Thinking Anglicans

TEC parochial statistics

The (American) Episcopal Church has released its Parochial Report Results from 2022. Here are some news items and comments on these statistics.

Neil Elliot NumbersMatters Is TEC bouncing back?

Rebecca Paveley Church Times US Episcopalian Sunday figures nearly halved over past decade

Jeff Walton Anglican.ink Episcopal Withering on the Vine

Kirk Petersen The Living Church Episcopal Attendance Bounces Back 19% from Pandemic Low

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Anglican Priest
Anglican Priest
7 months ago

333,000 people in church on Sunday in a country of 333 million. Rates of decline (baptisms, marriages, confirmations) at 40%. It doesn’t mitigate things to say ‘everyone is in decline’ if you reach a point of non-viability as a denomination.

At least leadership is admitting this is a serious problem. If 200,000 is the reality in 2030, it is hard to see the present diocesan structure remaining.

Rod Gillis
Rod Gillis
7 months ago

Neil Elliot is a guy to pay attention to with regard to stats. He is doing good work for the Anglican Church of Canada on demographics. You can follow the links from the above article to get his profile which states that he has a PhD in sociology and did a thesis on the spirituality of snow boarding (link). Let me move from stats to anecdote. I became a parish priest at 24 (1978). While there was clearly an elderly cohort, there was at that time a young adult cohort as well. My wife and I made long term friendships… Read more »

Tim Chesterton
Reply to  Rod Gillis
7 months ago

Agreed, Rod. Neil’s piece about which numbers we count and why we count them a few days ago was excellent (though it passed by largely without comment here).

Mike Nash
Mike Nash
Reply to  Tim Chesterton
7 months ago

Can anyone tell the the basis of the ASA (the Average Sunday Attendance)? Is it every Sunday attendance in a year divided by the number of Sundays in that year or it a much shorter period a used by the CofE?
Thanks in advance from MikeN.

Peter Misiaszek
Peter Misiaszek
Reply to  Mike Nash
7 months ago

In the Diocese of Toronto context, ASA is the average of 50 regular Sundays (less Easter Triduum and Christmas).

Tim Chesterton
Reply to  Mike Nash
7 months ago

I think the national church has to use the figures the dioceses feed to it. I don’t know if they are calculated consistently across Canada. In the Diocese of Edmonton it’s every-Sunday attendance per year divided by number of Sundays in that year.

Alex Shiells
Alex Shiells
Reply to  Rod Gillis
7 months ago

This is true – I’m 29 and one of the youngest priests in the diocese. We have next to no-one my age in our church or area, and it’s fairly isolated!

Rod Gillis
Rod Gillis
Reply to  Alex Shiells
7 months ago

Peer group interaction is valuable. I wish I had some something practical to offer in reply to your comment. I’m retired. If I were still working as an archdeacon this is a matter I would be advancing in the system as a personnel issue. If you can find someone who is interested in this issue within your structure it might be of some help in terms of getting it on the radar. Here in this diocese a number of years ago a some of our young clergy began networking on social media with the goal of mutual support. Parish ministry… Read more »

Pat ONeill
Pat ONeill
7 months ago

As might be expected, this is a glass half-empty, half-full argument (which ignores, as a recent Facebook posting I saw noted, that the glass can be refilled). As I also expected, the half-empty observers are all on the conservative “liberals are driving TEC off a cliff” side, while the half-fullers are optimistic at any increase. I think the appropriate response is more on the order of the comments by HoD President Julia Ayala Harris, as quoted by Jeff Walton: “At the churchwide level, we sometimes talk a little too much about numbers, numbers of people in the pews, and not… Read more »

Anglican Priest
Anglican Priest
Reply to  Pat ONeill
7 months ago

Of course these are the very nice sentiments that no one can disagree with.

But this is not about that. The statistics are about a denomination that will fight for its very existence over the coming decade. It appears now that all can agree on that fact.

That said, you are absolutely correct. If it is reconfigured to account for its tiny footprint, within it can be Christians who are known for their love, 200K strong. Hopefully, intelligent leaders will figure out how that can happen in such a reduced state.

