THE CONTINUING DECLINE
OF THE DIOCESE OF SOUTH CAROLINA
Original post of Jan. 3, 2017:
The Diocese of South Carolina recently posted its statistics for the year 2015 in The Journal of the 225th Convention...2016 here . The figures show the relentless decline of the diocese.
"Communicants" means active members, or ones who attend church at least once a year. This is the most meaningful measure of parish membership. In the year 2015, the 53 local churches in the diocese reported a total of 15,556 communicants.
Mark Lawrence became bishop in 2008 when DSC counted 27,670 communicants. DSC had 15,556 in 2015. This means DSC lost 12,114 members, a drop of 44% in seven years under Lawrence, 2008-2015. Soon, the diocese will have lost half its membership under Lawrence.
In the schism of 2012, 50 of the 71 local churches of the diocese went along with Lawrence out of the Episcopal Church. In 2011, the year before the schism, these 50 counted 21,993 communicants. By the end of the schism year, 2012, this number was down to 17,812, a drop of 19% in one year. The number declined every year after the schism: 17,798 in 2013, 16,361 in 2014 (down 8% in the year), and 15,556 in 2015 (down 5% in the year). Overall, the 50 churches lost 6,437 communicants from 2011 to 2015, down 29%.
The vast majority of the 50 (now 53) local churches of DSC have suffered losses in membership, some dramatically. Almost all of the large parishes have seen double-digit declines:
---Holy Cross of Sullivans Island fell from 2,540 communicants in 2011, before the schism, to 1,354 in 2015, a loss of 46%.
---St. Michael's of Charleston dropped from 1,847 in 2011, to 1,351 in 2015, a loss of 27%.
---St. Helena's of Beaufort went from 1,737 in 2011 to 951 in 2015, down 45% (Jeff Miller the rector, was recently rewarded with the plum job of rector of St. Philip's).
---Old Saint Andrew's of West Ashley, fell from 962 to 546, down 43%.
---Holy Comforter of Sumter went from 525 in 2011 to 271 in 2015, a fall of 48%.
---St. John's of Florence declined from 652 to 417, down 36%.
---Trinity of Myrtle Beach dropped from 595 to 298, down 50%.
---St. Luke's of Hilton Head fell from 951 in 2011 to 644 in 2015, a drop of 32%.
---St. Philip's of Charleston declined from 2,677 in 2011 to 1,974 in 2015, a loss of 26%.
---St. James of James Island went from 612 to 500, down 18%.
---The Cathedral of St. Luke and St. Paul fell from 305 in 2011 to 200 in 2015, a loss of 34%.
---Christ Church of Mt. Pleasant went from 925 to 780, down 16%.
---St. Paul's of Conway dropped from 270 in 2011 to 207 in 2015, down 23%.
---Trinity of Edisto Island fell from 183 to 155, down 15%.
---Good Shepherd of West Ashley fell from 302 in 2011 to 202 in 2015, a loss of 33%.
All was not loss, however. The one bright spot in the diocese was Church of the Cross in Bluffton. It went from 1,702 communicants in 2011 to 1,775 in 2015, a gain of 4%.
Numerous local churches saw steady declines every year for five years in a row (2011-2015), most notably St. Helena's, St. Luke's of Hilton Head, St. Philip's of Charleston, and Good Shepherd of West Ashley.
Of all of the pre-schism churches in Charleston, Grace Church Episcopal Cathedral now has the largest membership. It eclipsed St. Philip's. The Episcopal Church diocese as a whole grew 16% after the schism.
Before the schism, Bishop Lawrence was fond of saying the Episcopal Church was dying ("a comatose patient on life support") while true "orthodox" religion was booming. Turns out to be the opposite. Members of the 53 local church of DSC are voting with their feet to abandon this disaster.
Meanwhile, shedding itself of the pro-Episcopal party and wavering members, and down to about half the old membership, the leaders of the old diocese are creating a fundamentalist cult out of what is left over. But that will be the subject of another posting.
