Why doesn’t the Episcopal Church plant more churches?

The Rev. Susan Brown Snook of the Diocese of Arizona is writing a book about church planting. Today on her Facebook page she wrote:

As part of my research, I have discovered the following utterly shocking statistic. In 2012 (the most recent year for which we have parochial report data available), in the entire Episcopal Church, THREE new congregations were added. That number again is 3.

This led, as you might imagine to quite a bit of conversation about why the Episcopal Church has devoted so few resources to church planting.

I wrote: “I am only mildly surprised. I don’t think we can plant more [churches] until we close more [churches] freeing up assets and energy. But closing and merging parishes requires a bishop to spend a lot of political capital, so I can understand why many avoid doing so.”

But I am also wondering whether the church–perhaps rightly, in some instances–is hesitant to plant more congregations because most traditional congregations are in decline. I am not arguing that decline is inevitable everywhere, or that church planting isn’t important, but I think we do have to reflect, as a church, on what kind of communities we are attempting to foster, and what sorts of models are most viable.

if you were attempting to start an Episcopal community in your area, would you assume a traditional congregation could be successful (Susan’s certainly is.) or would you go in a different direction?

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