Monday, June 9, 2014

Episcopal Church Membership

On Tuesday, September 29th, a new committee of St. Mark's Episcopal Church met to discuss strengthening membership. The church overall has been in decline for a number of years. In 1965 the church had 3.6 million baptized members and 2.2 million communicants. By 2001 there were 2.3 million members and 1.8 million communicants. This is with a growing national population.

Much has changed in both the United States and the Episcopal Church since 1965. Back in 1965 all priests were men -- and practically all of them married men still on their first and only wife. Families were more intact because divorce was much rarer. There were far more stay at home wives looking after children. People in neighborhoods knew each other much better. I do remember my own mother returning to work -- when I was in high school and could take care of myself after school. It can be easily argued that all of these things had major good points.

Perhaps because I saw my parents as equals who loved and respected each other and me, I have a more positive view of the world back then. When feminism started its gains in the 1960s, I had been fully prepared for a world in which women were viewed as the equal of men. After all, it had been that way in my home -- and, I think, in other homes that I had the opportunity to see. Just because Mom stayed at home when I was a child did not mean she was inferior to Pop. My parents viewed bringing up children as important as the work my father did as an accountant and business manager in the hospitals where he worked. Clearly there were people who did not see things that way. I have read that, in Hilary Clinton's childhood home, her father completely dominated things like political discussion. Her mother wasn't even allowed to mention Democratic Party positions. While my parents were both Republicans, they viewed Democrats as fine people with whom they had some disagreements. They even, from time to time, voted for a Democrat.

Women moving into the workplace has not been the only change since 1965. People who do work outside the home are spending more and more time at their paying work. Because both parents are, increasingly, working full time, childcare is left to others -- all too often people who are less able than the parents to bring up their children. Parents, after all, know their children better than almost any poorly paid professional caretaker. They can help them more.

People are more pressed for time because of the lengthening work week. There are other things of importance to normal human beings -- family, friends, community, etc. When those are shortchanged, people become less happy.

There has also been a rise in authoritarian cultures in political, social and economic arenas. It doesn't matter what the position is -- it seems that to disagree is wrong, even if the disagreement is intended to improve the situation people are addressing.

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