Graphs to illustrate the post below

Posted by The_Elves

Two graphs to illustrate the post below re: TEC Domestic Dioceses' decline in membership and ASA since 2000:

Note: the scale on the Y-axes above (verticle axes) is compressed. They do not begin at 0. Thus the decline appears much steeper than if the starting point at the bottom was 0. See the comments for my justification for preparing it this way. The increased rate of decline from 2003 onwards is real however, as is shown in the following graph re: percentage change. (Which has an accurate Y-scale).

Update: Oops. The Y axis on the second graph should be labeled "% change", not "members". Sorry we didn't catch that before we posted it.

Update 2: By request we've uploaded our original Excel spreadsheet with the relevant data from which we created the graphs. You can find it here:

Filed under: * Anglican - EpiscopalEpiscopal Church (TEC)TEC ConflictsTEC Data* Resources & LinksResources: Audio-Visual

Posted November 5, 2007 at 10:56 pm [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

1. Jeffersonian wrote:

Remain calm!  All is well!!

November 6, 12:20 am | [comment link]
2. robroy wrote:

The first graph is deceptive because its y-scale is not between 0 and 2.5 million. If this were the case, the dramatic drop would not be so dramatic.

With regards to the second graph, the moderation of the drop in the ASA in 2004-5 was because that was a between a non-Christmas effect year and a Christmas effect year. Kirk Hadaway guestimated that the corrected ASA drop would be about 2.5 %. The drop for this year ought to be more precipitous still, going from a Xmas effect year to a non-Xmas effect year.

November 6, 12:21 am | [comment link]
3. MargaretG wrote:

Remember it is only a few malcontents.

November 6, 12:41 am | [comment link]
4. MargaretG wrote:

PS Thanks Elves—those I very good graphs

November 6, 12:41 am | [comment link]
5. MargaretG wrote:

Oh I forgot—remember all the people who were joining the church now it was inclusive. The Bishop of New Hampshire repeatedly told us that he had seen it happening with his own eyes.

November 6, 12:42 am | [comment link]
6. The_Elves wrote:

#2, true about not having 0 as the starting point on the Y axes.  Of course that makes a difference in the apparent slope of the curve.  That’s why we also included the percentage graphs, they are unaffected by scale.

The point of the first graph, is to show the relative change year by year and to allow folks to get a feel for the real numbers, not just the percentages. 

Even if the overall curves are much too steep because of the compressed axes, the relative increase in rate of decline since 2003 is very real as the percentage graph also clearly shows.

November 6, 12:47 am | [comment link]
7. Sidney wrote:

The headline on T19 should be:


November 6, 1:59 am | [comment link]
8. Jeffersonian wrote:

When the 0 on the y axis comes into view, #7, that’s when that headline will be warranted.

November 6, 2:12 am | [comment link]
9. drjoan wrote:

Am I correct in assuming in #2 that each year’s drop—tho’ pictured as dropping from the same zero point on the horizontal ( x ?) axis is, in reality, dropping from the previous year’s number?

November 6, 2:42 am | [comment link]
10. nwlayman wrote:

Ever since I was pressured to go and “Make” a Cursillo in the late 70’s (never did) I have wondered about how many people have done so, and at the same time seen the faith of Episcopalians ebb away.  I would be very interested to see a graph of the number of people going to this weekend program over time.  I suspect it would present a graph that would be a mirror image of the graphs published here; more and more people involved, less and less Episcopalians.  I don’t know if Cursillo makes people less faithful (Remember, each diocese has it’s own program, including Newark under John Spong), but it sure hasn’t had a useful effect on things.

November 6, 3:05 am | [comment link]
11. The_Elves wrote:

Dr. Joan, I’m not sure that I’m understanding your question.  I think the answer is “yes, you’re correct.”  But let’s make sure.

First, I’ve uploaded my Excel worksheet with the hard data and the two graphs, and my sources.  You can find that here:

Secondly, let’s look at three years of attendance data:
2002: 846,640  
2003: 823,017  
2004: 795,765

change 2002 - 2003: -23,623
you divide that over the 2002 ASA of 846,640 and get a 2.8% drop.

change 2003 - 2004: -27,252
you divide that by the 2003 ASA of 823,017 and get a 3.3% drop.

Note: for what it’s worth, I’ve added another graph to my Excel spreadsheet linked in this comment.  It’s identical to the first graph posted in the entry above, except with 0 as the starting point on both the left and right Y axes.  Of course it thus shows a very shallow slope when the left axis goes from 0 - 2,350,000 and the right axis from 0 - 1,000,000.  It’s not a very useful graph since you can’t accurately judge the actual numbers, nor compare the decline year by year.  That’s why I went with the graph posted in the entry above.  But I do understand that the original could be considered misleading.  A numeric decline of nearly 180,000 out of 2.3 million members doesn’t look like much, but in percentage terms, the losses are mounting quickly.

November 6, 3:12 am | [comment link]
12. RichardKew wrote:

As one who was part of the original 20/20 Task Force in 2000, who helped pull together a plan that might double the size of the Episcopal Church by 2020, this is a pretty depressing statistic, although not a surprise. The report, which certainly had its flaws but had a lot within it that would have enriched the church and enabled growth, was grudgingly received by the Executive Council who then proceeded to pull what teeth it had and exclude those who had the capacity to make things happen. The fact was that the Executive Council had its own agenda and did not want the church to grow because that would have changed the political balance of the church—and away from them.

Since then the Episcopal Church both in its Conventions and in the policies it has pursued has done just about everything that it could do to prevent and block growth. These figures represent an institution that is in deep trouble, further exacerbated by denials that anything is wrong. As the prophet said of false prophets, they cry “Peace, peace, when there is no peace.”

