Membership down


The 2008 parochial reports show overall church membership at 2,225,682 people, with a total average Sunday attendance (ASA) at 747,376. Those totals compare with 2007 membership of 2,285,143 and total average Sunday attendance 768,476. The dioceses in the United States saw a 2.8 percent drop in membership and a 3.1 percent decrease in ASA. Overall church membership — including 10 non-U.S. dioceses — was down 2.6 percent and attendance dropped 2.7 percent for the entire church.

The median Episcopal Church congregation in 2008 had 164 active members (down four members from 2007) and 69 people in Sunday worship, the same as in the previous year. Membership declines in the Episcopal Church mirror a pattern seen in other Christian denominations. Recent nationwide data shows the median non-Roman Catholic congregation has 75 regular participants at worship on Sundays.

Latest statistical reports from the Research & Statistics Center.

Statistics for individual congregations

Thomas Brackett says The Episcopal Church needs to be planting more new churches if only to learn from failure. We don’t do the necessary post mortems he says:

Each of these seven “Church Planters” told a similar tale; they had given the new “start” their best effort and . . . it failed. That is, the new ministry failed. I mean, the very ministry into which they had poured their heart and soul was either closed or discontinued or dismantled, for a variety of reasons. In our Tribe, when that happens, it usually means that the dossier on the new ministry is closed and very few people ever have access to the post mortem reports. We just stop talking about it, as if it never really happened. If an insider like me calls the appropriate regional headquarters to ask about what happened, it’s the usual disclaimer – something about the will of God and the wisdom of the leaders and “matters that cannot be discussed at this time.” (That’s almost an exact quote from a recent call I made.)

Can we talk, here? I mean, just you and me? No blame; no shame? Let me start the conversation (right now it’s a monologue but I hope you’ll join in, right?). Here are the facts: three out of four of our finest entrepreneurial leaders in charge of a failed “start” eventually leave the Episcopal Church, after leaving the ministry. Do you understand the significance of that well-documented statistic? It means that, while we say we want to learn from our failures, we don’t quite know what to do with the very person who needs to lead the inquiry!

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