Kendall Harmon: The Episcopal Church Plays and Loses the Numbers Game

As is well known, the Episcopal Church radically altered its theology and practice at its General Convention in 2003. As a result a significant amount of unrest has gone on in the TEC community which the leadership has tried to downplay or deny.

It is important to understand that those who are deeply opposed to the new theology fall into not one but four groups, each of which is engaged in different things.

(1) There are people who are voting with their feet, and departing from the Episcopal Church to Eastern Orthodoxy, Roman Catholicism, and Free Church Protestantism.

According to the Christian Century, “the Episcopal Church has suffered a net loss of nearly 115,000 members over the past three years “with homosexuality issues fueling the departures.” Kirk Hadaway, the denomination’s director of research, noted that “it is a precipitous drop in losing 36,000 in both 2003 and 2004, and now 42,000 in 2005.” The numbers for 2006 have not been released yet, but they are sure to show this trend continuing, and indeed probably increasing as the departure of large portions of whole parishes or indeed nearly all of some parishes begin to be reflected in the numbers.

Also, the level of struggle is well indicated by a recent national church publication in which we learn:

“The proportion [of parishes] with excellent or good financial health declined from 56% to 32% between 2000 and 2005.”

And: “The proportion in some or serious financial difficulty almost doubled, increasing from 13% in 2000 to 25% in 2005.”

(2) There are whole parishes or portions of parishes which through different means have sought to leave the Episcopal Church but to keep their ties to the Anglican Communion through a relationship with another Anglican Province. At present, these groups are in a state of flux and in seemingly nearly constant motion but it is possible to delineate some sense of their numbers:

Anglican Mission in America (Rwanda), some 100-115 parishes
CANA (Nigeria), some 60 parishes
Uganda, some about 30 parishes
Kenya, some 20-30 parishes
Southern Cone, some at least 50 parishes

Now, not all of these parishes consists of former members of TEC as some are church plants, but many of them contain sections of former TEC folks and in a number of cases nearly the whole parish came over from TEC (Christ Church, Plano, Texas, being a recent example, in that case of a church who joined AMIA/Rwanda)

(3) There are parishes or sections of parishes who are on the verge of deciding along the lines of group 2 in some way by the end of 2007/early 2008, depending on the outcome of the Tanzania Communique, the House of Bishops meeting, and the response of the Anglican leadership thereto. Saint Clements, El Paso, one of the largest parishes in the diocese of the Rio Grande, just voted by an overwhelming margin to leave TEC on Sunday, September 16th. It needs to be emphasized that many of these people and parishes do not wish to depart, but feel if the Anglican Communion leadership continues to fail to provide a safe place for them, they have no other choice.

It must also be noted that three dioceses Fort Worth, Pittsburgh, and San Joaquin, appear to be considering moves in this direction. I am not aware of any time in the history of the Episcopal Church when three dioceses as whole dioceses sought to consider these kinds of momentous decisions. (It will of course be noted that the dioceses are not monolithic-no diocese is-and there are smaller groups within the diocese that feel differently. Nonetheless the contemplated collective diocesan action is significant).

(4) There is a considerable group of other individuals, parishes and dioceses who are completely opposed to the new theology and practice of TEC’s leadership, but who wish to find a way to stay connected to the Anglican Communion as they continue to stand in radical opposition, and are not sure what the way forward is. Two examples would be the diocese of South Carolina, and the parish of Saint Martin’s Houston, which claims the largest membership in the country and which made clear in its last call process that their new rector would need to stand solidly for the theology of the Anglican Communion and the Windsor Report.

The national leadership’s way of treating this problem is to give the most narrow definition as possible to group two, and then to try to minimize the problem.

Unfortunately, for example we see things like this:

Note on Dioceses, Congregations and Church Structure

· Dioceses and congregations remain part of the Episcopal Church even when local leaders and/or a number of parishioners opt to leave the denomination as a matter of personal choice.
· Dioceses are created by the General Convention and cannot be dissolved without action of the General Convention in accordance with the provisions of the churchwide constitution and canons. Congregations, likewise, are created by a local diocese and continue within that structure unless otherwise decided by the local bishop in consultation with other elected diocesan leaders.
· According to a September 2007 update from director of research Kirk Hadaway, out of some 7600 total Episcopal Church congregations, located inside and outside the U.S., since 2003:
32 have LEFT–and by that we mean the majority of the congregation expressed a desire or voted to withdraw from The Episcopal Church, the bishop declared the congregation abandoned and notified the national office, where the church is now listed as non-filing/closed.
23 have VOTED TO LEAVE–meaning a significant number, usually including the clergy, have expressed a desire to withdraw from The Episcopal Church.