November 6, 5:01 am | [comment link]
13. robroy wrote:

Elves, thanks for posting the data spreadsheet. When I linked your spreadsheet, there was an error message that I believe was your graph. I was able to graph it myself with the y-axis scale from 0 to 2.5 million. That graph is helpful to extrapolate and see when the TEC membership will drop to zero (depending on the rate of accelerating decline, less than 20-30 years).

It is interesting that Father Kew was part of the original 20/20 committee, whose mission was to come up with strategies to double church membership by 2020. That committee is still in existence and one can go see their meeting notes on the TEC’s official website. The remaining members must have to take a few Prozacs and valiums before their meetings.

November 6, 5:35 am | [comment link]
14. Mick wrote:

Woah! Stop the presses! Church in decline in a Western country! Really, you guys need to get abroad more. The US is decades behind other Western countries in one key area - churchgoing. You have an abnormally high churchgoing population in comparison with other Western countries and are now simply experiencing what they’ve already gone through. It’s happening and it will continue to happen. Take a little time to peruse churchgoing figures in Western Europe and Australasia and take look at your future.

November 6, 6:30 am | [comment link]
15. Mick wrote:

For those who think conservative evangelical Anglicanism is the solution to all TEC’s problems, perhaps note should be taken of that arch-bastion of said position - Sydney Diocese. Despite their much-trumpeted 10 year plan to convert 10% of the population of Sydney, their huge emphasis on mission and evangelism, their massive financial resources, and their total self-confidence in the correctness of their conservative message, Sydney diocese is still losing members. Since 2001 (halfway through the 10% campaign) Sydney diocese has lost 10.5% of its members. That’s more than the liberal diocese of Melbourne (9%) which has been running no such high-profile, massive campaign.

November 6, 7:25 am | [comment link]
16. CharlesB wrote:

Beware of the false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly are ravenous wolves. You will know them by their fruits.  Grapes are not gathered from thorn bushes, nor figs from thistles, are they?  Even so, every good tree bears good fruit; but the bad tree bears bad fruit. A good tree cannot produce bad fruit, nor can a bad tree produce good fruit.  Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire.  So then, you will know them by their fruits. (Matthew 7:15-20)

And: I am the vine, you are the branches; he who abides in Me and I in him, he bears much fruit, for apart from Me you can do nothing.  “If anyone does not abide in Me, he is thrown away as a branch and dries up; and they gather them, and cast them into the fire and they are burned. (John 15:5-7)

November 6, 7:29 am | [comment link]
17. Larry Morse wrote:

Elves: Is there a critical mass here, come threshhold which, when passed, signifies effective death? I am guessing that there must be a point when revenues fall below sustainability and ASA fails below some viable identity figure. This must be so, mustn’t it? If so, where is this threshhold? It seems to me that a lot hangs on this mark. Larry

November 6, 8:38 am | [comment link]
18. RichardKew wrote:

As one who now works in one of England’s leading evangelical theological colleges after 31 years of ministry in the Episcopal Church I agree entirely with #14 & 15 that there is no direct correlation with being evangelical and growing. However, if one takes a really long-term look at the European scene, for example, then it is clear that a theology that cozies up to a secular culture is ultimately swamped by it, the “salt is without savor” and eventually the church will no longer exist. Yet if you look not just at Anglicanism, but beyond, there is a ton of evidence that a faith that is biblical and apostolic has a much healthier life cycle than approaches that synthesize with the prevailing culture.

There are several questions that would need to be asked of the Sydney example. The first is what seed has been sown that in due course will bear fruit? The second is would Sydney’s shrinkage have been worse if there had not been the campaign alluded to? The third is while there may not have been such a campaign in Melbourne, what was going on that might have matched it? The fourth is are there any other factors that have been overlooked?

November 6, 8:52 am | [comment link]
19. VaAnglican wrote:

Fr Kew has brought forth TEC’s dirty little secret: the revisionists in the church WANT it to shrink.  They want it “purified” of all the backward conservatives.  They have made a cost-benefit analysis and decided that reduced numbers in the short term (as they see it) are worth the singleness of purpose, unity, and peace they will have when they have subjugated or, preferably, driven out the orthodox.  They undoubtedly assume that the shrinkage will be temporary, as just because conservatives bolt and so skew the numbers, it does not follow that all those coming in to experience the “new thing” aren’t in fact doing so—their numbers are just for the moment hidden by the negative numbers of conservatives leaving.  Once things settle—and they will settle to a point as far as those leaving—then the numbers will start edging upward again.  That of course ignores the increasing age of those in the pews, and the decreasing propensity of members remaining to attend.  But I suspect that is their thinking nonetheless.

November 6, 8:54 am | [comment link]
20. Makersmarc wrote:

I had mentioned in the previous posted related to these graphs that our society is complex and there are multiple factors that play into decline that is affecting everyone (e.g. growing multiethnic/multireligious population.)  What Richard Kew (#18)points to makes the point; far more questions than answers, which means caution, rather than wild speculation, needs to be exercised when interpreting the data.

November 6, 8:58 am | [comment link]
21. f/k/a_revdons wrote:

I have no doubts that TEC has been and continues in decline mode and I do not doubt that +VGR’s consecration exacerbated that.

However, there are clearly other factors at work here other than a dysfunctional family system. [Can you tell I am a Seminary trained professional? smile

1. Certainly, spiritual forces of wickedness are tempting (and influencing) both sides (and that is why we all need to be careful and discerning in these troubled times) to distract us from spreading God’s power and influence in people’s lives. For example, 2020 is for all intents and purposes dead in the water and I can assume that brings those powers great joy. 

2. In addition, the Church in the West is also feeling the pressure to shift how it incarnates Jesus to a culture that is increasingly foreign to the Bible, to Christian theology, to other centeredness, etc… As we go through this transition, we sinners will get it wrong on both sides. Leaders will follow the devices of their own hearts and followers will be deceived. The battle fatigued will leave.

