The church that some wags once dubbed ‘the Republican Party at prayer,’ has seen a significant drop in its size. According to statistics compiled by the Episcopal Church of the USA (ECUSA), the Anglican-affiliated denomination dropped 24 percent in its numbers over the last ten years. Baptized membership in ECUSA declined by 29,679 in 2012 to 2,066,710, according to its October 31 report. Moreover, church statistics showed that Average Sunday Attendance declined steadily and by 2.6 per cent in 2012, alone. Currently, some 679,923 Episcopalians now attend Sunday services.
However, growth in baptized membership in the Episcopal Church was seen in 33 domestic dioceses: Alaska; Arkansas; Atlanta; California; Central Florida; Chicago; Colorado; East Tennessee; El Camino Real; Florida; Fond du Lac; Hawaii; Idaho; Iowa; Kansas; Maryland; Mississippi; Missouri; Montana; Navajoland; North Carolina; North Dakota; Northern California; Oklahoma; Pittsburgh; San Joaquin; Tennessee; Texas; Upper South Carolina; Washington; West Tennessee; Western Massachusetts; Western New York. Nonetheless, Average Sunday Attendance (ASA) grew in only ten domestic dioceses: Alaska, Arkansas, Fond du Lac, Nevada, Northern California , Northern Indiana, Oregon, Pittsburgh, Rio Grande, and San Joaquin.
In the state that encompasses Las Vegas, which some know as Sin City, the Episcopal Diocese of Nevada saw the greatest percentage and numeric growth in attendance of any diocese: 6.9 per cent or 165 people, while the Diocese of Ohio had the steepest decline: a decline in ASA from 7,971 in 2011 to 6,821 in 2012, or a negative change of 14.4 per cent. The overall change in the numbers of baptized members of the Diocese of Ohio for that same period was 23,630 to 20,197.
In 2002 the ASA for the domestic dioceses of the Episcopal Church was 846,640.
By 2012 there was evident a dramatic drop in the domestic ASA to 640,142: a decline of 206,498 or 24 per cent over ten years. The 2012 totals do not account for the session of the Diocese of South Carolina, which would subtract an estimated 25,000 from the church’s baptized membership and 11,000 from its ASA.
Episcopal Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori explained in a 2006 New York Times interview why her church is shrinking:
How many members of the Episcopal Church are there in this country?
About 2.2 million. It used to be larger percentagewise, but Episcopalians tend to be better-educated and tend to reproduce at lower rates than some other denominations. Roman Catholics and Mormons both have theological reasons for producing lots of children.
Episcopalians aren’t interested in replenishing their ranks by having children?
No. It’s probably the opposite. We encourage people to pay attention to the stewardship of the earth and not use more than their portion.
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