Pat ONeill
Pat ONeill
Reply to  Anglican Priest
7 months ago

“The statistics are about a denomination that will fight for its very existence over the coming decade.”

Fight? Against whom or what? Is there some adversarial relationship I am unaware of? Rather, I see the future for TEC as being one in which it resolves to stop viewing “success” by how many people come, as if it were a theater or a sports arena.

A church should measure success by how well it lives out its own teaching in the wider world.

Last edited 7 months ago by Pat ONeill
FrDavid H
FrDavid H
Reply to  Pat ONeill
7 months ago

Among the myriad of strange Churches in the USA – including the millions of so-called “Christians” who support Trump – the Episcopal Church stands out as an example of reasonable, inclusive sanity. It’s good to know there are a few normal Christians left in a nation which seems to have taken leave of its senses.

Peter Misiaszek
Peter Misiaszek
Reply to  FrDavid H
7 months ago

Why do you believe sanity resides exclusively in TEC? If it is such an ideal you’d think everyone would want to join.

Jo B
Jo B
Reply to  Pat ONeill
7 months ago

While I agree about numbers not being an end in themselves, if a church is living out the Gospel as it should, should we not expect people to be drawn to it?

Anglican Priest
Anglican Priest
Reply to  Pat ONeill
7 months ago

Mr O’Neill You seem unaware how dioceses work. If you have 3000 people in church on Sunday morning, or less–and TEC is now at the 45% level facing this hard reality, diocesan wise–you have serious difficulty paying a Bishop and rump diocesan staff. You then become a less desirable place for recruiting talented clergy. You have drops of baptisms and marriages well above the dismal 45% drop figure and cannot replace the membership loss. This is a spiral down that attains a certain irreversibility. Bishops know this. Diocesan staff know this. I can’t tell if you are being intentionally obtuse.… Read more »

Pat ONeill
Pat ONeill
Reply to  Anglican Priest
7 months ago

I know perfectly well how the finances of a church work, having served several terms on parish vestries (the equivalent of the PCC, for my UK friends). The answer to the problem you pose, as I see it, is a distinct reduction in the size of that “rump diocesan staff,” as you term it. And perhaps, even, a reduction in the salary of the diocesan bishop. If I may be so bold, maybe even the combining of some smaller dioceses into one larger one. (We did something similar with small, failing school districts in Pennsylvania some 40 years ago and… Read more »

Anglican Priest
Anglican Priest
Reply to  Pat ONeill
7 months ago

Congratulations. This is what is meant by fighting for survival.

Historically, dioceses have resisted this, but–given the crisis situation–minds can be sobered up. And necessity is the mother of invention.

Necessity. That has been my modest point. TEC will need to swallow hard and proceed along these lines. After all, 150 dioceses for 300K makes no sense. We are not TEC of 1975.

Kind regards.

Jo B
Jo B
Reply to  Anglican Priest
7 months ago

You don’t need full time diocesan staff to run a diocese. TEC will simply need to cut its cloth to fit, as SEC already does (and I suspect many TEC dioceses have considerably more by way of assets than most of ours do).

Tim Chesterton
Reply to  Jo B
7 months ago

When I was in the Diocese of Athabasca we had a bishop, an executive archdeacon, and a diocesan secretary. That was our staff.

Anglican Priest
Anglican Priest
Reply to  Jo B
7 months ago

I was licensed in the SEC for nine years. With all respect, you have a church with about 20k average Sunday attendance (I am being generous) with a handlful of dioceses, in a country the size of SC, pretty much always tiny vis-a-vis the Kirk. TEC is 150 dioceses in a land mass where TX is the size of a large European country (France). Perhaps this exchange helps the Anglican Body of churches respect their unique identities and challenges as such. I hold a PTO in the CofE. I attended Holy Trinity Cannes two Sundays ago. Extract the Scots attending… Read more »

Jo B
Jo B
Reply to  Anglican Priest
7 months ago

I fail to see what geographic size has to do with how many diocesan staff are required. You scoffed at being able to run a diocese with ASA of 3000, yet that is what your 20 000 figure suggests is typical for a SEC diocese. Indeed the smallest SEC diocese by ASA, Argyll & the Isles, is also the hardest to traverse. Our full complement of “central” staff is the bishop and the (part time) diocesan secretary. Other tasks are shared among the clergy and lay volunteers.