November 6, 9:08 am | [comment link]
22. Matthew A (formerly mousestalker) wrote:

Mick and others,

There is a natural tendency to look at statistical trends and see inevitability. Statistics such as the Elves have helpfully posted can only show what will happen, if nothing changes. Of course, change is inevitable. Thirty years from now, the Netherlands may be majority Muslim (high likelihood), it may be largely secular (also a high likelihood) or it may be devoutly Catholic (much less likely). The point is that all three outcomes are possible.

The real question is what are we going to do about all this? I’m not real eager to reverse the decline of membership in the Episcopal Church given its current leadership and theology. But I am eager to spread the Gospel.

Wholesale or mass evangelism has not had any real long term impact. But retail or individual evangelism has always been the most effective method. It will likely continue so. A simple invitation to an unchurched friend can have a lasting impact.

Much as I’m reluctant to invite people to my house when it is untidy, I think what is crippling mainline churches in the US is the incoherence of belief currently exists. Which makes reform all the more pressing. Much as a clean and comfortable home is very inviting to guests, a focused and committed church is attractive to visitors.


November 6, 9:22 am | [comment link]
23. Gator wrote:

Richard Kew has gone into the machine and been spit out. He knows whereof he speaks. I can picture revisionist (and here is one of those places where the term is utterly descriptive) rectors and bishops saying to the flock: “These declines are from angry, narrow-minded people (substitute “fundamentalists” in some audiences) leaving the church. Many of them probably never were real Episcopalians. Things will settle down in just a few years. All is well.”

November 6, 9:44 am | [comment link]
24. Matthew A (formerly mousestalker) wrote:

To hammer home the non-inevitability of statistical trends, the Episcopal Church membership grew by 35% in the period from 1950 to 1960. This outpaced the growth in US population (19%) by a good margin. Had that growth trend continued to this day, the Episcopal Church would have around eleven million members.

Obviously, other factors intervened to put a stop to the rather dramatic growth the Episcopal Church had in the fifties.

My statistics come from here and the US Census.

November 6, 9:57 am | [comment link]
25. Mick wrote:

Actually, those who see TEC ‘liberal’ parishes as declining should recall the document Facts on Episcopal Church Growth (based on 2005 figures). What is happening in the US is what has happened in other Western countries - those churches with a strong identity and message (be it conservative or liberal) are the ones which tend to grow and thrive and attract the committed. It is the ‘middle-ground’ who are leaving -where cultural, familial, societal expectations and mores in regards to ‘churchgoing’ and ‘belief’ are no longer as binding.

“It is well known that most conservative, evangelical and sectarian religious bodies are growing and mainline denominations have been in decline since the mid-1960s. The Episcopal Church was something of a mainline anomaly from the early 1990s through 2001 when consistent growth in average Sunday worship attendance was recorded. Since 2001, however, membership and attendance decline have returned to our churches. The continuing disparity in growth between mainline and evangelical Protestant denominations reinforces the widely held view that theological differences are the key to understanding why so many mainline churches are declining and why so many evangelical churches are growing. But the facts are not quite so simple.

Within conservative evangelical denominations, the minority moderate and somewhat liberal churches are actually more likely to grow than very conservative churches. Among most mainline denominations there is a curvilinear relationship between conservatism and church growth; with more conservative and more liberal churches growing and moderate churches most likely to decline. Interestingly, the Episcopal pattern in 2005 is more similar to the evangelical pattern…[T]he most conservative Episcopal congregations are more likely to decline; whereas the most liberal churches are least likely to decline and most likely to grow.

November 6, 10:03 am | [comment link]
26. Dave B wrote:

Thank you for all the hard work and thought put into these graphs Elves.  The numbers are sad and thought provoking for those of us that love Jesus and the Episcopal Church.

November 6, 10:04 am | [comment link]
27. Bart Hall (Kansas, USA) wrote:

Raw, aggregated data are not particularly helpful beyond some sort of arm-waving overview. In the case of ECUSA the more critical details lie in things like:
a) number of infant baptisms (replacement)
b) percentage of confirmees still attending an Episcopal church at age 25 (retention)
c) net number of people transferring in from another denomination (recruitment, of the weakest sort), minus those transferring out to another denomination —swapping aquariums, but no new fish
d) adult baptisms (evangelism)
e) percentage of transfers still attending an Episcopal church ten years later (retention, but very hard to measure)
f) loss by death

Without specific numbers, nothing can be proven. My anecdotal impression, however, is that replacement and net recruitment are quite low, whilst evangelism is nearly non-existent. Overall population numbers would therefore be driven largely by the death rate, magnified by loss of conservatives.

In the life sciences, such a population is described as “moribund.” The numbers are still there, but there’s no vitality, and the future trajectory is bleak. Even without detailed numbers, I feel reasonably comfortable in describing ECUSA as moribund, which is primarily a demographic problem. The PB was actually proud that Episcopalians aren’t bring more babies into an “over-populated” world. She even called it a sign of moral superiority, foolish woman that she is.

The overwhelming problem for ECUSA, therefore, is that the great majority of its current giving comes from people over 60. They are dying off, and they’re not being replaced.

As compared, say, to churches where the Word is preached, taught, and lived. Over the longer term, it’s a self-correcting problem.

November 6, 10:05 am | [comment link]
28. Reason and Revelation wrote:

The story is worse than these numbers.  Because average age is continuing to creep up slowly but surely, the seeds of the future for TEC are becoming fewer and fewer.  Once a church passes a critical point in terms of average age, you could fill the church shoulder-to-shoulder with retired middle class liberals in the coming years and still be looking at a long-term decline.

The growing churches in America are, of course, the Catholic Church and evangelical churches.  There is a growing religion in Europe, too—it’s Islam, though, not Christianity.  That is Europe’s long-term future.

November 6, 10:11 am | [comment link]
29. The_Elves wrote:

Wow, some fascinating comments here to chew and reflect on.  There’s much I agree with.  Wish I had time today to keep commenting, but it’s a FULL and hectic workday.