(And one immediately notes in passing that the national church office managed to get THESE numbers updated and out before the House of Bishops meeting, but that they still do not have the numbers out from 2006 in terms of overall membership numbers. Hmmmmm. I wonder why.)

Or this, which ran in April 2007 with the headline “Episcopal Bishop says few leaving over same-sex issues”:

The Episcopal Church’s presiding bishop on Wednesday downplayed the notion of a denominational schism over homosexuality, saying only a tiny fraction of congregations have moved to break away.

In an interview, Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori said the congregations had “gotten a lot of attention and been very noisy,” but accounted for less than 1 percent of the country’s total number of parishes, which she put at 7,500.

“The Episcopal Church is alive and well,” she said. Jefferts Schori was in Virginia Beach on Wednesday to speak at the Episcopal Communicators annual meeting at The Cavalier Hotel.

You can see what is going on, they are playing games with numbers and categories. “Few” leaving actually means “congregations,” and congregations means congregations defined as a whole. This is collapsing all four categories into a very narrow and misleading picture of group number 2.

People know that in reality it is very difficult to get whole parishes or dioceses to take significant decisions about ANYTHING, much less something as important as this. Given the degree of opposition and hostility faced in numerous quarters from diocesan and national leadership, and given how many Anglican reasserters (such as your blog convenor) have been advocating a stay and be opposed but be faithful stance, it is actually surprising that the numbers from the four categories are this large.

The key point is, taken together the four groups illustrate a VERY SERIOUS problem. Good leadership owns the actual situation and then tries to deal with it, it does not try to redefine it narrowly and pretend it is less than it is–KSH.

Update: the above article was written before and independently of this one by Simon Sarmiento but the information seems to be of a similar type.


Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, * By Kendall, Episcopal Church (TEC), Presiding Bishop, TEC Data, TEC Parishes

40 comments on “Kendall Harmon: The Episcopal Church Plays and Loses the Numbers Game

  1. The_Elves says:

    To add a bit more color and character to the picture, it’s very interesting to look at the status today of ECUSA’s largest parishes in 2002 (defined by Average Sunday Attendance or ASA). Thanks to a list Dr. Louie Crew posted in 2002, which is still available on his website, we can do just that.

    Louie’s list can be found here:

    [note all info below as to rector or ASA reflects 2002 info per Louie’s list and has not been updated]

    2. St. Martin’s Church. Houston, TX. Avg. attendance: 1,670. Picture. Diocese of Texas. The Rev. Dr. Laurence Gipson. — Opposed to TEC theology.

    5. Christ Church. Plano, TX. Avg. attendance: 1,507. Picture. Diocese of Dallas. The Rev. David Roseberry. — left for AMiA

    7. Truro . Fairfax, VA. Avg. attendance: 1,471. Picture. Diocese of Virginia. The Rev. Martyn Minns. — left for CANA

    [The Falls Church, Falls Church, VA was even larger than Truro, with a 2005 ASA of 1900, but it is not on Louie’s list. It left for CANA.]

    15. Cathedral of the Advent . Birmingham, AL. Avg. attendance: 1,125. Picture. Diocese of Alabama. The Very Rev. Paul Zahl. — Opposed to TEC theology

    24. St. Stephen’s Church. Sewickley, PA. Avg. attendance: 904. Picture. Diocese of Pittsburgh. The Rev. Geoffrey Chapman. — Opposed to TEC theology

    [Christ Church Overland Park Kansas also had an ASA of near 900, I believe, but is not on Louie Crew’s list. It departed ECUSA in 2004]

    28. Grace Church. Colorado Springs, CO. Avg. attendance: 855. Picture. Diocese of Colorado. The Rev. Donald Armstrong. — departed for CANA

    38. Church of the Apostles. Fairfax, VA. Avg. attendance: 737. Picture. Diocese of Virginia. The Rev. David Harper. — Departed for CANA

    39. Cathedral Church of St. Luke. Orlando, FL. Avg. attendance: 733. Picture. Diocese of Central Florida. The Very Rev. Dr. George Lobs. — Opposed to TEC theology

    43. St. John’s Church. Tallahassee, FL. Avg. attendance: 716. Picture. Diocese of Florida. The Rev. Eric Dudley. — Departed

