Episcopalians See Partial Attendance Rebound as Membership Melts Down

Sep 19, 2023 by

By Jeffrey Walton, Juicy Ecumenism.

As is the sixth largest cathedral in the world, the Episcopal Church’s landmark Washington National Cathedral seats about 4,000 worshippers. Across the Potomac River in Arlington, Virginia, Restoration Anglican Church, a congregation planted in 2009 as part of the Anglican Church in North America, has a building completed in 2014 that seats about 370.

Yet Restoration reported an Average Sunday Attendance (ASA) of 495 persons in 2022, while the National Cathedral reported 423 the same year. The Anglican parish also reports congregational giving (known as plate-and-pledge) of about twice the number of the Episcopal Cathedral, despite membership rolls of nearly twice the size (and a significant endowment) at the latter.

Neither Restoration nor the National Cathedral are broadly reflective of their respective denominations on a nationwide scale, with each listing larger-than-average congregations. But, as a local microcosm of churchgoers in a major metropolitan area, the two churches less than five miles apart may serve to illustrate a sea change in how each emerged following a period of COVID restrictions and a corresponding attendance drop.

Statistical Release

More than 55 percent of Episcopal parishes now find themselves in a state of long-term decline, dropping 10 percent or more across the past five reporting years, while only 12 percent are growing an equivalent amount across the same period, according to Episcopal Church statistics released today.

Information compiled from 2022 parochial reports by the Episcopal Church Office of the General Convention reveals a partial attendance rebound following the conclusion of COVID restrictions as well as a much steeper-than-usual decline in denominational membership.

Episcopal membership rolls dropped 88,306 persons from 1,520,388 in 2021 to 1,432,082 in 2022, down six percent, the largest single year loss reported in memory. The denomination has now lost 23 percent of members in the past 10 years, a rate that is accelerating.

Attendance increased by 56,306 persons across the same year, up 19 percent. However, this reflects only a third of the number lost in the prior year when attendance dropped by 165,328 persons due to COVID. The denomination shuttered a net 45 parishes in 2022, down from 6,294 to 6,249.

Read here.

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