2006 Episcopal Church Data Released

According to the churchwide Parochial Report data, membership in all 110 dioceses of the Episcopal Church totaled 2,320,506 in 2006, down 2.2%, or 51,502, from 2,372,008 in 2005. Average Sunday attendance for 2006 was reported at 804,688, down 2.6%, or 21,856, from 826,544 in 2005.

Read it all.

Update: For those of you who want to play with the data, we’ve updated the Excel spreadsheet for 2005-2006 which we created a few weeks ago. You can find it here: ECUSA_2005-2006_revised.xls

Please note the domestic vs. overseas data is rough since exact diocesan data for 2006 is not yet available. (We used 2006 data for Province 9, and 2005 data for the 5 overseas dioceses in Provinces 1-8). We’ll update this again when more complete data is available. For the data purists (or data geeks!) among our readers, it might be worth noting that the 2005 data cited in the ENS article and linked worksheets differs slightly from previously published Redbook data for 2005. The spreadsheet contains the revised data as cited in the ENS article above.


Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, Episcopal Church (TEC), TEC Data

49 comments on “2006 Episcopal Church Data Released

  1. DaveW says:

    [blockquote]Vitality of Episcopal congregations can be measured in ways other than Sunday morning attendance or membership patterns, Council members acknowledged, noting that parish day schools, outreach programs, and soup kitchens — like diocesan hospitals and residential facilities — also serve populations largely unmeasured and unreported at this time. Surveys of these activities could be implemented to provide a more holistic view of overall mission and ministry, Council members said.[/blockquote]
    Yeah, and the vitality of a human being can be measured by things other than breathing, brain waves and a heartbeat.

  2. Philip Snyder says:

    This shows a 21,691 ASA decline for the domestic dioceses. That is a 2.69% decrease. Other churches are growing. One of the dangers in marketing is incorrectly defining your market. TECUSA positions itself as a “mainline protestant denomination” and says that all the mainlines are declining. I believe this is a defeatest attitude. We should be positioning ourselves as a Liturgically Oriented Church teaching the Traditional Faith (but that my leave many diocese liable under “truth in advertising” laws) and not comparing ourselves to Presbyterians, Lutherans, or Methodists. We are (or claim to be) part of the one, holy, catholic, and apostolic Church whose faith is supposed to be unbroken from the time of the Apostles.

    On another note, wait until the 2007 numbers are out because of two things. First, many churches left in 2006, but were part of TECUSA for a large part of that year (Christ Church, Plano is one of these) and their ASA impact is not felt through the whole year. Second, in 2005 and 2006, Christmas occured on the weekend and we got to count Christmas Eve in our ASA. This is not the case in 2007. In fact, we will see a definite decline in ASA for 4 Advent because it is the day before Christmas Eve and many people won’t come for 4 Advent when they know they will be there for Christmas Eve.

    Phil Snyder

    Phil Snyder

  3. Steven in Falls Church says:

    Measures are underway to reverse a portion of the largest decline in any of the Episcopal Church’s nine Provinces reported in 2006 — Province 3’s 15,554-member drop owing primarily to the Diocese of Virginia’s declaration of some 15 congregations “vacant” after a majority of members voted to affiliate with overseas dioceses.

    The “measure” in question for Virginia must be the lawsuits. No doubt folks would be beating down the doors of these parishes if only the TEC shield could be put back out front.

  4. Sarah1 says:

    Heh heh . . . I was just getting ready to post my two Very Most Favorite Lines in the article . . . when I see that DaveW has beaten me. ; > )

    Certainly all corporations know that when sales are down . . . PROMPT ACTION must be taken. That prompt action is . . . instituting other ways of measuring the “vitality” of the corporation.

    I recommend measuring the number of telephone calls received in each parish!!!! Each admin person could measure those every day and turn it in to the parish along with the ASA for that week. At the end of the year we could add up all the number of telephone calls every year for the diocese and include that with our parochial reports.

    My bet is that we would discover that BILLIONS of telephone calls were received in a given year.

    I feel sure that the number of telephone calls — ATC is what we would call it — would indicate the “vitality of Episcopal congregations” much much better than ASA.