Anglican Priest
Anglican Priest
Reply to  Jo B
7 months ago

The difference is that the SEC is a small church, in a small country (the size of South Carolina), with a small number of dioceses. It has always been thus. TEC was a church of 4.6 million, in a large country, composed of 150 dioceses. So when it slides to the place it now is, it will have to take steps to consolidate dioceses, and see if a tourniquet can be found and where to apply it. The Bishop of St Andrews, Dunkeld, Dunblane lived in his own residence isn St Andrews. The “diocesan office” was, in his day, virtually… Read more »

Pat ONeill
Pat ONeill
Reply to  Anglican Priest
7 months ago

“And for the record (the statistics are available) there are a large number of dioceses in TEC with far less than 3000 ASA.”

And many of those are likely the largest in geographic area. I’d imagine the Episcopalian population of, say, Montana is pretty small. Same with Utah. Hampering any consolidation of dioceses will be the tradition (in part, perhaps, a legal necessity, given the differences in state law) of not having diocesan territory cross state borders.

Jeremy
Jeremy
Reply to  Pat ONeill
7 months ago

Agree that it would be anomalous, and perhaps legally problematic, for a diocese to cross state lines. The governing documents might choose the law of State A, as opposed to State B; but imagine how the diocese’s parishioners in State B would feel about that!

Simon Sarmiento
Reply to  Jeremy
7 months ago

At least two current TEC dioceses cross state lines: Central Gulf Coast and Rio Grande.

Anglican Priest
Anglican Priest
Reply to  Pat ONeill
7 months ago

In the list that follows, more than half are under 2000. Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont, Rochester, W.NY, Bethlehem, C.PA., Delaware, Easton, NW PA., Pittsburgh, WVA, KY, Lexington, Louisiana, W. TN., E. Michigan, Eau Claire, Fond du Lac, Indianapolis, Milwaukee, Missouri, N. Indiana, N. Michigan (292!), Springfield, W. Michigan, Iowa, Montana, Nebraska, N. Dakota (490), S. Dakota, Wyoming, Kansas, NW TX, Rio Grande, W. Kansas (415), W. LA., Alaska (692), El Camino Real, E. Oregon (511), Hawaii, Idaho, N. CA., San Joaquin (612), Spokane, Utah. Sub-state units are typically representative of erstwhile growth, decades ago. Drops just over the last decade… Read more »

Last edited 7 months ago by Anglican Priest
Tim Chesterton
Reply to  Pat ONeill
7 months ago

‘A church should measure success by how well it lives out its own teaching in the wider world.’ Pat, I don’t disagree with that, but I have two comments. By ‘its own teaching’ I assume you mean ‘the teaching of Jesus’. Second, in all four of the gospels the story of Jesus ends with a clear command to go out and spread the message and make new disciples; this is also how the Book of Acts starts. So the teaching of Jesus includes the command to do evangelism. The parables of the mustard seed and the leaven also assume the… Read more »

Pat ONeill
Pat ONeill
Reply to  Tim Chesterton
7 months ago

“So ‘how well it lives its own teaching in the wider world’ surely must include making new disciples and seeing the church grow.”

Agreed…but if to do that, the church must also violate one or both of the two “great commandments” (Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself.), then growth is a detriment, not an asset.

Tim Chesterton
Reply to  Pat ONeill
7 months ago

Thanks for reminding me of what the two great commandments are.

I’m curious to hear about the circumstances in which the church’s members feel they ‘must’ stop living as disciples in order to make new disciples. Personally, I refuse to believe that you can’t have discipleship and evangelism at the same time. In fact, I would go further and say that discipleship is not complete without evangelism. And TEC’s baptismal covenant agrees with me.

