Skip to comments.Is the Episcopal Church Growing (or Declining)?
Posted on 11/25/2006 5:37:39 PM PST by sionnsar
Is the Episcopal Church growing or declining? Since mainline denominations, generally, are mired in decline, the answer to that question should be obvious. But for the Episcopal Church the question cannot be answered so easily. Unlike the United Methodist Church, the Presbyterian Church (USA), the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ), the United Church of Christ and so many other mainstream Protestant bodies, the Episcopal Church experienced intermittent growth in membership and attendance during the late-1980s, 1990s and thus far into the new millennium.
This growth and the optimism it fostered helped birth the 2020 movement and made its ambitious goals seem more than wishful thinking.
Yet in the days following the General Convention of 2003, other voices have been heard, reminding us of our membership losses-saying that we once had over a million more members than we have today. We are a declining denomination, or so we have been called, and because of a vote taken at General Convention, we can expect to lose even more members. So what is the truth? Is the Episcopal Church growing or declining? Unfortunately, answering that question is made difficult by changes in denominational membership reporting and lack of attention to quality control in the canonical data collection. This report is an effort to unpack the problems surrounding membership trends in the Episcopal Church and hopefully to answer the question of growth or decline with objective clarity.
Membership: Unadjusted and Adjusted Patterns
The Episcopal Church Annual, also known as The Red Book, includes a table that tracks Episcopal statistics from 1880 to the present. Communicant totals begin in 1880, whereas baptized membership statistics commence in 1930. If one simply finds the high point of Episcopal membership in Red Book tables (1966) and compares that figure (3,647,297) with the total members in 2002 (2,320,221), it would seem that the Episcopal Church lost well over a million members during the last 35 years. But any suggestion that the pattern of loss has been consistent and intractable over this period is incorrect. As shown in Figure 1, the pattern is anything but consistent after the decline began. The ...
To read the full report click here:
The register had scarcely been kept at all. I remember planning the Cristmas services with the Altar guild and looking for records of previous services to get a notion of how many folks we might have. But there was no record. No record, and no habit of getting the "count" into the register aftere services.
I dind't have occasion to deal with the "big register" but based on the "day book" it's hard to imagine that the big register didn't have a lot of creative writing in it.
COnsequently I really strongly doubt any figures in the Episcopal Church. The ones I audited were always inflated in all but one church I was related to in any ordained capacity.
I think it's hard to say. Protestant, Episcopal, Orthodox, Catholic - the liberal/conservative split has caused people to move from one to another, or to go off and form their own "churches." I would assume there is a good number who have just said "to heck with it - I'm sleeping in."
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