Episcopalian Church Membership Dips Below 2 Million
CP: Although at one time a large and influential religious denomination in North America, a fact sheet published by The Episcopal Church shows that its membership has dipped below two million members.
The survey of membership trends noted that in 2006 there were over 2.1 million “Active Baptized Members” in the church. By 2010, however, the number decreased to less than 1.96 million.
Jeff Walton, communications manager for the Institute on Religion and Democracy and staff member of the IRD’s “Anglican Action” program, believes that many factors have contributed to this decline.
“The Episcopal Church's numerical decline comes from a drop in baptisms, departures sparked by disagreements within the church over the authority of Scripture and the identity of Jesus Christ, and a decrease in evangelism as Episcopalians focus increasingly on social charity,” Walton explained to The Christian Post.
“The spread of universalist theology within Episcopal seminaries has extinguished the urgency of winning souls, and the church has been largely unsuccessful in reaching immigrant populations which are disproportionately attracted to Roman Catholic and Pentecostal churches.”
Walton was not optimistic about The Episcopal Church’s ability to reverse the downward trend, considering the rapid decrease in marriages and baptisms within the denomination as a sign of still more decline in the future.
“The charismatic faction of the denomination, responsible for much of its new church planting in the recent past, has almost completely departed, as have a significant number of low church evangelicals,” said Walton.
“These departures are significant not just for the number of people who have left The Episcopal Church, but for the people whom they would have brought into it through evangelism and procreation.”
At their peak, Episcopalians in the United States numbered 3.6 million members, which was in 1966. Along with other mainline Protestant denominations, the church declined from the 1960s to the present.
Many exited the denomination following the 2003 consecration of openly gay bishop the Rt. Rev. V. Gene Robinson and later the decision in 2009 by The Episcopal Church’s highest legislative body to open the ordination process to all baptized members, which many saw as giving the green light to practicing homosexuals.
Some 100,000 conservative members left and formed their own body, called the Anglican Church in North America, that year (2009).
The Episcopal Church is part of the worldwide Anglican Communion, which has about 80 million members and is increasing in numbers in the more socially conservative global south.