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Anglican Church of Canada Report: Dire Statistics?

Anglican Church of Canada Report: Dire Statistics?

Several news outlets are reporting that a document released as part of the General Synod meeting which took place in Mississauga, Ontario earlier this month, shows that the Church’s membership is in a precipitous decline.

From Religion News Service:The report, which was commissioned by the church, was delivered to the Council of General Synod meeting November 7-9 in Mississauga, Ontario.

“Projections from our data indicate that there will be no members, attenders or givers in the Anglican Church of Canada by approximately 2040,” said the Rev. Neil Elliot, an Anglican priest in Trail, British Columbia, who authored the report.

Elliot based his prediction on church statistics from 1961 to 2001, subscriber data to the “Anglican Journal,” the church’s official publication, and data from his own survey of the number of people on parish rolls, average Sunday attendance and regular identifiable givers across Canada.

“For five different methodologies to give the same result is a very, very powerful statistical confirmation which we really, really have to take seriously and we can’t dismiss lightly,” he told church leaders during the synod.

Membership in the Anglican Church fell from a high of 1.3 million in 1961 in membership to 357,123 in 2017, said Elliot.

CVHN Radio injects a note of hope into leaders’ response to the situation:

Anglican leaders believe this new development will test the perseverance, endurance, and creativity of the church. 

Although the numbers are dire, Anglican leaders say that the church should stay positive and continue to share the Word of God as the body of Christ. 

The Winnipeg Free Press further reports that,

During the meeting, Archbishop Linda Nicholls, Primate of the Anglican Church of Canada, said while the news was a “wake-up call,” she hoped members would focus more on the church’s calling to be a faithful witness in Canada, instead of being drawn into a “vortex of negativity” about the decline.

“We’re called to do and be God’s people in a particular place, for the purpose of sharing the good news of Jesus Christ, and the only question is: ‘How do we need to share it, so that it might be heard by those around us?’” she said.

“I think we’re being tested about perseverance, endurance, creativity in the coming years,” she said, noting “we do not face our challenges alone.”

… While that’s a cause for concern, it’s not a “death knell for the church, [the Rt. Rev. Geoff] Woodcroft [bishop of Rupert’s Land] said, as it can’t account for “the vitality of the ministry being done by Anglicans” across Canada.

Anglicans in Manitoba are responding to their communities and neighbourhoods, together with thriving churches such as St. Margaret’s and St. Benedict’s Table (both in Winnipeg), Woodcroft said, calling the efforts a “credit to those people and those communities.”

 

 

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Jon White
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Jon White

There are trends and choices made in the past that have brought us here. Many of our parishes are located in places where the population has declined (this was a big issue in WV) and we haven't done the work of planting new ones in growing communities. Many congregations live in buildings that are expensive to maintain. Our ideal way of church, a highly educated middle class priest in every parish, is about the most expensive model for doing church out there. And amid all that, we have had a long unfolding catechetical crisis where we have plainly not done the work of the great commission, opting instead for society-at-large to bring people in and over-relying on liturgy to do the hard work of formation. Mix in the off-putting antics of "Christians" shilling for partisan politics and the still unfolding tragedy of the sexual abuse crisis and there is a perfect storm of headwinds against the church. And yet, there are amazing faith-filled places where people are practicing the disciplines of faith, where congregational life really is an encounter with Christ, and where people are on fire for Jesus and His mission. I don't bemoan the loss of W.R. Huntington's vision of the church, but I do take hope in Christ's example and promises and all the ways I see it unfold around me.

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mike geibel
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mike geibel

There is wisdom and hope in your words. The decline of the TEC is no cause for joy—if performed authentically, a liturgical service is inspirational and devotional. But when the Church pursues political issues using pledge money, those who disagree with its politicking have the right to refuse to contribute one minute of their time or one penny of their savings.

I have joined a growing, non-denominational church whose congregants are mostly young, probably more liberal than their parents, and who are searching for guidance on how they should live their lives and not hearing about who or what they should vote for, what “social justice issue” they should protest, or angst over whether God is “him” or “her.” Young believers are often straddled with college loans, the costs of raising a family, the daunting price tag of buying a home, and the relentless demands of more and more of their paycheck led by those pushing for higher taxes, free healthcare, and government preferences for everyone else but them. Someone will have to pay the costs, and it will not be the super rich or the corporations, which merely pass cost increases on to the consumer or go out of business. The Church needs to learn that umbrellas, iPhones and politics are better left at the door.

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Simon Burris
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Simon Burris

Puts me in mind of a two-part Youtube video I watched recently, "Myth of the Decline of the Episcopal Church," which is basically a keynote delivered by Ian Markham, Dean VTS.

The video was made in 2013. Markham lines up the various stages of decline seen in the church over the decades with this or that social cause or movement. Then he argues that the reports of decline are a "myth," in large part because we had not been counting kids going to Episcopal schools, or oldsters in Episcopal nursing homes. Finally, he posits that "we have seen the worst" and that things should level off soon. That was in 2013.

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Christopher Seitz
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Christopher Seitz

Yes, looks like that was a poor evaluation of the reality. Of course, seminary deans want not to put off prospective students. But look at ACoC. Clergy numbers going up! and decline going faster.

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Jon White
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Jon White

His math(s) might be good but I think his sociology is off. To predict that something like the Anglican Church of Canada (or TEC for that matter) will completely cease to exist two decades hence is chicken-littleish at the least. Most of the people reading this story are likely to be alive in 2040. My parish is solvent, with no existential building maintenance concerns, holding a small endowment, and adding members, as are others in every diocese. And though I have no expectation that the current organizational structures and habits will continue unaltered, I have every expectation that there will be an Episcopal Church to greet me on my 73rd birthday. A more likely scenario is a levelling out a still lower number with re-imagined ways of being the church together. A winnowing, if you will, of bad habits and structures that are not of the Spirit.

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mike geibel
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mike geibel

The TEC has too much money and assets to disappear, and eventually it will plateau to become a fringe denomination. The TEC will continue in part due to bequests from dead Anglicans and the sale of buildings belonging to ejected congregations. There are too many buildings, too few people and too many congregations that cannot afford to pay for their priest or maintain their buildings. In 4 years, the TEC has lost over 120,000 members, and ASA is down to 53, with more churches closing every year. There are many causes for the decline, but in a shrinking audience of believers, the social justice warriors and outraged apologists for the evils of White America have wrecked their havoc. The architects of decline deny any cause and effect and continue to sacrifice membership on the altar of political correctness. There is no activist, liberal denomination in the United States that reports year-over-year growth. None.

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Eric Bonetti
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The same timeline is, according to some sources, roughly the end date for TEC as we know it. It is time for folks to quit shuffling the deck chairs and take things seriously. Just like climate change deniers, pretending this isn’t a real issue won’t solve it.

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christopher r seitz
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christopher r seitz

Sharp declines like this are difficult to process. True as well for TEC's situation. Numbers are numbers and people can adjust and offer anodyne commentary. I suspect the matter takes a different character when salaries are not available, schemes for merging this and that fizzle, buildings get sold off, funerals of the last stalwarts are conducted. 92,000 in all of Canada. Soon that will be 50,000. Ditto in TEC and CofE. You could effectively wipe out a church by killing or deporting untold numbers of religious opponents, as in France. But a slow and steady fizzling out is harder to comprehend. In a way it is just hard to believe it has come to this.

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