Episcopal Church Fast Facts 2007

Posted by Kendall Harmon

Check it out carefully.

Update from the elves:
Here's a graphic version of the data on Membership and ASA change. (click on the image for a larger view)
You can also look at the spreadsheet and another graph here.

Filed under: * Anglican - EpiscopalEpiscopal Church (TEC)TEC Data

Posted October 29, 2008 at 5:41 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

1. The_Elves wrote:

These are the numbers that jumped out at me:

Median Average Sunday Worship Attendance:  69
Net Change in ASA from Previous Year -37,504

Divide 37,504 by 69

So that’s the equivalent of losing 543 “median-sized” congregations in 2007.  That’s just about 1.5 congregations (median ASA) departing PER DAY.

It appears the parochial data (Redbook figures) is still not online.  We’ll update our spreadsheet which tracks data at a diocesan level when that’s available.

October 29, 6:30 am | [comment link]
2. robroy wrote:

Again, I would caution readers about the drop in the ASA of 37,504. 2006 was a Christmas effect (CE) year meaning that Christmas eve fell on the weekend, hence the ASA was higher than in 2007 where it was not. If one looks at recent ASA declines with the day of the week that Christmas eve fell on:

2002 11,926 Tuesday
2003 23,623 Wednesday
2004 27,252 Friday
2005 8,494 Saturday*
2006 21,945 Sunday*
2007 37,504 Monday

* = Christmas effect year.

One has to be careful to be comparing apples with apples. The drop in 2005 of only 8,500 was blunted because the 2005 ASA was boosted by being a CE year, whereas the drop in 2007 of 37,504 was accentuated because 2007 was not a CE year.

And we know that membership suffers from people being carried along in the rolls. The good news for the TEO was that membership “only fell” by 38 thousand. I can hear it at 815: “Wo-hoo, lets party.”

St. Martin’s, Houston grew nominally in the membership category but lost a good chunk in the ASA category (an 11% drop) and lost its top dog status in the ASA category. I have a feeling that if the data is adjusted for the Christmas effect business, the drop would persist.  (I would tell the rock solid rector, Russell Levenson+, a player in the milquetoast communion partners plan to get used to the losses. If anyone hasn’t seen the website and pictures of that impressive edifice, the website is here.).

Note that there was a decline of 40 parishes. How many are due to defections and how many due to closures? A lot of the defections have shadow parishes which the diocese tries to maintain the fiction that the parish is continuing on for a few years. So probably the forty are mostly closures. Note that the number of parishes with 10 or less increased. This is an interesting number. We have churches entering that category by loss of membership and churches leaving that category, presumably by closure and not by growth. These micro-parishes are a drain on the dioceses. The number of parishes of 100 or less also grew and the number of large parishes (>300 dropped a percentage point). The infamous Louie Crew had access to this data early apparently (surprised?) and has this statement about large parishes:

21.4% of all Episcopalians are members of churches with 1,000 or more communicants, yet those 223 congregations represent only 2.9% of all Episcopal churches.

October 29, 6:40 am | [comment link]
3. robroy wrote:

The_Elves analysis of 1.5 parishes per day should be accurate because the Christmas effect business should be a wash in that calculation.

October 29, 6:47 am | [comment link]
4. Gator wrote:

robroy—If someone did a graph of ASA over ten years (or more), a moving average could be generated that would reveal the Christmas-effect spike and show the real trend. Does Louie have that graph? I can’t bear to plow through all his pink pages to hunt for it.

October 29, 6:57 am | [comment link]
5. The_Elves wrote:

Rob Roy - yes, both 2005 and 2006 were Christmas Effect years.  (2005 even moreso than 2006)  What that means was 2005 and 2006 ASA was probably somewhat over-reported. (i.e. Christmas data was figured into those years, but not in other years).  The fact that 2007 was not a Christmas effect year does not mean that 2007 needs to be adjusted.  It is 2005 and 2006 that are “inaccurate” (i.e. calculated differently).  The graph now included in the post makes that effect clear.

There probably is something like a steady 3 - 3.5% decline in ASA per year since 2004.  The Christmas effect makes the swings look more volatile, but the trend as the graphs show is steadily downwards.

