Below is my response to another colleague, Barry Morris, as part of an on-going email exchange within Vancouver Burrard Presbytery.
> I wonder about leaning as much as we are prone to, though, on statistics:
> are there stats, pray tell, on "conviction" or lack of, I
> wonder? Stats may give us a bit of a sense of what has come to
> be and is now in the past, as "trend" or pattern; but can stats
> really encourage us to embrace and risk -- faithfully,
> prophetically -- what convictions of God's mission summons us
> to? I wonder....
Barry, the answer to your questions above is, "Yes."
I don't have them at hand, but of course there are surveys that measure "conviction."
But more importantly it is precisely statistics that make us aware that that homeless person over there is not just the victim of personal life circumstances, but in fact is part of a growing trend - which might then lead to asking, "Why are there so many homeless people?"
It is statistics that reveal systemic issues and transform the personal into the political.
You yourself don't quote statistics, but you implicitly use them all the time when you raise issues of various imbalances between various groups.
I myself try to quote statistics carefully because I am aware of the power imbalance between those comfortable with such data, and those are immediately gripped by math phobia.
But just as it is important not to dismiss the question, "Why are there so many homeless people?" nor to use fantasy-world reasoning to address it; I believe it is crucial for us as a church to really ask ourselves, "Why has church attendance declined?" and not use fantasy-world reasoning to explain it away.
Church attendance HAS declined and it ain't coming back. But if we believe it is important to evolve a FORM of being sustained by our environment so that God's dream for justice might continue to live through us, then this is an urgent question that needs to be addressed now.
In my not so humble opinion, justice-seeking is a fruit, not a root, of Christian community.
And while I'm no fan of endless navel gazing, I believe if we don't address these issues of how to be sustained within our present culture, then it will not be us who will be around to seek justice.
David Ewart, Minister
Capilano United Church