    52. All Saints. Pawleys Island, SC. Avg. attendance: 677. Picture. Diocese of South Carolina. The Rt. Rev. Charles Murphy. — Departed for AMiA

    62. St. Helena’s Church. Beaufort, SC. Avg. attendance: 649. Picture. Diocese of South Carolina. The Rev. Frank Limehouse. — Opposed to TEC theology

    63. Grace. Orange Park, FL. Avg. attendance: 642 . Picture. Diocese of Florida. The Rev. Dr. Samuel Pascoe. — Departed TEC

    71. Trinity. Vero Beach, FL. Avg. attendance: 630. Picture. Diocese of Central Florida. The Rev. D Coyle.– opposed to TEC theology

    72. St. James’ Church. Newport Beach, CA. Avg. attendance: 626. Picture. Diocese of Los Angeles. The Rev. Praveen Bunyan. — Departed TEC

    73. St. Andrew’s Church . Mt Pleasant, SC. Avg. attendance: 623. Picture. Diocese of South Carolina. The Rev. Stephen Wood. Opposed to TEC theology

    89. Church of the Good Samaritan. Paoli, PA. Avg. attendance: 582. Picture. Diocese of Pennsylvania. The Rev. Gregory Brewer. — Opposed to TEC theology

    Some other large parishes to leave or take a clear stand against TEC’s innovations which were not included in that top 100 ASA list from 2002:

    St. Clements, El Paso, TX. 2005 ASA = 650
    All Saints, Dale City VA. 2005 ASA = 500
    Christ Church Paradise Valley, AZ. 2005 ASA = 550

    [b]So 18% – 20% of TEC’s 100 largest churches (in terms of ASA) have either already left or taken a firm stance in opposition to TEC’s theological innovations. The grand total ASA of all these churches listed above, 18,647[/b]

  2. Br. Michael says:

    Kendall, after seeing the shameful performance of the ABC, I think you will see the numbers in group 1, and maybe 2, start to rise. Option 4 may no longer be workable.

  3. Kendall Harmon says:

    Let me add that the same standard applies to reasserters. I have heard some say 1000’s of parishes are leaving. That is untrue also.

  4. The_Elves says:

    A follow-up comment to our number 1. I need to be careful as to how I word this. Obviously not all of the 18-20 parishes above have left. And of those which have left TEC, not all have left “intact” — some of the parishes above have split. So, please don’t twist our words to say something we’re not saying.

    Yet with that caveat, it is very interesting to note that the Total ASA of the parishes I’ve listed above would make that group larger than all but 6 TEC dioceses. (2005 ASA data)

    Virginia 31,754
    Texas 29,643
    New York 21,723
    Massachusetts 21,670
    Los Angeles 21,535
    Connecticut 20,663

    or to reverse it, these 18-20 parishes above have a combined ASA greater than the combined ASA of TEC’s 13 smallest dioceses:

    Wyoming 2,224
    Montana 2,081
    Northwestern Pennsylvania 2,022
    Alaska 1,993
    Idaho 1,985
    Utah 1,793
    Eastern Oregon 1,155
    Quincy 1,139
    Eau Claire 983
    Western Kansas 933
    North Dakota 856
    Northern Michigan 774
    Navaho Missions 181

    So, just these flagship parishes alone represent 13 dioceses’ worth of congregants. Wow.

  5. Mark Johnson says:

    Interesting. However, I’m not sure you’re being honest with the numbers either by using the terms “some 20-30 parishes.” That’s what you people like to call being “fudgey” I think – got to live by your own rules. I’m also surprised about the number of AMiA parishes – I thought most AMiA congregations were start-ups, and not necessarily churches that withdrew from the Episcopal Church, that is, the members of an Episcopal Church may have left but left some Episcopalians behind and didn’t attempt to take the property with them. I’ve yet to hear of an AMiA parish (outside of Christ Church Plano) that has any significant number to it.

    Is there not a list somewhere of specifically who left, and where they went, and how many they took? Perhaps an outside source could provide legitimate numbers to both sides of this argument.

  6. Mark Johnson says:

    I should also add, it’s unfair to claim that the entirety of the Episcopal Church is dying, it’s not. There are many strong and healthy parishes here. Admittedly, not as many as there were ten years ago – but, I’m told that TEC’s numbers (or I suppose it was PECUSA’s numbers) took a huge loss in 1860-1875 due to its stance on slavery (how many parishes left because they disagreed with the national church on that issue?). I would be interested in seeing those numbers if they were available. Nevertheless, there are healthy and growing parishes, while also parishes whose members have or are leaving the Episcopal church. Those of us on both sides of “THE issue” should remain aware of both sides of the picture.

