US Episcopal Church attendance has fallen by nearly a quarter since 2009

The US Episcopal Church is headed by Bishop Michael Curry (center), who wed Prince Harry and Meghan Markle.Reuters

There has been a steep decline in attendance at the US Episcopal Church over the past decade. 

Latest figures from the liberal denomination show that the number of people regularly attending Sunday service fell from 724,000 in 2009 to 518,000 last year. 

The most significant drop was in New England, where regular Sunday attendance fell from 58,236 to 41,599 - or 4.4% - over the last decade.

There has been a steady decline in baptisms in the same time period, falling from 1.9 million in 2011 to 1.6 million in 2019. 

The proportion of congregations with 200 members or less rose from 58% in 2011 to 63% last year, while the share of churches with over 500 members fell from 15% in 2011 to 13% last year. 

There was a slight increase in the Church's total income between 2018 and 2019, when it rose from $2.35bn to $2.44bn, but expenses also increased in this period from $2.27bn to $2.29bn. 

The figures were released last week after the deadlines for reporting were extended due to the coronavirus pandemic. 

The Rev Dr Molly James, deputy executive officer of the Episcopal Church's General Convention, said: "Our 2019 data tells an important part of the story of who we are as Episcopalians, and going forward Parochial Report data will also help us tell the story of the remarkable ways the Church has adapted to the difficult circumstances in which we find ourselves."

Jeffrey Walton, Anglican program director at the Institute on Religion & Democracy, was less optimistic.

He said the US Episcopal Church was dying "a death of a thousand cuts" and that things were likely to get worse with the pandemic. 

"The statistics cover the year 2019 and are unaffected by expected attendance drops due to Covid-19 restrictions in 2020," he said in an IRD blog.

According to his analysis, it is liberal dioceses that have seen the biggest drop. 

"Among the largest percentage declines in attendance are in the liberal dioceses of New Hampshire down 617 persons (15.6%), Western Massachusetts down 348 persons (9%), and Newark down 566 persons (7.9%)," he said.