Nearly 35,000 members left the Episcopal Church (TEC) in the United States last year – continuing a decade-long downward spiral for the Left-leaning Christian denomination.
The steady decline in membership was divulged through a 2016 statistical report recently released by TEC.
Plummet in the pews
According to the figures, 2016 saw a decrease of 34,179 members of the Episcopalian Church, while 37,669 were lost the previous year. The data also indicated that the average decrease in Episcopalians attending Sunday worship services last year dramatically fell by 9,327.
The significant drop has diminished a substantial percentage of the congregation.
“The American Anglican church has lost nearly a fifth of its members in the last five years and continues to decline by around 2 percent year-on-year,” ChristianToday.com pointed out. “Officials were quick to point out that although average Sunday attendance – a key measure of a church's health – was declining, the rate of decline was slowing.”
Looking past the sheer drop in congregants, TEC General Convention Executive Officer Canon Michael Barlowe focused on the fact that a few thousand less people left church in 2016 than in the previous year.
"The 2016 data reflects a continuation of recent trends, although rates of decline in such key figures as Average Sunday Attendance have decreased," Barlowe revealed in the report, which also surprisingly divulges that the denomination’s financial state has relatively not altered. "Overall, congregational income through pledges and other offerings has remained constant."
But there is no mistake that the Episcopalian Church as we know it in the U.S. is diminishing – substantially.
“Over the last 10 years, the average Sunday attendance has fallen by a quarter – leading to the closing down of 37 parishes in the last year,” The Christian Post (CP) reported. “TEC now has 6,473 congregations across the country.”
Embracing the social gospel over God’s Gospel …
The reasoning behind the drop in numbers in Episcopalian churches across America reportedly has much to do with the denomination’s rejection of the Bible’s teaching on sexuality.
“One factor in the decline was the liberal theological direction of the denomination – including its growing acceptance of homosexuality and gay marriage,” CP’s Anugrah Kumar pointed out. “In 2003, when it appointed its first openly gay bishop, the Rev. Gene Robinson, scores of congregations left the denomination.
Bishop Maryann Budde, who is based in the Diocese of Washington, mentioned the decline during a sermon she gave in March.
"There's no doubt in my mind that the Jesus Movement is alive and well in the Diocese of Washington,” Budde declared from the pulpit, according to a sermon transcript posted on the Diocese of Washington’s website. “I cannot say the same about the Episcopal branch of the Jesus Movement in all of its expressions.”
Without addressing the negative effect liberal theology has on attendance, she promised that she would wholeheartedly try to reverse the downward trend.
“And on my watch, I will do everything in my power – redirect every resource I can, examine every assumption about how we do things and why – in order to promote greater spiritual health, joy and capacity for ministry throughout the diocese,” Budde continued. “That includes evaluating all that it costs the diocese for me to be part of the House of Bishops. I must evaluate my efforts, and ours, based on the fruits they produce."
Mega mergers rebounding attendance?
The two Christian denominations leaning furthest to the Left believe that merging will help to rebound – or at least hide – the declining numbers.
“TEC and the United Methodist Church [UMC] are formally contemplating entering into ‘full communion,’ which would include recognizing each other's sacraments and ministries, within the next five years,” Kumar informed.
Kyle R. Tau – who serves as ecumenical staff officer for Faith and Order and Theological Development for the UMC’s Council of Bishops – described the merger in more detail.
"It is called 'full communion' because it centers around bringing individual churches together around our celebration of the Eucharist," Tau explained to CP in May. "Denominations do not merge together in a full communion agreement. Yet, while remaining structurally and organizationally distinct, the full communion agreement recognizes that through our mutual baptism and in the breaking and sharing of bread, we are joined together in the one church of Christ."
This movement is said to be well underway.
“According to Tau, the UMC is already in full communion with other Christian denominations, most notably the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, the African Methodist Episcopal Church, and the Moravian Church,” Kumar noted.
No reports have yet been obtained as to how the “full communion” has affected the Episcopalian Church’s dwindling numbers.