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The Parable of the Damsels in the Fish Tank

[continuing modern parables relevant to the Anglican Church in the west and others facing similar issues]

The master and his disciples were in Fishguard Harbour, Wales, awaiting a ferry to Rosslare, Ireland.  The disciples were talking about the recent release of figures concerning the dramatic loss of members in the Church of Wales.  One of the disciples remarked that the more that sincere Christians leave a mainline denomination that has denounced its originally orthodox teachings, the more those remaining in the denomination will feel as though they are winning the arguments against Scriptural authority or in favour of same-sex relationships. 

Another disciple said, ‘While the number of members goes down, the percentage of those approving this new, unorthodox teaching will go up.’ 

A third disciple added, ‘I recently read that the Episcopal Church in the USA has steadily lost members ever since 1967, and yet you find people in that denomination claiming that they are winning the same-sex argument against the clear teaching of Scripture.’ 

‘I suppose,’ quipped another disciple, ‘that eventually only two guys will be left in lower Manhattan.  They will proudly announce that they are billionaires in church properties and have attained complete unity and love within their denomination!’

The disciples’ master said, ‘It is the same with all the mainline denominations in the West.  Over hundreds of years, they have accumulated vast wealth in Church properties.  And, when denominations like the Presbyterian Church (USA) or the Episcopal Church take away church buildings from the orthodox churches that feel they have to leave in order to maintain their orthodox faith and Christian ministry, the shrinking membership becomes still wealthier per capita.’


Then he told this parable, ‘The Episcopal Church is like the young man who started a saltwater fish tank.  He bought a 90 gallon tank and all the expensive equipment needed for it to run well.  He fitted it with live rock, some beautiful coral, some cleaner shrimp, and the fish.  He added a variety of colourful fish, and the tank thrived.  After a few years, he purchased three beautiful blue damsels.  As the damsels matured, they became aggressive to the other fish, attacking them and leaving no section of the tank for the original fish.  Eventually, the only fish left in the tank were the three damsels.  The young man said, ‘Those first fish simply could not change to the new dynamics of the tank.  Now that they are gone, at last, there is peace and unity in the tank.  Also, with only the damsels in the tank, they have acquired more live rock for each of them to use in their own territories.  My 90 gallon tank, with its three damsels, has turned out very well.’  

Then, turning to his disciples, the master said, 'Tell me, do you think that, after all the changes, this really is the same tank?'