Attendance at Episcopal churches continues its downward spiral.
At the height of its popularity in the United States, the Episcopal Church had more than 3.5 million members. By 2010, that number dropped to less than 2 million, and the decline is still underway, according to numbers from the denomination's Office of the General Convention.
Institute of Religion and Democracy Communications Manager and Anglican Program Director Jeff Walton says the decline actually started in the back in the 1960s, but picked up steam again in the 80s and 90s with the writings of Episcopal theologian John Shelby Spong.
“He said in order for Christianity to survive and grow, Christians needed to go and shed traditionally understood beliefs – not only about human sexuality, but about the role of Jesus Christ, His identity, what sin and human nature looks like – a variety of different things that are pretty key to the Christian understanding of mankind and its relationship to God,” Walton pointed out.
He notes, however, that not all Episcopal Dioceses are deteriorating at the same rate.
“The domestic U.S. dioceses are declining at a much faster rate than the overseas dioceses,” Walton stressed. “It is distinctive because many of these overseas dioceses spoke out strongly against same-sex marriage.
In other countries, the Episcopal Church is known as the Anglican Communion, and in fact, a growing number of disaffected churches in the U.S. are signing up to be part of the more conservative Anglican Church in North America.
“The ACNA now has its own American leaders and is a small, but growing church,” Walton informed. “It has about 140,000 members that are spread across just over a thousand congregations that are now present in 49 U.S. states and 10 Canadian provinces.”