Did you Know?

In 1994, when the Episcopal Church had 2.5 million members and 7,413 churches, we had 14,645 clergy, 170 members per cleric.

(As of the most current figures) In 2005, we now have 2.2 million members and 7,155 churches, and we have 17,817 clergy, or 122 members per cleric.

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

43 comments on “Did you Know?

  1. Irenaeus says:

    The growing ratio of clergy to laity isn’t just poor management; it’s actually part of the problem. ECUSA’s march toward apostasy has been led by the clergy, not the laity. Indeed, it correlates with a decline in the lay leadership that was long a prominent feature of ECUSA. And on balance, the growth of nonparish clergy (e.g., those canon-missioners for diversity-curriculum coordination) helped swell revisionist ranks and facilitate the takeover of ECUSA.

  2. APB says:

    One thing which TEC does have over the Catholics is enough, perhaps a surplus of clergy.

  3. Alice Linsley says:

    So true, Irenaeus. TEC has to find something for these people to do. What I’d like to know (so politically incorrect) is how many are homosexuals? (You were wondering too, but were too polite to ask the obvious question.) I understand that the Diocese of South Dakota bishop’s staff sent a letter to all clergy asking them to identify any homosexual defrocked Lutheran clergy or persons refused ordination in the Lutheran Churches because they are homosexual. Here’s another group that may swell the ranks of TEC clergy further. Here’s an excerpt from the letter:

    “Episcopal clergy and laity are invited to assist important research to locate former Lutheran ministers, lay and ordained, who now make their spiritual home in the pews and pulpits of the Episcopal Church. This research is concerned with gaining an accounting of the many lgbt persons who left, or were removed from, the lay and ordained ministries of the Lutheran church, the ELCA or its predecessor bodies, as well as those whose pathway to ministry in the Lutheran church was blocked, due to issues related to orientation or gender identity. Some of those missing from Lutheran ministries may now be in Episcopal churches. If you know lay members in your local congregation, or clergy within the Episcopal Church, who may be interested in this research, please have them contact (deleted). More information about this research is available on the web page of Lutherans Concerned/North America at www(deleted) .”

  4. AnglicanFirst says:

    A decrease in parishoners linked with an increase in clergy is a negative correlation.

    It is almost as if whatever caused the increase in clergy has also had an anti-evangelical impact, that is, an anti-recruitment effect.

    If there had been an increase in clergy who strongly desire to bring more people to Salvation through Christ, then one would expect an increase in the number of parishoners.

    What are the demographics of these new clergy?
    Why haven’t they increased ECUSA’s membership?

  5. Jim the Puritan says:

    Shh, don’t tell anyone about these problems. The clergy have a nice cushy job that is getting cushier all the time.

    So long as the endowments and selling off property cover the problem, why worry?

  6. Philip Snyder says:

    Well, I have to admit to being one of the “new” clergy since that time. But I am not in parish or diocesan ministry. I am non-stipendary and, thus, don’t take up too much time or resources from the Church.

    Phil Snyder

  7. Tyler_Simons says:

    Well, what’s the ideal ratio of priests to laity? Are we approaching it or moving farther from it? How do we calculate that?

    I’m inclined to think that clergy growth frees up human capital to attract new groups of dissatisfied Catholics — there are plenty — and non-Churchgoers. I might be biased, worshipping in a liberal urban Episcopal parish that’s doing just fine in a very secular community thanks to energetic leadership.

    A decrease in parishoners linked with an increase in clergy is a negative correlation.

    It is almost as if whatever caused the increase in clergy has also had an anti-evangelical impact, that is, an anti-recruitment effect.

    Or, they’re independent.

    Oh, and if we preached the sinfulness of pride in our own personal goodness and rightness the way Paul did, one would expect a decrease in the number of parishioners. Ask Martin Luther or the current Pope.

  8. Irenaeus says:

    Jim [#5]: Most clergy don’t have cushy jobs. They work hard for lower pay than they could earn in other lines of work. But I suspect we have seen an increase in the number of clergy (still very much a minority) who’d have difficulty holding down conventional jobs: e.g., the canon-missioners for political correctness, for radical welcome, and for postchristian evangelism.

  9. naab00 says:

    Anyone know what the ratios of members to clergy would be in countries of the Global South?

    Mmmmmm….trouble is, they wouldn’t touch many of these folk with a barge pole would they?…. 😉

  10. Chazaq says:

    Just for comparison (source data from U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, Office of Media Relations):

    Number of Roman Catholic priests in the USA:
    1995: 49,551
    2006: 42,271

    Number of Roman Catholics in the USA:
    1995: 60.2 Million
    2006: 69.1 Million

    Fewer priests. More adherents. Hmmm…

  11. plainsheretic says:


    I think it would help if you would tell us your source and tell us the number of *active* clergy. I beleive the stats you qoute above are for the total number of clergy, active and retired, priest, bishop and deacons.