  7. The_Elves says:

    Mark Johnson, the numbers are in almost daily flux to our understanding. For instance it’s been reported that all the Bolivia jurisdiction parishes are being transferred to CANA. Kendall personally researched these figures with the jurisdictions. Yes, they are approximations. But right now, that’s what we’ve got to work with.

    We would welcome a compilation and hope that parishes that have left and their new jurisdictions will continue to make ASA and member data available in the name of transparency.

    We’ll be glad to help as we can. But it is a complicated and fluid situation right now. One place you can find a detailed list of names of 89 parishes (as of a few days ago anyway, when I last counted) is the International Convocation page of the Network website.


  8. Kendall Harmon says:

    mark, I spoke with sources in the organizations and if anything, I was conservative on the numbers. If you can get betters numbers and sources, fine, but you have to cite a reason better than going after phraseology which is intentional. I am living by my own rules, that’s precisely the point.

    Did you read Simon Sarmiento’s piece?

    His numbers are higher than mine.

  9. pastorchuckie says:

    As I observe to myself every time I prepare a parochial report, I can record the numbers, but I don’t always know at the time which numbers matter, or what they mean. But of all the numbers we record, in most congregations, changes in ASA are a better measurement of change of some kind, than just about any other figure.

    One per cent of congregations, if that was an accurate figure, was a lot more than an 1% decline in ASA when you look at who the congregations were.

    In group #1, I wouldn’t jump to the conclusion (nor did Kendall explicitly say this) that the 115,000 who hit the road in the last three years were all of one mind in their opposition to TEC theology. We know some did. But I also know some who left because TEC hadn’t “progressed” far enough. Even after GC 2006, when the champions of the “new consciousness” got everything they wanted except an outright expression of defiance toward the Anglican Communion, we still heard that “our gay and lesbian (and bisexual, transgendered, etc.) brothers and sisters were being sacrificed on the altar of Anglican unty.” And some of them, and others who would like to be in solidarity with them, have walked away sorrowing.

    So if the hope at the last 2 GC’s was that this prophetic witness was going to “grow” TEC, it doesn’t seem to be turning out that way.

    In addition to those who have split for various reasons. there are those who might otherwise be drawn to Jesus in the fellowship of this Church, especially youth and young adults, to whom the “centrality” of this argument about sexuality, and the terms in which it has been framed, have failed to capture their interest.

    Pax Christi!

  10. Larry Morse says:

    My question would be this, what is the financial threshhold which, when one passes it, means that there is too little money to maintain TEC’s existence? There must be such a threshhold, mustn’t there? We know that legal costs are causing their coffers to bleed, if I may mix a metaphor. WE know that there are a number of parishes in serious financial trouble. The ASA’s therefore may not tell us what we need to know; what we need to know is whether TEC is bleeding to death, and if so, how much blood it can afford to lose before it goes into shock. My impression so far is that financial losses are rapidly increasing and that this alone (not defections qua defections) will be the kiss of death. Larry

  11. Br. Michael says:

    The numbers and the trend are clear enough. Continue to deny them if it makes you feel better, but any secular CEO faced with numbers like this would either be considering realistic ways to turn them around or planning for bankruptcy.

  12. In Newark says:

    Mark–Take a good look at the Diocese of Newark, because that diocese is at the forefront of progressive theology. It’s also in a (mostly) prosperous, growing, and political liberal part of the country. Yet the Diocese is in a state of collapse. The newsletter of its largest and richest parish (St. Peter’s, Morristown) revealed that not only is St.Peter’s dipping into its endowment for the second or third year in a row, but that of the 112 parishes that remain (after years of closing), something like twenty more are in line to be closed, and sixty are financially on the edge. Given the demographics of the area, you would think that disaffected and divorced Roman Catholics would be flooding into Episcopal churches here, but it isn’t happening. Anyone who thinks the New Thing is going to prosper should take a good look at Newark.

  13. TomRightmyer says:

    In Western NC no parishes have left but some people in the central part of the dicoese – Asheville, Hendersonville, and Brevard – have joined the APA congregation at Arden and that congregation has developed two missions at Black Mountain and north Asheville. The last time I went to the Arden church there were about 125 people present, at the North Asheville mission about 40. There is also an AMiA congregation with about 65 present at a mid-summer service. The APA uses 1928; the AMiA 1979 Rite 2 with some evangelical changes: “Christ our Passover _has been_ sacrificed for us” etc. And some more progressive Episcopalians in Asheville have joined Jubilee!, Circle of Mercy, and other UCC congregations. There is a congregation in Brevard that started out as progressive Episcopalian but is now not affiliated with the diocese.

