October 14, 2014

Episcopal Church Continues Shedding Members

A U.S. denomination that prides itself on inclusivity is including significantly fewer people in its 2013 membership and attendance figures.

Episcopalians have been captivated in recent weeks by an unfolding meltdown at the denomination’s General Theological Seminary, but statistics released this week by the Episcopal Church’s Office of Research reveal that the wider denomination is also struggling to find its footing. The church has faced steep losses since the early 2000s with a perfect storm of changing demographics, low fertility and departures by traditionalists.

The 2013 reporting year saw a continuation of the downward trend, with a membership drop of 27,423 to 1,866,758 (1.4 percent) while attendance dropped 16,451 to 623,691 (2.6 percent). A net 45 parishes were closed, and the denomination has largely ceased to plant new congregations.

The new numbers do not factor in the departure of the Episcopal Diocese of South Carolina, of which the church continues to report over 28,000 members and over 12,000 attendees, despite the majority of South Carolina congregations severing their relationship with the Episcopal Church at the end of 2012. If South Carolina departures were factored in, the membership loss would be closer to 50,000 persons.

The decline offers contrast with the Anglican Church in North America (ACNA), which reported growth in membership, attendance and number of congregations in its 2013 statistics this June. ACNA was formed in 2009 by departing Episcopalians who disagreed with the liberalizing direction of the U.S.-based Episcopal Church.

While the Episcopal Church has established a continued pattern of steady decline since the early 2000s, the unbroken trend is relatively recent: the church lost only 18,000 members in the 1990s, a plateau that dropped off about the time Gene Robinson of New Hampshire was consecrated the church’s first openly partnered gay bishop. Overall, the church has declined from a high of 3.6 million members in the mid-1960s to 1.8 million today, even as the U.S. population has more than doubled. The church has lost a quarter of its attendance since 2003.

The size of the average Episcopal parish has now dropped to 61 persons from 64 in 2012, while 69 percent of congregations now report less than 100 attendees. Only 4 percent of parishes report attendance of over 300 persons. Fifty-Three percent of Episcopal congregations report that they are in decline.

Losses have not been evenly distributed, with rural dioceses continuing to struggle more than others. The Diocese of Alaska posted a 10.6 percent decline in attendance, while the downstate Illinois Diocese of Springfield posted a 10.9 percent decline in membership and an 11.5 percent decline in attendance. Eastern Oregon membership dropped 7.5 percent and 6.3 percent attendance to only 960 attendees.

Rust Belt dioceses also struggled, with Central New York posting a 5.1 percent decline in membership paired with a 5.2 percent decline in attendance, Bethlehem (PA) reporting a 5 percent decline in membership and 3.3 percent attendance loss and Northern Indiana listing a 4.7 percent decline in members and 5.6 percent drop in attendees. Michigan lost 5 percent of membership and 3.1 percent of attendance, while the tiny Diocese of Northern Michigan posted a 7.4 percent decline in attendance, dropping to 526 attendees, the smallest domestic diocese in the church.

The Northeastern United States experienced the most widespread losses, with both province I and II reporting drops of 4.4 and 4.5 percent, respectively. In a change from previous years, several foreign dioceses, typically immune to declines in domestic U.S. dioceses, have also posted sudden drops. Haiti, the church’s largest diocese, disclosed an 11.9 percent decline in attendance, Venezuela declined 19.6 percent and Honduras reported a staggering 43 percent drop in attendance, blamed on “a change in reporting procedures” in that diocese (Honduras also reported a 57 percent decline in membership).

“Renewing” dioceses attempting to rebuild after traditionalist departures have failed to stabilize, with Fort Worth hemorrhaging members and dropping from 6,126 to 4,790, a decline of 21.8 percent. San Joaquin dropped 2.2 percent of members and attendance declined 3.2 percent, while Pittsburgh dropped 2.1 percent of members and saw a decline of 1.7 percent in attendance. Quincy, Illinois was absorbed into the Diocese of Chicago in 2013.

Overall, 74 of the church’s 99 domestic dioceses reported decline, while all but nine domestic dioceses reported shrinking attendance. A rare bright spot was Rhode Island, which reported in a 6.5 percent increase in new members, while simultaneously reporting a 1.6 percent decline in attendance.


63 Responses to Episcopal Church Continues Shedding Members

  1. Diaris says:

    Photo sums it all up!

  2. David says:

    Excellent review of the facts Jeff. Yes TEC does not want to count SC as a loss, nor ft worth.nthe dishonesty continues
    David

    • SCBluCatLady says:

      They have no choice but to continue to count the dioceses that departed as members. Their legal strategies depend on the charade. No surprise here.

