Sunday, January 18, 2009

Pittsbugh: the odds are good, but the goods are odd.

If the Good Lord had intended Christians of my calibre to drink cheap champagne he wouldn’t have permitted the local liquor store to sell Bollinger. Consequently while a young seminarian I was obliged to subsidise my meagre allowance by operating as a an unlicensed off-course bookmaker service, and so profitable did this little venture prove that the resulting passion for laying odds and fiddling the numbers has stayed with me ever since.

Consequently while thinking about Pittsburgh, and little Bobby Duncan, it suddenly occurred that there might be something to be gained by having a close look at the figures flying around in that particular corner of the Communion.

I started out by looking at the schismatics’ “parish finder” which paints a very rosy picture indeed: according to this some 66 parishes have aligned themselves with the most impressive set of eyebrows ever discovered outside of an entomologist’s specimen case.

On closer examination I noticed that one of ±Booby’s “parishes” is actually a network of house-churches that ceased to exist last December. Another is not so much a parish as a “missional church community”, and while I’ve no idea either what that really means, it’s a safe guess to presume they probably don’t contribute too much to the diocese by way of annual assessments. Which leaves 64 out of approximately 70 congregations; still no mean portfolio by anyone’s standards.

Yet going to those parishes’ individual web sites and that of the continuing Episcopalian Diocese of Pittsburgh showed a very different story. A full 18 of Layman Duncan’s 64 scalps don’t seem to have any idea that they’ve realigned, and actually remain safely within the old apostate TEC.

This paints a very different picture. Certainly at 46 to 24 ±Booby still holds a majority of almost two-thirds, but it's by no means what one might call “complete control”, and he can hardly be blamed for trying to inflate the figures a little in an impressive example of GAFCON “evangelasticity”.

Not that this is the first time we’ve caught our dear old Pittsburgh Pirate telling fibs on the internet; who can ever forget his delightfully audacious claim that Rick Warren’s quasi-Baptist Saddleback tithing-machine is actually Anglican??!! Dear me, didn’t we all laugh till the tears rolled down our cheeks over that one!

However something about this latest effort to bolster appearances so early in the race smells suspicious to my old bookmaker’s nose, and I can't help thinking I can detect a vague hunt of desperation in these claims. My hunch is that irrespective of the prices currently on offer, the chances of little Bobby Duncan coming home a winner are far from certain. Sure the talk may be strong, and around the traps you might be able to get good odds, but, as the strappers say in the stables when they think nobody’s listening, the goods are odd.

I’m Father Christian and I teach the Bible.

3 comments :

Fred Schwartz said...

I have had the opportunity to take graduate level statistics a number times (some say until I got it right) but in each class, oddly enough, we always started with this wonderful phrase: "Figures never lie while liars always figure."

Anonymous said...

OOOOPPS! 64-18=46. Its the simple math that gets you every time.

Elizabeth

Anonymous said...

The true Diocese of Pittsburgh lists 24 parishes as having so far chosen to remain in TEC.