    Tom Rightmyer in Asheville, NC

  14. David Keller says:

    Kendall–I was on SCDME when we hired Kirk Hardaway. He used to complain that the data he needed for compiling his reports, especially ASA, didn’t filter down to him until September/October of the next year. I believe historically, the #’s haven’t been updated until mid-October. I am not discounting that the General trend is known by KJS et. al., but historically those actual hard #’s haven’t been available until late in the year. That being said, I have no doubt what the #’s will show. You will recall that SCDME reported in 2004 (based on Hardaway’s data) that ECUSA was in institutional decline, which would become irreversable if not stopped in very short order. In response EC, in effect, (Dr. Crew in the lead on this one) cancelled 20/20 even though it had been a top budget priority of 2003 GC.

  15. John B. Chilton says:

    Kendall, You have sufficient caveats in category (2), but Sarmiento’s piece provides some more details: With 116 congregations in 30 states of the US and in Canada, AMiA has nearly half the current total of about 250 US-based congregations affiliated with Global South provinces. It is important to remember that two-thirds of AMiA congregations are church plants, containing Christians from a range of backgrounds, and did not originate in the secession of an Episcopalian congregation, says Cynthia Brust, the communications director of AMiA.

    The newly consecrated Bishop Atwood estimates that about ten of the 30 Kenyan congregations consist primarily of Kenyan nationals, and have never been associated in any way with the US Episcopal Church.
    AMiA’s church plants are in many cases house churches, I believe.

    Still, I believe you are right that The Episcopal Church is losing membership because it is in the forefront of a justice movement that is out of step with the views of many Christians in America.

  16. Lumen Christie says:

    Put the Diocese of Albany in category 4 right now.

    However, as Kendall said, this is not a location that can be permanent, or even of long duration.

    Albany is going to have to pull up its socks and start making some decisions very soon.

    Or, clergy and people are going to start moving over to category 1 and vote with our feet in large numbers.

  17. KAR says:

    Number game become very difficult because many are splits where there are two congregations. Grace – CANA & Grace – Episcopal, The Falls Church – CANA, The Falls Church – Episcopal, other splits take on new names when they depart as the AMiA All Saint’s Anglican Church of Baton Rouge is the majority congregates of St. Margaret’s. Let alone full out right church plants, the closest REC & EMC parishes (technically different for this thread) are both plants.

    The official party line will be few in relationship to the vast number of total parishes, however they’ll be forced to continue this line which will be ineffective because parishes are continuing to dribble out thus these stories are always in the secular press. Thus the latest will make it appear a if it’s 1000s but TEC will downplay to few (in the process risking maybe loosing media credibility).

    In the grand scheme of things, I don’t think it’s that important on the exact numbers. Where I see TEC in real danger is the Sunday School teacher adage about ‘the Church being only one generation from extinction,’ in those demographics is the seriousness of the issue.

  18. Pb says:

    The decline of TEC reminds me of Swift’s description of his insanity. “I am dying like a tree – from the top down.”

  19. mactexan says:

    Dear Elves,
    What about St John the Divine (SJD) in Houston which is listed as #6 on Louie’s list with ASA of 1,486. SJD, as St Martin’s Houston, is opposed to TEC theology.

  20. Phil says:

    The key point is, taken together the four groups illustrate a VERY SERIOUS problem. Good leadership owns the actual situation and then tries to deal with it, it does not try to redefine it narrowly and pretend it is less than it is.

    AMEN. I’ve been saying this for a while. When your largest parishes walk away, it’s a crisis, and a competent leader would at least acknowledge his/her organization has a problem. Not from ECUSA. It’s so strange, it’s creepy.

  21. The_Elves says:

    #19, mactexan (and all)
    We would welcome info about other large parishes that have taken clear stands against TEC’s theology and innovations. The ones I included above are by no means a definitive list.

    They are merely those flagship parishes for which I had read sermons or documents by their rectors and/or letters or statements from their vestries, etc., that allowed me to make such claims of opposition with strong confidence.

