Sunday, October 11, 2015

11 October 2015 A.D. Episcopal Church drops below 2 million mark on Katie Jefferts Schori’s watch

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11 October 2015 A.D. Episcopal Church drops below 2 million mark on Katie Jefferts Schori’s watch
Mueller, Mary Ann. “The Episcopal Church drops below two million mark on PB Jefferts Schori’s watch.” 10 Oct 2015. Accessed 11 Oct 2015.

The Episcopal Church drops below two million mark on PB Jefferts Schori's watch
1939 was the last time The Episcopal Church had fewer than 2,000,000 members

By Mary Ann Mueller                       
VOL Special Correspondent
October 10, 2015

When the 2014 stats came out last week, it was no surprise that The Episcopal Church had again lost membership across the board. However, the newest released figures show that there is a dip in most church growth indicators -- total membership, ASA, congregations, baptisms, communicants, faith formation pupils, confirmations, and receptions from other Christian denominations. There is a slight uptick in marriages and an increase in funerals.

For the first time in 75 years, The Episcopal Church's total membership dipped below the two million member mark. TEC's just-released official 2014 stats show worldwide church membership standing at 1,956,042. The last time Episcopal Church membership was below two million was in 1939 when there were 1,996,434 Episcopalians.

At the close of World War II, the Episcopal Church had a high water mark of 7,894 congregations; following the war, with the glut of baby boomers, The Episcopal Church grew and and climbed over the three million mark in 1958 with 3,126,662 members. TEC's membership peaked in 1966 with a 3,429,153 baptized souls.

From 1967 until 2003, when gay Bishop Vicky Gene Robinson (IX New Hampshire) burst upon the scene, the Episcopal Church's membership ebbed and flowed -- up one year and down another. Once Bishop Robinson joined the House of Bishops, TEC's worldwide membership has steadily declined from 2,419,562 (2003) to 1,956,042 (2014), a loss of 463,520 souls in just a little more than a decade.

The 100 domestic dioceses of the Episcopal Church first dropped below two million members in 2010 when a 1,951,907 domestic membership figure was reported.

Presiding Bishop Katherine Jefferts Schori hands her reigns over to Presiding Bishop-elect Michael Curry (XI North Carolina) in three weeks on Nov. 1. During her nine-year administration, The Episcopal Church's numbers dropped in membership, ASA, congregations, baptisms, faith formation, confirmations, receptions, marriages, clergy, congregations, and dioceses.

In 2006 when Presiding Bishop Frank Griswold (PB XXV) handed the primatial crozier to the incoming twenty-sixth presiding bishop (reflecting the latest 2005 stats), there was a total Episcopal Church membership of 2,369,477 reflecting 50,061 baptisms; 281,191 faith formation pupils; 32,318 confirmations; 7,897 receptions from other denominations; 16,690 marriages; with an average of 830,706 Episcopalians attending Sunday worship in 7,635 congregations. Worldwide, 15,551 clergy served the church and there were 110 domestic and foreign dioceses.

Nine years later, now that the 26th Presiding Bishop is about to step down, she hands a smaller Episcopal Church over to the incoming 27th Presiding Bishop. The current 2014 stats show a worldwide membership of 1,956,042 reflecting 31,663 baptisms; 188,418 faith formation pupils 21,317 confirmations; 6,788 receptions from other denominations; 10,824 marriages, with an average of 634,348 Episcopalians attending Sunday worship in 7,044 congregations. The 2015 stats will not be compiled and released until the fall of 2016.

7,227 priests in the 99 dioceses -- the Diocese of Quincy was folded back into the Diocese of Chicago as the Deanery of Peoria --- currently serve the domestic church. During her tenure, Jefferts Schori saw more than 700 clergy deposed -- deacons, priests and bishops -- all felt the heavy-hand of being defrocked by the powers that be.

In 2006, when Jefferts Schori became the Presiding Bishop, only three Episcopal dioceses held out and did not ordain women to the priesthood -- San Joaquin, Quincy and Fort Worth. Now every Episcopal diocese, foreign and domestic, has women priests.

In fact, nine women were consecrated bishop during her stint including: Laura Ahrens (Connecticut-suffragan); Mary Gray-Reeves (III El Camino Real); Diane Bruce (Los Angeles-suffragan); Mary Glasspool (Los Angeles-suffragan); Mariann Budde (IX Washington, DC); Susan Goff (Virginia-suffragan); Anne Hodges-Copple (North Carolina-suffragan); Heather Cook (Maryland-suffragan); and Audrey Scalan (XI Central Pennsylvania). She was chief consecrator for each of them and in all 78 men and women have been joined the House of Bishops most of whom were consecrated by Jefferts Schori. Since 1989 when Barbara Harris (Massachusetts-suffragan) was consecrated an Episcopal bishop, 22 females have joint the Episcopal House of Bishops. Katharine Jefferts-Schori became an HOB member in 2001 when she became the third bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Nevada.

During Jefferts Schori's tenure as presiding bishop, five Episcopal dioceses have disaffiliated with the fold including: Pittsburgh (2007); San Joaquin (2007); Quincy (2008); Fort Worth (2008); and South Carolina (2012) taking 54,654 souls with them. She has spent millions of dollars taking the departing dioceses and their bishops to court while battling for buildings and diocesan identities.

Mary Ann Mueller is a journalist living in Texas. She is a regular contributor to VirtueOnline

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