A prominent Episcopalian is calling the Catholic Church a “threat” and is accusing the Church of “stealing sheep.”

Ironically, Reverend Ian Markham, Dean of Virginia Theological Seminary, is the author of the 2006 book “Why Liberal Churches are Growing.” (How’s that working out for ya’?)


FAW: Even though the number of Episcopal congregations converting to Catholicism is relatively small, the impact on the Episcopal Church has not been negligible. Indeed, here at Virginia Theological Seminary, the country’s largest Episcopal seminary, the president and dean calls the movement “a real threat.”

REVEREND IAN MARKHAM (Dean of Virginia Theological Seminary): There’s quite a lot of traffic currently going both ways between the two traditions, especially at the level of congregants. What’s interesting here is you’ve got entire congregations and clergy making the shift. So, yeah, I think the Roman Catholic Church is a threat, because we’ve lost the sense of our theological understanding and identity.

FAW: Dean Markham believes that among Episcopalians there’s still anger today over the pope’s 2009 decree.

MARKHAM: There was a perception that this was poaching by the Roman Catholic Church of Anglicans around the world. It was discourteous, it was stealing sheep, it was unecumenical.

FAW: It is seen as a kind of poaching?

MARKHAM: It’s viewed as not recognizing the value of and integrity of our traditions.

Uhm, what traditions would he be referring to?

I remember when I was still in newspaper in the 90’s, I’d constantly read stories about Catholics becoming Episcopalians. Funny, I don’t remember the Episcopalians being so worried about “poaching.” I also don’t remember the Catholic Church ever publicly fretting about the Episcopalians as a “threat.”

The most interesting thing about what Markham says is how it goes 100 percent against the media meme that the Catholic Church is dying and that if it wants to survive it had better accept all the precepts that…say…the Episcopalian Church which is disappearing. And then some. Better yet, the media posits that the Catholic Church will only survive if it mirrors the editorial pages of news magazines and newspapers…which are dying.

I guess it all makes sense if you don’t think about it too much. Or something.