    We welcome further info (and of course corrections if by some chance I’ve mistakenly categorized any of the parishes above)


  22. chips says:

    Hard to see that St Johns in Houston is even part of TEC if you look at the website. I think they also have a strong theological statement.

  23. Charley says:

    I think these kinds of statistics only further embolden the reappraisers with the notion that they are fighting the good fight. Martrydom is heady stuff.

  24. chips says:

    I believe that the reality of the next 90 days and the next five years will be telling. The decisions made now will effect how many parishes and dioceses depart quickly. My guess (only a guess) is 250 by Christmas – with the common cause ranks swelling to north of 500. TEC’s real fear should not be the intact parishes that depart but the splintering of the remainder – a good Church plant effort by the second province should be easy to put together new plants with the disaffected portions of one or more TEC parishes. If the second province gets enough altitiude to grow (unlike the continuing church movement of the 1970’s) – then TEC will confront a new competitor for departing Catholics and its own membership. With those drawn to TEC the least reproductive members of socitety (homosexuals and white liberals(hat tip +KJS) TEC cannot have a bright future. The second province members will have one thing going for them – hope and the prospect of a future (albeit an uncertain one)

  25. In Newark says:

    Elves –it’s puny by national standards, but the second largest parish in Newark (in terms of ASA) is a Forward in Faith parish, St. Anthony of Padua in Hackensack. (ASA 180–this is very healthy for Newark, which says a lot about the state of the diocese). St. Michael’s, in Wayne, also a faithful parish, is third or fourth.

  26. Timothy Fountain says:

    #15 if TEC is on the cutting edge, then why do its leaders lie and dissemble all the time? Why not say, “Here’s what we are about – we don’t care about numbers”?
    And Bishop Epting’s recent blog comments indicate that all that matters are the urban coastal areas anyway. “Fly over country” isn’t worth the trouble.
    TEC is a chaplaincy to the religious LGBT movement – a tiny niche within a minority. Why not just say so and let those who view the church as a more diverse mission go?

  27. Reason and Revelation says:

    Of all these numbers, the most important one in my own personal view is missing, and that is the average age in TEC (I am age 30). Apparently, it’s about 57, which is astonishing. The numbers leaving are significant (and appear to have substantially accelerated in the last 1.5 years, for which data has been conspicuously withheld), but the bigger issue is average age.

    Liberals will no doubt say that, shoot, even if 5% left, that’s just the price for the New Thing. The problem is that the New Thing is not what young families want to be raising their kids in. I sure won’t. Honestly, back in 2003 I still leaned left and supported Gene Robinson at the time, though I was kind of sick of the hard left sermons every week and was also pretty unimpressed with the church’s lack of evangelical outreach or theological mooring. Point being, this is all part of a much deeper, fundamental problem, it’s not just about homosexual conduct. If I go to church, I look around and don’t see people my age. That’s what people my age see more than the ridiculous fuss-bucket going on at the top levels.

    What bothered me about TEC, and what is a demographic time bomb, is that it less and less family-friendly and increasingly devoted to fairly clueless left-wing causes du jour coming out of the divinity schools and national meetings. Our Church has been co-opted by political activists. Why do we want to be their revenue and support base?

    The bigger issue is not going to be the 5% or whatever it ends up being that leave over the New Thing, it’s the umpteen percent of children who don’t come back to TEC when they start families and seekers who go to other churches because they don’t want their kids associated with such ideology and vision of sexuality. I have been to many small TEC churches where the old diehards are sticking it out like they always have, but they aren’t reaching out and they are content to let the church do what it does. If half the church is over 70, and the ASA is 30, you do the math.

    The problem is that TEC leadership is protected by endowments and a huge pension fund. The deeper demographic problem is of insufficient concern to them, nor the deeper reasons for it.

    People my age are in independent Bible churches, Catholic Churches, and (for Anglicans) increasingly AMiA, and CANA.

  28. Dee in Iowa says:

    Being wishy-washy about anything; business, love, politics, and religion ends up loosing…..people quit buying, feeling, voting, and believing in the presenter. Being wishy-washy usually involves lies as well…..hedging the bet (facts)……TEC has been VERY wishy-washy these past 4 years….one could not extract the facts if one tried…..the policy of “kicking the can down the road” will lead to further erosion. Each “next” meeting takes a toll…, when the HOB make their wishy-washy statement, another group, be it individuals, parishes, and/or diocese will have had enough and be gone.

