Marriage

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Episcopal Marriage

September 27, 2018

Episcopal Marriage, Baptism Numbers Collapse

Dispute about the redefinition of marriage has roiled the Episcopal Church in the past two decades. At the same time, the invitation of Presiding Bishop Michael Curry to preach this year at the wedding of the Duke and Duchess of Sussex was a bright spot for the denomination: Curry’s homily was greeted with favorable coverage.

Despite the prominence of marriage in the church’s public conversation, statistics made available this month by the church’s Executive Office of the General Convention reveal that the number of marriages taking place in the denomination has collapsed nearly 60 percent in the past 15 years, and the addition of same-sex marriage has done nothing to halt the trend.

In short – with apologies to 1987 film “The Princess Bride” – marriage isn’t what brings us together, today.

Episcopalians have faced gradual and consistent decline in membership and attendance during the same time period (view coverage here). Membership has declined from 2,320,221 in 2002 to 1,712,563 in 2017 (-26%). Statistics including baptism, marriages, confirmations and receptions are indicative of not just where the denomination is today, but where it will be in 20 years’ time. With these latest numbers, the decline will continue and likely accelerate. An increased age of the average Episcopalian and the lack of children has resulted in the denomination figuratively eating the seed corn of its future.

Episcopal MarriageIn the past year alone, marriages conducted in the denomination dropped 8 percent, contributing to an overall decline of 43 percent in the past decade, and down 59 percent since 2002 – the year before the consecration of Gene Robinson as the church’s first openly partnered gay bishop.

Data from the Pew Research Center shows that, while U.S. marriage rates are down significantly since they peaked in 1960, the share of adults who are married has remained relatively stable in recent years, in contrast to the steep decline in Episcopal Church marriages.

Baptisms have also declined precipitously. Child baptisms dropped 55 percent from 44,995 to 20,069 since 2002, while adult baptisms dropped 53 percent from 6,299 to 2,927.

Episcopal baptismOther figures tracked year-over-year also sank since 2002. Confirmations of children are down 14,996 to 7,043 (-53%), while adult confirmations sank from 17,701 to 8,595 (-51%). For those already confirmed in another denomination and are received into the Episcopal Church, the number has dropped from 7,785 to 5,506 (-29%).

Marriage has been a central issue in the denomination, which officially redefined marriage as between any two persons in 2015. At the recent 2018 General Convention held July 5-13 in Austin, Texas, bishops and convention deputies voted to require dioceses to permit parishes within their diocesan boundaries to solemnize same-sex marriages.

Full Episcopal Church Tables of Statistics can be accessed via the links below:

2002: https://www.episcopalchurch.org/files/2002TableofStatisticsoftheEpiscopalChurch.pdf

2007: https://www.episcopalchurch.org/files/2009_Red_Book_Table_of_Statistics_by_Prov__Diocese.pdf

2016: https://www.episcopalchurch.org/files/documents/2016_table_of_statistics.pdf

2017: https://www.episcopalchurch.org/files/documents/2017_table_of_statistics.pdf


7 Responses to Episcopal Marriage, Baptism Numbers Collapse

  1. David says:

    Ritualism, hymns, classical music, prayer books, etc. have all declined in popularity while low birthrates for decades is now hitting home. Notice that none of these were caused by the debate over gays. Of course, you had to show a fat woman getting married.

    • Steve says:

      You make assertions that certain things are unpopular without proof. Moreover, the Episcopal Church has been reducing the presence of all the things you claim are unpopular for decades and it hasn’t helped. What would you rather have, a different made up liturgy every week in a huge bulletin? Taize and Music That Makes Communities? Contemporary music (which they have had for decades and liberal clergy is now eliminating)? They’ve been trying these things for decades, and the more they do them, the quicker people leave. Episcopal Church membership and attendance is headed for zero in the next few decades, and birth rates are not headed for zero or anything like it.

  2. Joe Gilliland says:

    In the meantime, surveys show that millennials are reversing the trend and staying wed. The divorce rate is down. With a long membership decline, it seems to me that the number of marriages would be affected. It’s reason for concern, but not panic.

  3. David says:

    The white population in general, and more so the wealthier and better educated as found in the Episcopal Church, have had birthrates below replacement level for decades and people do not live forever.

    • Steve says:

      Yes, it may be below replacement level, but the white population is not going down quickly. There will not be zero white people in a few decades like people are predicting for the Episcopal Church.
      Besides which: when you have a church being affirmative about abortion, birth control and homosexuality, its hardly a surprise they might have demographic problems. You argument is rather like a child that killed its parents suggesting it should get mercy from the court because it is an orphan.

  4. David Trawick says:

    There are all sorts of excuses for declining numbers, and it’s now found across most denominations. However, if you look at what denominations are going over the steepest cliff, there is NO case to be made that giving approval to homosexual sex and/or marriage will attract young people. The young adults at our church (and their numbers are growing) all say they’re here because they know the Truth is being taught without cultural compromises.

  5. Mary Lou Long says:

    What is missing is vibrant holy-spirit vibrations. Preaching redemption, the power of the blood of Jesus to break the power of sin, preaching godliness and sanctification, etc. Heresy just doesn’t have the ring of truth. People move on.

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