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Data pointing toward reality

Data pointing toward reality

Lelanda Lee (Twitter: @LelandaLee) has kept careful track of the current Executive Council meeting, and I suspect many are carefully following her reportage. Using the hashtag #ExCounMtg, she’s operating out of an ethic that the people of The Episcopal Church deserve optimal transparency from its administrative bodies.

Particularly illuminating was a section of tweets during a presentation by TEC’s go-to guys for trends and data, Kirk Hadaway and Matthew Price. Lee had many observations and extrapolations, and among them we find:

Hadaway showing membership of TEC domestic diocs 1951-2010, pretty consistent, steady (not precipitous) decline since early 1970s

Hadaway speaks to graph of 1991-2010 membership stats, decline since about 2002, abt 50K members per yr decline

Hadaway says since 2002/03 pctge decline began to overshadow any increases in membership

Hadaway: decline since 2002 has been more sizable; lots of graphs, too quick to appreciate & understand; will look at PPT later?

Leading us to wonder: shouldn’t we all be paying pretty close attention to the facts and figures Hadaway and Price have presented to Executive Council?

We had best take an interest! Slide after slide tells the story of a numerically diminishing denomination, with a few bright spots and windows of opportunity (churches with younger members are more likely to grow; the Sunbelt as a place of church vitality).

The news is not great:

… slipping domestic membership

… fewer growing churches and more declining churches

… fewer pledge cards, members, communicants in good standing, and Easter pew-sitters

On a slide titled Broader Measures of Church Vitality, researchers use a number of measurements to “speak to a parish’s integration in the community and the possibility for future growth.”

  • Change in church school enrollment: -33%
  • Change in number of marriages performed: -41%
  • Change in number of burials/funerals: -21%
  • Change in the number of child baptisms: -36%
  • Change in the number of adult baptisms: -40%
  • Change in the number of confirmations: -32%


While these numbers may not capture the totality of what is happening in the Church, we do not have a measure that is moving in a positive direction.

So, c’mon already: let’s get into this and approach it with whatever realistic hope there is, and start making sense of our Really Real Reality. What do you think? Where would you start?

By the way, the totality of tweets about Hadaway’s presentation(s?) is below. Just click READ MORE.

Due to the way Twitter works, you’ll have to start at the bottom and scroll your way up.

Hadaway: decline since 2002 has been more sizable; lots of graphs, too quick to apprePB praises stats attn to non US diocs. Good info and some good insights can and do arise

Q re whether we track for those who are seeking vs those who are ordained; Price answers not being done now

Q re why not so many Gen X ordiantions: Price says not-joining profile of Gen X significant factor, diff experience from Boomers

Hadaway says figures of congreg losses in 4 diocs are reflected as nonreptg, noticeable but not signifcant against rest of stats

Q re whether 4 diocs losing large % of congregs is reflected in stats; Hadaway says recognized but not specific accted for

Hadaway – in resp to Q, giving to TEC somewhat better than general charitable giving

Q whether ethnic clergy figures are broken down? Price answers info avail as part of survey data but not recorded otherwise

Q re avg age of ordination: figures are based on annual info answers Price.

Hadaway: congregations reptg financial stress 78% of TEC vs 58% in US over 10 yrs til 2009/10

Hadaway back on finances. Avg pledge contd to incr to latest figures in 2009

Price: Avg age of active clergy at 56; avg age of ordination remains at 46

Price, statistician for CPF, 9000 active clergy & 6000 retd; numbers will cross at some point

Hadaway: 86.7% non Hispanic White in TEC; English only churches 28% are growing=95% of churches; > one language 61% are growing

Hadaway: churches w/more members 49 and younger more likely to grow. High correlation age w/growth & decline

Hadaway: TEC youth and young adults about 10% vs 20+% in other denoms. We are an aging church. We knew that.

Hadaway: more church closings (510) than opening (213) past ten yrs

Hadaway: sunbelt growth pattern across board of all denoms incl evangelical churches

Hadaway: increasing becoming more of a sunbelt church, incls southern diocs & CA & southwest

Hadaway: back to a sunbelt pattern, less decline there, in 2010; 40% ASA in southern diocs in US

Hadaway: ASA 1995-2000 from CPG mapping program, a map of Avg Sunday Attendance, growth in CA, TX, Miss, GA, VT

Hadaway: Other mainline denoms combined – TEC very close to their decline figures in early 2000’s; also difficult for all denoms

Hadaway: larger declines in child & adult baptisms and in confirmations 30-40% rates; no measuremts showing positive direction

Hadaway: looking at broader measures of church vitality such as changes in church school enrollmt; marriages performed; burials

Hadaway: 22.1% decline in pledge cards; 22.3% decl in worship attendance; 20.1% decl in Easter attendance; 2002-2010 stats

Hadaway: Methodist Ch would look better than TEC; but Presbyterians would look worse in terms of declines

Hadaway: decline since 2002 has been more sizable; lots of graphs, too quick to appreciate & understand; will look at PPT later?