    While the stats presented are interesting I don’t think they protray the true picture.

    For instance, at the church I serve there are 6 clergy. Our ASA is 283 and the people on the books are 637. One could argue that our clergy ratio is 1:106 people. Until I told you the true details.

    There is one active preist who is stipendary (me). One active non-stipendary deacon who is hear part of the year. There are 4 retired preist; 2 are in a nursing home and the other 2 attend and fillin on requiest. In reallity we have only 1 preist and a volunter deacon. The active clergy ratio is 1:366. The stipendary ratio is 1:637.

    I’d like to see the fuller stats on the national church:

    Active Stipendary Clergy
    Active Non-stipendary Clergy
    Retire non-active clergy.

    I think we would see a diffrent picture.

  12. Ross says:

    Put it another way: in 1994, the average Episcopal church had 337 members and 1.98 clergy. In 2005, the average Episcopal church had 307 members and 2.49 clergy.

    Does anyone have similar statistics for other denominations (e.g. RCC)? It would be interesting to do a compare-and-contrast.

  13. plainsheretic says:

    Okay. I found some better stats. Please ignore the title, because the chart shows the total number of stipendary clergy mostly preist.
    Women: 1704
    Men: 4125

    That would make the ratio for members to active stipendary clergy:


    A very diffrent picture.


  14. bob carlton says:

    a certain sign of organizational disfunction

    and I fear it is a rationale for disfunction among all types of “re” folks – those that appraise & assert

    so much of the kerfuffle of the last 50 years in the US Anglican family – from the ordination of women thru the prayer book wars to our current flash point – have often been more often than not clergy led and clergy fed

    people with too much time on their hands, a pension fund secured

    and the pity is that the gospel of transformation so often goes unpreached, the gospel of emmanuel goes unspoken.

    so people stop showing up

    the hope – for me at least – is that our story is that new life comes death

  15. Irenaeus says:

    Naab00 [#9]: Bill Atwood told me that an Anglican priest in the Congo might serve three congregations with a total of 5,000 members, for which he receives a plot of land to farm plus $2 per month in cash.

  16. Irenaeus says:

    At least two benign trends have increased the number of retired clergy: greater longevity; and more mid-life clerical vocations.
    _ _ _ _ _ _

    I’ll bet the stipendiary clergy has increased significantly relative to ASA.

  17. Ad Orientem says:

    In 2005, we now have 2.2 million members and 7,155 churches, and we have 17,817 clergy, or 122 members per cleric.

    Yes. But how many of them are Christians?

  18. Ad Orientem says:

    What I’d like to know (so politically incorrect) is how many are homosexuals?

    A very prescient question. My guess is probably at least 10%. But that’s an educated guess at best.

  19. The_Elves says:

    #11, the parish and member data (Domestic parishes) is from ECUSA Official Stats (see link in sidebar) — 2005 Red Book Data
    (see final numbers on p. 4)

    We’ll see if we can find where Kendall got the clergy data

  20. bob carlton says:

    for 17 & 18

    here’s an idea:
    let’s throw all ordained people in a tub of water – those that float are (1) women (2) gay (3) witches (4) surely taking their churches straight to hades

    why stop at ordained people – take advantage of all those unused baptismal founts and throw all people who in a church in

    disclaimer: inspired by monty python
    Villagers: (enter yelling) A witch! A witch! We’ve found a witch! Burn her! Burn her!

    (After Sir Bedimere gets the crowd to admit that they dressed her up as a witch, their only basis for accusing her is that one of them claims that she turned him into a newt. But because he “got better”, they need some way of determining her guilt).

    Bedimere: there are ways of telling if she’s a witch. What do you do with witches?

    Villagers: Burn them!

    Bedimere: And what do you burn, apart from witches?

    Villagers: Wood?

    Bedimere: Right! So why do witches burn?

    Villagers: Because they’re made of wood?

    Bedimere: Right! . Now, what else do you do with wood?

    Villagers: Build bridges with it!

    Bedimere: But do we not also build bridges from stone; does wood float in water?

    Villagers: Yes.

    Bedimere: And what else floats in water?

    King Arthur: (after more confused suggestions from the villagers) A duck!

    Bedimere: Right! So, if she weighs the same as a duck, she’d float in water, and she must be made of wood, so.

    Villagers: A witch! Burn her!

    (They weigh the woman on a large scale with a duck in the other balancing basket, but inexplicably the scales do not tilt one way or the other. As the villagers drag the woman away, the witch looks at the camera and says with resignation “it was a fair court”.)