October 29, 7:20 am | [comment link]
6. The_Elves wrote:

TEC has lost 95,195 in ASA since 2003.  That averages a decline of 23,799 in ASA per year the last four years, or an average decline of 2.9% per year.

October 29, 7:27 am | [comment link]
7. robroy wrote:

Gator, fancy that you ask that! I thought about moving 3 year averages so that one compares 2007 with 2004, but perhaps a better way is to simply ignore the data points of 2005 and 2006. One can graph just the yearly ASA and leave out these years. One can then do a linear regression on 2002-2004 data and extrapolate to 2007 to see if the decline is accelerating. I’ll work on this.

Another interesting point in the data. The ASA to membership ratio has been remarkably constant - around 36% - over the past 10 years. For the statistically cynical, one can think of this as a measure of book cooking. I am not so cynical in that there is an incentive to keep people on the books but I don’t see an easy method of removing this incentive. The ratio has been falling of late, though, meaning more people listed as members who aren’t darkening the doors. In 2007, it dropped to its lowest point of 34.4%. This is not unexpected when people are heading for the exits but those people are not being removed from the rolls.

October 29, 7:32 am | [comment link]
8. robroy wrote:

I posted #7 only to see #5 and #6. The Elves and I are not having a Vulcan mind meld, but I see that we are thinking along the same lines.

October 29, 7:36 am | [comment link]
9. Larry Morse wrote:

Are the data here a sufficient base to use them as a predictor for the next few years? At some point, I don’t know what, TEC is going to cross a threshhold, a point of no return. I would like to h ave seen plate and pledge matched up with the numbers above.  Larry

October 29, 7:40 am | [comment link]
10. The_Elves wrote:

I should amend my #5.  the 2007 drop in ASA is “real,” but Rob Roy is correct that the relative drop may appear worse than it is given that 2006 ASA figures were somewhat inflated by a partial Christmas effect.

In 2005 Christmas was on a Sunday.  The Parochial Data forms explicity instruct that all Christmas Eve and Christmas Day services be included in such a case. Very clearly a Christmas effect.

In 2006 Christmas was on a Monday.  The Parochial report instructions are less clear as to whether Christmas Eve services on Sunday night should be counted in ASA data, or whether only Advent 4 services on Saturday night / Sunday morning should be counted.  Kirk Hadaway has suggested that many parishes probably do include ALL Sunday services, including Christmas Eve services on a Sunday night.  Thus 2006 also has some Christmas effect, but likely less of one than 2005.

October 29, 7:44 am | [comment link]
11. The_Elves wrote:

Larry, the decline is likely to be very steep as well for 2008 and 2009 with entire dioceses (or large majorities of dioceses) leaving.  As best we understand, 2007 data shown above does not reflect the departure of something like 70% of San Joaquin’s members.  Now Pittsburgh has followed and Fort Worth & Quincy next in line.  It will take some time (2009 data?) for those departures to show up in the TEC data.

October 29, 7:47 am | [comment link]
12. The_Elves wrote:

If we take the total decline in ASA of 95,195 from 2003 - 2007 and divide by 208 weeks (4 years * 52 weeks per year), we get a decrease in ASA of about 458 people PER WEEK, for the past 4 years.  The equates to the disappearance of about 6.5 median sized congregations (by ASA - median of 70) EACH WEEK.  For FOUR YEARS.


October 29, 8:00 am | [comment link]
13. Br. Michael wrote:

No matter how you look at it, it’s a serious decline that in any other organization would cause serious soul searching as to the cause.

October 29, 8:11 am | [comment link]
14. The_Elves wrote:

Ok, one more comment from me, and then I need to head off to other work and responsibilities.
Take the total ASA decline of 95,195 over 4 years and divide by the median congregation (ASA) size.  Obviously the median has dropped over the 4 years, but even using a higher median ASA of 75 or 77, the decline in ASA is the equivalent of 1200 - 1300 “median” congregations leaving!

That number is utterly eye-popping and seems crazy, but it is easily explained by the fact that of course it wasn’t necessarily “median” congregations leaving.  You had a disproportionate number of LARGE cardinal congregations leaving.  Christ Church Plano, The Falls Church, Truro, Christ Church Overland Park, etc. etc.  Congregations of that size (anywhere from 1000 - 3500 ASA) each represent two to three dozen “median” sized congregations.

