Episcopal Church in Decline? Denomination Loses Nearly 50K Members, Closes 69 Parishes

The Episcopal Church continues to experience losses in both church attendance and membership, according to recently released numbers from the denomination’s Office of the General Convention.

From 2013 to 2014, active baptized members in domestic dioceses went from 1.866 million to 1.817 million, representing a loss of nearly 50,000 members.

The statistics reveal that in 2014 that average Sunday attendance was a little over 600,000 in domestic dioceses, down from approximately 623,000 in 2013.

2014’s numbers are even more telling when compared with 2009, when the theologically liberal Episcopal Church had about 200,000 more members and over 80,000 more Sunday worship attendees.

Jeff Walton, Anglican program director at the theologically conservative Institute on Religion & Democracy, noted in a blog entry last week other aspects of decline for the Church.

“Other measures of Episcopal Church vitality also saw decline: the denomination reported the shuttering of 69 parishes and missions, down from 6,622 in 2013 to 6,553 in 2014,” wrote Walton.

“Children’s baptisms declined 4.8 percent from 25,822 to 24,594 and adult baptisms declined during the same time-frame from 3,675 to 3,530, a decline of nearly 4 percent.”

The losses experienced between 2013 and 2014 are nearly double the roughly 27,000 fewer members between 2012 and 2013.

This is likely because of the actions of the Episcopal Diocese of South Carolina, the majority of whose members and leadership opted to leave the national denomination.

As a result of the November 2012 vote, the diocese and the denomination have been in a legal battle over numerous church properties, valued in the hundreds of millions of dollars.