jQuery Slider

You are here

The Episcopal Church Should Take Note that Mainline Churches are Losing Their Gray Heads

The Episcopal Church Should Take Note that Mainline Churches are Losing Their Gray Heads

By David W. Virtue, DD
February 22, 2022

A research article in Christianity Today makes a stunning and disturbing pronouncement - churches in America are losing their gray heads.

There was a time when pastors would look down from the pulpit at the gray-haired congregants sitting in the pews and consider them safe bets. These were the people whose faithfulness they didn't worry about.

"People took it for granted," said Ryan Burge, a pastor and researcher, that "the Golden Girls are not leaving. They're going to be there every Sunday no matter what."

But according to Barna, some of the biggest declines in church attendance over the past three decades have been among adults 55 and older. "We can't just blame the young people for the drop in church attendance," said Savannah Kimberlin, Barna's director of research solutions.

People are leaving church from all age groups, and older generations are no exception. According to Burge, "There is no birth cohort that is more religious today than it was 12 years ago."

Barna found that the percentage of people reporting weekly church attendance in America between 1993 and prepandemic 2020 reached a high of 48 percent in 2009 then plummeted to 29 percent in 2020.

Mainline denominations are being the hardest hit and will continue to experience that problem with the aging moving into retirement centers, heading for warmer climes and dying.

The closure of churches in the Time of Covid certainly hasn't helped. Churches have been decimated across the country.

But culture war issues also feature prominently in the losses.

When Gene Robinson was crowned the first openly homosexual bishop of New Hampshire, TEC lost over 100,000 members. The losses have continued since then with year over year ASA losses in every Episcopal diocese. COVID has simply exacerbated the losses. No one can say what the long-term effects of Covid will be on the churches, but health trumps loyalty and many who once attended church and got used to Zoom might never return. Of course, that doesn't mean they won't send in their checks to keep the lights on, but even that cannot be guaranteed.

It is not without its significance that The Episcopal Church's Executive Council recently made some $3 million available to dioceses in the form of non-refundable amounts of $40,000 to any diocese that wanted it, just to stay afloat. To date, some 80 dioceses out of 109 dioceses have requested the money. That amount equals a total of more than $4 million if all 109 dioceses and mission areas request the money. No formal application is necessary, no strings attached, said an ENS story. The money is drawn from the church's financial reserves. Hardest hit we are told are black Episcopal churches.

This is a case of throwing good money after bad. In the end, without people, the money is merely a stay of execution. Curry said he saw it as a possibility of churchwide revival in the midst of a pandemic. Really. Revival! What revival? Anti-racism training is revival! Being more woke is revival! Opening a soup kitchen in a dying parish is revival! Ecumenical talk with Muslims or Hindus is revival! Selling off the air space above a cathedral to developers for income is revival!

By any definition of revival, there must be the recognition of our sinfulness before a holy God. When did we ever see this in any TEC parish? In the days of Terry Fullam, the late charismatic Episcopal priest perhaps, but not since then.

The Episcopal Church's presiding bishop is using the language favored by black evangelical preachers to excite something that can never happen. There are many sins we all commit and we need to repent of. Adultery (TEC's last remaining sexual sin) for which a bishop can lose his job even though the sin in question was committed decades before he got a miter; fornication, which TEC effectively got rid of in the passage of Resolution D039, (2000). Homosexual behavior (which is still a sin according to scripture), has now been elevated to sainthood with several mitered ones declaring unashamedly that buggery is next to godliness.

Curry, along with 99 percent of his bishops, long ago lost the plot. There will never be revival in TEC. The two or three remaining orthodox (evangelical) bishops cannot turn the tide. Impossible. They have adopted the Pontius Pilate principal of washing their hands by allowing a woke bishop to perform unbiblical sodomite marriages in their dioceses. They think God is not watching or doesn't care?

The only thing of note is the growing number of columbariums filling parish cemeteries with aging Episcopalians. TEC's hope, of course, is that they will leave money in their wills to keep dying congregations afloat for just a little bit longer. A vain hope, it should be noted.

The Episcopal Church is reaping what it has sown, and it is reaping the whirlwind.


Get a bi-weekly summary of Anglican news from around the world.
comments powered by Disqus
Trinity School for Ministry
Go To Top