Jeff Walton is Communications Manager for the Institute on Religion & Democracy and directs the Anglican program. He graduated in 2001 from Seattle Pacific University and is a member of Restoration Anglican Church in Arlington, VA.
Updated 2011 figures released today by the Episcopal Church Office of Research show that the U.S.-based denomination’s membership continues to decline, while the church’s attendance largely remained the same as the previous year.
The figures show a continued drop in membership from 1,951,907 members in 2010 down to 1,923,046 in 2011, a decline of 28,861 persons. The number of total parishes dropped from 6,794 in 2010 to 6,736 in 2011, a decline of 58 congregations.
The church also reported that 27 of its 100 domestic dioceses posted membership growth. While this conversely means that almost three-quarters of the church’s dioceses are shrinking, the picture is less dire than 2010, when only a single diocese reported any growth.
Dioceses posting growth are disproportionately located in the South, with almost all listing less than a 200 person increase over the previous year, and many with only single digit increases. Standouts include the Diocese of Texas (968 new members and 1.3 percent growth), the Diocese of Dallas (468 new members and 1.5 percent growth) and the Diocese of North Carolina (887 new members and 1.8 percent growth).
Several dioceses stand out on the statistics with significant changes: the Episcopal Diocese of New Hampshire, where outgoing Bishop Gene Robinson is completing his term in office this month, posted a drop of 1,018 members, or down 7 percent, the worst in the northeastern regional Province 1. The “renewing” Episcopal Diocese of Fort Worth, locked in a court struggle with the departing Anglican diocese, posted a shocking 18.1 percent decline in attendance in a single year, even as it reported 106 new members.
Some of the church’s small and rural dioceses took the biggest hits, with Western Kansas and Montana dropping membership 16 percent and 12.4 percent, respectively, while the renewing diocese of Quincy saw a drop of 6.3 percent in attendance down to 340 persons, even as it posted three new members. The tiny Diocese of Northern Michigan, which famously elected a lay Zen Buddhist as bishop only to have the denomination reject him in 2009, posted a 5.4 percent drop down to 592 attendees, even as it added six new members.
The Office of Research compiles statistics that are self-reported by dioceses and parishes in their parochial reports, and thus relies upon local churches to provide updated and accurate records. Church observers have pointed out glaring discrepancies in some of those local reports, such as numbers from the Diocese of Los Angeles, which continues to report among its totals 1,500 members and nearly 600 attendees at St. James Church in Newport Beach, CA. St. James’ congregation departed the diocese over five years ago and is now affiliated with the Anglican Church in North America.
The Office of Research has posted diocesan statistical totals here.
A “fast facts” list of trends can be viewed here.Google+