Hadaway says since 2002/03 pctge decline began to overshadow any increases in membership

Hadaway speaks to graph of 1991-2010 membership stats, decline since about 2002, abt 50K members per yr decline

Hadaway showing membership of TEC domestic diocs 1951-2010, pretty consistent, steady (not precipitous) decline since early 1970s

Kirk Hadaway & Matthew Price giving rept on Parochial Repts, demographics of TEC


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I am glad to see Tobias full of more spirit. John has pointed to a problem. Our easy accomodation with secularism has not been helpful. But Hell and self-improvement? Certainly the latter has been trumpeted within for as long as I have been in the church, How we both affirms certain aspects of secualarism and oppose others is, I believe, crucial. But more is needed than bromides about justice and turning to Christ – both of wchich are laudable. We lack a way to attack meaninglessness and we are loathe to name the principalities – work, sex, nationalism, power, entertainment – the idols which the culture seeks but which in fact enslave. That is we need to explore the many ways we are saved in and by Jesus. And may I suggest we cut this nonsense of praying to the “Holy One’ or in “his holy name” the conventional dodge to facing Jesus square on.

tobias haller

John, I agree with your conclusion but not your argument. I don’t think TEC “caused” the societal shifts to which I refer — but I do think it reflected them. And we are not alone: Vatican II did much the same for the RCC.

Ultimately, the Church needs to start preaching — but better — living the Gospel, which is about salvation in and with others, as opposed to the individualist salvation either of fundamentalist Christianity or the Barnes & Noble spirituality department. I think our Baptismal Covenant says it all — but the biggest gap is between what those words say and what we practice: too much easy-peasy and a warm “welcome” to a comfortable pew, making few demands in the hearty language of rejecting Satan and turning to Christ and working for justice and peace. It isn’t enough just to say those pious words. We are, above all, not called to accommodate society, but to transform it. And sadly, much of the institutional church stands in its own way… Like the disciples in Gethsemane, we have been sleeping while we should have been watching, praying and working. It is time to wake up and get to work.

A Facebook User

Brief introduction… I’m a 39 y.o. cradle Episcopalian who continues to call myself an Episcopalian only tenuously. That is, my understanding of catholic order dictates that I be an Episcoplaian if I am to be an Anglican structurally, but I have fundamental theological disagreements with the recent past and future trajectory of TEC’s leadership.

Oddly, then, I agree with several of Fr. Hallas’s observations above, (though I disagree with his asessment of the needs we should look to fulfil).

I agree that the decline in interest in institutional religion does have a lot to do with the rise of personal spirituality, (as opposed to straight atheism). One only need to observe the religion shelves at Barnes & Noble overflowing with this kind of mystic drivel–yet with relatively few volumes advocating atheism–to understand that people are still searching for something.

I’ll also concede the proposal, (though I would have used different language), that past primary motivations for churchgoing/belonging are (1) you’ll go to Hell if you don’t and (2) all the best people do it.

Let me ask, though, if this is the case, why does no one realize that TEC has shot itself in the foot? That TEC has made itself responsible for its own decline? I mean, for years TEC has advocated for and contributed to a culture that no longer believes in Hell, and stigmatizes personal wealth and social status. The very reason a society exists that believes church attendance is not fundamental to their salvation, and seeks to punish the successful and elite, is because TEC helped create it! Why then are we mystified at our decline?

Two of the greatest crying needs of the world ARE salvation and self-improvement, (avoidance of Hell and becoming the “best people”). The church should be re-creating the society that is drawn to the church, not changing to accommodate society’s perceived yet irrelevant needs.

John H. Campbell


The crying needs out there now are, to my view, (1) transcendence and (2) relevance to the needs of the world.

I think this is exactly right, tobias haller. And the first belongs to the second, “needs of the world,” category, I think.

In particular, we just cannot assume any more that people coming into the church know anything about it; we need to explain ourselves, and why Christianity is “relevant to the needs of the world.”

We need, in other words, to have something to say other than “we don’t check our brains at the door.” That’s fine – and true enough – but it’s nowhere close to sufficient. That phrase fits people who already have – usually unfavorable – experience with Christianity. But it doesn’t say anything at all to people who don’t; it’s completely meaningless, in fact.

We don’t seem very articulate about how the faith can address “the needs of the world,” and I think we need to get lots more so. In fact, I think we need to show how it’s done exactly that, in the past and today.

I joined the church after 35 years outside it precisely because of what I observed about the “institution” – and the “institution” was the Catholic Church, BTW! – and the way it treated human beings: as if we were worthy of respect and had a dignity outside of what the world decided we were worth. It’s pretty much the main reason I’m still here.

We need to make a case for the church – and we can.


Tobias, there is a thin line between preaching the gospel to a current generation and a ‘marketing pitch”. In fact one may have to advert to the latter in order somehow to arrive at the former. Indeed I am in favor of such things as determining why the few who have joined our church did so, as well as determing our “market” niche. We also have much to learn from the evangelicals (even if we have to stay a bit clear). In other words full steam ahead: learn all we can and try as much as we can. You are still too cautious and pessimistic.


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