It ain’t what you don’t know that gets you into trouble. It’s what you know for sure that ain’t so. (A staple of folk wisdom attributed to both Mark Twain and Will Rogers and repeated by Sachel Paige and Yogi Berra.)
We know for sure that we need over 100 dioceses, or else why would we have so many? Just ignore our 47% membership loss in the last five decades and our closing of over 300 congregations in the last five years. Turn a blind eye to the fact that comparable National Churches in the Anglican Communion average over 120,000 members per diocese while our average is under 16,000 members. Overlook that the United Methodists, the Lutherans, and the Presbyterians all have more members and fewer jurisdictions (dioceses) then we do. Yes, we know for sure that we must have over 100 dioceses. Friends, it ain’t so!
We also know for sure that diocesan mandatory assessments are necessary for the survival of the Church. This must be true because over 95% of our dioceses “tax” congregations. Only one actually uses the word tax but make no mistake about it, forced payments by any other name such as assessment, apportionment, tithe, pledge, or fair share, are still mandatory taxes. The Bishop of a Diocese that uses the polite term tithe wrote “This 10% is the minimum that any congregation should do.” Then he then asks for additional giving for five separate budget categories: youth, Latino, leadership training, the diocesan camp, and expanded support for the
. Diocesan mandatory taxes average between 15% and 22%. Is it shame or guilt that keeps most jurisdictions from publishing the rate or budget on their web sites? National Church
That’s right, congregations must depend on voluntary giving from their members and the
has an asking but not a requirement; but not the diocese – they require!! And they are prepared to use penalties for non-payment. Many dioceses do have a provision for congregations to come, hat-in-hand, asking for a tax reduction so that they can keep more of their own dollars; demeaning! Again, it ain’t so that mandatory assessments are essential for the survival of the Church. National Church
So when the Episcopal Church decides, or is forced, to reduce the number of dioceses - the key element is voluntary giving by congregations to the diocese. This is the Bishop’s worst fear! Nevertheless, necessity will cause some dioceses to merge as local congregations decide on the best uses of resources to do ministry, provide pastoral care, be served by trained rectors, and support the bishop. Congregations working together can provide most if not all the program ministries of the diocese. We trust our people to give (return to God) out of their blessings to the parish. We, in turn, should trust our congregations to give to the diocese the correct proportion of parish blessings. It is incongruous to trust our members as individuals but not to trust those same people when they are acting as a parish.
Some will suggest that various Constitutions and Canons make such a plan impossible. Nonsense! If enough of us who care about the future of the Episcopal Church band together we can make this happen. “Be it resolved that it is the mind of this Convention that all parish giving to the Diocese be voluntary effective immediately.” “And be it further resolved that it is the mind of this Convention that all mandatory congregational formulas and penalties be unenforced until such time as they are removed from Diocesan documents.” Pity the bishop that would deny the will of the people by resorting to legalistic maneuvers.
Who is willing to join in the campaign to undo what we know for sure, but ain’t so?