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Episcopal Church Numbers Continue to Plummet

Episcopal Church Numbers Continue to Plummet
CMC News reports a loss of 60,000 souls and 69 congregations

By Mary Ann Mueller
VOL Special Correspondent
September 8, 2016

Even with a new presiding bishop at the helm, The Episcopal Church continues to hemorrhage membership.

Jessica Jones with CMC News, a broadcasting arm of The Christian Post, reported that according to information she recently received from the Office of the General Convention, The Episcopal Church's latest membership tally shows a loss of 60,000 in membership, resulting in the closure of 69 parishes.

Each autumn, The Episcopal Church releases its general diocesan and parish membership, ASA and Plate & Pledge figures in the form of bar graphs. The 2016 bar graphs, which have now been posted, reflect information gleaned from the 2015 parochial reports. The Domestic and Foreign Missionary Society will follow up with the release and posting of the 2015 Table of Statistics later this year.

The 2014 Table of Statistics show that The Episcopal Church had 7,044 parishes or missions. A loss of 69 churches would bring that figure below 7,000 active congregations. Also, The Episcopal Church's 2014 membership figure was 1,956,042. A three per cent loss of 60,000 souls would mean that slightly more than 1,896,000 persons still claim to be Episcopalians.

The Association of Religious Data Archives shows that the all time high water mark for Episcopal Church membership was in 1959, when there were 3,444,265 Episcopalians worshipping in 7,657 churches served by 8,708 clergy. TEC's 2015 figures reflect a loss of more than 55% in a half a century, averaging about a one per cent dip per year for 56 years. Total church membership dropped below the three million mark in 1973 and then below the two million mark in 2010.

Initially, the bar graphs show that 36 domestic and foreign dioceses have experienced an across the board drop in numbers, both in membership and Average Sunday Attendance (ASA), as well as Plate & Pledge income. They include: Albany, Central Gulf Coast, Central New York, Europe, Connecticut, East Tennessee, Eastern Michigan, Fond du Lac, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, and Louisiana.

Also: Maryland, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, Navajoland, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Newark, Northern Michigan, Northwest Texas, Northwestern Pennsylvania, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Rio Grande, TEC San Joaquin, Southern Ohio, Springfield, Virgin Islands, West Missouri, Western Kansas, Western Louisiana, Western New York, and Wyoming.

Another 42 domestic or foreign dioceses had an uptick in Plate & Pledge income, but a dip in membership rolls or the number of people in the pews on Sunday.

They include: Alabama, Arizona, Atlanta, Bethlehem, California, Central Pennsylvania, Chicago, Colorado, Dallas, El Camino Real, Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Indianapolis, Long Island, Maine, Massachusetts, Milwaukee, and Missouri.

Also: Nebraska, North Carolina, Northern California, Olympia, Oregon, Puerto Rico, Rhode Island, Rochester, San Diego, South Dakota, Southeast Florida, Southern Virginia, Southwest Florida, Southwestern Virginia, Spokane, Tennessee, Texas, Vermont, Virginia, West Virginia, Western Massachusetts, Western Michigan, and Western North Carolina.

In all, 78 of 111 dioceses or mission fields show a dip in both membership and ASA. Only five dioceses or jurisdictions had across the board increases in membership, ASA and Plate & Pledge income. They are: Central Florida, Hawaii, Lexington, Micronesia, and Nevada.

All other dioceses are a mixed bag. Alaska and Utah are up in ASA, but down in membership and money; while Arkansas, Eastern Oregon, Easton, Eau Claire, Montana, North Dakota, Oklahoma and Upper South Carolina are up in money and membership, but down in ASA. TEC Fort Worth is up in membership, but down in ASA and Plate & Pledge.

Since the bar graphs are so generalized, sometimes yearly changes in membership, ASA and/or Plate & Pledge graphics are too small to be determined. This year's bar graphs show that Delaware, Dominican Republic, East Carolina, and Los Angeles are down in membership and ASA, but the change in Plate & Pledge income cannot be determined. Whereas, Northern Indiana, TEC Pittsburgh, West Texas, West Tennessee, and Washington, DC. are up in Plate & Pledge, but down in ASA, however, the change in membership figures cannot be determined by the current bar graphs.

Several foreign dioceses did not file any financial information, so their Plate & Pledge figures are not included. The dioceses of Central Ecuador, Litoral Ecuador, Haiti and Taiwan are down in membership and ASA; although Colombia, Honduras and Venezuela are up in membership and ASA.

There is no bar graph at all for one diocese --TEC South Carolina.

When The Episcopal Church finally releases its complete 2015 Table of Statistics, VOL will follow up with a detailed statistical report.

Mary Ann Mueller is a journalist living in Texas. She is a regular contributor to VirtueOnline

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