For now, let's pay attention to the statistics that do not lie. The independent diocese is declining while the Episcopal Church diocese is growing.
January 4, 2017.
After posting the information above, I returned to examine in detail the statistical data from DSC again for the years 2011-2015 in an effort to get a clearer picture of what has happened to the post-schism DSC in terms of membership and income. The membership data are clear but the financial are not. Here is what I have discovered:
In terms of membership, most of the 50 parishes and missions that made up DSC in and after the schism lost active members in significant numbers. A few gained. The biggest losers 2011-2015 were:
Biggest losers by number
---Holy Cross of Sullivans Island, -1,186 (2,540 to 1,354).
---St. Helena's of Beaufort, -786 (1,737 to 951).
---St. Philip's of Charleston, -703 (2,677 to 1,974).
---St. Michael's of Charleston, -536 (1,887 to 1,351.
---Old Saint Andrew's of West Ashley, -416 (962 to 546).
---St. Paul's of Summerville, -393 (773 to 380).
---St. Luke's of Hilton Head, -307 (951 to 644).
---Trinity of Myrtle Beach, -297 (595 to 298).
---Holy Comforter of Sumter, -254 (525 to 271).
---St. John's of Florence, -235 (652 to 417).
---Christ Church of Mt. Pleasant, -145 (925 to 780).
---St. James of James Island, -112 (612 to 500).
---Cathedral of St. Luke and St. Paul, -105 (305 to 200).
---Good Shepherd of West Ashley, -100 (302-202).
---Holy Cross of Stateburg, -82 (177 to 95).
---Redeemer of Orangeburg, -75 (265 to 190).
---St. Paul's of Conway, -63 (270 to 207).
---St. David's of Cheraw, -61 (113 to 52).
Biggest losers by percentage
---St. David's of Cheraw, -54%.
---St. Paul's of Summerville, -51%.
---Trinity of Myrtle Beach, -50%.
---Holy Comforter of Sumter, -51%.
---Holy Cross of Sullivans Island, -47%.
---St. Helena's of Beaufort, -45%.
---Holy Cross of Stateburg, -46%.
---St. John's of Florence, -36%.
---Good Shepherd of West Ashley, -33%.
---Cathedral of St. Luke and St. Paul, -34%.
---St. Luke's of Hilton Head, -32%.
---St. Michael's of Charleston, -28%.
---Redeemer of Orangeburg, -28%.
---St. Philip's of Charleston, -26%.
---Christ/St. Paul's of Yonges Island, -24%.
---St. Paul's of Conway, -23%.
---Christ Church of Mt. Pleasant, -16%.
---Church of the Cross in Bluffton, +73 (1,702 to 1,775).
---Prince George Winyah of Georgetown, +180 (450 to 630).
---St. Matthew's of Ft. Motte, +17 (72 to 89).
AVERAGE SUNDAY ATTENDANCE
Biggest losers by number
---Holy Cross of Sullivans Island, -222 (845 to 623).
---St. Philip's of Charleston, -201 (563 to 362).
---St. John's of Florence, -198 (378 to 180).
---St. Helena's of Beaufort, -103 (739 to 638).
---St. Paul's of Conway, -73 (234 to 161).
---Trinity of Edisto, -62 (189 to 127).
---Trinity of Myrtle Beach, -56 (381 to 325).
---Cathedral of St. Luke and St. Paul, -54 (258 to 204).
---St. John's of Johns Island, -51 (281 to 230).
Biggest losers by percentage
---St. John's of Florence, -52%.
---Holy Apostles of Barnwell, -46%.
---St. Paul's of Bennettsville, -39%.
---St. Philip's of Charleston, -36%.
---St. David's of Cheraw, -33%.
---Trinity of Edisto, -33%.
---St. Paul's of Conway, -31%.
---Redeemer of Pineville, -30%.