    Bedimere: (to King Arthur) Who are you who are so wise in the ways of science?

  21. The_Elves says:

    Still looking for the clergy citation… but meanwhile, over on the Episcopal Pension Fund site, found this very interesting report: State of the Clergy 2006


  22. Ad Orientem says:


    here’s an idea:
    let’s throw all ordained people in a tub of water – those that float are (1) women (2) gay (3) witches (4) surely taking their churches straight to hades

    That won’t work. Too many don’t live near any deep bodies of water.

  23. Sidney says:

    #10 It’s amazing how well those numbers correlate with illegal alien numbers, isn’t it?

  24. bob carlton says:


    even better – let’s only count christians if they stay in their city of origin

    oops – would not have worked for jesus

  25. Kendall Harmon says:

    Plainparson, I appreciate your point about the nature of the numbers underneath the surface numbers. The problem is you need to compare apples to apples and so you need then to compare active to active. There are all sorts of other problems in terms of part time clergy, clergy who work less than half time but more than none, etc.

    If you compare apples to apples the trend does not change: we have more clergy and less people, and no, it is not good.

  26. Kendall Harmon says:

    Isn’t the question not how many are “?”– in whatever category– but rather: how many are effective servants of Jesus Christ and how many are effective proclaimers of the gospel?

  27. The_Elves says:

    The 2006 annual lists 17,209 clergy (as of 2004)

    And a HUGE Amen to Kendall’s #26. I so agree. Not wanting to lose sight of that point. Just trying to help folks clarify sources of data.

  28. plainsheretic says:


    Unfortunatley, your not comparing apples to apples in your own estimation.

    The number you qoute in terms of the membership of ECUSA is drived from the paraocial reports “active baptized membership” and is listed in the REd Book. That number is the sum total of all parishes reporting and is completely arrived at the local parish. The person recording the numbers is to substract those who are inacitive, transferred or died. At my parish the number of active baptized is 637. Those are real people who come to church regularly. Our ASA is 283. I know a lot of clergy and I don’t know anyone who pads the numbers. That is difficult now, especially, as the reports are approved by vestries as well as the clergy. I think therfore that the number of active baptized which you qoute is accurate. I know that some will argue that “everyone is padding there numbers and count dead people.” If you say that please produce strong evidence to support your claim.

    The clergy number is not the same. It inculdes both preist and deacons, retired and active. To make your statement accruate you would need to say. There is 1 clergy person including both retired/ acitve and preists/ deacons to every 122 active baptized episcopalians. Implying otherwise is not an accurate statistical statement.

    If all you are trying to say is that there are more clergy now than in 1994- that is fair. But remember that the retired ranks of all major professions are swelling as baby boomers enter retirement. The median age of clergy is said to be 56. that means a whole lot of folks are retiring, retired and inactive.

    These details are very important for the life of the church.

  29. Neal in Dallas says:

    I was the source of the data. Kendall got it from an email that I copied him on in conversation with a person who was alleging that we had a clergy shortage. It was not intended to be a sophisticated analysis, nor did Kendall present it as such.

    If you look at the trends, the number of clergy increase each year as our membership numbers decrease. We can spend a lot of time analyzing exactly why that it, but it is a really disturbing trend.

    I can go behind some of those numbers and make some hypotheses.

    Most retired clergy I know are still active in ministry. They contribute valuable ministry.

    The numbers may be increased as a result of more and more dioceses ordain more and more deacons. I can attest that Phil Snyder is an excellent deacon and would put him as a leader against anybody. However, the increase in diagonal ministry seems not to have resulted in numerical growth in our churches overall. Why that is I do not know.

    Our denominational leadership is in tremendous denial about the losses in our churches. You can question the numbers and ratios all you want, the bottom line is that we are a denomination in precipitous decline. I hear Kirk Hadaway and Charles Fulton whispering about this fact. But I do not hear any honest assessment of this decline from our Presiding Bishop nor the President of the House of Deputies.

    Max DePree says that the first task of the leader is to define reality. Our leaders are spending their time telling what wonderful ministry is going on (“happy talk”) while we continue our decline and while our bishops fret and fume over any encroachment into their geographical prerogatives and real estate. They seem to be more concerned about real estate than souls, more protective of their authority as bishops than their responsibilities to reach people for Jesus Christ. They are more concerned that the college of Anglican bishops worldwide have no authority over them while they are adamant that those under them bow to their authority.

    I wish they would spend less time figuring out how to preserve title to real estate and more time trying to figure out why fewer and fewer people want to be Episcopalian. We should be bound together by love and mutual respect and not by title to real estate.

    You cannot compel by law the loyalty of love.