  3. wyclif says:

    I feel certain that “mutual indaba”, “facilitated conversations”, and “listening process” will fill TEC pews and the collection plates back up, just as they did in the CofE.

    • Jason P Taggart says:

      That’s exactly the sort of meaningless gobbledybook that liberal church bureaucrats just love – they’ll keep spouting these mantras to each other till they finally realize the pews are all empty.

    • steveherts says:

      “Facilitated conversations” thats just wilful prevarication and subterfuge practised by the Liberal establishment that presides over the C of E to introduce homosexual marriage into the Church when they think it is safe to do so. They are just playing for time. the pro-homosexualist agenda is already set. When it is eventually introduced it will rapidly empty the pews of the remaining faithful. When will we have Bishops and leaders in the C of E , men of real faith, not ashamed to proclaim the true Gospel of salvation in Christ Jesus alone as revealed in Holy Scripture.

  4. Greg says:

    TEC will eventually peel off to “ten righteous persons,” The last ten LGBTQR2D2, non-reproducing, vegan, Marxists, will propose that the church (small “c”, singular) remove the cross in order to make the church more appealing and “relevant.”

    • Semp says:

      Ten?

      Optimist…

    • steveherts says:

      Exactly right, Not a church but a spiritual space where members can discuss and share feelings over coffee in fact anything but serving the Living God through Christ Jesus as revealed in Scripture. It has no authority because it has substituted a false, unrighteous Gospel of moral relativism rooted in the self- a kind of modern Gnosticism. Hence it will wither and fade. Let us rejoice! for many inside this institution are the enemies of Christ , more eager to please modern culture with all its abominations than serve the Lord Jesus.

  5. Jason P Taggart says:

    This article was enlightening. I had heard about the Diocese of South Carolina but was not aware of Pittsburgh, San Joaquin, and Fort Worth.

  6. marmichaelabportus says:

    And the dioceses that are growing are for the most part in areas where the general population is growing as well.

  7. Charles B. Jordan Jr. says:

    And so are the conservative mainline Southern Baptist (7 straight years of decline) and LCMS (1.45% continuing a 30+ year decline). Therefore, one could also surmise that holding to young-earth creationism and an all-male clergy also invite decline.

    • osu84 says:

      Yes – the decline in all mainline denominations continues. But the theologically liberal denominations have been hit the hardest – and it’s not even close.

    • fredx2 says:

      Whatever is happening in the Southern Baptists – who have lost one percent, it is not the same as the Episcopals, who have lost 30 percent.

    • Mr JCS says:

      Cherry-picking your data there, Mr. Left, lots of the conservative denominations are growing, but ALL the left-wing ACLU churches are declining. It will be a great day when those godless churches finally shut down.

    • Ken M says:

      That’s like saying Joe had his pinky amputated, and Bob had his leg amputated.

    • beyond partisan says:

      Except, non-denominational “Baptist” style churches are huge and growing like wildfire. It’s not like we’re seeing this great massive expansion of Unitarian “churches.”

    • David Collins says:

      Uh, no. We are living in the end times, and the Bible makes it clear that there will be an Apostasy from the TRUE faith. The Baptists never practiced the true faith anyway. The true faith is practiced by the grass roots level Eastern Orthodox Churches and parishes.

  8. Jennifer Prestash says:

    The leaders of the Episcopal Church no longer have Jesus Christ as the center of their lives. They’ve replaced Him with things like abortion rights, homosexual marriage, and a whole lot of other immoral things that the Bible condemns. There is a difference between ministering to those who do wrong, and leading them through repentance back to the flock and changing your theology to bless what is wrong.

  9. Duane Alexander Miller says:

    Good post with important information. Thank you.

  10. Duane Alexander Miller says:

    What the heck happened in Honduras?!

    • marmichaelabportus says:

      Several things I am sure. One would probably be TEC;s stand on homosexuality. Secondly, a lot of unconverted priests and lay leaders. Some church plants were just wrong. I won;t sat where, but there was one congregation that locked the RC priest out and invited TEC. Their problem with the priest was he refused to baptise children whose parents didn’t know anything about the faith. I ended up in problems in the same are when i required classes for baptism and that god parents be baptised practicing Christians.

  11. David says:

    A denomination that rebels against God will not prosper. Only orthodox churches will grow, led by the Holy Spirit.

  12. Teto85 says:

    The misogynists from 1972 on and the homophobes from about the time of the1986 General Convention (Gay postulants could not be rejected from the process simply for being gay) and the general inclusiveness of the Church frightens the bigots and so they go to their own little churches full of hate for the “other.” Kind of funny anyway considering the Episcopal Church in the USA was a break away from the COE over politics which was a break away from Rome over politics. All for a fairy tale. At least PECUSA (Protestant Episcopal Church of the USA) does not ask you to leave your brains at home when you go to Eucharist.

