An interesting survey conducted of members of The Episcopal Church by TEC itself documents its continuing decline.
First, it is aging, not a good sign.
Episcopalians are older than their neighbors, with 30 per cent aged 65 or older, compared to a national average of 13 per cent. Children and young people are found in Episcopal congregations at less than half their rate in the general population, the survey found.
Second, as is typical of mainline denominations, its leadership remains far more liberal than the average person in the pew, even after many conservatives have departed.
While the national church’s leadership as reflected in the Presiding Bishop, Executive Council, the elected Deputies to the General Convention and its bishops have swung sharply to the left over the past decade, this trend has not been repeated among people in the pews. These findings have also been reflected in the disconnect between the pronouncements of the House of Bishops on social issues, most always from a left wing perspective, and surveys of membership on issues such as immigration and economics, which find the church’s members more closely aligned with national secular survey samples.
The survey found the church evenly divided along theological grounds.
5 per cent call themselves “very liberal or progressive”; 24 per cent call themselves “somewhat liberal or progressive”; 41 per cent call themselves “moderate”; 23 per cent call themselves “somewhat conservative”; 7 per cent call themselves “conservative”.
This, however, may indicate that the pace of those leaving The Episcopal “Church” on theological grounds may slow. If only 7% of those who remain describe themselves as “conservative,” then most of those inclined to leave on principle may have already left.
Still, it is interesting that less than 30% in the pew describe themselves as even somewhat “liberal or progressive” at the same time that the leadership is all in for various lefty agendas.
And that makes me suspect The Episcopal Church will continue to bleed members in two ways: 1. Being carried away in a casket given the aging of members. And 2. Drifting way.
The second requires some explanation. I do not expect much more walking away in anger from The Episcopal Church. Those most provoked by the enormities of that denomination have already left. But many of those who remain, though not especially conservative, have watched their denomination lurch further and further away from them. Their attachment to TEC has been tried and weakened. So when such a person moves, marries a non-Episcopalian, and other of the usual life transitions that test church membership, that person will be less likely to try very hard to remain in TEC. They may even prefer to be done with it (not much unlike my leaving the mainline Presbyterian Church when I moved back to Texas years ago).
Thus, I think The Episcopal Church’s own survey documents an unhealthy and declining denomination indeed.