Truly it’s hard to imagine how many parishes or dioceses will be able to survive this kind of severe unstaunched hemorrhaging of members and ASA.

P.S.:  Just a bit more “playing” with the numbers:

If one divides the 4 year total ASA loss of 95,195 by a hypothetical VERY LARGE congregation (ASA) of 500 people, there have been the equivalent of nearly 200 very large congregations (190 to be exact) leaving.  (Of course, according to Louie Crew’s most recent data, there are only about 115-120 parishes total within TEC with an ASA of 500 or better.  Imagine if all these large parishes left, the impact it would have.  That’s close to what’s happened in terms of total numbers if not actual fact.  Though in actual fact, something like 15-20% of the former list of largest parishes DID leave.)

So much for “it’s just a tiny fraction of parishes leaving” as so many TEC leaders are wont to claim.  Obviously as someone has commented above, it’s hard to count the number of actual parish departures or figure out closures versus departures.  But these figures suggest that many more closures or mergers are ahead.  It is very very expensive to keep small aging parishes afloat in aging high-maintenance buildings.

October 29, 8:22 am | [comment link]
15. A Floridian wrote:

A commentor either here, at SFIF or MCJ stated that US church attendance and church membership all across the country has declined over the same period of time, including the orthodox and evangelical churches. 

It would be interesting to see the figures for total US church attendance regardless of denomination and the figures by denomination for these years.

October 29, 8:40 am | [comment link]
16. robroy wrote:

GA/FL, the Assemblies of God church has been steadily growing as have the Roman Catholics. The Southern Baptists have basically leveled off in the past couple of years and for them that is a crisis. For Ms Schori, having the worst decline of any denomination is not, or perhaps it is but the worst is over.

October 29, 8:47 am | [comment link]
17. Clueless wrote:

RC attendance has grown overall.  My own parish has grown by 30% in the past 2 years and this area (although not shrinking) is not growing particularly fast demographically.

October 29, 8:49 am | [comment link]
18. Clueless wrote:

I think we only had about 3 or 4 ex-anglicans.  Most are unchurched or lapsed Catholics returning to the fold.

October 29, 8:51 am | [comment link]
19. The_Elves wrote:

Note: re: my comment #14—Louie Crew has updated his list of biggest TEC congregations.

To view the old list, go to this archive page:

The new list is here:

October 29, 9:02 am | [comment link]
20. The_Elves wrote:

Aacck. Got. to. stop. commenting! grin

Since there has been some discussion of parish departures / closures, the following info may be handy for those with the time & inclination to do some number crunching and research.

In 2002 there were 7305 TEC domestic parishes

In 2007:  there were 7055 domestic parishes

When the parochial data comes out (2007 parishes per diocese), it might be interesting to compare with this data from the 20/20 program from 1997.  Then we could see the 10 year trend in terms of parishes per diocese:


In 1997 that lists a total of 7366 domestic parishes.  So TEC has lost over 300 parishes in 10 years it seems.

Keep these links handy, and let’s return to this question of parish closures / departures by diocese when the 2007 parochial data is out.

October 29, 9:20 am | [comment link]
21. jeff marx wrote:

I believe some folks do cook the books and their membership is swollen. But truth be told, we have a large number of folks in our (traditional) parish who attend sporadically (every 3-9 weeks) but who would self identify as members of the parish. I think the “active” membership is probably about 150% of your ASA. Another issue in all this is the age of parishioners. I still contend that along with a slow, significant and steady deterioration in ASA there is a concurrent slow, steady and significant rise in the age of the parishioners. As these two factors converge there will be a dramatic spike in loss of ASA in the coming decade. There will usually be a lag time between a church being unviable and a church closing (much like sick people survive for a time with terminal illness). However, the wider trend in the USA is for falling church membership and falling attendance. There is a new book “Lewaving Church” which addresses this phenomenon.

October 29, 9:32 am | [comment link]
22. The_Elves wrote:

That 1997 20/20 data I linked above is interesting for more than just the 1997 data on attendance stats and parishes per diocese.  Check out this summary of why average attendance per congregation matters.  Obviously this discussion is 10 years old.  One imagines the problem has only gotten worse.

