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The Raw Numerical Truth about the Episcopal Church

The Raw Numerical Truth about the Episcopal Church
One third of all 6825 Episcopal churches face inevitable closure

News Analysis

By David W. Virtue
August 23, 2011

“[We must] talk of hard financial issues and church decline and growth, to address elephants in the room, and to speak truth to one another in love." Executive Council of the Episcopal Church

A month long investigation by Virtueonline into the numerical state of The Episcopal Church reveals that more than one third of all 6825 Episcopal parishes in the U.S. have an average Sunday attendance (ASA) of 40 or less.

VOL believes that the figure of 2.3 million Episcopalians, regularly stated by TEC leaders and officials, does not reveal the true state of church attendance. More than two-thirds of this figure have either died, left the church, or attend twice a year, along with tens of thousands still on church rolls who have never been (and should be) removed. The only true standard to gauge the Episcopal Church’s health is Average Sunday Attendance (ASA).

The study undertaken by VOL staff reveals a church in sharp decline with 2219 churches having congregations of aging parishioners in their mid 60s with little or no chance of turnaround in the foreseeable future. There are virtually no young people coming forward to fill the gap. Those being trained in TEC’s liberal seminaries will have no message that is discernibly different from the prevailing culture.

What this foreshadows is that within the next 3 to 5 years more than 2,000 churches across the country will be forced to close, merge or be sold regardless of cash reserves or endowment because there will simply not be enough people in them to keep the doors open. Hundreds of clergy will be forced into early retirement; many will have to take secondary employment in an attempt to keep the doors open to a handful of aging congregants.

C. Kirk Hadaway, a church analyst on Denominational Growth and Decline, stated, "The age structure of The Episcopal Church suggests an average of forty thousand deaths and twenty-one thousand births, or a natural decline of 19,000 members per year, a population larger than most dioceses. The advanced-and still advancing-age of our membership combined with our low birth rate means that we lose the equivalent of one diocese per year."

All the fine talk of the church being “incarnational”, actively engaged in social work, and continued pursuit of Millennium Development Goals will not stop the hemorrhaging.

The consecration of the openly homosexual Bishop of New Hampshire, V. Gene Robinson, has proven to be the single greatest cause of conflict in The Episcopal Church. That action has resulted in rapidly declining and permanently lost members and financial decline with little hope of recovery. The metaphor most often used in the report was that “we failed to acknowledge the elephant in the room," referring to what many view as the momentous decision by the 74th General Convention (2003) to consent to Robinson’s consecration.

VOL examined all 6825 parishes and their Average Sunday Attendance (ASA). Records were taken from the Episcopal Church’s own 2009 ASA Graph Charts and the total number of churches in TEC Dioceses.

Churches with an ASA of 20 or less totaled 903.
Churches with an ASA of 20 – 30 totaled 612.
Churches with an ASA of 31 - 40 ASA totaled 704
Churches with an ASA of 41 - 50 ASA totaled 552
Churches with an ASA of 51 - 100 ASA totaled 1,826
Churches with an ASA of 101- 200 ASA totaled 1,454
Churches with an ASA of 201 - 500 ASA totaled 677

Some 2378 churches with ASA between 41- 100 are also not sustainable in the long term as their congregations are aging faster than the country’s demographics. Even those 1454 parishes with ASA of 101-200 can only be sustained if a new generation of Episcopalians can be found.

Parishes with congregations between 201 and 500 must generate and pull in a new generation of Episcopalians if they are to be sustainable for the long haul, but many of these will face stiff competition from a new generation of Evangelical converts and those leaving the Episcopal Church and heading to the Anglican Church in North America, as well as AMiA and CANA, that are fast establishing new parishes in major metropolitan areas.

Regarding the age structure of The Episcopal Church, two facts emerged. First, one of the top five priorities articulated by General Convention for the 2006-2009 triennium was "youth and young adults". However, the Executive Council, in developing the draft budget for the 2009 - 2012 triennium, did not list "youth and young adults" as one of their mission priorities. Second, in the recent reorganization of The Episcopal Church Center staff in New York City, the position of Staff Officer for Youth and Young Adult Ministries was eliminated with the duties of that officer re-distributed to other ministry areas.


