When the PB points out that pecusa has been in decline since 2000, years before the Anglican crisis that began in 2003 that is an untruth wrapped in a truth. The truth is that pecusa has been in decline since about 1966. There have been upticks, but the general pattern has been down. The downward trend deepened after 2003, but you won't hear the PB talk about that. ed.
Executive Council discusses trends in Episcopal Church membership
Researcher outlines characteristics of growing congregations
By Mary Frances Schjonberg, February 21, 2010
[Episcopal News Service – Omaha, Nebraska] The Episcopal Church's Executive Council heard here Feb. 21 that church membership and Sunday attendance continued to decline in 2008, but also heard a call for the church to promote knowledge of the characteristics of growing congregations.
During his statistic-laden hour-long report, Kirk Hadaway, the church's program officer for congregational research, told the council that congregations grow when they are in growing communities; have a clear mission and purpose; follow up with visitors; have strong leadership; and are involved in outreach and evangelism.
Congregations decline, he said, when their membership is older and predominantly female; are in conflict, particularly over leadership and where worship is "rote, predictable and uninspiring."
The primary source of the statistics for Hadaway's report is the canonically required (Canon 1.6.1) information filed annually with diocesan bishops by each congregation. The so-called parochial reports are due by March 1 of the following year. An example of the sort of information gathered is available here. Hadaway analyzed the data received to compile a variety of statistical reports and also cited a variety of surveys of church members that he and others have conducted.
The 2008 parochial reports show overall church membership at 2,225,682 people, with a total average Sunday attendance (ASA) at 747,376. Those totals compare with 2007 membership of 2,285,143 and total ASA at 768,476. The dioceses in the United States saw a 2.8 percent drop in membership and a 3.1 percent decrease in ASA. Overall church membership -- including 10 non-U.S. dioceses -- was down 2.6 percent and attendance dropped 2.7 percent for the entire church.
Hadaway suggested that "if we're going to turn this around -- or at least turn around the decline -- more attention needs to be paid to the things that result in growth, rather than to the broader cultural factors that are affecting our current patterns." Those cultural factors include such things as an aging population with declining birthrates and an increase in the number of Americans who claim no religious affiliation.
"The base problem is the fact that so many of our churches don't know why they're there," he said. "It's a caretaker sort of ministry, which is good and helpful, but it's a prescription for continuing decline."
Hadaway agreed with council member Brian Cole who suggested that "this is still ultimately a hopeful time for this way of being Christian" and said that the Episcopal Church ethos would seem to be appealing to those people who are wary of joining churches.
The problem, Hadaway said, is "we're not necessarily inviting them."
"We're just hoping they'll show up because of our lovely facilities, but then even when they're in, we don't really do anything necessarily to incorporate them," he said. "If you've been to a coffee hour, you know what I mean."
He added that very few congregations deliberately gather contact information from visitors and then follow up with them. He urged personal contact with newcomers, saying that parishes that deliberately follow up with visitors in a variety of ways are more likely to grow.
Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori said after Hadaway's report that she was struck that the most recent trend of declining membership began in 2000 and 2001, "long before the actions of General Convention 2003, which is often the spin that is out there." That meeting of convention consented to the ordination and consecration of New Hampshire Bishop Gene Robinson as the first openly gay and partnered bishop in the Anglican Communion. That decision caused intense debate across the church and the fracturing of some congregations and dioceses.
Some of the statistical reports Hadaway discussed were released Oct. 16, a week after Executive Council members received, but did not discuss, the findings during their Oct. 5-8 meeting in Memphis, Tennessee.
The median Episcopal Church congregation in 2008 had 164 active members (down four members from 2007) and 69 people in Sunday worship, the same as in the previous year. Membership declines in the Episcopal Church mirror a pattern seen in other Christian denominations. Recent nationwide data shows the median non-Roman Catholic congregation has 75 regular participants at worship on Sundays.
Four domestic Episcopal Church dioceses grew during 2008 in both overall membership and average Sunday attendance: Alabama, Navajoland Area Mission, North Dakota and Wyoming.
In the dioceses outside the United States, membership in the Diocese of Ecuador-Litoral grew by 8.6 percent, the Dominican Republic by 5.5 percent, Colombia by 4 percent and Taiwan by 3 percent, according to statistics available here.
The 2008 parochial report statistics are available in a diocese-by-diocese format here along with a "Fast Facts" report about the church's domestic dioceses here and a Fast Facts document that traces trends since 2004 here. Other analyses are here and here.
Also during the meeting
During the plenary session on Feb. 21, members also discussed the process for calling special meetings of council.
The issue arose in late November when 16 council members petitioned for a special meeting to discuss a possible statement on proposed Ugandan legislation that would introduce the death penalty for people who violate portions of that country's anti-homosexuality laws. After discussions about the request, the meeting was not held and Jefferts Schori issued a statement condemning the proposed changes.
The presiding bishop, as president of the Executive Council, may call a special meeting and a minimum of nine council members may petition in writing for such a meeting under Canon I.4 (4)(a). There have only been five such meetings in the last 110 years, according to the Rev. Dr. Gregory Straub, the church's executive officer.
At the end of the Feb. 21 discussion, Jefferts Schori told the council that "I think there is awareness in the room of how much energy … it takes to organize a special meeting, not to mention the fact that it takes getting on 40 people's calendars, which is not easy to do instantly."
"I would encourage us to be cautious in moves to call for a special meeting. It's an enormous burden on the system and on every council member, so let's reserve it for issues than cannot be resolved in any other way," she said.
The Feb. 19-22 meeting at the Omaha Hilton is taking place in the seat of the Episcopal Diocese of Nebraska. Council was to hear about the mission and ministry of the diocese on the evening of Feb. 21.
Earlier in the day, council and church center staff members worshiped with three Omaha parishes: All Saints, Church of the Resurrection and Trinity Episcopal Cathedral. Jefferts Schori preached and presided at All Saints, while House of Deputies President Bonnie Anderson preached at Church of the Resurrection on what in many Episcopal Church congregations was not only the First Sunday in Lent but also Episcopal Relief & Development Sunday. David Booth Beers, chancellor to the presiding bishop, preached at the cathedral, but did not have a text.
Council members had spent the afternoon of Feb. 19 and all day Feb. 20 in committee meetings. The five standing committees are called Local Ministry and Mission (LMM), Advocacy and Networking for Mission (A&N), World Mission (WM), Governance and Administration for Mission (GAM) and Finances for Mission (FFM).
The rest of the meeting
On Feb. 22, council will consider resolutions from those five committees as well as a letter to the church outlining its work in Omaha that a council subcommittee is drafting. Members will also get a briefing on Episcopal Relief & Development's work in Haiti since the earthquake.
Also on council's last day, members will elect a successor to council member and Diocese of Connecticut Bishop-elect Ian Douglas, who plans to resign at the end of the meeting. The person chosen will fill out the remainder of his six-year term which expires after General Convention in 2012.
The Executive Council carries out the programs and policies adopted by the General Convention, according to Canon I.4 (1)(a). The council is composed of 38 members, 20 of whom (four bishops, four priests or deacons and 12 lay people) are elected by General Convention and 18 (one clergy and one lay) by provincial synods for six-year terms, plus the presiding bishop and the president of the House of Deputies.