect Milliken will remain rector of his parish while assuming Episcopal duties as the diocese spread across the prairie of the western two-thirds of the state. With 2,100 parishioners in 28 congregations, the diocese is unable to afford the costs of a full time bishop.