Priest Forecasts Church's Demise

By Harris, David; Blair, Kathy | Anglican Journal, September 1999 | Go to article overview

Priest Forecasts Church's Demise


Harris, David, Blair, Kathy, Anglican Journal


A Toronto-area priest says God has withdrawn his blessing from the Anglican Church, particularly because of its dalliance with homosexuality, and is letting it kill itself.

In his self-published book Suicide: the Decline and Fall of the Anglican Church of Canada? Rev. Marney Patterson presents statistics about the church. Some, noting the large drop in total membership or Sunday school attendance are straightforward. But no context is given, such as presenting birth rates for Canadian society during the periods in question.

Other statistics appear selective. For example: the book notes that in less than 30 years, there has been a loss of 33,000 identifiable givers (people who support the church on an ongoing basis); a quote from the November 1994 Anglican Journal states that "22 of 65 members of national staff (had been) relocated, retired or laid off;" and Mr. Patterson says 526 churches were closed "in that ... tragic three-year period of 1992-1994."

But available statistics suggest a slightly different picture. The number of identifiable givers was more than 237,000 in 1996 (the most recent figures available), an increase of almost 4,000 since 1994. More than 100 staff now work at national church headquarters in Toronto. And the number of congregations (Mr. Patterson's church statistic) in the country was 2,957 in 1996, just 69 fewer than in 1992, indicating either a huge rebound in congregations or faulty statistics for a couple of years.

Nevertheless, Mr. Patterson is pessimistic.

"Personally, I feel there is little chance it can be saved," Mr. Patterson said in a recent interview with the Ottawa Citizen.

Mr. Patterson has spent most of his ordained ministry travelling Canada and the world, preaching and leading evangelical missions.

"I don't believe we have more than two or three years to make changes; otherwise the ball game is over," he told the Citizen.

"The church has 20 years at the outside. By that time we will be a chapel rather than a church, and it will last only until the old faithful die off," said Mr. Patterson, 71, who lives in Thornhill, Ont.

He suggests several solutions to the Anglican church's problems, including better music, youth outreach ministries, and better training for priests.

Most importantly, he says, the church must return to what he regards as scriptural standards of morality. He says the church implicitly condones common-law and same-sex unions by providing benefits to members of those unions who work for the church.

Others say Mr. Patterson is confusing morals with the law. Geraldine Sperling, a human resources consultant and vice-chair of the Diocese of Toronto's human resources committee, says the church doesn't make it a requirement for lay employees to be Anglican or even Christian to work for the church. As a result, she says the church respects and implements federal and provincial law requiring employees to be offered benefits, regardless of whether they are in a heterosexual, officially married, common-law or homosexual relationship.

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