  5. Reason and Revelation says:

    Just out of curiosity, does anyone know if TEC changed the reporting for the parishes that seceded? Weren’t there a number of congregations that had left but had their numbers rolled over into 2006 as if nothing had happened?

  6. dwstroudmd+ says:

    Growth is acceleration. Acceleration is still acceleration whether it is positive or negative. The EC appears to have less than pluriform truth understanding of growth. This is not in accord with what the PB alleges. The EC should get on board. The scientist PB knows that growth declining in numbers is, in fact, growth. Perhaps she can have a EC conference to explain this with overheads or powerpoint?

  7. The_Elves says:

    #5 It appears that a number of departed congregations (notably congregations in Los Angeles which left in 2004) are still counted in the 2006 figures. It varies from diocese to diocese, it seems, as to how the departures are treated. In Virginia it appears that departing parishes were completely wiped off the books for 2006 even though most of them didn’t even vote to leave until Dec 2006, meaning they should have been on the books for at least 49 weeks of 2006. It’s all very hard to track given such discrepancies.

  8. Chris says:

    the article is heavy on data but not conclusions or recommendations. why the drop? what can be done about it?

    I can only assume they don’t have any answers. very sad.

  9. Phil says:

    #8 – actually, they did bury their lame excuse in the story: “Council members discussed the reality that all mainline denominations nationwide are experiencing a multi-year overall downturn in Sunday-morning attendance — owing in part to declining birth rates, aging membership, and weekend work and scheduling patterns, statistics confirm.” (BTW, isn’t “aging membership” a symptom, not a cause? And where are the statistics that supposedly “confirm” this analysis?)

    You see, it isn’t their fault. It’s all demographics – demographics that seem to leave evangelical churches, denominations like the Southern Baptist Convention and even Orthodoxy untouched. Go figure.

  10. Wilfred says:

    A steady 2.6% annual decline in ASA would mean that in 500 years, only [i] one person [/i] will be showing up on Sunday mornings.

  11. Adam 12 says:

    Anyone have any information on how pledge increases match up with the cost of living increase over the same period?

  12. Ross says:

    My theory for the ongoing gradual decline of the “mainline Protestant” denominations is that we used to get something of a free ride from a widespread cultural expectation that everyone went to, or at least belonged to, a church. It was just part of being a good citizen. And in most places, the church you went to to be a good citizen — the church that made you fit in with all your neighbors — was one of the mainline Protestants.

    In many parts of the country — particularly in urban parts that were the bread-and-butter for many of the mainlines — that cultural expectation simply doesn’t exist any more. The normal thing to do on Sunday morning is to sleep in or to take your kids to their soccer game. Going to church, far from being part of fitting in with the crowd, now makes you just a little odd.

    The result is that the people who still go to church are, for the most part, either people who grew up going to church and can’t imagine not doing it — a generation that is passing away — or people who actively want to go to church.

    And, precisely because the mainlines had their pews filled pretty much automatically for so many years, just by existing, as a group they’re not very good at going out and convincing people that they want to go to church. It’s not so much that the mainlines have changed, it’s that the culture has changed around them and is no longer supporting them for free.

    It’s a serious problem. If I were 815, I’d be worrying about this a lot more than I’d be worrying about reasserting parishes leaving… even the big ones. A one-time hit to membership, even a serious hit, we can survive; but the gradual trickling loss of membership over the years is a systemic problem that will require a wide-spread systemic change to overcome. And if we don’t overcome it, it will be the end of us. The fact that we’ll have the company of several of the other mainlines as we go is not much comfort.

  13. Sherri says:

    Ross, I think there is truth to what you say, but I also see non-mainline churches thriving enormously in the urban areas I visit. Ditto the Baptist churches. So I think there are people out there who *want* to go to church. Don’t you think the ongoing strife in the mainline denominations also plays a role? People with the choice before them of where to go – are they going to be likely to pick the church that’s in the headlines all the time because of bitter disagreements within?

  14. Nikolaus says:

    I’m so relieved, Wilfred, to know that TEC will be around for generations to come! There’s plenty of time for a turnaround.

