"The Preachers chiefly shall take heed that they teach nothing in their preaching, which they would have the people religiously to observe and believe, but that which is agreeable to the Doctrine of the Old Testament and the New, and that which the Catholick Fathers and Ancient Bishops have gathered out of that Doctrine." A proposed canon of Elizabeth I, 1571

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Location: Bedford, Texas, United States

I am a presbyter in the diocese of Fort Worth, Texas (Anglican Church in North America). I serve as Chaplain at St. Vincent's School and as a canon of St. Vincent's Cathedral Church in Bedford, Texas. In addition to my parish duties and teaching Religion classes in the school I am also the Middle School Social Studies teacher.

Monday, December 31, 2007

St. Vincent's Continues to Grow

Belying the predictions of some on the Episcopal Left that the prospective departure of the diocese of Fort Worth from TEC would be so highly divisive here as to cause parishes to split chaotically and fall apart, end-of-the-year statistics indicate that our cathedral church, St. Vincent's Church in Bedford, has continued to grow in Average Sunday Attendance over the last year. Our ASA in 2007 will prove to be 410, which marks a 2% increase over our ASA in 2006. In fact, the cathedral's ASA has consistently shown a small increase every year since the Robinson fiasco began in 2003, despite the fact that TEC nationally has experienced massive declines in attendance during that time.

We have continued to see new faces at St. Vincent's in the last year. These are people who are looking for traditional Christian worship and teaching. They continue to show up on Sunday mornings, and frequently mention the sound Biblical teaching of the cathedral staff and the staunch defense of Christian orthodoxy by our diocesan leadership as the reasons they have come. Many of them have driven miles to join us to praise God and receive the sacraments in a faithful, orthodox parish.

I am aware of no members of the parish who have recently left us on account of our diocese's first vote to sever our ties to the General Convention of the Episcopal church last November. I suspect this is because people who are members of the parish today have already made a conscious decision to be part of a community where "the faith once delivered to the saints" is proclaimed without alteration or compromise. People at St. Vincent's are extremely well-informed about events going on at the national level. We routinely discuss these matters in our Adult Christian Education hour. Most of our parishioners are also quite aware that our pastor, Dean Ryan Reed, is the chairman of the diocesan Standing Committee and is a steadfast supporter of our bishop in the present crisis. In fact, Dean Reed has co-signed many of the strong, faithful statements in defense of the Truth issued by Bishop Iker on behalf of our diocese in the last few years. In short, there can be no doubt that our cathedral church and its clergy stand four-square behind our bishop and we are strongly in favor of ratifying the "separation" amendments to our diocesan constitution that may be finally ratified in 2008. It is clear that the faithful stand of our diocese and cathedral parish in defense of traditional, orthodox Christian doctrine and morals and against the heterodox stands of "the general convention church" has resulted in growth and vitality at St. Vincent's Cathedral, not the division and departures that many on the Episcopal Left had predicted.

One further note: There will be some, no doubt, who will point out that the greater Fort Worth area has experienced population growth in recent years and who will speculate that this increase in ASA at St. Vincent's is merely the result of that natural growth. However, population growth alone does not tell the whole story. In fact the population in the area immediately south of the cathedral has changed in such a way as to make our ASA growth in recent years even more remarkable. The demographics of the neighborhoods less than a mile south of our church (the neighborhoods in Hurst, Bedford and Euless immediately south of Pipeline Road) have radically changed over the last decade, becoming increasingly dominated by Spanish-speaking immigrants recently arrived in our area from Mexico. Unfortunately, we do not have the capacity at present to provide Spanish-language services at the cathedral. As a result we have gained few new members from those immigrant-rich areas immediately south of the cathedral in recent years. If we can find a way to reach and serve those new residents of our area more effectively, I am sure our ASA will grow even more rapidly in the future!


Blogger Scott said...

"the prospective departure of the diocese of Fort Worth from TEC"

Or, to be precise, the prospective departure of some people from the Diocese of Fort Worth.