For instance, in Connecticut, there is a thumb rule that it takes roughly about $120-130 thousand to run a “standard” congregation on a minimum program basis: full-time rector, with benefits, already-paid-for church building and parish hall, both with insurance and utilities (and deferred maintenance), a part-time secretary plus a very, very small amount of program. “Deferred maintenance” is a euphemism for not taking care of your buildings until there’s a crisis, and then having a special fund-raising effort. Connecticut congregations with less than about $130 thousand income are considered “stressed,” and about 60 percent of Connecticut’s 185 congregations are in this category.  Connecticut’s average attendance per congregation is 126, giving an indication that, assuming average pledging,  the average attendance required for congregational health is somewhat more than 126 for that part of the US.

Canon Kevin Martin of the Diocese of Texas has stated that the stress threshold in that diocese is lower, about $110-120 thousand, due to lower housing and energy costs. He says that Texas has noted a distinct tendency for larger congregations to grow, and for smaller ones to shrink, due to the fact that only the larger ones can afford the kind of programs that attract a lot of people.  Since the average congregational attendance in the Diocese of Texas is 195, it can be expected that the average congregation in Texas will feel much less financial and program stress than in Connecticut.  On the other hand, there are 47 domestic dioceses with average attendance of less than 100—in these dioceses there is probably a lot of financial and program stress.

From here:

I would love to see this analysis updated.  Are any of the original 20/20 committee members reading this?  Any takers?

October 29, 9:37 am | [comment link]
23. The_Elves wrote:

BTW, Louie Crew has some very interesting historical graphs—things like # parishes, # clergy, # bishops, # baptisms, # confirmations, # burials per year going back to 1850.


The decline in marriages and confirmations is striking, as is the rise in clergy.

October 29, 9:53 am | [comment link]
24. The_Elves wrote:

More VERY interesting data from Louie here.  Apparently 1997’s General Convention theme was “the small church” and Louie did a lot of analysis to look at average congregation size per diocese. 


Here’s a summary of his numbers for 1997. 

ECUSA Parishes by size

    137   2%  Chaplaincies, summer missions, etc.
  2,791   36%  Parishes with under 100 members
  1,775   23%  Parishes with 100-199 members
  1,017   13%  Parishes with 200-299 members
    654   9%  Parishes with 300-399 members
    409   5%  Parishes with 400-499 members
    252   3%  Parishes with 500-599 members
    160   2%  Parishes with 600-699 members
    119   2%  Parishes with 700-799 members
    89   1%  Parishes with 800-899 members
    57   1%  Parishes with 900-999 members
    220   3%  Parishes with 1000+ members
  7680 100% 

Once the 2007 parochial data tables are out, I’ll try to update this table for you all.

October 29, 9:58 am | [comment link]
25. Brent B wrote:

There is also a set of powerpoint slides that have several cuts at the data on characteristics of growing and declining congregations.

facts on Episcopal church growth

(the formatting of the link in my mozilla browser is bad, but scroll down to it)

October 29, 10:10 am | [comment link]
26. JeremiahTOR wrote:

A very interesting discussion—and timely for me, as I’ve just finished developing updated compensation recommendations for our pastor.  The compensation guidelines for our diocese (PA) depend on congregation size and income (I’m guessing that this is pretty common).  But size is not determined by #members on the books; it’s an average of # signed pledges + ASA.  Less incentive to game the system by keeping membership numbers high.

Speaking of membership, I raised the issue at our vestry meeting, saying that I thought members needed to be either confirmed or received into the Episcopal Church (many of our members come from other denominations and have not been received—including some vestry members).  The other vestry members were incredulous and our pastor said “actually, they’re pretty loose about that.”

I was surprised—maybe I’m naive, but it seems like a pretty basic requirement that you need to be an Episcopalian to be a member of an Episcopal chuch.  (I was raised RC, but was received into the Epsicopal church two years ago, so maybe I still have a RC perspective on this). I checked the canons, and they are a bit vague.  They say that a member needs to be baptized, confirmed or received, but don’t explicitly say “in the Episcopal Church.”

Am I missing something here??

October 29, 10:16 am | [comment link]
27. Larry Morse wrote:

Well, I suppose its pointless, but Elf Lady, what do you do in the rest of your life? Is Elf Lady REALLY only one person? How do you DO it?
A Curmudgeonly Admirer in Maine
  Yeah, yeah, this is off thread.

