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Anglican Church of Canada attendance dropping 10% per year

Anglican Church of Canada attendance dropping 10% per year
National Church suffers financial deficit due to market losses

By David W. Virtue, DD
July 25, 2023

The Anglican Church of Canada is dropping like a stone into a bottomless future. According to recent statistics, church attendance dropped faster during the pandemic, but parishes are adapting, says a report in the Anglican Journal.

Canon Neil Elliot, statistics officer for the Anglican Church of Canada, says the church needs to start planning for a future of smaller communities and new expressions of church life in response to the pandemic's acceleration of already declining attendance.

Data for 2021 confirm that attendance in the Anglican Church of Canada declined by about 10 per cent that year, after a similar drop in 2020, the church's statistics officer says. Preliminary findings from 2022 suggest it continued in a steep decline into the third year of the COVID-19 pandemic.

In 2019, statistics officer Canon Neil Elliot released a report that described a downward trend of 2.5 per cent per year--a rate that would see the church's membership depleted entirely by 2040 if it continued. An update with data from 2020 showed the downward trend had accelerated to about 10 per cent that year, with preliminary data from that time suggesting a similar rate of decline for 2021. The latest numbers confirm the latter, Elliot says.

Elliot's latest statistics report was submitted to General Synod this summer but was not put on the agenda for discussion. It includes figures for 2019-2021, intended to compare pre- and post-pandemic data. These show the number of workers employed by parishes down 17 per cent, the number of people on parish rolls down 14 per cent and even more dramatic declines in the numbers of baptisms, confirmations, weddings and funerals (down 56, 71, 44 and 24 per cent respectively) from 2019 to 2021.

It also shows figures for two dioceses for which 2022 data were available at the time the report was prepared. Between 2019 and 2022, the number of people in attendance at 30 churches surveyed in the dioceses of Kootenay and Fredericton dropped by around 32 per cent on an average Sunday, with drops of 49 and 41 per cent at the usually heavily attended Christmas and Easter services. If the pattern continues as other dioceses send in their 2022 numbers, Elliot says, an overall drop in attendance at those services of around 37 to 40 per cent for those years nationwide is likely.

While it may be tempting to blame the shrinking numbers on pandemic lockdowns and expect them to bounce back up at some point, Elliot cautions that may not be the most likely scenario.

"Last Christmas, there was no reason for people who wanted to be in church not to be in church," he says, referring to the fact that by winter of 2022, pandemic restrictions had been scaled back across most of Canada. Instead, he says, it's more likely numbers will continue at their steady rate of decline from this new plateau.

David of Samizdat wrote, tongue in cheek, "t's just as well the bishops are concentrating all their efforts on reversing this trend by authorising transgender liturgies."

Elliot says, his findings suggest the number of identifiable donors across the church has been falling more slowly than the number of people in attendance.

The explosion of online services, implemented in response to lockdowns. 750 out of 1550 churches recorded holding an online service of some kind in 2020 and 550 of those maintaining them through 2021.

He says these are a sign that when pushed, the Anglican Church of Canada is able to come up with solutions that let church life survive and even thrive even if it sees a decline in some of its traditional structures. Especially important will be how parishes respond on a local level to the needs of their communities.

"I think the church needs to be looking at the way it does things soon--now," he says. "We have evidence through COVID that particularly at the parish level, [the church is] nimble and able to respond quickly ... We are understanding ourselves more and more in terms of the people in the community and less in terms of the building." The report is here: https://www.anglicanlutheran.ca/wp-content/uploads/4b-Report-006-Appendix-B-Statistics-Report.pdf


Anglican Church of Canada has $1.55 million deficit for 2022

David oF Samizdat reports the following:

The Anglican Church used to be known as the conservative party at prayer, now it is the communist party at smudging.

The ACoC likes to waft an aroma of socialist egalitarianism heavenward in clouds of smudging fumes, but it still loves money and, even though it pretends to emulate the homeless man/God who had nowhere to lay his head, it just can't stop loving money and the means of making more of it.

To that end, in 2021 it had $27,790,616 invested in Cash, Equities, Alternative Investments and Real Estate.

To paper a veneer of pious poverty over this, the Diocese of Toronto displays a statue of homeless Panhandler Jesus outside one of its churches. It makes Toronto's homeless population feel so much better.

But back to the thing the ACoC isn't interested in: money.

Last year's global market decline left the church's national office with a budget deficit of $1.55 million at the end of 2022. The treasurer explains more here. Do I see a tear in her eye?

Investment losses from last year's global market decline left the church's national office with a budget deficit of $1.55 million at the end of 2022, a financial statement released to General Synod shows.

The deficit occurred despite an operational surplus of $346,000. Total revenue for General Synod in 2022 was $9.75 million, down by more than $37,900 from the previous year. Expenses were $9.40 million, or $882,000 higher than last year.

In the financial management committee's report to General Synod June 30, treasurer and CFO Amal Attia said investment losses, however, made "that surplus a deficit and that is as a result of the nosedive that the entire investment portfolio [took] for everybody." Investment losses of $1.77 million and a $250,000 provision for potential legal settlements left the budget awash in red ink, despite more than $123,000 in undesignated legacies. Market losses from unrealized investments, Attia added, were "not anything in our control."

Stock and other investment markets around the world experienced declines in 2022 due to a number of factors going back to the economic recession that followed the COVID-19 pandemic, which later resulted in soaring inflation and global supply chain problems. Russia's invasion of Ukraine in February 2022 also cause.

As one observer noted tongue in cheek that the ACoC now stands for Anglican Croakers in Canada.


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