In an article posted yesterday, The Christian Post reiterated warnings that The Episcopal Church is lurching towards collapse. That assessment coincides with similar predictions elsewhere.
At its height in 1966, almost 4 million Americans were members. As of 2018, official reports count just 1.676 million members.
And while all mainline denominations are facing decline with the passing of the baby boom, the church’s total membership doesn’t tell the whole story.
For example, Sunday worship, sometimes referred to in Episco-speak as “Average Sunday Attendance,” or ASA, has plummeted 25 percent from 2009 to 2019. The Post adds:
“The overall picture is dire,” the Rev. Dwight Zscheile, an Episcopal priest and professor, according to ChurchLeaders. “Not one of decline as much as demise within the next generation unless trends change significantly.”
He said that at this rate, “there will be no one in worship by around 2050 in the entire denomination.” Although offering pledges have risen, “the fact that fewer people are giving more money is not a sustainable trend over the long term,” he added.
Approximately 55% of U.S. Episcopalians are age 60 and older, the highest average age of the largest 20 religious traditions in the nation, according to a demographic analysis by researcher Ryan Burge.
In a recent episode of “The Holy Post” podcast, Burge said the Episcopal Church will be dead in two decades. In a subsequent blog post, he noted that while it might not be gone completely, it will be “vastly diminished” and likely on “life support.”
“A terrifying reality emerges” when looking at the mode as opposed to the average age, he added.
“The modal age of an Episcopalian in 2019 was 69.”
Moreover, birth rates among Episcopalians are the lowest of the mainline denominations.
As a result, Burge predicts that the church may comprise approximately 50 percent of its current membership within 20 years, leaving it in a situation in which it is on “life support.”
The post notes that the Anglican Church in Canada appears to be on a similar trajectory.
So what’s the denomination doing about the decline? This author cannot speak to every diocese out there, but here in DioVA, the answer is nothing. Or same might say less than nothing.
In the recent DioVA budget, which this author cites because he lives within its geographic boundaries, the church has zeroed out funds for leadership development, on the grounds that that task force is inactive.
Hardly a good sign.
On other fronts, the Rev. Sven vanBaar, the clueless wonder of an intake officer who held that clergy perjury is only actionable as a clergy disciplinary matter if criminal charges are brought and now serves as a delegate to General Convention, has been tasked with exploring ways to stabilize the diocesan budget.
If vanBaar can’t even figure out the ethics behind the clergy perjury, it’s highly doubtful that he and the other Mayo House insiders can figure out how to fix the church’s financial and membership woes.