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Membership slide continues in mainline Episcopal Church

Membership in the Episcopal Church continues to decline. In one report, the number of baptized members dropped from 1.798 million to approximately 1.736 million between 2019 and 2020, resulting in a reduction of about 61,760 people.

The total number of members for 2020 is approximately 350,000 fewer than the total number of members in 2011 (2.096 million members). It also is less than half of the 3.6 million members reported in 1966. Another report reveals that the number of active baptized members in the Episcopal Church also is on the decline. In 2019, the number of baptized members was 1.6 million, whereas in 2020, only 1.5 million members were baptized.

Although the COVID-19 pandemic led to cancellations of in-person services, the Episcopal Church was seeing reductions in membership before government restrictions were put in place. Jeff Walton of the theologically conservative think tank Institute on Religion & Democracy, wrote that the Episcopal Church took a major hit in 2020.

“These numbers indicate a doubling in the rate of membership decline and a tripling in the rate of attendance decline over the previous year,” he said. “From 2019 to 2020, weddings across the denomination dropped from 6,484 to 3,530, down 46 percent (an additional 309 weddings were reported conducted online in virtual services). Children’s baptisms dropped from 19,716 to 7,286, down 67 percent. Adult baptisms dropped from 3,866 to 1,649, down 57 percent.

An Episcopal priest and professor earlier this year warned that the denomination could cease to exist by 2050 if the decline in membership continues. Reasons behind the departures range from an aging demographic to the church’s progressive direction, which has prompted conservative members to leave. Another reason for the decline in membership is the general reduction of religious affiliation in the United States.

–Alan Goforth | Metro Voice

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