I very much appreciate Richard Kew’s contributions.  He’s been in the real thick of these issues, so that’s helpful perspective.

Bart Hall’s #27 also particularly grabbed my attention.  Note that there is SOME TEC data produced on baptisms, Sunday School attendance, etc.  (See the 2005 Redbook data, for instance). 

If/when the 2006 Redbook data is finally out, we do hope to find time to dig deeper as Bart suggests and look beyond ASA and membership which don’t necessarily mean much in some cases.  If any of the other stat geeks around here want to dig into that, be our guests, please.  We always welcome others’ analysis and contributions.  (Remember that awesome work a commenter did to compare TEC growth data to US census data?!  I never could have managed that.)

In the meantime should we take bets as to when 2006 diocesan data will be available?  Oh, oops.  I’m an elf.  I guess I shouldn’t be encouraging gambling! wink

November 6, 10:29 am | [comment link]
30. pendennis88 wrote:

It is not all just orthodox leaving.  Another factor in the decline is that the scorched earth litigation tactics of TEC reported in the press (such as suing individuals) have had the effect of giving TEC a reputation for viciousness and heavy-handedness.  Some of the departures are mushy middles who just don’t feel comfortable with that.  And it also means that people who might have visited an episcopal church have been turned off by what they hear and read.  Another of the consequences of TEC’s current path.

November 6, 10:47 am | [comment link]
31. Dallas Dean wrote:

I thought readers here might like to know that I have written a book with the working title “The Episcopal Church and the Road to 2020.”  I wrote it, like Richard Kew, from the point of view of a 2020 Taskforce member who knew our trends in 2000.  I ask the question, “what if current trends continue” in the book and I project out how long the current crisis will simmer along before it becomes a full blown crisis.  I also take our leadership to task for their failure to address this crisis.  Readers might like to know that the first perdictable financial crisis (beyond what is actually happening now) will occur, if current trends continue, between 2010 and 2012.

November 6, 10:50 am | [comment link]
32. Anonymous Layperson wrote:

Just for a comparison, here is the ASA of the Assembly of God church:

1996           1,573,108
1997           1,596,957
1998           1,617,312
1999           1,647,348
2000           1,637,665
2001           1,673,763
2002           1,696,134
2003           1,708,232
2004           1,737,463
2005           1,752,793
2006           1,763,401

November 6, 11:04 am | [comment link]
33. carl wrote:

I think conservatives react to these numbers much differently then liberals.  Conservatives say “Look! The church is evaporating.”  Liberals say “Look, the church is purifying itself.  We will be smaller but prophetic.”  TEC is going to lose alot more membership in the next two decades.  But as long as it holds it liberal core, and its endowments/property, it thinks the future will be just fine.  Liberals are secretly happy about those ASA figures. The right people are leaving.

TEC is not an evangelical church.  It requires no connection to the ‘masses.’  It lusts after cultural leadership, and so needs only to be connected to those in power.  It’s delusion of course.  The culture cares nothing for us, and even less for them.  But still ... they hope in what they do not see.


November 6, 11:08 am | [comment link]
34. robroy wrote:

Some readers here point to Western Europe as an excuse for the dismal of the Episcopal Church.  I look at Western Europe and say to myself, this is not where I want our country to go. In the liberal, secular Sweden, less than a half of a per cent attend church on a given Sunday. So let’s push for gay marriage here, too! I want the death of Christianity in America, too! Yeah!

November 6, 11:11 am | [comment link]
35. Makersmarc wrote:

RE #30 Iit’s neither accurate nor helpful to say that “TEC [has] a reputation for viciousness and heavy-handedness.”  When I was interviewing a total of 18 candidates for an Administrative Assistant position a couple of weeks ago, I asked each one what they knew about the Episcopal Church (esp. given headlines, etc.)  Every one of them except one said, “Not much,” (which is telling in itself.)  One candidate said, “I asked some friends.  I’ve heard it’s pretty conservative.”  This, in a small town in south central Indiana.  So much for a vicious and heavy-handed reputation.  We see what we want to see, I suppose, which is why I caution against wild speculation given nearly raw data.

November 6, 11:18 am | [comment link]
36. Mick wrote:

#34 (and others) - you just don’t get it do you? Christianity WILL decline in America, no matter what conservatives or liberals or anybody else does about it. FACT. Western Europe is not being used an an excuse to justify falling figures. It is where the US is headed from your abnormally high churchgoing figures for a Western affluent society. What began in Western Europe after WWI only began in the US in the 1960s and is continuing. You will reach levels approaching those of Western Europe and then level off - with some states higher, some much lower. As I said before - you guys have got to get abroad more!

BTW - If current trends continue, Wicca is set to become the third largest religious denomination in the US by 2012 - with over 20,000,000 adherents.

November 6, 11:25 am | [comment link]
37. KAR wrote:

****  Fun with Numbers  ****

Total US Population according to US Census 2000 is 281,421,906

Total estimated US Population by US Census Population Clock is 303,302,331 (taken at 13:55 GMT (EST+5) Nov 06, 2007).

I’m going to make a guesstimate of 300M for an appropriate estimate of Total US Population for 2005 also use the same numbers from TEC, which would probably be the fairest comparison for this exercise.

Membership in relation to Total US Population 2000:
2,329,045 /  281,421,906 = 0.008275 = 0.827%

Membership in relation to Total US Population 2005:
2,209,286 / 300,000,000 = 0.007364 = 0.736%

Attendance in relation to Total US Population 2000:
856,579 /  281,421,906 = 0.003043 = .3%

Attendance in relation to Total US Population 2005:
786,351 / 300,000,000 = 0.002621 = .262%

I’m kind of amazed that we get any attention at all from the media looking at this way. Also my mind goes back to ++KJS’s comments a year ago about how smart Episcopalians are compared to Catholics and Mormons. Maybe by 2010 we can reach 0.1% of Total US Population then with Vision 2020, TEC should be practically gone.

