Episcopal Church Statistics (III)—Episcopal Overview: FACT 2010

Posted by Kendall Harmon

Only 28% of parishes and missions reported that their finances were “excellent” or “good” in 2010. In 2000, the proportion in excellent or good financial condition was much higher (56%) than it was in 2005 or 2008 (32% and 33%, respectively) and than it is now. The proportion in serious or some financial difficulty almost doubled from 2000 to 2005, increasing from 13% to 25%; it remained unchanged in 2008, and increased to 28% in 2010.

Read it all.

Filed under: * Anglican - EpiscopalEpiscopal Church (TEC)TEC Data* Christian Life / Church LifeParish Ministry

Posted October 22, 2011 at 1:52 pm [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

1. Fisher wrote:

On page 6 we read,
“Congregations that are ‘very liberal’ were most likely to have grown in worship attendance (38%) followed by congregations that are ‘somewhat liberal’ (32%) or ‘very conservative’ (30%). The relationship is not strong, but it is consistent with previous findings”

I am appreciative of the Anglican tradition and have a rather long family heritage in it, though I do not currently worship in TEC, ACNA, etc. This paragraph in particular caught my attention and begs for comment. It seems to run counter to broader church growth research demonstrating that conservative churches tend to grow better than others.

Note that the paragraph does not report anything from the ‘somewhat conservative’ churches. Hmmm

In light of the deep fractures in TEC regarding theology, politics, polity (and just about whatever else can be named), I have serious doubts that the words ‘liberal’ and ‘conservative’ have any semantic value in the context of TEC church growth discussions.

But I remain open to those of you who live closer to these things—please share your insight. Thank you for contributing your thoughts on this forum, especially in the last few weeks. They encourage me to be in prayer on behalf of +Lawrence and the DSC.

October 22, 11:06 pm | [comment link]
2. wvparson wrote:

The larger parishes, liberal and conservative, are usually found in well populated suburban sites or urban and their complexion reflects the prevailing secular orthodoxies of such areas.

The disturbing trend is the decline of rural and small town parishes, which can no longer afford full time clergy or if they can, use an unhealthy proportion of their budget on clergy salaries and benefits.

Too often dioceses opt for cluster or “mutual ministry” models, neither of which create the pastoral leadership model which defines Anglican ministry. The stress is on providing worship on Sundays, and caring for the rump of survivors. Until we decide what we have to say and train our laity to go out and connect with the unchurched, decline will continue. Structural solutions beg the question.

October 23, 12:49 pm | [comment link]
3. Charlie Holt+ wrote:

To Fisher’s point:
Notice the sentence on pg. 6 above your reference:
“Conservative Episcopal congregations were much more likely to have experienced serious conflict during the last five years regarding the ordination of gay clergy than more liberal congregations.”

This is why “very conservative” and “conservative” congregations are not growing as fast as very liberal ones. Conflict in a congregation is deadly to church growth. 

The challenge for conservative church leaders who remain within the Episcopal Church…and want to thrive is how to navigate through that conflict without dividing the congregation or compromising to the culture of the larger denomination.

October 23, 2:19 pm | [comment link]
4. Ralph Webb wrote:

I’d just add to #2 and #3, in response to Fisher’s point, that when a denomination loses vast numbers (probably the majority) of what was its already-very-much-in-the-minority theologically conservative population, it’s not a surprise that very liberal congregations become the fastest-growing ones. Most churches today are made up not of people who are loyal to a denomination, but those who find a given congregation attractive to them and their family for whatever reason. It will be very difficult to attract people to, and retain them in, conservative congregations in a denomination which believes very differently from such congregations and where conflict is high.

October 24, 9:16 am | [comment link]
5. Adam 12 wrote:

I think there is a God Is Love movement in urban churches, and particulary among young people that are eager to buy into the ‘I’m OK You’re OK mantra,’ expressed in other theologically tinged affirmational words. Hence Episcopal Lite sermons can be preceded by the full Gospel text but only the loving words of Jesus deserve mention in the sermon. Journeying is one of the prevaling metaphors and sex lives are private and off limits to discussion or examination (unless fully affirmed), and perhaps even off limits to the intrusion of God. Since the church is being “cool,” I think it is attractive to many. Others, too, I think are drawn by the ways in which it gives a political agenda a patina of religious endorsement and respectability. The problem, I think, is that it is hard to live in our fallenness even if we paper over our sins with platforms and platitudes.

October 24, 3:24 pm | [comment link]
6. New Reformation Advocate wrote:

Fisher (#1), and others,

I think it’s important to realize that the decisive factor in church growth isn’t so much whether congregations are conservative, liberal, or moderate, although it’s certainly true that in general there are lots more conservative or orthodox churches growing in the US than liberal ones.  However, there are also lots of conservative churches that are stuck on a plateau or declining too.

When in the mid 1980s Methodist minister Dean Kelley published the second, uipdated edition of his controversial, but classic 1972 study, Why Conservaitve Churches Are Growing, he made the very significant observation that if he could, he’d retitle the book, Why Strict Churches Are Strong.  That is, his fundamental point was that the single best predictor of if a church would grow or not wasn’t so much where it stood on the liberal to conservative spectrum theologically, but rather on how clear and STRICT it was in adhering to that theology.  There is a clear general statistical correlation between the most demanding churches, and the fastest growing ones.

But there are many other factors involved as well, including how long a congregation has been in existence.  There is also a very clear correlation between how young congregations are and how fast they grow, i.e., new church plants usually grow much faster than long established congregations (for a variety of reasons).  Similarly, on the denominational level, there is a very strong correlation between the denominations that start the most new churches and those that are growing the most (or declining the least).  That could be due to a number of factors, but the association is very strong.

Finally, there is a strong and obvious connection between churches with a strong evangelistic orientation and church growth.  Generally, the churches that major in evangelism tend to grow the most, and those that don’t naturally don’t grow much.

But TEC churches that proudly fly their ultra liberal, progressive flag, like say All Saints, Pasadena, do tend to grow also.  For they have a very clear message and don’t try to please everyone, but rather they cater to a very definite niche in the religious marketplace.  However, the number of liberals who even want to be affiliated with Christian churches anymore is certainly dwindling.

And orthodox parishes in TEC certainly face an uphill struggle attracting new members, when the public perception of TEC as “the gay church” substantially inhibits their appeal to conservative Christians, especially those with young children.

David Handy+

October 24, 4:18 pm | [comment link]
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