    • norsman16 says:

      No ma’am, what is frightening is the flight away from the Gospel of Jesus the Christ, the Son of God, who condemns among many things, homosexual behavior. Twist the Word of God any way you want, but homosexuality is an abomination. Not my words mind you, but the words of the Living God. I am not a homophobe just because I do not sanction what is wrong. I find more intolerance on the part of people like you, who cannot listen to another point of view without spewing hatred or calling names. The Way is narrow. You can’t make up the rules or change the Word of God withput consequences. I pray that you become filled with the HOLY Spirit and repent of your sin, for your own sake and for the sake of your eternal soul.

      • Teto85 says:

        According to that same word of God, from the same chapter, the fate of homosexuals also awaits those who eat pork, meat and milk in the same meal and wearers of clothing made of mixed fibres. And anyone who goes into the office on a Saturday.

        • norsman16 says:

          Christ came to abolish the law of the Old Testament but the Truth of the abominable practices remains the same. Please read Romans 1 which says the following: 18 “For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who suppress the truth in unrighteousness, 19 because what may be known of God is manifest in them, for God has shown it to them. 20 For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even His eternal power and Godhead, so that they are without excuse, 21 because, although they knew God, they did not glorify Him as God, nor were thankful, but became futile in their thoughts, and their foolish hearts were darkened. 22 Professing to be wise, they became fools, 23 and changed the glory of the incorruptible God into an image made like corruptible man—and birds and four-footed animals and creeping things.

          24 Therefore God also gave them up to uncleanness, in the lusts of their hearts, to dishonor their bodies among themselves, 25 who exchanged the truth of God for the lie, and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever. Amen.

          26 For this reason God gave them up to vile passions. For even their women exchanged the natural use for what is against nature. 27 Likewise also the men, leaving the natural use of the woman, burned in their lust for one another, men with men committing what is shameful, and receiving in themselves the penalty of their error which was due.”

          • Teto85 says:

            Oh. You’re serious. Let me laugh even harder!!!

          • norsman16 says:

            No worries at all Teto. Life is all about choices isn’t it?
            Blessings.

          • Teto85 says:

            Blessed Be.

          • gewaite says:

            Thank the Goddess! And celebrate your diversity-in a church that’s barely 3% non-White!

          • Teto85 says:

            I spend my weekend mornings with my wife and children and pets and engaged in useful activities, not wasting away in a building worshipping some imaginary sky wizard. PECUSA has been called, and with good reason, “The Frozen Chosen’, and “The Republican Party at Prayer.” Although nowadays church going Republicans are more prone to attend Lily White Reverend Billy Bob’s Lily White Church on the Hill. Or Megachurch at the first right past the Mall. Leave your brains and wallet at the door before you enter. Praise Jebus.

          • Teto85 says:

            No thanks. I have to read about a patient’s neuroblastoma and don’t have time for fantasy and fairy tales right now. TTFN.

          • norsman16 says:

            Of course, the reason you aren’t reading the passage isn’t because it might upset your uncertain world view now is it?

          • Teto85 says:

            No. I have to try to save a little girl’s life.

    • wyclif says:

      Don’t look now, but TEC is rapidly becoming a little, bigoted church. Perhaps you ought to look again at the present state of TEC. Shrinking very quickly and shedding members at an astonishing rate (now, why is that? Have you ever asked yourself that question?), all while suing parishes faithful to Anglican doctrine and encouraging policies that are poisonous to church growth, especially families. Looks to me like you don’t know the meaning of the word “bigotry”; perhaps you ought to look it up and get back to me.

      • Teto85 says:

        I made these comments six weeks ago and you are just getting around to reading them now? The state of PECUSA or any other cult is no importance to me and all you can do is make some remark about how it’s losing members because homophobes and misogynists don’t want to tolerate “others?” Such trolling and taunting on your part is almost at a 3rd grade level. Almost.

        • David Collins says:

          namecalling is the last refuge of ignorant leftists who hate God and His followers as well as the Truth. Thank you for calling yourself out, Teto.

          • Teto85 says:

            And here you come, slouching in after two years? For shame. Go see Sister Mary Hitler for a knuckle rapping.

          • David Collins says:

            The only slouching here is you on your way to Gomorrah.

          • Teto85 says:

            Where is Gomorrah? Is that a city in your book of fairy stories?

