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Episcopal Pulpits will Lose 2000 Priests in next Six Years

Episcopal Pulpits will Lose 2000 Priests in next Six Years
An estimated 1500 parishes and missions will close

Christ Episcopal Church in Totowa, NJ closes (photo)

By David W. Virtue DD
August 20, 2016

The Episcopal Church will see a drop of more than 2,000 full time parish priests in the next six years, as the retirement numbers increase geometrically, with no increase (but a likely decrease) of ordinands going into the ministry, Church statistics reveal.

This translates into the number of full time priests being reduced by 65% - 75% of total congregations in the denomination. These numbers are from 2014 the last year reported in some cases. Indications are that the situation is probably worse now in 2016. The average age of an Episcopal priest is 59 (or the mean - half older, half younger) there is a tsunami of retirements headed their way in the next 5-10 years with no possible way of filling pulpits with new ordinands.

A researcher looking at the Church's archives after reading Mary Ann Mueller's extensive article on the crisis in American Episcopal seminaries that showed 70% of TEC's 11 seminaries with fewer than 100 students, crunched the numbers, showing that of the 11 approved and accredited seminaries (one apparently closing in 2017) only 9 exist, if one leaves out Yale and Bishop Kemper. Kemper is basically an online diploma mill. Mueller's story can be accessed here. http://tinyurl.com/h7lexzu

Their decline follows the bell curve of The Episcopal Church, as it experiences loss in members, parish closings and an inability to attract a younger generation of Americans. Many believe that issues like the ordination of women to the priesthood and the episcopacy, the embrace of pansexuality and homosexual marriage now enshrined in canon law, reflect a Church that lacks a distinctive message separate from the prevailing culture.

New research facts include:

• 80 full-time faculty at all Episcopal Seminaries.
• A total of 599 full-time students (or equivalents).
• Only 200 available for ordination each year.
• 460 priests currently serving will retire each year for the next six years, a drop of 2,760.
• There are 7,285 priests currently serving parishes in the Episcopal Church.
• The average age of an Episcopal Priest is 59. (Most will retire by age 65).
• 45.6% of Episcopal Parishes currently use a lay leader, a part-time or unpaid priest. This will only increase in the coming years.
• The Episcopal Church is incapable of planting new churches. An estimated three, mostly Hispanic in origin can be counted.

Church closures.

In 2006, there were 7095 domestic parishes and missions. In 2014, that number had dropped to 6553 domestic parishes and missions -- a drop of 542 parishes/missions closed in a similar time period.

Given the retirement tsunami and decrease in ordinands, it is estimated that between 1100 - 1500 parishes/missions will have to close. That will constitute somewhere between 15% - 20% of the total parishes/missions in the denomination. This may, however, be a low number as it will actually increase geometrically with each passing year unless there is a massive infusion of "new blood". The trouble with "new blood", however, is where are the new priests going to come from, and secondly, TEC is looking at three years of training/education before ordination.

The position, it would seem, is irreversible.

Average age of priests: http://www.episcopalchurch.org/files/age_distribution_of_active_parish_priests_by_diocese_2015_0.pdf
Numbers of parishes/missions: http://www.episcopalchurch.org/files/2014_table_of_statistics_english.pdf

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