The Episcopal Church: The Collapse Is Here

Sep 11, 2019 by

Tom Ferguson, retired Episcopal seminary dean, tells it like it is with no sweet talking.  Since 2003, when Gene Robinson became TEC’s first partnered gay bishop, TEC’s ASA has dropped from 858,000 to 562,000 — a decline of 34%.  There are now more TEC parishes with an average attendance of less than 10 persons than there are congregations with attendance of 300 or more. The evidence is clear: “The collapse is upon us.”  Ferguson notes a recurrent trend: “When the membership and attendance numbers get released, what usually happens is there is a flurry of debate about the ‘reasons’ for the decline: some of it on target, some of it ridiculous, but despite a general understanding of the state of our situation, overall a general state of unwillingness to engage the issues in any substantive ways has settled in.  The Episcopal Church membership statistic release conversation is almost like the way American society has its gun debate after mass shootings:  a flurry of the same statements being made, then the whole conversation just goes away in a week or so.”  Ferguson here posts some of the more common reasons for TEC’s decline that are being given this time around – Barbara Gauthier

from The Crusty Old Dean blogspot:

[…]  In what is becoming a Groundhog-Day esque experience, the Episcopal Church has once again released its membership numbers, and once again, it is VERY bad.

Some of the current cover-your-eyes numbers:

From 2008-2018, average Sunday attendance has dropped nearly 25%, to about 562,000.  By comparison, in the year 2003, it was 858,000.

We have more parishes with an average attendance of less than 10 persons than we do with congregations with attendance of 300 or more.

And this is not taking into account other demographics, such as we are about 87% Anglo when the United States is about 62% Anglo, and the average age of an Episcopalian in 57 in when in the United States the average age is about 37.  We are old and white in a missional context that is less old and less white.

The numbers continue to be terrible overall.  Some provinces have declined 30% in average Sunday attendance in the past decade.  To be sure, these are aggregate numbers.  A couple of dioceses have shown small growth.  Some parishes, no doubt, are growing.  But overall we simply cannot ignore the trends.

In the past decade I have blogged on these issues here, here, here, herehere, and probably some other places I’ve forgotten. I’ve also given presentations at clergy conferences and even at a state Council of Churches annual meeting on issues of denominational collapse.

Read here

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