Jeff Walton on the Real Reason the TEC Diocese of New Hampshire Claims a membership Increase

New Hampshire Episcopalians just reported a banner year. After a decade of consistent losses under now-retired Bishop Gene Robinson, the small diocese reported a nearly 23 percent jump in attendance.

What is the secret to New Hampshire’s sudden reversal of fortune? The diocese, which Bishop Robert Hirschfeld assumed leadership of in 2013, changed whom it is counting in a practice that has been advocated by some in the dwindling denomination.

A sudden influx of worshipers would seem counter-intuitive: ever since Robinson was consecrated the denomination’s first openly-partnered homosexual bishop in 2003, diocesan membership declined nearly 16 percent, marriages down 37 percent, receptions down 51 percent, children’s baptisms down 57 percent, and adult baptisms down 75 percent. In short, it’s been a tough decade, not only in New Hampshire, but in all New England Episcopal dioceses….

Read it all.


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6 comments on “Jeff Walton on the Real Reason the TEC Diocese of New Hampshire Claims a membership Increase

  1. David Keller says:

    Down here in the old South we have a name for people who call “Average Weekly Attendance”, “Average Sunday Attendance.” Liars. Although I will admit, to my chagrin, my former TEC rector started doing the same thing in 2004 to bolster the numbers.

  2. dwstroudmd+ says:

    Just in time for Christmas … fudge! One does hope it is hypoallergenic, tree nut free, and gluten free as it is otherwise free!

  3. Undergroundpewster says:

    As I recall, when I was a student, chapel attendance was required. A church that has to jimmy their attendance numbers by reporting those there under the threat of detention, suspension, or a visit to the assistant headmaster’s office is in trouble.

  4. pastorchuckie says:

    Saint Paul’s was founded in 1856 with an explicit mission to produce “Christian gentlemen.” Today there is nothing explicitly Christian about the school, unless “being Christian” means “being a basically good person” (according to my standards and prevailing cultural norms).

    Enrollment at Saint Paul’s is around 600 students, so it makes sense that Saint Paul’s and Holderness’s chapel attendance together would account for an 800-plus “increase” in attendance at WEEKDAY services.

    As an alumnus (a loyal one!) who has intermittently visited the school in the 46 years since graduation, I would not call the 4 weekday services especially Christian. In the 1990’s and after, the school became more famous for Tibetan Buddhism than Anglican Christianity. Unless something has changed in the last couple of years, the weekday “services” ought to be called town meetings, a time for announcements and a lecture from some member of the school community along the lines of “my opinions about God and/or morality.”

    Attendance is voluntary– and a lot lower– at the Sunday Eucharists in the Chapel– much lower figures than the required weekday services. The Eucharists I have attended were according to the Prayer Book, without a lot of nonsense, with the students taking an active role in preparing and leading the service, and they seemed very committed and supportive of one another.

    To report the attendance figures for the weekday services as if they represented an increase in Sunday attendance in the Diocese of New Hampshire, would be bizarre!

    Pax Christi!
    Chuck Bradshaw

  5. Luke says:

    As the father of two SPS graduates, and as an alum of another New Hampshire preparatory school that used to require students to attend services at some recognized local church, I would agree with No. 4’s assessment.

  6. MichaelA says:

    Good article Jeff – this sort of fudging of the figures needs to be pointed out wherever it occurs. It is in TEC’s interest to have a true picture of where its various dioceses stand.