October 29, 1:18 pm | [comment link]
28. Avin Fernando wrote:

#19, very interesting lists!

However, you can scratch congregations #11, 78, and 195 off of the new ASA ranking.

October 29, 1:31 pm | [comment link]
29. Statmann wrote:

San Joaquin data are indeed wrong for 2007. My best “guesstimate” is that membership is about 2,000 whereas about 10,000 are claimed. (Reminds me of voting in Cook County, Illinois where the dead can vote.) This additional loss of about 8,000 would make the TEC loss in members to be about 45,800 instead of 37,823. My question is quite simple: who filled out the parish reports for the parishes that had joined the Southern Cone?  Further, do reports even exist? My own rationale for this is that TEC is doing all possible to delay recognizing that the number of parishes is less than 7,000 and that membership is less than 2 million. Some numbers are sacred.

October 29, 2:25 pm | [comment link]
30. Philip Snyder wrote:

Our losses are actually increasing.  To determine this, I did a 4 year moving average to see what our percentage loss over the four year period.
2000-2003 3.92% loss (note, there was a .23% ASA Gain 2000-2001)
2001-2004 7.31% loss
2002-2005 7.01% loss (1 yr of Christmas effect)
2003-2006 7.01% loss (‘05 & ‘06 Christmas effect)
2004-2007 8.54% loss (Christmas effect in the middle)

So, from 2001 to 2004 we lost 7.31% ASA.  From 2004-2007 we lost 8.54%. 

Phil Snyder

October 29, 2:27 pm | [comment link]
31. Philip Snyder wrote:

Here is the annualized rate from 2000 to 2007
2000 - 2001 annualized rate of 0.23% increase
2000 - 2002 annualized rate of 0.58% decrease
2000 - 2003 annualized rate of 1.29% decrease
2000 - 2004 annualized rate of 1.73% decrease
2000 - 2005 annualized rate of 1.57% decrease
2000 - 2006 annualized rate of 1.70% decrease
2000 - 2007 annualized rate of 2.02% decrease
If we move from 2003 to 2007, the numbers sihft dramatically
2003-2004 annualized rate of 3.31% decrease
2003-2005 annualized rate of 2.15% decrease
2003-2006 annualized rate of 2.28% decrease
2003-2007 annualized rate of 2.77% decrease.

The rate of our loss is increasing.

Phil Snyder

October 29, 2:50 pm | [comment link]
32. Philip Snyder wrote:

Statman (#30) - Actually, since DJS didn’t leave until Dec 2007, the ASA for DSJ for 2007 would be relatively unaffected by the departure of the diocese.  Say they had ASA of 10,000 and the left mid-December.  That would give a total attendence of the year of 520,000 (10,000 * 52) minus 20,000 (last two weeks of attendence) for 500,000 / 52 or 9615 ASA.  The 385 is rather neglibable in the grand scheme of things.  So DSJ’s departure probably won’t show up until the 2008 ASA numbers.  Likewise, Pittsburgh and Ft. Worth won’t show up until the 2009 numbers are released.

Phil Snyder

October 29, 3:25 pm | [comment link]
33. Statmann wrote:

Dear Phillip: My comments are about Membership which is (or shoud be) a “snapshot” of parish membership at the end of the year, i.e., December 31, 2007 for 2007 data. This datum point is not a time series such as ASA data for the year where moving averages can indeed be useful. Again, I ask: who made out the parish reports? OK, OK, I know. TEC just used the old 2006 numbers for the parishes which went Southern Cone. Now the question is: how can December 31, 2006 numbers be used for December 31, 2007? They can’t.  Statmann

October 29, 5:01 pm | [comment link]
34. Philip Snyder wrote:

Statmann, I believe that DSJ left in Dec 2007, not Dec 2006.  The ASA numbers are, after all, averages for the year.  I agree that the numbers today as significantly worse than the numbers at the end of 2007 and that several dioceses have a bad habit of resubmitting the same reports for congregations that have left.

Let’s assume the same slid in ASA we’ve seen for the last four years (2.77%) for the last 10 months and take out 80% of DSJ and 9 months of 80% of Pittsburgs numbers (to account for the remnant of each diocese that stayed with TEC).
Starting ASA 727,822
DSJ 06 ASA 3947 - 4.9% (avg loss)  = 3754 *.8 = 3002
Pitt 06 ASA 7902 - 4.9% = 7515 *.8 = 6012
Current ASA before ‘08 decline = 718808
Less 10/12 of 2.77% decline - 16592
Expected current ASA 702216 (a 3.52% drop from 2007 ASA)

Note, this doesn’t count Fort Worth or Quincy leaving.