---Holy Cross of Sullivans Island, -26%.
---Trinity of Pinopolis, -23%.
---St. Bartholomew's of Hartsville, -22%.
---Cathedral of St. Luke and St. Paul, -21%.
---Christ Church of Mt. Pleasant, -16%.
---St. John's of Johns Island, -18%.
---St. Helena's of Beaufort, -13%.
---Church of the Cross in Bluffton, +480 (739 to 1,219) +65%.
---All Saints of Florence, +15 (86 to 101).
---St. Matthew's of Ft. Motte, +12 (42 to 54).
GIVING (PLATE AND PLEDGE)
The amount of money that people gave to their local churches was listed as "Plate and Pledge." In 2011, this was $1,393,804. In 2013, it was $1,137,098; in 2015, $1,468,549. The difficulty with these figures is the inability to distinguish between regular giving and donations to the legal funds. When people give to the legal funds they may make their checks out to the diocese. I imagine that perhaps a third of the 2015 figure went to the legal accounts. One cannot know what is in these accounts as they are held in secret. For instance, the following parishes listed enormous gains in giving between 2011 and 2015 even though three of these were declining parishes:
---Christ Church of Mt. Pleasant, +$706,000 (+190%).
---St. Luke's of Hilton Head, +$687,000 (+181%).
---St. Helena's of Beaufort, +$500,000 (+27%).
---Church of the Cross in Bluffton, +$339,000 (+19%).
About half of the 50 (now 53) parishes and missions of DSC showed no real change in giving. Nine showed significant declines in annual giving between 2011 and 2015:
---St. Philip's of Charleston, -$550,000 (-24%).
---St. Paul's of Conway, -$305,000 (-46%).
---Holy Cross of Sullivans Island, -$191,000 (-11%).
---Our Saviour of Johns Island, -$132,000 (-21%).
---St. Paul's of Bennettsville, -$79,000 (-61%).
---St. Matthew's of Darlington, -$76,000 (-29%).
---St. Bartholomew's of Hartsville, -$61,000 (29%).
---St. David's of Cheraw, -$29,000 (-17%).
---Holy Apostles of Barnwell, -$24,000 (-16%).
All together, what does this snow storm of numbers mean? What the numbers show if that the entity known as the Diocese of South Carolina has suffered significant decline in membership while struggling to meet financial obligations since the schism of 2012. Communicants are leaving these churches every year, about 5,000 have left since the schism. The diocese is about half the size of what it was a decade ago. The vast majority of the local churches are declining in membership. The only bright light of vitality is the Church of the Cross in Bluffton. This means that fewer people across the diocese are being pressed to pay three expensive needs: upkeep of their local churches, support of the diocese, and fees for high-priced lawyers (between 40 and 50 lawyers). As far as anyone can tell, the diocesan leaders are managing to keep the balls juggling in the air, for how long, no one can know. It seems to me this cannot last. It is not sustainable long term.
No one should take comfort in these statistics. The schism has been a disaster all around. The only group of people who do not seem to get it is the insular leadership cabal that produced this tragedy and now do not want to admit it to themselves or anyone else. They are trying to justify their colossal misdeed by turning the diocese into a fundamentalist cult (more about this later).
The schism of 2012 did not have to happen. The excuses that the leadership gave to make it were not legitimate. They have not held up under historical scrutiny. Nevertheless, the people of the diocese made their choices. We are now beginning to see the dark consequences of these. There are no winners here. The sooner the good communicants of the errant diocese come to their senses and stop this self-destruction, the better. They will have to do it themselves. They have made a start by refusing to be herded into joining ACNA. This must be a shock to the ruling clique. It is a good start for the ordinary people-in-the-pews to take their church back. May there be many more steps toward the healing and reconciliation that all people of good will should want for South Carolina. The old diocese belongs together. There will be no peace until the broken parts reassemble in their common bond that stretched back for centuries.