  15. Philip Snyder says:

    The first “target audience” for Evangelism in the Episcopal Church should be the people already there! There are too many people who attend a congregation and are counted as “confirmed (and thus baptized) communicants in good standing” but who do not have a relationship with Jesus. They may work for the Church – they may be vestry members, wardens, Sunday School teachers, or even clergy, but they do not know Jesus nor do they have faith in Jesus. Therefore, they have no desire to make Him known to others. Do any of you have any ideas on how to reach those who think they already have faith, but are lacking in it?

    Phil Snyder

  16. talithajd says:

    I noticed that the decline was calculated based on all dioceses w/in TEC. I would be curious to see what the decline is if calculated w/o reference to foreign dioceses. I think TEC is hiding behind the statistical benefit of offsetting US losses against foreign gains. (Not to mention gains in orthodox diocese like DioSC.)

  17. Clueless says:

    #14 I know that was tongue in cheek, however there is a matter of “a tipping point”. (I recommend the book titled by that name as an interesting read. The inner city was a safe place for black teenagers, with adequate schools until the black middle class fell below a certain point (I think it was 5%). After that the schools suddenly because dreadful, drug use soared, and promiscuity became rampant.

    The tipping point for most churches is an ASA of less than 75, after which the church becomes unable to support a pastor, though it may continue as a sort of Sunday club for as long as there are enough geezers showing up to chat, knit and do morning services to pay the electric bill on an already paid up mortgage.

    My take is that a large number of TECs parishes are very close to this tipping point. When it comes the end may be quite swift.


  18. Reason and Revelation says:

    The biggest problem is the aging of the flock. Not only do old folks not live forever, but the older a congregation gets, the less evangelism it does. There is essentially no chance of a crowd made up mostly of over-60 going out and evangelizing. There is a point of no return somewhere that is a key issue.

    TEC as a whole won’t die, but there will be a lot of parishes that drop down to the dozen-member type “mission” churches in the coming decades.

    The other thing is that the Presbyterians and UMC have youthful, evangelistic congregations as well as the old-school graying ones. They have seeds of regrowth from within. All TEC has is “come on in, we won’t judge you.” I have never heard of an evangelistic Episcopal church anywhere near where I live. Not to mention that no one has any need for a church with no rules and no doctrine. You can get pretty music on the radio on Sunday morning, no need to go to church for that.

  19. The_Elves says:

    Re: Talithajd’s comment in #16 about overseas dioceses vs. domestic dioceses. See the comments and links here:
    especially #1, #8, #35
    (there are some spreadsheets linked with provide exactly that analysis through 2005. We can’t do 2006 yet since we don’t have exact diocesan figures, only province-level data.)

    We’ll make sure when the exact diocesan data is out to post a spreadsheet with the details.

  20. TWilson says:

    With ASA declining faster than overall membership, TEC is losing segments of “customers” with better metrics on average than those who stay. ASA overall: 2006 TEC ASA was 34.7%; ASA of those who departed (for whatever reason): 42.4%. Whether those who leave are fleeing, dying, or simply staying away, they aren’t being replaced with a similar population, if they are replaced at all. TEC is also very heavy on the overhead: there is a diocesan bishop for each 20,700 members; in the RCC, there is a diocesan bishop for every 356,000! Even if including all active bishops (assistants, suffragans, those on special assignment) which reflects RCC’s heavier structure in absolute terms, TEC has some kind of bishop for every 14,503 members, while RCC has a bishop of some sort for every 188,000. 815 wasn’t the place to start reorganizing… though the mission statement does need some work.

  21. Sue Martinez says:

    Yup, Elves, (#7) +Bruno’s first whopper is that congregations that departed [i]three years ago[/i] are still Episcopalians. Subtract about 1200 from his claimed 21,000 ASA.

    Here’s another whopper, straight from here

    The Episcopal Diocese of Los Angeles is a community of 85,000 Episcopalians in 147 congregations, 39 schools, and 18 major institutions, spanning all of Los Angeles, Orange, San Bernardino, Santa Barbara, and Ventura counties, and part of Riverside County.

