According to a new report by the Episcopal Church, the mainline denomination saw a continued decline in church membership and worship attendance in 2021.
As highlighted by statistics released last week, the Episcopal Church had approximately 1.678 million baptized members in 2021, which is nearly 60,000 fewer members than the 1.736 million reported for 2020.
Since 2012, when the denomination had over 2 million members, membership numbers have dropped by nearly 400,000 people.
Additional statistics by the Episcopal Church found a decline in average worship attendance. In 2021, the denomination had about 312,000 worship attendees on average, which is fewer than the 483,000 members attending services in 2020.
The 2021 attendance numbers also differ from pre-pandemic numbers in 2019, in which the church had over 547,000 worship attendees on average. As reported by The Christian Post, those numbers dropped during the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020 as subsequent lockdowns prevented in-person gatherings.
According to the Episcopal News Service, there is still “room for optimism” for the church despite the decline in membership based on some of the recent statistics.
“The number of active baptized members, though down by more than 3 percent for the second straight year, is nearly in line with recent historical trends, showing a more gradual decline that is mirrored by other mainline Protestant denominations,” ENS said.
“The pandemic, meanwhile, did not halt the ongoing trend of rising pledges. The average Episcopal pledge increased in 2021 to $3,339, and overall plate and pledge income was up more than 3 percent for the year.”
Meanwhile, Jeff Walton of the Institute on Religion & Democracy noted in a recent blog post that “dioceses posting the largest year-over-year membership declines were found across different regions.”
“Across the past decade, only the Diocese of Navajo Missions has reported any increase in membership, with some domestic dioceses reporting declines in that time period of up to 75 percent,” he wrote.
“Attendance similarly declined across all domestic dioceses but was especially pronounced in Oregon (-56.2 percent), Newark (48.2 percent), Maryland (49.4 percent), Easton (46.7 percent), Lexington (50.8 percent), North Carolina (-52.8 percent) and Iowa (-48.9 percent).”
One reason that the Episcopal Church has had a decline in membership over the years has to do with its liberal stance. For instance, many congregations left the denomination in 2003 when the Episcopal Church ordained its first openly gay bishop.
As Christian Headlines previously reported, an Episcopal priest and professor warned that the Episcopal Church would cease to exist by 2050 if the attendance numbers continue to plummet.
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Milton Quintanilla is a freelance writer and content creator. He is a contributing writer for Christian Headlines and the host of the For Your Soul Podcast, a podcast devoted to sound doctrine and biblical truth. He holds a Masters of Divinity from Alliance Theological Seminary.