  29. dl says:

    Tim et al,
    Our Bishop prepped us at Clergy Conference last week with, I thought, a little more honesty (or at least something approaching). Of course the HOB, he insisted, will not change direction or course and thus may have to accept some reduced status in the Communion. Nationally he foresaw a loss of 8-10% of the church. This loss was conditioned thus: 1) this net loss will be far less than faced in the late ’70’s, and 2) individuals will be free to go (but dioceses and parishes can not leave.) So, something more like a realistic assessment.

  30. Reason and Revelation says:

    The other big group that Kendall does not mention is long-time Episcopalians that don’t go to church anymore. They aren’t really theologically driven enough to jump ship or anything, but they also don’t have much interest in going to TEC anymore, esp. after kids leave the nest or something, or maybe after the wedding. They become CE Christians at best (maybe just Christmas) and remain on TEC’s membership roster but contribute nothing to the church. This is a big number, and it doesn’t show up in membership data.

  31. anglicanhopeful says:

    John Chilton, you wrote:
    ‘Still, I believe you are right that The Episcopal Church is losing membership because it is in the forefront of a justice movement that is out of step with the views of many Christians in America.’ This is an interesting line of reasoning. Usually movements find grass roots support and involvement – like the peace movement during Vietnam conflict, or the civil rights movement in the 60’s. They strike a chord, and appeal to a societal need to ‘right wrongs’. These movements excited informal and formal gatherings and numbers quickly followed. One thinks of post-war NAACP or the growth of labor unions in pre-war US as examples of these kinds of justice movements. Can you name a justice movement organization in recent history that suffered significant loss of numbers (Hadaway’s TEC statistics would conservatively put that trend at about 3-5% a year for the past 4 yrs)? Gay rights is a tough sell as a justice movement and few are buying it, and even fewer connect to it as a faith issue. As a result TEC is lost, has no important justice message to spread that is significantly different than what a vast number of civic and political groups are advocating, and has no point of differentiation, and therefore is now redundant.

  32. chips says:

    Dear DL,
    Was that 8-10% in 2007-2008 or over the next five years? If the Second Province can relplicate AMiA’s growth on a larger scale I would say 8-10% is overly optimistic. Also – has your Bishop factored in that once TEC has lost the Anglican Communion moorings and the inadequate anchor that was its right wing it will likely officially bless same sex unions? Once that stares the moderates in the face – what effect does he feel that will have on his (or her) 8-10% number?

  33. Charming Billy says:

    #27, I was in the same boat with you, only I’ve jumped ship, sad to say. I might have stayed had I been single or not had kids. But when I considered that if I stayed to fight it out, my kids would grow up thinking church was all about feeling frustrated and resentful, I thought it was right to leave.

    Like you, in 2003 I was left leaning and, if not supportive of VGR, at least open to persuasion. Now, of course, I’m not only a “reasserter” but a former cradle Episcopalian who’s taken his family of four out of TEC.

    I’m doubtful that TEC will be successful attracting large numbers of liberal and “alternative” families. My mother raised four of us kids in TEC, baptised and confirmed. All of us are (or were, in my case) more or less liberal and one is gay and partnered with kids. They’re all unchurched and/or desultory Unitarians/Buddhists, or otherwise not Christian. I am the only one who returned to TEC (I pray that my siblings will return to the church somehow) but now I’ve joined another denomination.

    That’s just my story, but I don’t think it’s entirely unrepresentative.

  34. Reason and Revelation says:

    #33: Excellent point. TEC has gambled on the idea that it can be a niche church for liberals. It has basically backed itself into this corner by its lack of theological mooring for years and does not have any real theological direction even now. Dr. Shori’s public statements are just embarrassingly inadequate from a theological/intellectual perspective. It’s not that she’s a liberal inventer, it’s that she’s not even making smart statements about what she’s trying to go for. Likewise with the liberal bishops in my area (North Carolina). I don’t see statements coming out of the diocese that are challenging and intellectually engaging. It’s just milquetoast.

    Point being, there is little backbone to any of this, and liberals may prize their ideology, but they don’t translate it en masse into strong devotion to weekly church-going and so forth. There’s a hard-core few, but a hard-core few aging hippies does not a church make.

  35. CanaAnglican says:

    #3. Dr. Harmon, you are absolutely correct. Only 100, or so parishes have left. It is a statistic that is difficult to define. In the case of our congregation (St. Stephen’s, Heathsville, VA) one-quarter of the congregation continued to meet as Episcopalians. I think their core group of worshipers is about two dozen. Most weeks in the Anglican worship there are around 100. So DioVA counts that they have lost no congregation. I think they also count they have lost no people, as they have kept all the Anglicans (except the rector) on their mailing list. Perhaps they are thinking that someday, when they win their suit, we Anglicans will rejoin them. I would not recommend they hold their breath.

