I recently had the chance to chat on a deep-background basis with several experts on failing churches. All are internationally known experts on the topic.
The consensus: Grace is highly likely to collapse within 5-10 years.
Follow-on comments were consistent, which is that the church could still take the steps needed to survive, but it is unlikely to do so. Specifically, the needed measures “must be quick, intense, and dramatic. The amount of change necessary is often more than most leaders and members are willing to bear,” to quote one source.
My take: They are spot on. Indeed, while Anne Turner clearly is aware that the church is in a bad way, it still does not appear that she fully realizes how bad things are. And the cautious steps she is taking, like minor changes to the liturgy, are nowhere close to the measures needed to survive.
Nor is the responsibility solely that of Anne or the vestry. The diocese has known for a long time of the problems created by perjuring priest Bob Malm. And the diocese has done nothing and wasted the one-year interim period, bringing in Michael Guy, who was nothing but a seatwarmer.
Meanwhile, average Sunday attendance (ASA) has dropped 38 percent since the beginning of the pandemic, even including numbers from the increasingly poorly attended streaming services. Consider: In 2008, ASA was 359. That number has declined steadily to 275 in 2019, the last year before the pandemic hit, reflecting a 23.4% decline.
Similarly, in 2008, total plate and pledge was $1 million. By 2019, giving, not adjusted for inflation, had declined to $816100, an 18.39 percent decline. When adjusted for inflation, that is a 33.36 percent decline.
It’s also worth noting that the really big declines began with the bad behavior within the parish following perjuring priest Bob Malm’s 2014 accident. There were already issues with organizational narcissism, including the notion that Grace was somehow special; and bullying, gossip, and other childish behavior. But for several years — from 2011 to 2014, numbers had actually started to improve.
Yet even now perjuring priest Bob Malm, the Diocese of Virginia, Susan Goff, and Grace Episcopal lack any concept that they have behaved badly. Indeed, Alison “Fluffy” Campbell, a jackass of the highest order, is currently serving as junior warden. A sure sign of just how toxic Grace really is.
So, my official prediction is this: Grace is in its final years. It is now officially circling the drain.