Episcopal Church Numbers in Decline: CEN 11.09.07 p 6. November 10, 2007Posted by geoconger in Church of England Newspaper, The Episcopal Church.
The expected boom in Episcopal Church membership predicted by the supporters of the consecration of the church’s first gay has not yet materialized, statisticians for the national church offices in New York reported last week, as membership and attendance declined a fourth straight year.Episcopal Church’s lost 50,804 members in 2006 while attendance fell by 21,945, the Episcopal Church’s national offices reported last week.
The number of American Episcopalians now stands at 2,154,572, with 765,326 people in church on Sunday. Membership declined by 2 percent last year, while attendance fell 3 percent. Over the past five years, membership has declined 7 percent Sunday attendance by 11 percent.
Dr. Kirk Hadaway, the Episcopal Church’s director of research and development, attributed the losses to fallout from the consecration of the Bishop of New Hampshire in 2003, and to an overall decline in American church attendance.
Half of the decline recorded in 2006 came in the dioceses of Dallas, Florida and Virginia, which saw a number of parishes defect to African-led provinces of the Anglican Communion.
Speculation that the overall rate of decline may be somewhat higher has been fueled by the accounting practices of some dioceses. Los Angeles continues to carry on their books the full membership of congregations who have quit the Episcopal Church for Uganda and other African churches.
In a Nov 19, 2006 interview with the New York Times Magazine, Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori said she was not worried about the falling numbers, noting that Episcopalians were more sophisticated than other Americans and tended to have fewer children.
The proportion of Episcopalians in the US population “used to be larger percentage-wise, but Episcopalians tend to be better-educated and tend to reproduce at lower rates than some other denominations. Roman Catholics and Mormons both have theological reasons for producing lots of children,” she explained.
Fewer Americans in general were actively involved in a church, Dr Hadaway told the Living Church magazine, noting the Episcopal Church’s older population was not being replaced.
However a study published in the September issue of the Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion found that attendance at weekly religious services in the United States had been essentially constant since 1990.
University of Maryland professor Stanley Presser and Duke University professor Mark Chaves stated that overall American church attendance was stable.
“Some commentators say we’re in the midst of a religious revival,” Chaves said. “Others say we’re experiencing religious decline. But the data show otherwise.”