    He must be counting not only the day school children, but the staff and residents of the institutions, all of the people served at soup kitchens, and all of tombstones in the churchyards. (Must be one of those “vitality factors” 815 is talking about. Hey, if we go to the local park and hand out sandwiches, can we count the homeless we feed as members?) The blue bar on the diocesan chart was never more than 75,000, even 10 years ago. The 2006 bars look to be about 68,000 baptized and 21,000 ASA–oops, make that 19,800.

  22. The_Elves says:

    Sue, your link isn’t working. We’d love to see your source. That’s a great find if that is truly how the diocese describes itself.

    Can you comment again or send us an e-mail with the URL, thanks.

  23. Ross says:

    #13 Sherri:

    Oh, sure, there are thriving churches. But if what I said is accurate, then it’s precisely the “evangelical” churches — the ones which have always emphasized conversion of the unchurched — that you would expect to be growing; and in fact that seems to be broadly true.

    I also find it interesting that it’s the evangelical churches, for the most part, that have the sense of fighting a desperate rearguard action in an overwhelming culture war. The Church often seems to be most itself when it’s the minority, counter-cultural voice; which of course is the New Testament model. The NT provides plenty of examples of how to be the church that fights the power; it’s notably missing details on being the church that is the power. I’ve read more than one person who thinks that Constantine was the worst thing ever to happen to the Church.

    All of which makes me wonder whether the fundamental problem with the mainline churches in the long run is that they are “mainline.” They may not have been “established” churches, but they were and are churches of the establishment.

    Just thinking out loud here; this is a line of thought I pick up occasionally but haven’t worked to the end of yet.

  24. Abu Daoud says:

    Great comments all, thank you. I would be very interested in hearing your ideas on when we will actually start to see dioceses folding together. I mean, just like a parish that dips below 75 ASA cannot survive for long, I’m sure that there is some minimum for a diocese as well.

    Further question: what dioceses do you think will fold first?

  25. Terry Tee says:

    re # 22 above: the quote seems to come from Wikipedia:

  26. Phil says:

    Ross, I’m sure there’s a grain of truth in your hypothesis. At the same time, you’re avoiding the elephant in the room. People (paradoxically, perhaps) want to make a commitment; they want demands on their lives from a religious system (speaking generically) that makes a claim to have a solid grounding for making those demands.

    ECUSA infamously bills itself an organization with no answers, only questions. It’s a church of nothing. If I were contemplating getting out of bed on Sunday morning for Episcopalianism, I’d stop short every time by asking, “If they don’t believe it, why should I?”

  27. Irenaeus says:

    Mainline Protestant churches shrink because they offer such a tepid alternative to secular culture. See Roger Finke & Rodney Stark, The Churching of America, 1776-2005:
    [url=http://www.amazon.com/Churching-America-1776-2005-Winners-Religious/dp/0813535530/ref=sr_1_6/102-1211145-7702564?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1193769110&sr=1-6]Amazon.com[/url] link

    See also also Albert Mohler’s discussion of Laurence Iannaccone’s essay, “Why Strict Churches Are Strong”:

    Note from the elves, PLEASE use tinyurl.com or similar sites for long links! They seriously mess up the comment formatting. Links from Amazon are often the culprit.

  28. Sue Martinez says:

    Sorry about the non-working link. Guess I was trying to be too fancy for my own good. Here’s the full url, straight from The Website of Congregations and Dioceses. It can be reached by going to “The Episcopal Church Welcomes You” then search on one of the info pages.


  29. The_Elves says:

    Thanks Sue. Let’s compare:

    the ECUSA diocesan info page
    parishes = 147
    members = 85,000

    Official [url=http://www.episcopalchurch.org/documents/2005_Red_Book_Table_of_Statistics_by_Prov_Diocese.pdf]2005 redbook data[/url]:
    parishes = 147, ok that matches, BUT it includes various departed parishes, such as St. James Newport Beach, so it is too high.
    members = 68,241 (20% lower than cited by ECUSA. hmmm)

  30. Sue Martinez says:

    It would be interesting to compare other TEC info pages meant for visitors to the red book data. How in the world could they come up with 85,000 members for Los Angeles?