          • David Collins says:

            the only fairy tales are the ones you believe. As for the Word of God, it is true and is powerful.

          • Teto85 says:

            Does that include the ones about not eating bacon or cheeseburgers or wearing cotton-poly blend shirts and being clean shaven? Or having to quarantine all women in your household when they are having their periods? Because those tales are in the bible as well.

          • David Collins says:

            when did murder become ok to you?

          • David Collins says:

            while you try to answer that, why don’t you also tell us when the following are ok:

            committing adultery
            lying
            disrespecting parents
            coveting your neighbor’s possessions
            coveting his wife

            Let’s see how you get out of this.

          • Teto85 says:

            If you are going to support one thing from your all infallible word of god, then include them all. Or do you know your god’s mind of which of his words are infallible and which are not? Or are you just cherry picking to suit your own mind? Otherwise you are just engaging in mental masturbation.

          • David Collins says:

            Answer the question. Which of the following are wrong

            murder
            lying
            adultery
            coveting

            Tell us, if you can. Otherwise, crawl away with your tail between your legs like the pagan you are.

          • Teto85 says:

            Agree that eating cheeseburgers and not shaving and not quarantining menstruating women are just as wrong. It’s your book. Stand up for it or let it fall on your unwillingness to defend it.

          • David Collins says:

            Your mind is reprobate. You do not have the Holy Spirit. Therefore, you cannot understand the Word of God. This would be like trying to explain calculus to an ant. In case you don’t understand: You are the ant. The Bible is calculus. Since you cannot and will never be able to figure this out for yourself, and of course, will not believe me or understand after I explain it to you, I will nevertheless answer your question.

            God had a plan for the salvation of mankind even before He created it. He knew beforehand that man would fall. He also knew man could not save himself from hell. Only God can do that. Therefore, the plan was already formulated to incarnate and die before anything was created.

            God always reserves a remnant for Himself in a world taken over by Satan and paganism. At the time He formed His people, the Hebrews, beginning with Abraham, the objective of God, was establishing a people for Himself through whom to Incarnate someday. these people would be a sign from God to the world. They would have to be different in culture and beliefs from all others. He would need a body in order to be born into this people He would establish for Himself, and die. His death as a God man was necessary so that His death could pay for the sins of all of humanity. Only the death of God could do this. God could only die if He also became a man. .

            He gave this particular people, whom today we call the Jews, rules to follow that substantially differentiated them from the rest of the world. Among those rules were those which dealt with eating and biological function. They make sense. Female menstruation is a metaphor for the sinfulness of man. So is going to the bathroom. We dont wallow in our feces do we? The dietary laws also have merit to them. Many of the things that God told them not to eat have been found to be generally unhealthy for humans i.e. pork before modern animal raising and butchering. The facial hair thing was a clue to the coming of Messiah and what He would look like. He would have a beard. There were many clues in the old testament as to what Jesus would look like and how He would behave. The long hair of Samson was a clue. Jesus had long hair. Why? He was a Nazarene, and long hair was deemed accursed on men under the law. Yet, Jesus had long hair to provoke his enemies who were so obsessed with manmade law that had taken God’s law beyond what God had commanded. His long hair was one of the things that enraged them about Him. Here He was this person who had all this knowledge about God way beyond theirs, yet he didn’t comport with what the considered Godliness. Other parts of the law were universal and obvious, even though the pagans had drifted away from the natural law. Things like murder, adultery, sexual immorality, homosexuality (which is a subset of fornication, which is a subset of adultery, which is a subset of sexual immorality) etc. None of those things are good for a people and culture. They destroy men’s souls and direct them to hell. The human conscience, if not seared, knows they are inherently wrong, because God has written His law on Men’s hearts when they are conceived. But as a man matures, as he sins more and more, he destroys that law in his heart by violating their consciences until they are spiritually dead. Hence, the need, as Jesus said, for a man to be born again, in order to be saved and be able to enter into heaven. A man is only saved if he has the Holy Spirit within him, which in turn makes him reborn spiritually. That in turn, depends on faith in Jesus. That was the algorithm that God designed for a man to be saved. God gifted man to Jesus. For the gift to be created, man (plural) must submit to and have eyes focused on Jesus as Lord and Savior. Jesus (Who is God, the Second person of the trinity) must reside in a man for him to be saved. Jesus is birthed into a man by the indwelling of the Holy Spirit. No spirit, no spiritual rebirth and therefore no life. Only death and hell. The cross was necessary for Jesus to die. But, because He conquered death by rising from the dead, the cross is now a symbol of victory for God and His followers. But it is foolishness to those who are perishing. It sounds like it is foolishness to you. Is it? Then, at this time, you are perishing. How can you escape Hell if you dont believe in Jesus as Lord and Savior and belief that God raised Him from the dead?

