14%. The number seemed a bit low to me, but that may be based on my assumptions in coming out of a Free Church background. However, in a non-scientific informal poll conducted after Mass and during evening conversations, most considered the number to be quite high and expected a lower number. In either case, this is not good news.
So, what is the 14%? It is the number of those who attend Episcopal churches who have a daily reflection on Holy Scripture. Or at least, according to an ongoing self-reporting survey with current numbers of 12,000 respondents in 200 congregations.
One of the reasons this is so disturbing is that our very own Book of Common Prayer is 85% Holy Scripture. This is not just because the Psalter is included in the cover. Remove the Psalter from consideration and every “liturgy”, every service, is replete with direct Scriptural quotes and allusions to Holy Scripture. Include the readings required by the instructions (rubrics) for each service, and all that we do, and say, in private devotions, public prayer, the Holy Eucharist, Pastoral Offices, and Episcopal Offices, is rooted and informed and formed by the Holy Scripture. If the cycle of “Mass and Office” is followed each week, there is no escaping serious engagement of the Scripture. We may be a Prayer Book People, but we are first, and foremost, we are people of the Book.
This is testified by the oft-trotted out reference to Richard Hooker’s “Three-legged Stool”. This popular presentation of Anglican distinction, loosely based in reading Hooker’s “Of the Laws of Ecclesiastical Polity”, states that Anglican’s are formed by Scripture, Tradition, and Reason. To be clear, there is no stool here as the legs are not of equal length. So, maybe it best be referred to as “the Anglican Scalene Triangle”. In any case, the leg of Scripture for Anglican’s is the longest and most formative of the three.
What this 14% means is that there is very little engagement with either the Holy Scriptures by themselves, or at minimum, the offices of the Episcopal Church daily. To be clear, this is not a sign of spiritual health and vitality.
The question for clergy is whether we are leading by example? Do we pray the offices, do we read and study Scripture, and being Anglicans does scripture form who we are and inform our conversation? If not, we need to model this behavior.
The question for laity is whether you wan the Church to return to its spiritual health and vitality? If so, engage the offices, or the daily devotions, and engage the Scriptures daily. The Word of God will be found in the words of Holy Scripture. Encourage your clergy, push them if necessary, to do the same.
14% is not a sign of vitality and health. So, will you help change it?