October 29, 5:58 pm | [comment link]
35. Statmann wrote:

Dear Phillip: Yes, San Joaquin left IN December 2007 BUT before December 31, 2007, hence the Membership number for 2007 is wrong in that the departing parishes by December 31, 2007 were GONE. Again, I have no objection to using a moving average for ASA data and I find your calculations most interesting. Most dioceses have handled this problem quite well, especially, Virginia, Florida, NW Texas, San Diego, and Connecticut. The bad “boys” appear to be Los Angeles, Ohio, AND SAN JOAQUIN. I estimate that Los Angeles has understated losses by about 3,000 members, Ohio by about 2,300 members, and (again) San Joaquin by about 8,000 members.

October 29, 8:16 pm | [comment link]
36. Larry Morse wrote:

A fast fact. Can you say “Fast Facts” fast five times? L

October 30, 7:32 am | [comment link]
37. Gator wrote:

Thank you Elves for the graph of percentage change. I’m no statistician, but do I have it right that an increase in the percentage of change is way more significant than a change in the raw numbers?

Also, in technical analysis of stock charts, you connect three highs or lows to see the trend. Pretty obvious on this graph. And a trend will tend to continue unless there is a catalyst for change. The catalysts in TEC are all in the same direction as the downward trend.

Another point: Louie Crew’s graphs all seem to stop with 2000 or 2003, depending on which year paints a better picture. His last big quasi-rooster crow was that the number of communicants is up.

Finally, the writer above is wrong about all denominations losing members. In addition to the other ones cited, the PCA is doing fine.

October 30, 7:57 am | [comment link]
38. Philip Snyder wrote:

Let’s take an anology of a bank balance.  You receive interest on your “average daily balance.”  So, let’s give the following example.  You have $10,000 in a bank account and leave it untouched for the month of October.  On Oct 30, you remove $9,000 of it.  Your average daily balance for the month of October is 9709.68.  Your balance as of Oct 31 is $1,000.  Just so, TECUSA’s Average Sunday Attendence for 2007 should the DSJ numbers from when they were still members of TECUSA.  TECUSA’s ASA for 2007 is 727,822.  I estimate its Attendence for any given Sunday for September and October to be around 700,000 (based on the numbers I ran incomment 35).  November will be less because Ft. Worth will probably plan to leave and I’m not sure when Quincy will vote to leave as well.

Any way you slice it, the numbers are bad for TECUSA.  We are losing members at an alarming rate and the National Church doesn’t seem to see any correlation between their actions and the membership loss.

Phil Snyder

October 30, 9:45 am | [comment link]
39. robroy wrote:

OK, if anyone is still interested…

I looked at the ASA for 2001-2007 but excluded 2005 and 2006. Excel can do a best fit approximation of this data. I asked Excel to give the best fit quartic (degree four polynomial). One can then predict (interpolate) what the 2005 and 2006 ASA should be. The values were 769,944 and 747,599, respectively. The actual was 2.25% and 2.37% over the interpolated values, which can be interpreted as the Christmas effect. Hey elf, which is more pronounced, when Christmas eve falls on a Saturday or a Sunday? (By my calculation it should be when if falls on a Sunday, but apparently you know something about the reporting standards.)

Note that one can extrapolate, too! And the predicted ASA in 2008 by this analysis is…706,525. Of course, the data doesn’t know that four dioceses are leaving and that the lawsuits will be in the news nonstop making for terrible PR. Thus, I predict that the ASA for 2008 will be less than 700,000. (And the ASA for 2020, will be negative 5 million! Father Jake (Terry Martin) has apparently been put in charge of a reincarnated 20-20 program. I would say that he is trouble.)

October 30, 3:54 pm | [comment link]
Registered members must log in to comment.

Next entry (above): Gallup: Voters Not Eager for One-Party Control of Government

Previous entry (below): Raymond Tallis: It’s not all in your genes

Return to blog homepage

Return to Mobile view (headlines)