November 6, 11:39 am | [comment link]
38. Dallas Dean wrote:

Let me add one further word to the comments about mainline decline.  It is true that all so called mainline churches in the U.S. have been in decline since 1965.  ECUSA is the fastest declining of this group and we are second only to the Disciples in denominational decline.  There are, as several have observed, many reasons to explain this decline.  But these “many reasons” don’t mean that the decline is inevitable.  For example, as part of what I would call the 2020 Movement (as different from the 2020 resolution of GC) ECUSA actually increased from 1995 to 2000 in attendance and membership.  The key was for leaders to focus on mission vs maintenance - those activities that touch unchurched people rather than focus only on present membership.  During that time, ECUSA was the only mainline church (that is not true now) that was showing such an increase. 

For me, this is all about leadership.  Our current leadership has us internally focused and have failed to resolve the current polarization and divisions.  Here is something that I have said and written about on many occasions, I quote myself here, “Until a new generation of leaders emerge who share a common vision that is rooted in the DNA of Anglicanism, our community will continue to decline.”

November 6, 11:51 am | [comment link]
39. Bart Hall (Kansas, USA) wrote:

It’s also worth considering that many (most?) ECUSA churches keep departed members on their rolls for years after they’ve left.

Another helpful way to evaluate figures—not only do I have a few degrees in the hard sciences, but run a demographically-sensitive retail business—is in terms of market ‘penetration.’ Most illustrative is to evaluate any given ‘product’ (in this case ECUSA) with a comparative index, the point of reference being with ‘business’ (in this case population) as a whole.

Based on market penetration, the ECUSA product has lagged by 11% in five years (89 index). ASA is lagging by 14% (86 index), the differential between the two demonstrating clearly that tendency to keep members on the rolls after they’ve moved to another church.

More to the point, on any given “Sunday” (I include all the assorted 7th day folks here), no more than about 25% of Americans attend church. The mission field is right here, folks, right here. ECUSA accounts for perhaps 1% of all church goers, but they’ve clearly “lost their saltiness” and the resulting trend is obvious.

Most of the vibrant, growing churches preach, teach and live the word.

November 6, 12:25 pm | [comment link]
40. robroy wrote:

To condescending Mick: I get abroad plenty, thanks. Though I speak many languages and have two doctorates, I do not pride myself in being worldly wise like you apparently do. Christianity will decline in America proportion to the degree that takes on secular values that Western Europe has swallowed whole. The secular values espoused by Brian, et al, are antithetical to Christianity with major cases in point of Western Europe and the TEC.

I am hopeful that there will be reformation and renewal. I am not, necessarily, hopeful about Anglicanism in North America. The Lord has already vanquished the world.

Please, let’s not make this personal.

November 6, 12:48 pm | [comment link]
41. Mick wrote:

#40 - Dream on. Do you think the Churches in Western Europe have been sitting on their hands since the 1920s? It’s either arrogance or blind self-belief that could make US Christians think they will forever buck the trend. Going by the logic of some here (i.e. that only conservative evangelical Christianity will attract and survive) it should be the case that in e.g. the UK most Christians should now be of that persuasion. In fact, as a recent comprehensive Tearfund survey on “Churchgoing in the UK” showed, only 26% of regular churchgoers identified themselves as ‘Evangelical’ and, of those, only 9% identified themselves as “Conservative Evangelical”.

November 6, 1:02 pm | [comment link]
42. The_Elves wrote:

Mick, you’ve made your point several times.  But this is not a thread about the church in Western Europe.  Nor is it a thread even about church-going in the US as a whole.  Yes of course those topics have some relevance.  But please don’t keep trying to make those issues the main topic of discussion.  Thanks


November 6, 1:04 pm | [comment link]
43. Mick wrote:

#42 - Fair enough. The main topic being TEC decline in the context of…and comparison with…?

November 6, 1:15 pm | [comment link]
44. dwstroudmd+ wrote:

Gee, down is still down.  Negative growth, hall mark of the inclusive church.  I just keep sensing there’s a non sequiter here somewhere, but I am constantly assured by a scientist that all is well and, therefore, it must be data that errs.  This is a time honored technique much used by PBs of recent memory and the undoubted results of the 2020 campaign aborted in in 2003 at GC.  I note with grave displeasure that the alleged influx of “includeds” has not been shown on the graph.  Where - pray tell - are they?  Is this mere adherence to facts in the face of our glorious propagandists really to be so publically displayed?  The first rule of proper propaganda is:  NEVER let the facts get in the way of “truthiness”. 
All is well.  Down is down; God’s in Its heaven; all is right with the world.

November 6, 1:20 pm | [comment link]
45. Reason and Revelation wrote:

Mick, you miss (1) the major distinctions between Western European culture and the United States, (2) have little basis other than assertion for the proposition that the US follows Europe (the reverse has been true for almost 100 years now), and (3) fail to see the massive difference between vibrant, evangelical American Christianity and tradition-based European Christianity.  In Sweden, for example, the Lutheran church is still a state-sponsored and state-owned church.  It’s just a subsidized museum.  The religious in the US are the ones having the kids (and aborting less), so they will continue to be the demographic trend-setters.

November 6, 1:23 pm | [comment link]
46. Mick wrote:

#45 - love to debate with you, but not allowed :-D

November 6, 1:25 pm | [comment link]
47. RichardKew wrote:

May I suggest that if you want to talk about Western Europe you go to my blog, read my review of Philip Jenkins’ book “God’s Continent,” in which he deals with the challenges facing Europe. Then you can continue the conversation there….!

November 6, 1:30 pm | [comment link]
48. Mick wrote:

#47 - Thank you. It’s not that I wish to discuss Western Europe per se, but I am curious as to how one can discuss TEC membership statistics outside the context of 1) wider US churchgoing 2) churchgoing within other affluent Western cultures 3) cultural, historical, societal similarities or differences.

