George F. Will has an excellent and fair summary of where the Episcopal church finds itself. You can find the article in the Washington Post: A Faith’s Dwindling Following. The summary is fairly straightforward:
As the church’s doctrines have become more elastic, the church has contracted. It celebrates an “inclusiveness” that includes fewer and fewer members.
He is, of course, not saying anything new or that we have not observed before. I have often marveled at how the so-called “progressives” in our church (I say “so-called” because such a term, like so many in politics, is used not to define oneself, but the other; the opposite of “progressive” is, of course, “regressive”) are so confounded as to why evangelical churches with a fairly straightforward message of repentance, acceptance of forgiveness, and Bible study have been growing so rapidly while our numbers dwindle. The answer is simple. Very few people want a religious community where “anything goes.”
People fundamentally understand that not everything can be equally right. We go to churches, synagogues, and mosques to hear guidance and direction. We know we aren’t perfect and recognize there must be a better way. The last thing we want to hear is “your OK just the way you are, don’t change a thing” because we know that we are not OK. A newer generation won’t get the reference, but we might say “I’m not OK and you’re not OK and that’s OK.” At the core of all the Bible and the Gospel particularly is the assertion that we and this creation were made for something much, much better than what we are now. We need clarity of message so that we can decide whether or not we agree with it. Say what you will about Willow Creek Bible Church, you know what they believe. You may not agree with them, which is fine, but you know what they believe. What does the Episcopal Church believe? Hmm. That’s a tough one….
In many ways I think that the Episcopal Church would be far, far better off if it simply decided to draw a clear line in the sand regarding the role and authority of Scripture. The church would probably lose members and it might gain them, but at least being decisive would allow those seeking a community of faith to know upon what (or whom) the Episcopal Church based their faith. Be hot or be cold, but no one finds luke wark palatable.