  31. Philip Snyder says:

    I did some quick statistical analysis
    Domestically the total members declined by 53,243 (2.31%)
    Domestically the ASA declined by 21,691 (2.69%)
    Domestically the ASA as a percentage of Membership declined from 35.0% to 34.87%.
    The conclusion of this is that we are losing the more active members with less involved members.
    For all TECUSA, including province 9,
    Total members declined by 51,502 (2.17%)
    ASA declined by 21,856 (2.64%)
    The ASA as a percentage of membership declined from 34.85% to 34.68%
    While membership in Province 9 grew, ASA in province 9 declined (just less than the rest of TECUSA).

    It seems that Virginia removed the ASA numbers from the parishes that left (or are in the process of leaving), but looking at statistices from LA, it seems that there are several parishes that have not had any changes in membership, ASA, or giving since 2004. Odd how that happens.

    Phil Snyder

  32. Philip Snyder says:

    To put this in perspective, between 2005 and 2006, TECUSA lost the equivalent of the 2004 ASA for the 14 smallest dioceses or lost the equivalent of the Diocese of LA (TECUSA’s 5th largest diocese) in terms of ASA.

    I hope that little statistic alerts some people to the severity of the problem.

    Phil Snyder

  33. David Keller says:

    Folks, These #s are very probably not accurate. When I was heavily involved in 20/20, even before VGR, we heard plenty of stories of rectors who “guesstimated” attendance and would make sure it never really dropped even if, in reality, it had. I know of one rector of a large church who started counting all weekly services post-VGR, and calling it ASA. He was even counting weddings and funerals in ASA. I also know of one cathedral dean who let his secretary do the weekly service book based on his comments (on a yellow sticky note in the book) like “looked like a lot”, “seemed bigger than usual”, “about normal” etc. My semi-educated guess is that ASA is probably at least 10% less than is being reported. That is why this is so alarming–we know people are fudging the #’s and they are still going down. As to membership, I know my prior rector wasn’t taking anybody off the roles unless they transferred to another Episcopal Church. I have heard that practice is very common, especially among the institutionalists and revisionists. Just look at LA as an example.

  34. The_Elves says:

    Philip, your #31 and #32 are helpful. Just a reminder that there are 4 or 5 overseas dioceses included in Provinces 1-8, so that makes the domestic vs. overseas analysis a bit more complicated, but certainly your analysis gives a roughly accurate picture.

  35. Philip Snyder says:

    Most Honorable and Worshipful Elves,
    Since we don’t have the data to do a diocese by diocese comparison, that was the quickest way to break out domestic vs international. That probably means that the domestic numbers are even worse than what is stated here.

    For David (#33) – Every congregation I’ve been involved in (and had the knowledge to look) has recorded ASA based on the ushers’ counts. I agree that membership is just a wild guess, but ASA is much better. I believe that those Rectors/Vicars who inflate ASA by including weekday services (not including Saturday Evening) or Weddings/funerals are lying – bearing false witness and that they will be called to account for their stewardship. You are right that ASA is overestimated. It is just less overestimated than membership.

    Phil Snyder

  36. TonyinCNY says:

    #33, based on what I have heard from other pecusa priests, these kinds of practices are fairly widespread. I’m not saying that most rectors do this, but in my area I have been told that at least one rector (now retired) massaged the numbers upward. In El Paso, when I was there, I was told that the same thing was happening in a small church on the east side of town. There’s no way to verify any of this, or asa in general without someone doing accurate counts (like ushers, for example, and not priests).

  37. David Keller says:

    #35 Philip–That is the point as to ASA–they ARE bearing false witness. When I was hanging around with SCDME, I heard enough stories to convince me that there was alot of lying going on. It is anecdotal, and can’t be verified, but when you hear about it enough, it begins to have the ring of truth. When you personally look out at your own congregation and can see with your own eyes that the numbers are down, yet the parochial report says they are up, it begins to have more than just the ring of truth.

  38. Sarah1 says:

    RE: “I would be very interested in hearing your ideas on when we will actually start to see dioceses folding together.”