Seven dioceses have a total ASA of less than 1,000.

They include:

Navajoland 198
Northern Michigan 624
Western Kansas 751
North Dakota 790
Eau Claire 872
San Joaquin (TEC) 948
Quincy (TEC) 967

NOTE: The Diocese of Eau Claire (872) and Fond du Lac (2266) will decide Oct. 22 whether to unite their people and form a new diocese and elect a new bishop.

Seven dioceses have an ASA of 1,000 - 1,999

They include:

Eastern Oregon 1,106
Western Massachusetts 1,206
Montana 1,626
Northwestern Pennsylvania 1,671
Idaho 1,752
Utah 1,770
Alaska 1,831

Thirteen dioceses have an ASA of between 2,000 -2,999 ASA

They include:

North Texas (TEC Ft. Worth) 2,000
Springfield 2,045
Northwest Texas 2,047
Nevada 2,116
Wyoming 2,123
South Dakota 2,179
Fond du Lac 2,266
Spokane 2,299
Northern Indiana 2,350
Pittsburgh (TEC) 2,481
Vermont 2,537
Eastern Michigan 2,709
Lexington 2,930

Eleven dioceses have an ASA of 3,000 - 3,999

They include:

Nebraska 3,033
Iowa 3,064
Easton 3,068
West Virginia 3,194
Hawaii 3,282
West Tennessee 3,439
Rochester 3,483
Western Louisiana 3,582
Kentucky 3,676
Western New York 3,849
Delaware 3,880

Thirteen dioceses have an ASA of 4,000 - 4,999

They include:

Bethlehem 4,006
New Hampshire 4,122
West Missouri 4,140
Kansas 4,198
Rio Grande 4,210
Southwestern Virginia 4,291
Indianapolis 4,305
Milwaukee 4,321
Western Michigan 4,360
Missouri 4,529
Arkansas 4,634
El Camino Real 4,627
Maine 4,737

Twenty-seven dioceses have an ASA of 5,000 -9,999

They include:

Central Pennsylvania 5,003
Central New York 5,024
Louisiana 5,217
East Tennessee 5,525
Oklahoma 5,584
Northern California 5,590
Rhode Island 5,601
Tennessee 5,788
Western North Carolina 6,471
Georgia 6,472
Mississippi 6,499
Central Gulf Coast 6,527
Albany 6,597
Oregon 6,641
East Carolina 7,079
San Diego 7,223
Michigan 7,310
Minnesota 7,782
Southern Ohio 8,088
Upper South Carolina 8,337
Ohio 8,493
California 8,792
Arizona 9,002
Newark 9,054
Florida 9,153
West Texas 9,491
Olympia 9,894

Eleven dioceses have an ASA of 10,000 -14,999

They include:

Alabama 10,326
Colorado 10,514
Southern Virginia 10,779
Maryland 11,520
Dallas 11,721
Southeast Florida 12,832
Chicago 13,270
South Carolina 13,885
Central Florida 14,059
Southwest Florida 14,271
New Jersey 14,919

Nine dioceses have an ASA of 15,000 -19,999

They include:

Washington, DC 15,072
Long Island 15,123
Pennsylvania 15,158
North Carolina 15,446
Atlanta 16,834
Connecticut 17,857
Massachusetts 18,130
New York 19,627
Los Angeles 19,815

Two dioceses have an ASA of 20,000

They are:

Virginia 24,771
Texas 27,042


The Episcopal Church has 87 Cathedrals in 82 Dioceses.

