CEN: Membership drops in the Episcopal Church

Posted by Kendall Harmon

The church’s membership, counted as active baptized members, also declined by three per cent, falling by 59,457 to 2,057,292. The rate of decline in attendance and membership also rose last year, with the 10-year rate of decline in attendance rising from 13 to 16 per cent, and the 10-year rate of decline in active membership rising from 10 to 11 per cent.

Fifty per cent of US Episcopal churches saw a decline in attendance last year, while only 35 per cent registered growth. The median average Sunday worship attendance in 2008 was 69.

For the first time the church’s income fell, with recorded “pledge and plate” income falling by 0.2 per cent.

Critics assert the numbers may be overstated as some dioceses have not recorded the secession of breakaway congregations. While the Diocese of San Joaquin recorded a membership drop of almost 8,000, or 77 per cent — reflecting the secession of a majority of its congregations, the Diocese of Los Angeles continues to carry St James Newport Beach’s 1,500 members on its books — even though the congregation’s fight to quit has already taken the fight to the US Supreme Court.

Read it all.

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

Posted October 30, 2009 at 9:00 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

1. MotherViolet wrote:

Another problem is that the episcopal group continues to get older.

If the total ASA is over 700,000 and there are 7,000 parishes would not the ASA per congregation be about 100 not 69?


October 30, 9:17 am | [comment link]
2. Brian from T19 wrote:

Higher than I expected.

October 30, 9:18 am | [comment link]
3. majorinsight wrote:

The most telling number is the median age.  TEC is well into the palliative stage of life.  Next milestone is the DNR phase.

October 30, 9:20 am | [comment link]
4. AnglicanFirst wrote:

People do not seek a place of worship and spiritual growth that is seen as a ‘house’ of secular activism and which is run by secularly activist bishops and priests who are punishing congregations with sercular law suits and non-compliant clergy with the most extreme measures of canon law.

October 30, 9:47 am | [comment link]
5. jeff marx wrote:

Glendermott, the median attendance is not an average. Half of all Epsicopal churches average 69 or more, while half are at 69 or less.
It is unlikely that many people are underreporting their ASA. I concur that the age is an important factor. Dropping 20-25,000 folks ASA every year is an awful lot.
As small parishes disappear because they cannot afford to stay open there will probably be many people who just stop going. That will accelerate the decline. In ten years we could be under half a million…..

October 30, 9:48 am | [comment link]
6. RomeAnglican wrote:

A bit rich for Gene Robinson to stick it to the Roman Catholics for not valuing young people, given the TEC leadership’s energetic support for aborting young people, and the Roman Catholic Church’s unwavering support for life.

October 30, 10:54 am | [comment link]
7. Words Matter wrote:

As a raw number, 59K loss in members is not that much greater than the 55K or so lost last year.  I suspect the dramatic-sounding rise from 2% to 3% (a 50% increase!!!!! is actually nothing more than a function of rounding. 

Moreover, has anyone yet parsed out the actual numbers lost due to parish and dioceses leaving?  It’s possible, of course, that the rate will increase due simply to attrition, given the average age, but groups leaving and attrition are an apples/oranges comparison.

October 30, 11:03 am | [comment link]
8. Br_er Rabbit wrote:

The reporting of Saint James attendance as part of the Episcopal Diocese of Los Angeles’ total is thoroughly in line with Bishop Jon Bruno’s well-documented relationship to truth-telling.

October 30, 11:30 am | [comment link]
9. advocate wrote:

Robinson is claiming that the RC church doesn’t value young people? Don’t know where he’s getting his information. The prevelance of and amounts of parish/diocesan funds spent on Catholic schools would seem to me a pretty good indication of the value the RCC places on kids. And, at least from the parishes I’ve attended, they are packed with kids. The RCC also teaches that children are a natural result of love between a married man and a woman, and that they are blessings from God. Christian ed classes, youth groups…the list goes on and on. Tell me again how it is that the RCCs don’t value children?

October 30, 1:22 pm | [comment link]
10. Archer_of_the_Forest wrote:

I agree with No. 9. I never could figure out what Bishop Robinson was referring to with that. I mean, besides the Catholic school system, virtually every single mid-level or higher university that I know of has a Newman center of some kind, and they are usually one of the larger religious student organizations on campus. They even have religious orders like the Paulist fathers whose “charism” is for college ministry. When the Episcopal church gets anywhere near that level of commitment to high school and college ministry, then we might have credibility to talk about other denomination’s issues with young people.

October 30, 2:43 pm | [comment link]
11. Fr. J. wrote:

Catholic parishes across the land are sacrificing and scraping to the bone to keep their schools open and Gene Robinson, who abandoned his family to live with a man, has the gall to suggest that Catholics don’t value young people.

October 30, 6:12 pm | [comment link]
12. Ad Orientem wrote:

I see the Episcopal Church employs the same people for counting their membership that the US Government does for calculating unemployment.


October 30, 6:15 pm | [comment link]
13. advocate wrote:

Upon reflection, I suspect that bishop Robinson is backhandedly referring to the sex abuse scandal in the RC church. 

Comment edited by elf.

October 30, 6:34 pm | [comment link]
14. dwstroudmd+ wrote:

Hmmm, wonder how it’ll look when they admit the Dioceses are gone, gone, gone, gone and that the rumps do NOT have the numbers alleged?  When truth-in-counting-in-transparency-and-openness really gets goin’ instead of lip-service?

October 30, 7:39 pm | [comment link]
15. AnglicanFirst wrote:

“Hmmm, wonder how it’ll look when they admit the Dioceses are gone, gone, gone, gone and that the rumps do NOT have the numbers alleged?”
If the “rumps,” no double entendre intended, do not have “the numbers,” then the ‘giving income’ of the residual rump diocese should indicate the true situation.

If the rump diocese ‘giving income’ goes down sharply, then that should be an indication. 

Likewise, if the rump diocese’s per capita ‘giving income’ goes up and yet the total ‘giving income’ does not increase proportionately, then that should be another indication.

October 30, 10:50 pm | [comment link]
16. Adam 12 wrote:

I think it is interesting that the membership is still above 2 million…I am wondering if that is a symbolic number and if it will ever be surrendered.

October 31, 10:16 am | [comment link]
17. Septuagenarian wrote:

My understanding is that the numbers coming from TEC do reflect the departure of the Diocese of San Joaquin, but not the departure of Fort Worth, Pittsburgh and Quincy, which should be reflected in next year’s numbers.

It is variously reported that some dioceses continue to count the membership and ASA of parishes that have departed, typically showing the numbers as unchanged from those reported prior to departure. If this is the case, then TEC’s numbers are inflated to some degree (along with “baptized members” who haven’t been seen in years and adding in weekday attendance figures—maybe weddings, funerals, etc as well—to the ASA figures).

October 31, 4:30 pm | [comment link]
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