    Because bishops want to keep their jobs and salaries. Because that’s an additional 8 deputies to GC . . . you know . . . GC the “Senate” that everybody claims is so “democratic.”

    8 deputies for 4000 Episcopalians ain’t bad!

  39. Jason S says:

    The Episcopal Church has always been about quality, not quantity.

    A hundred years ago, TEC measured quality by wealth and social standing. Now it measures quality by loyalty to TEC as an institution. If Christians with traditional beliefs (i.e., the disloyal) are leaving, so much the better.

    There powers that be in TEC are pleased as punch to see TEC shrink into an even smaller but monolithically liberal sect so that they don’t have to deal with conservative complainers and disloyalty to the institution.

    It’s funny that you don’t hear about 20/20 any more. It seems to have slipped down the memory hole.

  40. Philip Snyder says:

    Just another factoid. Since 2000 (that wonderful General Convention), the ECUSA Domestic dioceses have lost an estimated 90,683 in ASA. This is the equivalent of the entire province 2 ASA for 2005.

    To quote anoter “famous” Phil: “…And how’s that working for you?”

    Phil Snyder

  41. The_Elves says:

    As you’ll see in the update to the article above, we’ve uploaded a revised Excel spreadsheet which will help folks look at the data for each TEC Province and also compare the domestic vs. overseas’ dioceses.

    You can find it here: http://kendallharmon.net/t19/media/ECUSA_2005-2006_revised.xls

    Please note the domestic vs. overseas data is rough since exact diocesan data for 2006 is not yet available. (We used 2006 data for Province 9, and 2005 data for the 5 overseas dioceses in Provinces 1-8). We’ll update this again when more complete data is available.

  42. deaconjohn25 says:

    I’m not good at following statistics, but the comment that for the “first time in 25 years” all the dioceses reported makes me wonder how that would affect the overall numbers for membership and attendance. Would it make them go up?? It strikes me that only those who reported their statistics the year before should be compared with the latest statistics from the same places.

  43. RevK says:

    Tony, when I was doing a lot of supply work, in almost every parish I served, the numbers in the annual reports, the numbers in the red service book and the rears in the pews were all very different numbers. ‘Pencil-whipping’ (filling in data well after the fact), exaggerations and fudging the numbers are hard practices to end when so much of the rector’s esteem is found in having or growing a larger church. Many attendance figures are calculated guesses and so why not guess upward? Perhaps the better stats to track would be baptisms (by age), confirmations (by age), weddings and funerals.

  44. TonyinCNY says:

    At our parish I fill in the 8 am numbers (usually small enough that the average priest can handle) and our ushers fill in the 10 (no fudging allowed).

  45. Brien says:

    Elves, here is the “whopper” from Bruno’s own webpage:


    Just browse down the page, you will find the statistics.

  46. Stephen Noll says:

    It has always struck me that one measure of parish vitality is Sunday School attendance. Of course, many parishes now include children in for the whole Sunday Service, and then there is the advent of “Adult Sunday School.” But my impression is that most Episcopal congregations have miniscule Sunday School programs. Needless to say, this does not bode well for the future.
    Ditto for teenage attendance, youth groups, etc.

  47. Daniel Lozier says:

    Bruno lied about authorizing same-sex blessings, so why would he not lie about the numbers in his diocese?

    I just have to wonder what the fascination or even mute interest is in these numbers? Is it just another example of how we are being deceived? Are we to feel justified or gloat that TEC is losing numbers because of their heresy? Do we hope that if the numbers show a steep decline they will change coarse….or people will finally see that large numbers are leaving and choose to leave also? If the heresy of ignoring Holy Scriptures and rejecting Christ as the Savior of the world does not motivate people to leave, why would a decline in membership?

    We have known these figures to be manipulated and largely inaccurate for decades. Nothing has changed.

  48. Daniel Lozier says:

    Sorry…that should read: “moot interest” not “mute”….it’s late.

  49. ASimpleSinner says:

    Anyone done a study lately on the decline in numbers versus increase in ordinations, and who it is getting ordained these days?

    By show of hands, how many people think the 2.2M number is accurate?