NOTE: * denotes Second Cathedral in Dioceses

Nine Cathedrals have less than an average Sunday attendance of 100

They are:

*Nebraska: St. Mark (Pro Cathedral) in Hastings 50
Pennsylvania: Our Saviour (Philadelphia Cathedral), Philadelphia, PA 76
Massachusetts: St. Paul, Boston, MA 78
Michigan: St. Paul, Detroit, MI 78
Pittsburgh (TEC): Trinity (Joint Cathedral), Pittsburgh, PA 79
*Minnesota: St. Stephen (First Cathedral), Faribault 80
Easton MD: Trinity 91
West Kansas: Christ Salina, KS 92
Fond du Lac: St. Paul 94

66 Cathedrals have an ASA of 101-500

100+ (26)
Delaware: St. John, Wilmington, 101
Central New York: St. Paul, Syracuse, NY 105
Wyoming: St. Matthew, Laramie, WY 105
Springfield: St. Paul, Springfield, IL. 115
New Jersey: Trinity, Trenton, NJ 118
Rhode Island: St. John, Providence, RI 122
Newark: Trinity & St. Philips, Newark, NJ 123
Montana: St. Peter, Helena, MT 125
Eau Claire: Christ Church, Eau Claire, WI. 127
*Bethlehem: St. Stephen (Pro Cathedral), Wilkes Barre, PA. 129
El Camino Real: Trinity, San Jose, CA 133
Northern Indiana: St. James, South Bend, IN 135
Connecticut: Christ Church, Hartford, CT 142
Milwaukee: All Saints, Milwaukee, WI 142
Kentucky: Christ Church, Louisville, KY 145
South Carolina: St. Luke & St. Paul, Charleston, SC 155
Northwestern Pennsylvania: St. Paul, Erie, PA 162
Iowa: St. Paul, De Moines, IA 164
*Iowa: Trinity (Historic Cathedral),Davenport, IA 165
West Tennessee: St. Mary, Memphis, TN 165
Vermont: St. Paul, Burlington, VT 166
Los Angeles: St. Paul (Cathedral Center), Echo Park, CA 167
South Dakota: Calvary, Sioux Falls, SD 176
Georgia: St. Paul the Apostle (Proto Cathedral), Savannah, GA 179
Nebraska: Trinity, Omaha, NE 183
Quincy (TEC): St. Paul. Peoria, IL 181

200+ (18)

Central Pennsylvania: St. Stephen, Harrisburg, PA 200
Utah: St. Mark, Salt Lake City, UT 200
Long Island: Incarnation, Garden City, NY 201
Western New York: St. Paul, Buffalo, N.Y. 203
Kansas: Grace, Topeka, KS 204
*Los Angeles: St. John (Pro Cathedral), Los Angeles, CA 204
Virginia: Transfiguration (Cathedral Shrine), Orkney Springs, VA 213
Western Massachusetts: Christ Church, Springfield, MA 216
North Dakota: Gethsemane, Fargo, ND 220
Albany: All Saints, Albany, NY 229
Central Gulf Coast: Christ Church, Mobile, AL 233
Spokane: St. John the Evangelist, Spokane, WA 233
Southeast Florida: Trinity, Miami, FL 248
Hawaii: St. Andrew, Honolulu, HI 250
Southern Ohio: Christ Church, Cincinnati, OH 265
Maine: St. Luke, Portland, ME 274
Bethlehem: Nativity, Bethlehem, PA 279
Southwest Florida: St. Peter, Saint Petersburg, FL 288

300+ (12)

Chicago: St. James, Chicago, IL 318
Mississippi: St. Andrew, Jackson, MS 320
Louisiana: Christ Church, New Orleans, LA 334
Missouri: Christ Church, St. Louis, MO 352
Maryland: Incarnation, Baltimore 355
Oklahoma: St. Paul, Oklahoma City, OK 355
West Missouri: Grace & Hoy Trinity, Kansas City, MO 355
Western North Carolina: All Souls, Ashville, N.C. 358
Arkansas: Trinity, Little Rock, AR 370
Rio Grande: St. John, Albuquerque, NM 370
Western Louisiana: St. Mark, Shreveport, LA 370
Lexington: Christ Church, Lexington, KY 388

400+ (10)

