Episcopal Church reports lowest membership in 70 years

Trinity Episcopal Church in Lower Manhattan. Credit: Daniel Schwen (CC BY-SA 3.0)
Trinity Episcopal Church in Lower Manhattan. Credit: Daniel Schwen (CC BY-SA 3.0)

.- New statistics from the Episcopal Church show the group's loss of more than 200,000 members and 300 parishes between 2006 and 2010, bringing membership to its lowest since the 1930s.

In an Oct. 22 blog entry, commentator David Virtue noted that if the U.S. branch of the Anglican Communion continues to lose active members at the present rate, then “in 26 years there will no longer be anyone attending an Episcopal church.”

Virtue made his prediction based on figures showing five years of consistent decline in average Sunday worship attendance, as well as total membership and number of parishes, in the Episcopal Church.

The official “Episcopal Domestic Fast Facts Trends 2006-2010” document showed a 16 percent decline in members since 2000.

The denomination has lost an average of 25,798 Sunday worshipers each year since 2006, bringing the total of U.S. Episcopal worshipers on a given Sunday to 657,831 in 2010. Overall, the Sunday attendance rate in Episcopal communities has declined by 23 percent since 2000.

With a total membership of 1,951,907 in 2010, the Episcopal Church has reached its lowest rate of membership since the 1930s. According to the Association of Religion Data Archives, the mainline Protestant denomination last reported having less than 2 million members in 1939.

Episcopalianism peaked numerically in 1959 with more than 3.4 million members. Since 1968, however, it has lost over one third of its membership.

According to the official numbers, 68 percent of congregations now include 100 or fewer people at an average Sunday service.

Meanwhile, 57 percent of Episcopal congregations have seen their typical Sunday attendance decline by over 10 percent since 2006. Fewer than one-fifth of all congregations have experienced an equivalent growth in Sunday worship attendance.

Despite rates of inflation ranging from 0.1 percent to 4.1 percent, Episcopal congregations collected less money from pledges and collections in 2008, 2009, and 2010, compared to the year before.

Controversy has plagued the main U.S. branch of the Anglican Communion since its decision to appoint the openly homosexual Bishop Gene Robinson in 2003. On Oct. 17, Episcopal News Service reported on plans for a three-year trial of “a rite for same-gender blessings” to be performed in church.

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