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"Plate and pledge," dropped $59 million

By David W. Virtue, DD
April 23, 2022

Wokeness is not working well for The Episcopal Church.

The more the church deviates from Scripture and tradition, it takes a hit. Add demographics, COVID, approving homosexual marriage, the rise of Nones (people with no religion), and constant capitulating to the culture on all manner of issues, and the Episcopal Church continues to decline.

If alarm bells are not ringing at the church's national headquarters in New York City, then the leadership clearly needs hearing aids.

Statistics released by the Office of General Convention show domestic membership dropped in 2020 by 61,243 persons to 1,576,702 (-4%) from 1,637,945, while average Sunday attendance, the true indicator of local church health declined 60,232 persons to 458,179 (-12%) from 518,411.

These numbers indicate a doubling in the rate of membership and a tripling in the rate of attendance decline over the previous year. Media Average Sunday Attendance in the denomination has dropped from 57 persons in 2016 to 50 persons in 2020. Long-term, 61% of Episcopal parishes saw their attendance decline 10% or greater in the past five years.

No matter, says Presiding Bishop Michael Curry, "I'm not worried about The Episcopal Church because God's been around a long time. This movement of Jesus that we call church, it has been an underground Harriet Tubman movement in its first centuries. It has been part of the Roman Empire in its later centuries. It has been up, it's been down, it's been established, it's been dis-established. But like the Mississippi River, like Ol' Man River, it will just keep rolling along. We're already given a biblical word; the gates of hell will not prevail against it. Not against the real deal. Mind the gap."

The gates of hell will not prevail against the true church of faithful, committed Christians, but it will prevail over churches that preach "another gospel" which TEC has been preaching for over 40 years, and is now paying the price as it slowly withers and dies. Episcopalians are falling between the gap, with thousands having fled to the safe spiritual pastures of the Anglican Church in North America.

These statistics cover the year 2020 and are the first affected by COVID-19 restrictions. The church only reported attendance data for the prepandemic period January 1 through March 1.

In a first, the church's giving metric, known as "plate and pledge," dropped $59 million (-4.3%) from $1,353,835,316 to $1,294,757,071. That's not exactly chump change and would feed a lot of souls, given inflation these days.

A survey the church ran showed that 24% of Episcopal parishes reported a "very significant" negative impact of the pandemic upon their congregation's finances, while an additional 39% reported a "somewhat significant" impact.

Like most churches across America, Episcopal parishes closed to in-person worship for much of the pandemic. Many churches ceased services altogether -- streaming or otherwise -- with parishioners directed to either a diocesan-wide virtual service or to the Washington National Cathedral.

Two further indicators of overall collapse -- weddings and baptisms -- solidify what the future looks like for TEC. Weddings dropped from 6,484 to 3,530, down 46%. Children's baptisms dropped precipitously from 19,716 to 7,286, down a whopping 67%. Adult baptisms dropped from 3,866 to 1,649, down 57%.


A few months ago, TEC commissioned the Ipsos Group to do a poll, a survey, of the U.S. population to discern and unearth attitudes specifically about God, Jesus, the church, and Christian people. This was a scientific poll; Ipsos is one of the largest global marketing research organizations.

The cross-cultural survey revealed that eighty-four percent of the American people, across religious traditions--this is Christian, non-Christian; across geographical entities, across racial entities; across the age, said "Jesus is a spiritual teacher worth paying attention to," and this included atheists.

As a result, PB Michael Curry said he'd been in conversation with a number of folk and staff about a digital evangelistic campaign that would really represent a view of Christianity as the face of Jesus when it is authentic and when it is real.

Some bright spark asked; 'What think ye of Jesus?' Who do people say that he is?'" That's a reference to a Bible passage noted Curry. Clearly, the man is a biblical scholar.

Then the question was asked, "Well, what about Christians?" Over half, 50% on average ... 57% use the word giving; 56% use the word compassionate; 55% use the word loving; 50% use the word respectful; and 49% use the word friendly.

That, of course, bears little relationship to the Jesus of the New Testament. All of the above could be said about Mahatma Gandhi, Mother Teresa, and a host of lesser historical figures who exemplify one or more of the above attributes.

Jesus is Lord; He is human and divine; He has no equals; He claimed to be God, which if not true, would make Him a madman or a lunatic. Furthermore, if He is neither God nor a lunatic, He must be a liar. He is the supreme ruler of the universe, one day every knee will bow to Him in heaven and on earth, no exceptions. He will rule with his saints forever and ever. Think about that. All sin and tears will be wiped away. Those who reject Him or make light of His suffering for our salvation will be eternally separated from Him.

Curry's idea of evangelism won't wash, and it won't fill pews...in fact, it won't save anyone. Raging on about white privilege, racism, homophobia, genderphobia, critical race theory, climate change and whole host of issues, blocks the hearer from hearing the truly Good News of God's salvation in Christ.

The Episcopal Church's decline is inevitable. It has sown to the wind, and it will reap the whirlwind.


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