Alarming Rate of Decreasing Membership In Mainline Protestant Denominations May Be Slowing Down

(PHOTO: MATT RHODES/THE FALLS CHURCH EPISCOPAL) The historic sanctuary of The Falls Church. A continuing congregation of The Episcopal Church worships on Easter Sunday, 2012.
(PHOTO: MATT RHODES/THE FALLS CHURCH EPISCOPAL)
The historic sanctuary of The Falls Church. A continuing congregation of The Episcopal Church worships on Easter Sunday, 2012.

There has been a lot of attention paid lately to the alarming numbers of a decreasing membership in mainline Protestant denominations in the United States in recent years.

Denominations like The Episcopal Church and Presbyterian Church (USA) have annually reported losses in membership and attendance figures for their churches.

However, the denominations are not losing members at as high of rates as in 2013, according to their spokespeople.

Dr. C. Kirk Hadaway, officer of congregational research with The Episcopal Church, told The Christian Post that while the most recent numbers for Episcopal congregations were “a cause for concern,” they are also “considerably reduced from those experienced during the previous 8 years.”

“During those 8 years losses were exacerbated by conflict in many congregations and the attempted efforts of several dioceses to disaffiliate,” said Hadaway. “Financially, income among congregations has rebounded after the worst years of the recession, but the increases in 2011, 2012 and 2013 are slightly below the rate of inflation.”

Hadaway’s comments come not long after the Episcopal Church’s Office of Research released the latest data on attendance and membership for the mainline Protestant denomination.

From 2012 to 2013, the denomination lost approximately 27,000 members, putting the total number of members in their domestic dioceses to about 1.866 million.

In 2009, in its domestic dioceses the church body had approximately 2.006 million members, or nearly 200,000 more than in 2013.

Regarding the losses, Hadaway told CP that the reasons are “complex” and also “not altogether the result of what Episcopal congregations have done or have not done.”

“Our members have much higher levels of education on average than the general population. The result is fewer births than deaths among our constituency,” said Hadaway. “There is also the legacy of conflict, which although it has abated greatly, remains a source of distraction and undermines the mission of congregations in some communities.”

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SOURCE: The Christian Post
Michael Gryboski

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