    The numbers indicate that we are a denomination in decline. The decline predates General Convention 2003. “815, we have a problem.” We can shoot the messenger, or we can work to solve the problem. As a denomination, we have shown that we would rather shoot the messenger.

  30. Wilfred says:

    Over this time period, the figures work out to a 1.2% annual decrease in membership, and a 1.8% increase in clergy.

    At this rate, clergy will outnumber laity in 165 years.

    Don’t ask what the difference will be in 100 billion years, when those poor astronomers two blogs below will trying to figure out where all the stars went.

  31. MJD_NV says:

    Most retired clergy I know are still active in ministry. They contribute valuable ministry.

    Absolutely, Neal! I find the “stipend vs unstipend” argument highly disingenuous. Active monistry is active ministry.

    I was teasing my father recently that he’s busier in retiremnet than he was ias a rector. He retirted somehting about not having “all the rector BS” and having a reasonable + now that he’s back in a network diocese. But he could have his choice of at least 3 altars most Sundays. Not counting him and hundreds of other “non-stipened” clergy who are active is specious at best.

  32. bob carlton says:

    neal, amen – amen

  33. writingmom15143 says:

    Re: #20…In all the time I have been reading/commenting on this blog, I have read some comments that have left me speechless but none of them compare to this comment. If he is trying to be humorous or sarcastic, I am incredibly saddened by the attempt.
    And if, God forbid, he was trying to make the point that this group of people belong together, I am incredibly frightened.

  34. Kendall Harmon says:

    The data are from the 2007 church annual and the 1996 church annual. They have been checked and they are correct. It is EXACTLY comparing apples to apples in the basic sense: same data and same category from the same source.

  35. MargaretG says:

    I think this is a fairly general trend in liberal protestant churches. Certainly it is the trend in the Presbyterian church of Aotearoa New Zealand (and we only count paid ministers), and it seems to also be the trend in the Anglican church.

    The other thing that seems to be universal is that the ministers are complaining about their workloads.

  36. mathman says:

    For some obscure reason this reminds me of the British Navy.
    In the years since World War I the number of ships in the Navy decreased, and at the same time the number of flag officers increased.
    Some author (I think Parkinson) observed that there was a negative correlation, accompanied by a high degree of confidence.
    The process, of course, will end when TEc is all clergy, all the time.

  37. Words Matter says:

    Most clergy don’t have cushy jobs.

    A recent post described two male rectors getting married in New Jersey. Their parishes have ASA of about 35 and 45. My question is: what do they do all day? If they were actively building up the parishes, they would be busy, but the ASA is decreasing in one parish and stable in the other.

    The median ASA is something like 70-80 for an Episcopal parish (or is that membership?). What do all of these Episcopal ministers do? DO?

  38. azusa says:

    # 36: count the number of bishops too.

  39. David Keller says:

    Please recall that the SCDME reported to the EC in 2004 that we were in institutional decline and that if it was not reversed IMMEDIATELY the trend would be irreversable. In response, the EC canned 20/20 which the 2003 GC had listed as it’s #2 buggeting priority. Since then we have continued to hemmorage membership. Does anyone really think we need to argue about this?

  40. David Keller says:

    OOPS–that should have been BUDGETING priority.

  41. Irenaeus says:

    Kendall [#34]: I question neither the consistency of the data nor your larger point. But if the clergy data include retired clergy, increased longevity will (other things equal) also increase the ratio of clergy to ASA or clergy to members. This may result in some overstatement of the trend. But the trend is real.

  42. Ex-Catholic says:

    Irenaeus writes: “At least two benign trends have increased the number of retired clergy: greater longevity; and more mid-life clerical vocations. ”

    It maybe anecdotal on my part, but it seems to hold true in my parish. Except for the newest clergy on our staff (and the rector), almost every other clergy on staff was a product of mid-life clerical vocations. Every previous associate rector had the same background.

    It may be a tangential issue, but does anyone have an idea why it seems that we don’t have as many seminarians fresh out of high school whose chosen career path is the ordained ministry? Why does it seems to be so different from other denominations? For example, most of the Baptist ministers I have met seem to have a “calling” early on in their life. They didn’t just “find” themselves being called to the ministry after starting a secular carreer.

    Any ideas?

  43. plainsheretic says:

    I have a couple.
    I was ordained at the ripe age of 26. I went to seminary after college. This was a while ago. During the process- it kept coming up that younger people couldn’t be a good counselor until they had “significant life experience.” That may be true- but it was an idea born from jungian psychology that was very popular in the 70’s and 80’s. Many Commission on Ministries would not even consider a younger candidate for this reason.

    Plus- I think the cost, relative low pay, and intense conflict in the church does not help with recruiting.