9:12 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

You might just be jumping the gun a bit. The diocese of Fort Worth has not yet left TEC, to state the obvious. I am glad your church is growing, but can also see that more liberal churches like Trinity in Fort Worth are also growing. Trinity has gained 700 members since 1996. I do believe that different churches cater to different needs, and do not understand why anyone would want a church to fail (via media or religious right). However, certain types of people fit better into certain environments, and that is why diverse opportunities for worship are needed in the diocese of Fort Worth. The spanish speaking missions, for instance, are becoming vitally important in the area. Encouraging parishes to "leave the diocese" because they do not hold the same political position as you could be a grave mistake because the money from those places that goes toward the diocesan assessment will be lost. The bottom line is that missions will have to be closed if revenue decreases. You may not know this, but more than 20 of our churches are missions in this diocese (and require assistance from the diocese to stay open). If 10 percent of the operating budget is removed from the diocesan budget (because a few churches "leave the diocese"), that probably means that 10 percent of the missions will close. Who is going to tell the convention delegates about this next November? No one. No one wants to face the fact that without money to keep them open, missions will be closing. no one wants that, but mark my words, it will happen, especially if places like Trinity are encouraged to "leave the diocese" and take their money with them.

12:58 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Correction, Trinity gained 400 members, not 700, as I earlier reported. According to The Episcopal statistics webpage, Saint Vincent's has regained some of the losses it had in the late 1990s to be about the same in 2006 membership numbers as it was in 1996, although average sunday attendance for a congregation its size is quite impressive compared to other churches of its size category.

1:08 PM  
Blogger texanglican said...

Thanks for pointing me to the statistics page, anon. Frankly I am amazed by Trinity's numbers. Why has there been a substantial INCREASE in baptised members in recent years but what looks like holding steady or DECLINE (from 2005 to 2006) in Average Sunday Attendance? That's just weird, IMHO, especially considering that Trinity is essentially the ONLY liberal option in Ft. Worth (there is St. Martin's in the Field up in Southlake, but that would be a long haul for many in FW). I would have thought that--as the only viable, vocal 815 "loyalist" parish in all of the city of Fort Worth, Trinity was rake in people who had recently moved into our area from elsewhere in the country who would not feel "comfortable" in a traditionalist parish. Trinity's ASA should have grown leaps and bounds as our diocese has become stronger and stronger in our opposition to the GenCon church, I would have thought. Yet it appears that ASA at Trinity has not grown at all since the Robinson fiasco began. Strange indeed. And yet people are still turning to have babies baptised? Then they never darkening the door again? Is that what the stats for Trinity mean?

As for the decline in membership at St. Vincent's in the late nineties, I imagine you know that there was some unpleasantness here at that time which culminated in the departure of the then long-time rector. (I still do not know the full story, but I gather it was a purely personal matter, not a theolgical disagrement. Thanksfully no one here speaks of that difficult time anymore. Everyone seems to have moved on, and I cast no aspersions on anyone regarding it.) That former rector now pastors a successful mission church in Keller, a nearby suburb. His new mission congregation drew a significant number of people away from St. Vincent's six or seven years ago when it was just starting. Following that rector's departure there was also the usual decline in ASA one often finds during the tenure of an interim pastor. Under the leadership of Dean Reed in recent years, however, we have gone a long way toward recouping those losses suffered during the late nineties, which had nothing at all to do with the theological stance of the parish or the diocese.

8:25 AM  
Anonymous Dean Reed said...

3 points to your post Father.

1. The area around St. Vincent's is built out. The population is also aging and yet we are attracting young families. We have more children in Sunday on any given Sunday than over half TEC churches have at worship.
2. We have avoided Spanish Masses so not to impose on the work that San Miguel's is doing only 7 miles east of here. I would like to do this having done it in Wise County but not at the expense of the diocesan strategy.
3. Unike most TEC churches, where if you walk by the building you end up on the membership role, we purge our roles every year. You have to attend and give to stay an active member. If we didn't do this, we might show an increase of 400 since 2002 as well.

11:11 AM  
Anonymous Dean Reed said...

What ought to scare anonymous is that as small as St. Vincent's is in size to other churches' attendance in our area, it is still in the top 200 out of 7600 of episcopal churches. If you spend any time looking at national trends, you'll realize TEC is a sinking ship and it is going down fast.

8:29 AM  

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