Todd Ousley

Episcopal Bishop Warns Against Culture of Fear

on November 30, 2016

Frank admissions about Episcopal Church demographic woes are rare, so it is good to pay heed when a church official speaks with candor.

The bishop of the Diocese of Eastern Michigan, Todd Ousley, recently addressed his diocesan convention on November 11 in Gaylord, Michigan, noting that some parishes in his Lower Peninsula diocese are facing economic scarcity and demographic decline:

“Within the Diocese of Eastern Michigan, these past ten years have seen a decline in membership and Average Sunday Attendance. We are now 45 congregations on our way very quickly to 43. Annual congregational giving has declined making financial viability increasingly difficult for an increasing number of congregations. Our population continues to decline and Michigan demographics show us growing older while losing our young to opportunities in other parts of the country,” Ousley reported. “The reality of our communities and our churches is one that ought make all of us pause.”

The diocese has indeed been hard-hit, losing 28% of members and 36% of attendees from 2005-2015, a rate of decline that surpasses the national denomination. Marriages and baptisms have taken a bigger hit, with the former down 63%, while children’s baptisms were down 47 percent and adult baptisms down 62%.

Ousley categorized his flock as “people of hope in a culture of fear,” with a nod to results of the recent U.S. presidential election:

“The notion that we are ‘in a culture of fear’ is even clearer to me today than it was just four days ago. Much of what drove the U.S. electorate and what informs us within this diocese is fear — fear of the unknown, fear of death, fear of change, fear of financial instability, and fear that the Church may not be there for us at the most important moments of our lives. Yet, in the midst of all this fear we remain a people of hope.”

At the same time as he acknowledges difficulties in the diocese, Ousley seems unwilling to repent from unbiblical innovations that have driven many from Episcopal Church pews. In asserting that church members “live that hope by growing our capacity and willingness to confront issues of justice” the bishop recommits himself to a politicized agenda. Ousley marks the nationwide redefinition of marriage and the enactment of same-sex marriage rites in the Episcopal Church, while celebrating “community organizing” that has “drawn national attention to the devastating effects of environmental racism and systemic injustice.” Even if that doesn’t improve the diocese’s prospects, Ousley is okay with that:

“Our attendance may not increase, our finances may not increase, our challenges will not go away, but by truly listening to one another, we are seeking and serving Christ in one another and loving our neighbor as ourselves.”

Ousley salutes the “creative” decision by three parishes in St. Clair County to close their individual congregations and merge into a single church. The bishop also highlights “experimentation with models of ministry that move us beyond the safety and certainty of traditional models” and cheers “willingness to explore beyond canonical boundaries in eucharistic communities with only occasional clergy leadership” – a model that has fared poorly in the tiny neighboring diocese of Northern Michigan.

“Today, we live and move and have our being in a world characterized by division, destructive rhetoric, demonizing of the other and callous disregard for those whose opinions differ,” Ousley assessed, circling back to the beginning of his address by noting “a period of deep and holy listening to one another.”

It might be wise if he included listening to the thousands who have disappeared from Episcopal Church pews in Michigan during his time of leadership there.

  1. Comment by Tina Afto on November 30, 2016 at 11:08 am

    When liberals mention “listening to one another…” they do NOT mean listening to those with different viewpoints.

  2. Comment by Michael Bennett on November 30, 2016 at 10:57 pm

    This guy is rich. Blaming his failures on some “culture”. The decline in this diocese can be lain solely at his feet. He got the job thru a backdoor trick(he wasn’t even on the approved list of candidates) that was very “political” in the worst way. Then he goes on to support very unpopular priests using strong arm tactics to muscle congregations. It was bad decisions coming from his character that have lead to this very predictable outcome.

  3. Comment by Marcus Goldman on December 1, 2016 at 7:06 am

    I have some good news for you Mr.Ousley. Many Episcopalian and Lutheran members who truly fear our God have left your heretical churches. Before long those folks are still left in your apostate churches will no longer have to hide the fact that they are indeed Unitarian Universalists. We have shaken the dust from our sandals by walking away from you and the wolves.
    Acts 29:29/31
    I know that after my departure, savage wolves will come in among you and will not spare the flock. Even from your own number, men will rise up and distort the truth to draw away disciples after them. Therefore be alert and remember that for three years I never stopped warning each of you night and day with tears. Mr. OusIey I truly hope you can find your way back to God…

  4. Comment by Theo on December 1, 2016 at 10:17 am

    Thomas Sowell (great author, btw) coined the term “verbal virtuosity” to describe liberals’ ability to spin out glib phrases which catch people’s imaginations but have no content. “People of hope in a culture of fear” is a perfect example. First off, liberals are the masters at cultivating fear, so they’re engaging in projection. Second, what are the “people of hope” hoping for? That their slide to extinction will somehow get reversed? That the increasingly pro-gay culture will inevitably fill up the pews in pro-gay churches?

    I don’t know if this clown coined “people of hope in a culture of fear,” but I can promise you that after this speech, every liberal blogger in the dying denominations will be repeating it ad nauseam.

    In the meantime, they’re going the way of the dodo bird – spewing glib cliches as they go.

  5. Comment by Polish Bear on December 1, 2016 at 5:41 pm

    Liberal churches are Sunday morning clubs for white liberals. They talk “inclusive” and “diverse,” but the numbers show they have lower percentages of non-whites than any of the evangelical churches. The Episcs elected a black man as their presiding bishop – nothing wrong with that, except it’s so ironic that it’s not going to change the denomination one iota.

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