          • Teto85 says:

            Oh. You’re serious. Let me laugh even harder.

          • David Collins says:

            Your words show that you are totally overwhelmed and rhetorically destroyed. Off with you into the world of laugh gas atheists.

          • Teto85 says:

            Still refuse to accept all of your bible?

  13. MarcoPolo says:

    Hooray for Rhode Island!
    At the risk of comparing apples to oranges, or rather Hamburgers to Salads…. If one were to extrapolate similar declines in say, the fast food industry’s menu preferences, I’d say, like McDonald’s attempt to seek customers who prefer salads over the usual hamburger, there will be very little loss of customers who order hamburgers, but those that order salads will be happy that they were able to choose something “healthier” at the same location.

    Those ‘traditionalists’ who attend church may not want to have Liberals in their congregation, but because God loves ALL people, at least the Liberals can find inclusion at one location.

    Attendance will naturally fluctuate in any church. I find it interesting that such numbers seem to mean more to the IRD staff writers, than to many of the parishioners. This is not a popularity contest!

    Excuse my oversimplified analogy, but this evolution is inevitable.
    There will always be the need for organized religion, in churches, or in back yards, it’s the message from the pulpit that makes a church. And perhaps the music from the choir!

    • steve says:

      Your analogy is ill-timed. Just about a week ago the Wall Street Journal ran a report on the significant recent decline in McDonald’s profits. The article postulated that it was precisely the chain’s attempts to go after the healthy-eating crowd that hurt its bottom line. The takeaway: McDonald’s is good at cheap burgers and fries; they should hammer away at that. Perhaps, then, the analogy works for TEC, just not in the way you suppose. Maybe if TEC would proclaim orthodox Christianity unflinchingly and unapologetically, they would get some people in the pews.

      • MarcoPolo says:

        In light of my pale analogy, Steve, I hope you’re not suggesting that once an entity (a hamburger chain or a Church) offers up something healthier to it’s customers/parishioners, that they need not consider it as serving the greater good?

        If The Church expanded their “menu”, they might see greater attendance.

  14. pathsofglory says:

    I grew up more or less in the Episcopal tradition: boarding schools, daily chapel, Sacred Studies by the school padre, beatings by sixth form prefects for one “goddamit,” confirmation – the whole nine yards. To this day I can recite much of the Book of Common Prayer (the ’28 Thomas Cranmer-inspired version, not the dumbed down Oprah Book Club thing that came out in 1979). It was a grand experience.

    Now it’s gone. The affluence, influence, and establishmentarianism” (literally, at first) that sustained it became spent forces by the 1960s. Like a decade long TV series that had run out of ideas, the Piscops had continuously to re-invent themselves. They would become, as the saying goes, “everything to everybody.” William F. Buckley once remarked, that the Church had become so loosey-goosey that nobody from Ringo Starr to Mao Tse Tung could say with assurance, “I am not an Episcopalian.” It wouldn’t surprise me to learn that it has become a refuge for those who think Unitarianism too restrictive and dogmatic.

    Actually, the exodus would be far greater, except for one thing: Many traditionalist congregants who wished to break off (“in a prayerful kindly way” of course) woke up one morning to learn that their church (i.e., the real estate) was not actually “their” church at all but the property of the Protestant Episcopal Church of the USA. And guess what: Don’t like the new liturgy?; we’ll have you genuflecting to Mapplethorpe’s “Piss Christ” if we feel like it. Turn the place into an abortion clinic for gay nuclear whales. Problem with that? Don’t let that big red door hit you in the ass on the way out.

    The bottom line here is money, and everybody knows it. Think of the billions in real estate (most of it unused by now) as well as all those aging dippy oleomargarine heiresses who leave their inherited fortunes to the Church. Why, it’s enough to pay alimony to all the homosexual clergy from now to the Second Coming.

  15. David K says:

    Our episcopal church and our diocese of San Joaquin voted to leave the episcopal church and joined the North American Anglican Communion, after Gene Robinson was ordained a bishop. That was when the persecution started. the Ayatollah bishop Jefferts Schori tried to take our church away from us. They brought their episcopal lawyers in and sued us. And lost. But then they sued us again…and lost. It has been a living hell. We’ve heard she was finally deposed. While exiting, she was heard muttering I don’t want to run a church filled with homophobes, anti-inclusivists, traditionalists, evangelicals, fundamentalists, and those lacking in diversity. It has been estimated that she spent upwards of 100 million in legal costs forcing true believers out of their churches.

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