Last edited 7 months ago by Tim Chesterton
Pat ONeill
Pat ONeill
Reply to  Tim Chesterton
7 months ago

The current thinking in evangelical circles seems to be that the more conservative churches are the most successful–those that adhere to a strict sola scriptura theology and thus are unwelcoming to gay, lesbian and trans people. In that, I believe they do not “love their neighbor as themselves.”

Tim Chesterton
Reply to  Pat ONeill
7 months ago

Yes, but Pat, we’re not talking about ‘evangelical circles’ here – we’re talking about what it means to be faithful, whether we’re evangelical, Anglo-Catholic or whatever. You appear to be suggesting that spreading the gospel/making new disciples is an optional extra for churches that seek to be faithful to Episcopal Church teaching, or the teaching of Jesus (hopefully the two are related!). I’m responding that even our own baptismal covenant contradicts that view: it includes the promise to proclaim the good news of /god in Christ by both word and example. Sadly, when Anglicans in our part of the world… Read more »

EagletP
EagletP
Reply to  Tim Chesterton
7 months ago

That’s so important, Tim – what I don’t see in the TEC (or the theologies or worldviews of many mainline denominations) is a strong ‘reproduction ethic’. Looking ahead 50, 100, 200 years and more, one thing is sure – the dominant cultures (religious, political, social/ethnic etc etc) will be ones that know how to reproduce across generations, and prioritise it. TEC have forgotten how to – it’s not even clear they *want* to – and they’ve parted company with the branch of their church that’s keenest on reproducing. Looking ahead a few decades their fate looks to be sealed, maybe… Read more »

Pat ONeill
Pat ONeill
Reply to  EagletP
7 months ago

“Reproduce across generations….” I assume by that you mean have children…and large numbers of them? You do realize that, for many people in modern society, the costs of raising children have become difficult to bear, especially in an economy where to afford a home suitable to a family requires two incomes?

Jo B
Jo B
Reply to  Pat ONeill
7 months ago

I suspect what is being referenced is the failure of liberal believers especially to pass on their faith to their children, not the precise number of them. In very few cases are the adult children of believers to be found alongside them on a Sunday morning, even if they live nearby. My grandparents’ generation sent their children to Sunday school; my parents’ generation mostly didn’t bother; my generation no longer have the option as there are neither enough children to form a Sunday school nor enough adults to run it. My own family has been relatively successful, but still only… Read more »

Pat ONeill
Pat ONeill
Reply to  Jo B
7 months ago

And in this respect, how are liberal believers different from the population as a whole? Not very, from my observation of the crowds at youth sports events on Sunday mornings.

Eaglet
Eaglet
Reply to  Pat ONeill
7 months ago

Indeed – as a father myself I know it takes commitment and desire. But the societies that do have larger number of children (maybe because the economics or expectations are different) will outgrow those that don’t. Back to TEC, and I don’t know this from this side of the pond, I’m wondering whether some of the dynamics are similar to ‘chapel’ culture here, where village chapels have largely closed – the faith was passed down from family to family rather than outsiders, but that’s meant that they’re ill-equipped to cope with the increased mobility of people (and smaller families) in… Read more »

Pat ONeill
Pat ONeill
Reply to  Eaglet
7 months ago

That is very much it, along with the changes in things like Sunday activities for kids, shops being open on Sundays, and just generally a more varied, active life for families with children.

Anglican Priest
Anglican Priest
Reply to  Pat ONeill
7 months ago

Mr O’Neill You have seen the diocesan list above. Your idea that Montana like dioceses epitomize the ‘small’ ASA numbers is belied by the figures: this decline is in every pocket of the geographical US, and acute in the NE for example. If some new model for thriving as a church body isn’t found, TEC will go out of business, save for some exceptionally well-conceived dioceses (Dallas, TX, CFL) and parishes, which keep the larger ship afloat. One of the reasons for a cessation of conflict in TEC is a combination of the generous spirit of its present PB and… Read more »

Peter Misiaszek
Peter Misiaszek
Reply to  Anglican Priest
7 months ago

There is no magic solution. The trajectory for decline had its genesis in the 1960’s. Unless America (and the Western Church for that matter) experiences nothing short of a epiphany regarding church engagement, most mainstream Protestant denominations will be extinguished by 2060. And since we haven’t really done anthing with respect to evangelization in about 50 odd years or more, the writing is on the wall. The blip in attendance experienced by TEC is a statistical anomaly and might be explained by how they refined their head counts during the pandemic.

