Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Bishop says his diocese is ‘all but dead’

The Diocese of Quebec is all but dead, its bishop told the Canadian House of Bishop at their autumn meeting in Niagara Falls, the Anglican Journal of Canada reports.

The Rt Rev Dennis Drainville said his diocese was “teetering on the verge of extinction,” according to an account given by the church’s official newspaper.

Of the diocese’s 82 congregations, 50 were childless and 35 congregations had an average age of 75. These graying congregations often had no more than 10 people in church on Sundays, he said.

“The critical mass isn’t there, there’s no money anymore,” he said.

Falling attendance is not solely confined to the Anglican Church, however. Until the 1960s Catholic Church attendance stood at more than 90 per cent.

However, According to a 2008 Léger Marketing poll, the proportion of Quebec's nearly six million Catholics who attend mass weekly now stands at six per cent, the lowest of any Western society.

To combat the decline, Bishop Drainville, who told his colleagues it was very possible he would be the “last bishop of Quebec,” urged the House of Bishops to re-imagine how the church could engage society.

A church should provide “a compassionate, caring community, a transformational relationship with God, and life-changing liturgy,” the bishop said. Anglicans had all three, but seemed unable to “present this to society.”

In 1901 ‘mainline’ Protestants, predominantly Anglicans, Presbyterians, Methodists and Baptists made up 56 per cent of the Canadian population. By 2001 this had fallen to 29 per cent.

However, within the Protestant totals a dramatic shift away from the mainline churches has taken place, Dr Bruce Guenther, associate professor of church history and Mennonite studies at Associated Canadian Theological Seminaries has noted.

Guenther found that total Protestant attendance had not declined in real numbers over the last quarter-century but there has been a massive shift within Protestantism.

The mainline churches attendance declined by 33 per cent between 1981 and 2001, while evangelical church attendance rose by 50 per cent and was now 25 per cent larger than the old ‘mainline’.

Between 1961 and 2001 the Anglican Church of Canada lost 53 per cent of its members, with numbers declining from 1.36 million to just 642,000.

The rate of decline has increased in recent years, according to an independent report given to the Canadian House of Bishops in 2006 by retired marketing expert Keith McKerracher.

After the report’s release, McKerracher said: “My point to the bishops was: Hey listen, guys, we’re declining much faster than any other church. We’re losing 12,836 Anglicans a year. That’s two per cent a year. If you draw a line on the graph, there’ll only be one person left in the Canadian Anglican church by 2061.”

In his comments to the House of Bishops last month, Bishop Drainville said Quebec would not be the only diocese to go under. “There will be many other dioceses that will fail.”

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