Mick, we certainly agree that those contexts can be worth discussing and are NOT out of line.  It just seemed that you’d repeated essentially the same comment three times, as if frustrated that others weren’t responding and determined to get people to discuss the topic.  That was really what I was objecting to more than the content of your comment and the context/background you were providing.  Sorry to be unclear about that.  I didn’t want it to become a “Mick vs. many commenters” showdown.  If folks buy your point they buy it.  If not, please let it be rather than insisting that commenters are deliberately ignoring what you wrote.  That at least was how I was seeing your comments shaping up.

November 6, 1:41 pm | [comment link]
49. Makersmarc wrote:

Dallas Dean really hit on the issue, I think, and one that is the basis for the strategic planning that we are set to complete this week in my parish - i.e. it is an issue of leadership.  He said nearly word for word what I’ve told my parish over the last year.  Whether liberal or conservative, it is a church clear in its mission and vision that grows (note earlier where I said we had the highest attendance yet this past Sunday in what most would consider a liberal diocese, though my parish is very broad.)

Point being, not too long after graduating from seminary (Sewanee, 1997) I realized that a huge hole in our training was that there was not one word spoken about church leadership (plenty spoken on traditional Christian theology, contrary to popular belief.)  I did some fairly extensive self-study from that point and we are beginning to see the positive results of that in my own parish.  Know who you are in Christ, proclaim and live God’s word, learn some practical skills, and the Spirit will reverse the trends indicated here.  I wouldn’t have wanted to begin ordained ministry without going to seminary, but the longer I’m in this vocation, the more I think seminary is too academic.  In other words, it’s not because of a liberal theology - or of a conservative theology, for that matter - that is among the more salient causes for the decline.  It is an absence of leadership that all of our seminaries could do a better job of teaching.

November 6, 1:47 pm | [comment link]
50. Reason and Revelation wrote:

Mick, some of my points are particular to the US situation—birth rates, growing US churches, growing US Christianity overall.

Here are facts about global Christianity: of Global Missions.pdf

Seems hard to argue that the last 30 years have been anything but an explosion in Christianity, driven by the South most of course.

Moreover, the continued influx of Hispanic immigrants pretty much ensures that Christianity will remain strong in the US.  Hispanics, and especially religious Hispanics, have the biggest families of all demographic groups in the US.  Secular liberals have by far the smallest families, well below the replacement rate of 2.1 per woman.  (as long as we are just talking pure numbers for the moment)

November 6, 1:59 pm | [comment link]
51. pendennis88 wrote:

# 35 - Things look differently from where one sits, I think.  Certainly in the Northeast, TEC has developed a reputation for litigation (and thievery and other shenanigans bordering on the ridiculous - people still bring up the national treasurer who stole millions, the bishop who fired George Stephanopolas’ sister to replace her with his mistress, that sort of thing).  Of course, I am somewhat self-selecting to people who read the major papers closely, but that accounts for a lot of people that TEC thinks is its natural constituency.  As to south central Indiana, I admittedly have no clue.  Too, maybe, applicants for the job you mention might be a different group than church-shoppers, who may do a little bit of homework.

#33 said “It lusts after cultural leadership, and so needs only to be connected to those in power.  It’s delusion of course.”  I think TEC has long taken pride in that, and it was one of the miscalculations of the revisionists that the country club set, the mushy middle, or whatever you want to call them, would stay put no matter what they did, and continue to fund them and give them the earthly affirmation they desire.  But, sociologically, that connection is dead.  Not that they have become evangelicals (though I am always surprised at how many midtown young professionals, raised episcopalian, attend Redeemer Pres).  Where I am, the cultural reasons to attend church have evaporated, and I think they’ve just left.  Again, it might be different in Mississippi or wherever.

November 6, 2:05 pm | [comment link]
52. Bart Hall (Kansas, USA) wrote:

Just wondering here, so maybe someone who actually knows can help me out. I have something of a gut sense that ECUSA’s problems really began with the demographic declines of urban parishes on the east coast back in the ‘60s.

ECUSA’s response was to become (so they thought) “relevant,” which meant incorporating worldly, urban attitudes and practices—social justice, feminist, anti-war, leftist politics, all subsumed under the rubric of “liberation” ... including “sexual liberation.”

The seminaries filled with anti-war leftist Baby Boomers (it was, after all, the gold-plated draft deferment to be in seminary), and (at first) the more urban churches attracted a number of sexual-liberation and feminist Baby Boomer sorts.

Thirty years on you get what we have today, and because ECUSA leadership are deeply invested in a faulty ‘product’ they really have absolutely no idea how to turn things around.

Their core problem is that in the end, people who want worldly secularism opt for ... worldly secularism, rather than a pale imitation with candles and vestments. So ECUSA keeps tossing up more and more outrageous examples of secularism—such as a dreadfully-inexperienced (but female!) PB who prays to “Mother Jesus”—in hopes that somehow an even bigger ‘hit’ will attract the masses.

Except that it all looks heretically silly to biblically faithful Christians,  ECUSA are running out of ways to pander and it never accomplished its original goal in the first place. Quite sad.

November 6, 2:06 pm | [comment link]
53. Philip Snyder wrote:

The Episcopal Church has given up the Truth to be “cool” (e.g. “relevant).  As a person on the outside of “cool” for all of my life, I learned that the only think that the “cool” kids hate worse than the “uncool” kids is “uncool” kids trying to be “cool.”  Relevancy is not something that can be aquired by hip hop masses or social justice activism or racial/gender/sexual orientation “liberation.”  Trying to be relevant is to become a slave to societal trends and trendiness. 
To be “cool” you need to not care what the “cool” kids think about you.  TECUSA needs to not care what society (let alone “right (or left) thinking society) cares about it.  TECUSA needs to recover its rightful place as part of the one, holy, catholic, and apostolic Church by repenting of everything that separates it from the Faith once delivered, from everything that ties it to society, from everything that has not been taught by the Church catholic and from all that is in contradiction to what the Apostles taught. 