Jo B
Jo B
Reply to  Peter Misiaszek
7 months ago

I wonder whether there might be a modest revival if my daughter’s generation rebel against the religious apathy/antipathy of my generation. For many of that generation the Christian faith will be unfamiliar and barely even part of their cultural reference, and novelty may spark interest.

Anglican Priest
Anglican Priest
Reply to  Jo B
7 months ago

This is certainly happening in pockets in the US. The history of Israel reveals cycles that ebb and flow, as new generations observe the fruit sown by previous ones, and ask for refreshing waters to drink.

Tim Chesterton
Reply to  Pat ONeill
7 months ago

I did not read EagletP as meaning that. I assumed they were referring to the passing on of the gospel from one generation to the next. And their point is well-taken, as can be seen by the average age in most episcopal/Anglican churches in North America.

John Bunyan
John Bunyan
Reply to  Pat ONeill
7 months ago

As an Australian reader of the US Episcopal magazine, The Living Church, quite aware of some grim stats in the US, the UK, and here, I’d recommend reading the September issue with its good news from various Episcopal churches throughout the US – doing better than many of ours here. (I am hoping to send copies of this encouragement to our hard-working bishops). Again, I am not an Anglo-Catholic but I am very glad to see the growth in ordinands at residental Nashotah House, a seminary that trains them for either the Episcopal Church or the Anglican Church of North… Read more »

Tobias Haller
Tobias Haller
7 months ago

The statistic that never seems to appear is the one that in my opinion would be most useful (and likely the hardest to obtain) — and that is, What is the share of the total church-going population belonging to each church? It is no mystery that decline in church attendance cuts across many Christian denominations. Some of these keep and publish stats on membership and attendance; others resist that, and evidence has to come from other directions, such as (in the Roman Catholic Church) closing or merging parishes. So, as I say, this is a difficult thing to establish: how… Read more »

Last edited 7 months ago by Tobias Haller
Anglican Priest
Anglican Priest
Reply to  Tobias Haller
7 months ago

I am in a community that raised 3.6 million to plant a new church. We have all ages. It heartens me, in equal measure to my pain at seeing a church 3 generations of clergy in my TEC home worked in, in love and service and mission. We break ground in two weeks, on the same Sunday where 22 new members are to be confirmed, re-affirmed, or received. I am on staff and I split my time between here and France. But I do not think that wider cultural realities are the determinative force. God can always be on the… Read more »

FrDavid H
FrDavid H
Reply to  Anglican Priest
7 months ago

It’s good to hear a new and growing TEC plant is successful.

Anglican Priest
Anglican Priest
Reply to  FrDavid H
7 months ago

It is an ACNA plant, but the relationship in SC between TEC and ACNA is cordial. Further, our members are only 50% from the anglican tradition. We use a renewed ancient Eucharistic liturgy and they have become accustomed to that through lots of generous spirit in leadership.

FrDavid H
FrDavid H
Reply to  Anglican Priest
7 months ago

It’s a shame to hear you’ve had to leave the Anglican Communion. Schism is always sad when people start new “churches” and can’t live in love and harmony . I don’t believe Jesus taught us to be just “cordial”.

Anglican Priest
Anglican Priest
Reply to  FrDavid H
7 months ago

I must say that is full-on nonsense. The kind of parochial and cramped thinking that dishonors Christianity.

I remain (for what it is worth) a priest in good standing in TEC and in the CofE.

I simply will not play these games when the excitement of building a church with all sorts and conditions is on my doorstep.

