(CP) The US Episcopal Church saw a decline of over 90,000 members in 2022, but also witnessed a considerable increase in Sunday worship attendance, according to a new report.
According to an analysis of parochial data released on Monday, the Episcopal Church had approximately 1.58 million baptized members in 2022, being divided among 6,789 member congregations.
This represents a decline compared to their 2021 official statistics, in which the denomination reported having 1.678 million baptized members and 6,806 member congregations.
However, the denomination did see an increase in average Sunday worship attendance, going from approximately 312,000 in 2021 to nearly 373,000 last year, or a rise of about 60,000.
Regarding worship attendance, the report explained that while it "declined dramatically" during the COVID-19 pandemic and subsequent lockdowns, "it seems to be rebounding."
"While not back to the pre-pandemic levels, there are signs of recovering some of the lost Sunday attendance," stated the parochial report. "Further, the [Sunday attendance] reported here included only in-person attendance and does not include virtual attendees from congregations that offer a virtual option for services."
Nevertheless, the approximately 373,000 reported for 2022 is still well below the average Sunday attendance figures for 2013, which totalled a little more than 657,000.
In 2019, the mainline Protestant denomination reported approximately 547,000 in average Sunday worship attendance.
Regarding plate and pledge income, the Episcopal Church's total has remained steady over the years, continuing to average $1.3 billion, while the average pledge has steadily increased, going from $2,553 in 2013 to $3,658 in 2022.
"The median number of contributing households without a pledge is 9," explained the report. "This means that, of the congregations who answered this question, half reported more than 9 households without a pledge and half reported less."
Over the past several years, the Episcopal Church has been experiencing considerable decline, especially among baptized members and worship attendees. In 2010, the denomination's total membership dipped below 2 million and is now nearly a half million less than that.
Some have attributed this decline to the denomination's progressive theological direction. For example, when the denomination ordained its first openly gay bishop in 2003, large numbers of members and congregations broke away in response.
In November 2020, the Rev. Dwight Zscheile, an Episcopal priest and professor, warned that, at their current rate of decline, the Episcopal Church will effectively cease to exist by 2050.
"The overall picture is dire," said Zscheile, as reported by Church Leaders in 2020. "Not one of decline as much as demise within the next generation unless trends change significantly."