100,000? We think not

There is reason to be skeptical of the claim by the leaders of the proposed Anglican province in North American that they represent 100,000 people. There is reason to be skeptical that they have any real idea of how many people they represent. Here is why:

Five of the nine members of the groups in this new Anglican body make no claim to be churches. Hence, members of the American Anglican Council, Forward in Faith, the Anglican Communion Network, the Anglican Network in Canada and the Anglican Coalition in Canada are not, by their membership in these groups alone, members of the new province because they are still members of the Episcopal Church or the Anglican Church of Canada. Counting them once is overcounting them.

On the other hand, if a member of one of these five groups is a member of one of the churches within the new gathering, they are, in all likelihood, being counted twice—once as a member of the AAC and one as a member of CANA or its ilk. And just to confuse matters a bit more, it is entirely possible, and perhaps even likely that thousands of people belong to the American Anglican Council, Forward in Faith, the Anglican Communion Network and one of the breakaway churches.

Are these folks being counted once, twice, four times? Anyone who has ever managed a mailing list knows how difficult it is to “de-dupe” that list when names from multiple sources are combined into a single database. It seems extremely unlikely that Bishops Duncan, Minns, et. al., have done this work.

Double and triple-counting is not the only reason to doubt the number that bishops cite. Because no member of the media has challenged the numbers that these folks quote in their press releases, we don’t know whether they are counting every member of the Dioceses of San Joaquin, Fort Worth, Pittsburgh and Quincy, or only those members who are actually supportive of the new province. If it is the former, the total needs to be reduced by a bit more than 20 percent.

An additional problem lies not in the numbers, but in the way they have been used. Most of the reporting on this story suggests that all of these notional 100,000 people left the Episcopal Church due to its theological liberalism. But many of the members of the Anglican Mission in America, which has been in existence for seven years, are former Presbyterians. Many members of the Reformed Episcopal Church (which broke away from the Episcopal Church 129 years ago) were never members of the Episcopal Church in the first place. And the members of the Anglican Network of Canada and the Anglican Coalition of Canada are, uhm, Canadians, and therefore were previously members of the Anglican Church of Canada.

It is journalistically irresponsible to continue to write that the breakaway bishops represent 100,000 people and that these people have left the Episcopal Church when the bishops have provided no evidence that this is the case, and there are so many reasons to doubt the accuracy of their claim.

Comments (3)

Jim,
Your work on the Lead in the past day and today is a huge resource for pastors smart enough to send people to read it. In all the controversies as pastor a a decidedly left-leaning congregation, I had very good people who were very anxious about 'what we were doing to the Communion,' and who didn't want to walk away from Anglicanism. In my last year and a bit there, I often sent them to the Cafe for perspective it was difficult to get from the secular press. It's been strange having our church covered so much and yet with decided bias toward the so called conservatives.

In this piece I appreciate your challenging Duncan and company's claim to know why people are with their group. I know people, good friends and relatives who are in breakaway congregations not because they agree theologically and in fact in one instance still in the breakaway congregation after voting against leaving. They've stayed because, 'It's my church.' In other words, in the local way, some of the 'breakaway' parishioners are acting like Anglicans and stubbornly continuing in fellowship with sisters and brothers with whom they disagree profoundly.

Duncan and company have a solid strategy for delivering a consistent explanation of what's happening, keeping it simple, defining the language, etc. and the press buys it as fact, quoting schismatic interpretations without appropriate quotation marks.

I agree with your take on their inflated numbers Jim.

A point of clarification though:
Canadian members of both ANiC and ACiC have left the Anglican Church of Canada. ACiC are under the AMiA and may be counted there as well. ANiC are now under the Southern Cone.

David

Jim,

I have long wanted to figure out how one might get 700 churches and 100,000 ASA. I've started checking out numbers, and here is what I've found.

The four dioceses that have realigned represent perhaps 125 congregations. (I have been generous in my estimates, I think.) The Reformed Episcopal Church has (being very generous because information is incomplete on the Web) perhaps 80 congregations. CANA: 63. AMiA (a surprise here to me): 126. In Canada: ANiC: 23. ACC: 12. It isn't clear if ACN has churches independent of everything else. According to the Web site, for example, Albany is in the Network, but virtually all the churches there would be in TEC. So what do we have? About 300 congregations. I began looking at churches in the Network convocations, but many of the Web sites of those churches declare themselves to be Episcopal and show the Episcopal shield on their home pages.

An enterprising journalist should demand a list of the 700 churches. My guess is that most simply are a figment of someone's imagination.

Lionel Deimel

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