Florida: St. John, Jacksonville, FL 400
Indiana: Christ Church, Indianapolis, IN 407
Ohio: Trinity, Cleveland, OH 407
Idaho: St. Michael, Boise, ID 414
Arizona: Trinity, Phoenix, AZ 416
East Tennessee: St. John, Knoxville, TN 424
Central Florida: St. Luke, Orlando, FL 449
Olympia: St. Mark, Seattle, WA 465
Minnesota: St. Mark, Minneapolis, MN 466
Dallas: St. Matthew, Dallas, TX 474

10 Cathedrals have an ASA of 501 - 1,000

Oregon: Trinity, Portland, OR 511
Tennessee: Christ Church, Nashville, TN 533
Northern California: Trinity, Sacramento, CA 564
San Diego: St. Paul, San Diego, CA 600
New York: St. John the Divine, New York City, NY 667
Texas: Christ Church, Houston, TX 667
Colorado: St. John, Denver, CO 708
California: Christ Church, San Francisco, CA 711
Upper South Carolina: Trinity, Columbia, SC 748
Alabama: Advent, Birmingham, AL 958

Two Cathedrals have an ASA of 1,000+

Atlanta: St. Philip, Atlanta, GA 1,046
Washington, DC: Sts. Peter & Paul (National Cathedral) 1,630


They are:

East Carolina
Eastern Michigan
East Oregon
Northern Michigan
North Carolina
Northwest Texas
San Joaquin (TEC)
Southwestern Virginia
West Texas
West Virginia
Western Michigan
New Hampshire
North Texas (TEC Ft. Worth)
Southern Virginia

There are 10 "foreign" dioceses and 2 "foreign" jurisdictions with 487 "foreign" congregations with a combined ASA of 41,826.

There are 10 TEC Foreign Dioceses

Diocese # of Churches Diocesan ASA
Columbia 27 1,364
Dominican Republic 58 3,063
Ecuador -- Central 22 1,323
Ecuador -- Litoral 26 891
Haiti 99 16,631
Honduras 140 11,467
Puerto Rico 48 2,377
Taiwan 13 869
Venezuela 22 489
Virgin Islands 14 1,943

There are two TEC Foreign Jurisdictions
Micronesia 4 parishes with 135 ASA

The Episcopal Church in Europe has 14 congregations in six countries with an ASA of 1,274

Belgium -- 1
France -- 4
Germany -- 6
Italy -- 1
Switzerland -- 1
Austria – 1

The priorities Katharine Jefferts Schori has listed are evangelism, growth and congregational development; and what she called "mission to and with the least and poorest among us" and "innovation and efficiency and best practices." She said that those priorities "reflect significant continuity with where we've been, but I think they will continue to encourage us to grow and deepen our ministry to God's creation."

The problem with this is that Jefferts Schori's understanding of mission is not The Great Commission. Evangelism is not about seeking and saving the lost. For her, there are no lost to be saved, interfaith dialogue precludes any such talk. The new fangled language of the "other", the latest in Episcopal nomenclature along with inclusivity, diversity and pluriformity, guarantees that The Episcopal Church will continue to slide inevitably towards the abyss with no eye to pity and no arm to save.

Diocesan reports for 2010 numbers are due out on Sept. 1, 2011. The numbers will be sent to Hadaway for analysis.

Distribution of ASA among TEC dioceses. The ordering is a Zipf distribution showing the Pareto principle; i.e., about 80% of the dioceses report about 20% of the total ASA measure.
More than half of TEC’s bishops are leading dioceses with less than 5,000 average Sunday attendances.

Distribution of ASA income among TEC dioceses, assuming $10 per week from each attendee counted in ASA. This order of magnitude estimate was used in lack of actual data. Given the aging population in ASA attendance, the estimate is probably high. Averages are taken over the same five groupings shown in figure 1.

For half of TEC’s bishops, survival depends on the laws of economics, not the laws of Moses or Episcopal canons.

----Mary Ann Mueller contributed to this story

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