Episcopal Church Baptisms Dry Up

David Virtue david at virtueonline.org
Wed Dec 24 16:24:30 EST 2014

Episcopal Church Baptisms Dry Up

By Jeff Walton
December 20, 2014

Last week the Task Force on Re-imagining the Episcopal Church released a
report ahead of next year's General Convention of the Episcopal Church
in Salt Lake City. The 73-page report proposes significant structural
changes and -- in some places -- glimmers of candor can be seen, such as
acknowledgement that "...many of our parishes are no longer financially
self-sufficient and cannot afford full-time stipended clergy."

As Episcopal Church officials struggle with how to re-organize an
unwieldy bureaucracy and legislative body formed for a much larger
church, more bad news is dripping out.

The denomination's Office of Research has compiled the self-reported
statistical tables for provinces and dioceses for the last reporting
year (2013). In October IRD reported on overall declines in attendance
and membership in the Episcopal Church, but the updated statistical
tables provide much more detailed information on baptisms, marriages,
confirmations and parish closures. (2012 statistical tables can be found
here as a basis of comparison)

The report reveals that in U.S. dioceses, baptisms are down five percent
from 27,140 in 2012 to 25,822 in 2013. Similarly, marriages are down
four percent from 10,366 to 9,933 (the denomination has seen a 40
percent decline in children baptized since 2003 and a 46 percent decline
in marriages over the same period). The losses are not evenly
distributed, with some dioceses performing worse than others: in the
Diocese of Northern Michigan, where an ordained Buddhist was elected
(and later failed to gain consent from other dioceses) to be bishop in
2009, zero children were confirmed in 2013.

Episcopal "renewing" dioceses in San Joaquin and Fort Worth are also
continuing to struggle: Fort Worth closed five parishes in 2013 (from 22
to 17), with San Joaquin closing two (21 to 19). Pittsburgh added one
new parish (36 to 37). Other diocese closing parishes include Maryland
(4) and Massachusetts (3), with most of the dioceses in Northeastern
Province 1 seeing the closure of at least one parish.

Despite continuing to claim over 70 parishes and 28,000 members
following the Episcopal Diocese of South Carolina (DioSC) and the vast
majority of its parishes ending their affiliation with the Episcopal
Church, the renewing Episcopal Church in South Carolina (ECSC) has
posted updated information on baptisms and weddings, showing a drop from
388 children's baptisms in 2012 to only 135 in 2013. South Carolina
reported 170 children and 143 adults confirmed in 2012, dropping to 54
children and 37 adults in 2013.

A new "fast facts" summary sheet reveals that over 45 percent of
Episcopal parishes have either no priest (12.3 percent) or only a part
time or unpaid priest (33.2 percent). Just over a third of Episcopal
parishes have one full-time priest (34.9 percent) while less than 20
percent have multiple priests (19.7 percent). Median Average Sunday
Worship Attendance has dropped from 64 persons in 2012 to 61 persons in

Forty percent of parishes have reported membership declines of 10
percent or greater during the past 10 years, while 52 percent report a
decline of 10 percent or greater in attendance over the same period.

Episcopalians do have one possible bright spot from last year to report:
the average pledge rose from $2,491 to $2,553, and total "plate and
pledge" income rose from $1,303,458,185 to $1,313,395,473, an increase
of 0.8 percent. Unfortunately, this failed to keep pace with the 1.5
percent inflation rate between 2012 and 2013.

The total investments held by Episcopal congregations also rose from
$3,920,736,285 to $4,317,158,557 in 2013, reflecting improvements in
financial markets.


More information about the VirtueOnline mailing list