Phil Snyder

November 6, 3:15 pm | [comment link]
54. The_Elves wrote:

Bart Hall, much of what you propose was a central focus of some of the late Diane Knippers’ (IRD president, important Truro lay leader) speeches.  I’m thinking of the speech I heard her give at Plano East.  There’s an edited/abridged version of that speech here

November 6, 3:18 pm | [comment link]
55. robroy wrote:

Phil, a favorite song by Scott Krippayne:

I’m not cool but that’s okay
My God loves me anyway
I’m not cool but that’s alright
I’m still precious in His sight
I’m not cool but I don’t care
How I’m supposed to do my hair
I’m not cool but that’s okay
My God loves me anyway.

Scott Krippayne is a classically trained pianist turned Contemporary Christian artist. The song is lively and great for youth groups. He’ll be in Dallas on December 6th.

November 6, 4:45 pm | [comment link]
56. Ross wrote:

#36 Mick says:

BTW - If current trends continue, Wicca is set to become the third largest religious denomination in the US by 2012 - with over 20,000,000 adherents.

I wonder what they consider numbers one and two?  By the last statistics I saw, the top two religious affiliations in the U.S., by a substantial margin, were “Christian” (something like 75%-80%) and “none” (around 10%-15%), with the next largest faiths down in the 1%-2% range; but a lot of people break “Christian” out in various ways, and others don’t think “none” should be ranked as one of the “religions.”

November 6, 4:45 pm | [comment link]
57. azusa wrote:

# 14, 14, 18: I was beginning to wonder if Merseymike has returned! Regarding Sydney Archdiocese, I certainly don’t have all the facts at my fingertips, but I doubt it has actually declined 10% since 2001. OTOH, it may be that some Anglicans have migrated to the burgeoning Pentecostal churches there, like Hillsong and City Church - Sydney Anglicanism has never been very Penty-friendly. Sydney also has about a quarter of Australia’s population but 40% of Anglican churchgoers. Sydney Anglicanism has been shedding its Englishness and seeking ot reach out ot the new Australians - Chinese and Vietnames in particular. We need to keep tuned.

November 6, 6:49 pm | [comment link]
58. Oldman wrote:

Dumb Questions, but anyway: How is Sunday attendance actually counted and is it ever fudged? The number of persons taking communion is accurate by counting the number of packages of wafers used.

Second, how are the number of communicants (actual members) counted without counting visitors?  Thanks for the help.

I am on the communicant list of my Episcopal Church.  Since after 2003 it quickly became known as our city’s largest “Gay Episcopal Church” I am ashamed, perhaps, that I seldom go.  I do tithe, though not as much as before. It is also too PC in other ways than the gay agenda for me to be comfortable, so my wife and I go elsewhere, even though memories of my wonderful years there many years ago make me hope that before I die in a year or two or more, my church will return to the Lord and I can return.

November 6, 7:31 pm | [comment link]
59. Reason and Revelation wrote:

Oldman, apparently it’s often the numbers as counted by the ushers when they go around for offertory.  Sometimes the rector does a head-count by looking out.  You would think those numbers would be rock-solid or pretty near, but I know of at least two churches (the only two that I could estimate ASA from looking around when I have been) that for some reason overestimate ASA way outside the margin of error.  Maybe Father, Son, and Holy Ghost are counted plus a few saints, really hard to say.  One would think that most ASAs are accurate, though.

November 6, 7:47 pm | [comment link]
60. Oldman wrote:

#61 Thanks.  I have taken up the collections a time or two in my many years, but never was asked to count how many were in each pew…..but then maybe I’m not too smart and it showed.  I doubt, though, that an usher knows the congregation in a large church well enough to tell who are communicants and who are visitors, but maybe that doesn’t matter.

November 6, 8:05 pm | [comment link]
61. Ross wrote:


I don’t know about all churches, but in mine the ushers do a head count during the service, and another person goes through and counts the Sunday School classes at the same time.  There’s no attempt to try to distinguish visitors from regulars, so far as I know.

We also use baked bread for communion, instead of wafers, so we couldn’t use that as a count of communicants.

You can pretty reliably track people who pledge, and/or give money—at least if they do it by check.  That’s another handle on how many people are actually invested in your church.

“Members” is inherently a more nebulous concept, even in principle, much less in execution.  How long does someone need to be absent from your church before they ought to no longer be considered a member?  (In practice, the answer is often “Until the next time someone gets a bug up their rear to clean the membership rolls, or until the Second Coming, whichever comes first.”)

As for “is it ever fudged?”...  It shouldn’t be, but you can get plenty of anecdotal evidence of parishes that do.  For instance, by generously “guesstimating” the attendance rather than doing an actual count, or by counting weekday services that aren’t supposed to be counted.  Or, charitably, in some cases by priests who are earnestly trying to get it right but have no head for numbers.

Still, of all the various membership-related numbers, ASA is the most concrete and therefore, probably, the most likely to be in the right ballpark.

November 6, 8:08 pm | [comment link]
62. Mick wrote:

#59 - Australian Census figures for Sydney for 2001 and 2006 show that the number of people identifying themselves as Anglican has fallen by 61,185. However, those identifying themselves as Roman Catholic has risen by 10,561; as Orthodox by 4,402; and as Pentecostal by 9,612 - none of whom Sydney Diocese would have much sympathy toward. While it may have experienced a slight rise in churchgoing, it has lost a much larger number of people who no longer even wish to be identified as Anglican - surely a major failure in any mission campaign.

November 6, 8:15 pm | [comment link]
63. Oldman wrote:

Ross you turned a tough day into a happen one! I guess the ASA will be at least fairly close, until it drops percipitously and 815 finds a new way to make it seem better.