    The bigger loss is in individuals. ECUSA(TEC) membership figures:
    1936 — 2,068,000
    1946 — 2,100,000
    1956 — 3,111,000
    1966 — 3,647,000
    1975 — 2,860,000
    1985 — 2,740,000
    1995 — 2,500,000

    (Membership figures through 1966, are from the US Census Bureau. I could not find data from them after that, so for 1975 forward, I have used figures from th Yearbook of American and Canadian Churches.)

    If the growth through the 1960’s were projected to today parallel to the growth in US population, TEC would have about 6 million members. For some reasons that we can only guess at, God has drawn them down to around 2 million. He seems to have a plan for them. Maybe it is His own millineum development goal.

    I do know this: If a plane dives fast enough to exceed the “redline” speed, attempting to pull up may rip off the wings. –Stan

  36. Ad Orientem says:

    Does anyone know the number of Anglican churches/provinces that have severed communion with TEC?

  37. Craig Goodrich says:

    In this connection, it’s worthwhile to read Dr. Allen Guelzo’s article, published in Anglican and Episcopal History in March 06, before the General Convention (on the web [url=]here[/url]).
    [blockquote]If we were to judge by the relentlessly chipper news-and-features contained in Episcopal Life, life has never been better for Episcopalians. We are engaged in soul-satisfying work relieving hunger and oppression, spreading good cheer, hugely enjoying each other, and listening to the untroubled words of wisdom dropping from priests, diocesan bishops, and the Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church…

    Pages thirteen through twenty-two of the Church Annual dispel this image in a cascade of brutal statistics. In 1994, the Episcopal Church claimed 2.4 million members in 7,367 domestic parishes and missions; in 2002, those numbers had declined to 7,305 parishes and missions and 2.32 million members. In 2003, the numbers took a sharper downturn, as the Church lost a net of 85 parishes and missions and over 35,000 members; in 2004, the downturn accelerated, as the number of parishes and missions fell again to 7,200, and membership totals spiraled southwards even more steeply, subtracting another 36,000 members and reducing the overall membership to 2.25 million.

    In the United States, there are 159 million members of Christian churches; in the world-wide Anglican Communion, there are 77 million, with 9.2 million in Nigeria alone. This means that the Episcopal Church has become statistically negligible on the horizons of both American Christianity and the Anglican Communion.

    It accounts for little better than 1% of American Christians, and less than 3% of worldwide Anglicanism. And this, of course, is predicated on the official membership figures. Reckonings of actual attenders on Episcopal Church services then sinks to about 795,000, according to the Episcopal Church’s own national web-site, and even that is down from 850,000 only three years ago.

    Over that time, the Episcopal Church has been, on average, hemorrhaging the numerical equivalent of a congregation a day…

    … When we apply the loupe to the diocesan level, for there, the picture becomes a dark landscape of barely-surviving parishes and dioceses whose parlous state is balanced only by the outsize wealth and visibility of a handful of Northeastern, upper Midwestern, and Pacific Coast dioceses.[/blockquote]
    It’s a lengthy article, in comparison to the typical blog entry, but well worth (re)reading and reflection as we wait for the outcome of this whole unGodly mess…

  38. CanaAnglican says:

    #37. Craig, thanks for the very interesting article. ASA of 795,000 means that on any given Sunday about 0.25%, that’s right about one quarter of one percent, of America’s people attend an Episcopal church. TEC leadership is clearly in denial. — Stan

  39. The_Elves says:

    Since this post and comment thread appeared, Louie Crew has updated his list of biggest TEC congregations.

    To view the old list, go to this archive page:

    The new list is here:

  40. David Keller says:

    I swore three weeks ago that I would never comment on a blog again; but it appears the most recent #’s are based on 2006. I suspected for several years that my previous rector had been cooking the ASA books. Dr. Crew shows Christ Church Greenville with an ASA over 800 with a rank of #19. I am currently looking at Dr. Hardaway’s figures for 2007, which were reported by an interim, as our former rector went elsewhere in 2007, and the ASA for 2007 is 600, which ranks us about #68. I can look around the church and tell there aren’t 200 less people here every Sunday. Dr. Crew asks if the figures are reliable. Their reliability depends on the integrity of the reporter.