I promise to pray for you. You seem so prone to adopt the most minimalist and sad account of Christianity.

God bless you.

FrDavid H
FrDavid H
Reply to  Anglican Priest
7 months ago

Thank you for your blessing. ACNA was set up to oppose the ‘liberal’ views of TEC, even consecrating its own bishops. What a sad account of Christianity! I would have thought an Episcopal priest would put his efforts into maintaining the witness of TEC rather than supporting a schismatic movement which arose from anti-gay sentiments. Presumably your new “church plant” wouldn’t entertain a priest In a same-sex relationship to lead it. That’s why you have a minimalist approach to Christianity.

Anglican Priest
Anglican Priest
Reply to  FrDavid H
7 months ago

And neither would my TEC diocese.

Peter Misiaszek
Peter Misiaszek
Reply to  FrDavid H
7 months ago

I know it’s unpopular to say this but the more evangelical Anglican churches still have a fighting chance. While many of them are shrinking too, they seem to be doing so at a less rapid pace. They also seem to do a better job at church planting and experimenting with alternative worship styles. Seems a bit odd that most Anglicans have turned themselves into pretzels trying to be relevant and “seeker-friendly” only to find that what people wanted all along was authenticity and consistent messaging regarding the word of Jesus. I shudder to think that ACNA will outlive TEC but… Read more »

Anglican Priest
Anglican Priest
Reply to  FrDavid H
7 months ago

Your assumptions, as always, arise from the vicious circle of anger and bitterness. A church is planted in my neighborhood. I am asked to help. I do so gladly. It is a joy to see enthusiastic worshippers gathered around an anglican liturgy that is, for them, the best way to worship God together, given their diverse backgrounds. This isn’t England and an established (and rapidly declining) church, where ‘the Anglican Communion’ is some sort of obvious, healthy, thriving touchstone. And of course it isn’t that in England either. I don’t intend to “leave the Anglican Communion.” I am a bit… Read more »

FrDavid H
FrDavid H
Reply to  Anglican Priest
7 months ago

You don’t know me. Why do you assume I’m angry and bitter? I don’t know you either. But I’m surmising your support of ACNA precludes partnered gay clergy upon which the schism was founded. That is hardly a road rising to meet me. It’s a route to nowhere.

Anglican Priest
Anglican Priest
Reply to  FrDavid H
7 months ago

If you do not realise how your constant commenting comes across–angry, bitter, dismissive–then I am genuinely puzzled.

I belong to a Diocese in TEC that does not allow marriage for Gays. The CofE where I am licensed does not allow that either.

FrDavid H
FrDavid H
Reply to  Anglican Priest
7 months ago

I think your very conservative credentials are showing! We know you are against same sex marriage. I hope you are very happy in your new ACNA congregation.

Anglican Priest
Anglican Priest
Reply to  FrDavid H
7 months ago

I am very happy to be a part of a new church, growing, doing superb outreach, and works of mission.

Duke and Nashotah and Wycliffe have all committed to train seminarians from ACNA and TEC equally, as well as others. It is a good model. There is a world of people hungry for fellowship with Christ.

As to the future of the Anglican Communion, I worked hard on that project for fifteen years. It is in God’s capable hands.

I wish you peace and hopefulness.

Simon Sarmiento
Reply to  Anglican Priest
7 months ago

That’s Wycliffe in Toronto, not in England, right?

Anglican Priest
Anglican Priest
Reply to  Simon Sarmiento
7 months ago

Correct. The relationship between TEC and ACNA, now decades old, is of course differently experienced in the established CofE and its Anglican dissenters.

Tobias Haller
Tobias Haller
Reply to  Anglican Priest
7 months ago

It is heartening to hear of such good news. Someone else has noted elsewhere on this thread that the current issue of TLC recounts several such signs of growth. And certainly the Holy Spirit can be credited with a great deal of this. However, I think the realities of the surrounding culture, and the present conditions of a parish moving forward, have a significant effect. On the former — and this is where my appeal for data comes in — it appears to me that church-going in general is on the decline; more in the North than the South (where… Read more »

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