November 6, 8:15 pm | [comment link]
64. Reason and Revelation wrote:

The membership numbers should not mean anything at all.  I once asked for a list of members in my home church who were in their 20s and 30s and got a print-out of about 100 names.  Sounded exciting until I crossed out half the list right off the bat of people whom I personally knew had grown up in the church but hadn’t even lived in the area for years.

November 6, 8:45 pm | [comment link]
65. Mick wrote:

#66 - I never made any “claim about actual attendance and participation”. I have a pastoral concern for all those who regard themselves as Anglican. You obviously have a ‘you’re either in or out’ mentality. You may not be concerned that you’ve lost so many who once regarded themselves as Anglican, and that infant baptisms have fallen by 25.6%, but others are, e.g. the Bishop of South Sydney:

“It’s hard to work out what it does mean, except that our job is definitely harder,”
“It could be a good sign or a bad sign,”
“Now that we’re standing for something, the Mission has made Anglican something you don’t want to be part of unless you are keen. Or it could mean people have simply been turned off.”
“It does however mean that there are a lot more people further away from us and that’s a concerning thing.”

November 6, 8:53 pm | [comment link]
66. Ross wrote:


Membership numbers should be meaningful.  Quite often they’re not, but they ought to be.  It wouldn’t be all that hard to keep a membership list moderately up-to-date, but (1) it would require additional work, and (2) there are incentives to have big membership numbers.

I think there should be some kind of positive response required from a person/family/pledging unit at least annually to keep them on the active member list… perhaps you send out a mailing and ask everyone to send back a postcard saying, “We still consider ourselves members of this church, and our household comprises (insert names and ages).”  Merge the responses with the pledges for that year.  Anyone on the last year’s member list who didn’t respond to the mailing or pledge would get moved to an “inactive members” list (which could still be part of the parish mailing list); anyone who had stayed on the inactive list for, oh, let’s say five years would be dropped.

It’s not perfect, but it would help correct the “nobody ever gets off the member roll” problem.

November 6, 9:21 pm | [comment link]
67. Mick wrote:

#70 - btw, I’m eager to reach all the people of Neutral Bay with the gospel, whether they call themselves Anglican, Christadelphian, Buddhist, Muslim or otherwise. They all need Christ and none of those labels is of any benefit to them.

Well, successfully alienating that part of your ‘Mission Field’ who already had at least some connection, to the extent that they can no longer call themselves Anglican, is a great way to start.

However, I’m glad to see your good bishop is concerned with the need to return to the pastoral care of all:
“However many churches have given up on such ministry; they are in fact anti-nominal and have raised the bar, requiring people to do certain things to receive a pastoral service. People are being encouraged to pay attention to the whole parish and not just those in church, which is a return to an older way of thinking”

But anyway, this is all definitely ‘off-topic’.

November 6, 9:26 pm | [comment link]
68. Mick wrote:

#73 - As I said previously, I made no mention of ‘church attendance’. I referred to ‘members’ - which since this very thread begins with a graph showing TEC ‘membership’ (as well as ASA) is obviously a valid figure. As such, Sydney membership fell. I regard any baptised Anglican as a ‘member’ and worthy of pastoral care and concern. You, as is your right, obviously take a different position.

November 6, 10:17 pm | [comment link]
69. The_Elves wrote:

Oldman, re: your questions in #60:

You can view the parochial report form and instructions here:

November 6, 10:57 pm | [comment link]
70. Oldman wrote:

#75. Thanks dear Elves. I just wonder how many parishes follow the prescribed way! Anyway, it’s seems a personal judgment by those counting or supposed to be counting.

In the end, is there anyway to really know who are communicants attending and who are visitors…and does it really matter anyway..if the figures are used to advance the Lord’s will and not some other.

November 7, 2:01 am | [comment link]
71. Ross wrote:

Does it matter who are “communicants attending” and who are visitors?  The ASA numbers, which is what the count is for, make no distinction between members and visitors.

November 7, 3:34 am | [comment link]
72. RichardKew wrote:

Obviously there is a lot of confusion about the meaning of numbers. Churches in the US usually have a roster of the baptized and the confirmed membership, but having worked in a variety of parishes I would have to say that most of the time these are not desperately accurate. In Britain and other places there are geographical parishes, and these are an even worse way of judging the size of fellowship.

Average Sunday Attendance (ASA) is a far better way of judging size, but I would want to put it with number of pledging units, size of pledge, numbers attending adult and children’s Sunday School. This then gives an idea of the vibrancy of a congregation’s life.

There is no simple way to measure the size of the congregation, but I suspect that census data has to be quite low down the list of accurate methodologies. The Roman Catholic Church in Britain has experienced huge growth in the last few years—but virtually none of that is through evangelism or incorporation of the unchurched, rather it is as a result of the increase of immigrants from Catholic areas of Europe, particularly Poland.

November 7, 4:47 am | [comment link]
73. azusa wrote:

# 76: David Ould, thank you for digging out the stats - I was quite sure mike’s claims could not be true about church attendance in Sydney. Census figures must be the weakest indicator of all, and as one gneration dies off and a new, unchurched generation grows up (and one whose Christian members are chary about denominations), it is on surprise to see a drop in the number of nominal ‘Christians’. If mike had bothered to report on liberal Anglican dioceses in Australia, I bet he would have seen a similar pattern. Exactly the same thing has happened across the liberal Anglican world - New Zealand, UK, Canada as well as TEC - yet individual dioceses (Sydney in Aus, Nelson in NZ, London in UK, SC in TEC) where there is a strong evangelical and above all *mission-minded outlook have bucked the trend.
‘Western’ Anglicanism needs to take note - or just get on with its elaborate funeral.

November 7, 2:27 pm | [comment link]
74. azusa wrote:

PIMF - ‘no surprise’

November 7, 2:28 pm | [comment link]
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