Friday, March 24, 2023



In their annual convention meeting earlier this month, the officials of the Anglican Diocese of South Carolina made much about growing the diocese. This raises the question of whether the diocese has been expanding or shrinking in the past few years. To answer this, we must go to the diocese's own annual membership statistics from the local churches.

Although the schism occurred in 2012, it is best to start at 2014 because in that year the diocese adopted a new way of counting active members. Before it was "Communicants." In 2014, it became "Confirmed Communicants" and from then on. So, to be consistent, we should look at the figures from 2014 to the latest published set, 2021. Find the 2014 table HERE and the 2021 table HERE .

Overall, the numbers for the whole diocese show a clear decline in membership in the seven years of 2014 to 2021. "Baptized membership" went from 22,953 to 19,752, a fall of 14%. "Confirmed Communicants" dropped from 16,361 to 12,651, a decline of 23%.

But, what about the individual local churches? How did they fair?

A total of 42 local churches in ADSC submitted membership statistics in both 2014 and 2021. Of these, 25 (60%) showed declines while 4 (10%) grew and 13 (30%) remained the same or nearly so. Thus, the large majority of local parishes and missions in ADSC lost members in the seven years of 2014 to 2021.


Here are the rankings of the local churches of ADSC that lost members beginning with the largest percentage lost. The numbers are Confirmed Communicants:

---Good Shepherd, Charleston.  256-2014;  75-2021.  -71%.

---St. John's Chapel, Charleston.  30-2014;  11-2021.  -63%.

---Trinity, Myrtle Beach.  388-2014;  160-2021.  -59%.

---Christ Church, Mt. Pleasant.  775-2014;  325-2021.  -58%.

---St. John's, Charleston.  620-2014;  260-2021.  -58%.

---St. David's, Cheraw.  106-2014;  44-2021.  -58%.

---Epiphany, Eutawville.  100-2014;  44-2021.  -56%.

---Christ the King/Grace, Pawleys Island.  307-2014;  155-2021.  -50%.

---St. Luke's, Hilton Head.  664-2014;  355-2021.  -47%.

---St. Matthias', Summerton.  141-2014;  89-2021.  -37%.

---St. Philip's, Charleston.  2,135-2014;  1,395-2021.  -35%.

---Trinity, Pinopolis.  166-2014;  110-2021.  -33%.

---Holy Apostles, Barnwell.  95-2014;  69-2021.  -27%.

---Prince George Winyah, Georgetown.  625-2014;  477-2021.  -24%.

---Resurrection, Surfside.  360-2014;  275-2021.  -24%.

---St. John's, Florence.  395-2014;  325-2021.  -18%.

---Old St. Andrew's, Charleston.  509-2014;  422-2021.  -17%.

---St. Helena's, Beaufort.  964-2014;  798-2021.  -17%.

---Trinity, Edisto.  145-2014;  122-2021.  -16%.

---Holy Trinity, Charleston.  96-2014;  83-2021.  -14%.

---Holy Comforter, Sumter.  246-2014;  217-2021.  12%.

---St. Matthew's, Darlington.  141-2014;  125-2021.  -11%.

---St. Michael's, Charleston.  1,015-2014;  937-2021.  -8%.

Eight churches lost half or more of their active members. In raw numbers, rather than percentages, St. Philip's, of Charleston, lost the most, 740, followed by Christ Church, Mt. Pleasant (450), St. John's, of Charleston (360), St. Luke's, Hilton Head (309), St. Paul's, of Summerville (238), and Trinity, of Myrtle Beach (228).

Of the 42 parishes and missions reporting, 4 gained significant numbers. Church of the Cross in fast-growing Bluffton is now the largest parish in ADSC, bypassing St. Philip's, of Charleston. Church of the Cross rose from 1,520 to 1,604 Confirmed Communicants (+6%). Holy Trinity, of Grahamville, had the largest percentage gain, from 91 to 141 (+55%). The Well by the Sea, in Myrtle Beach rose from 106 to 126 (+19%) while Our Saviour, on Johns Island, reported 200 to 227 (+7%).

Meanwhile, 13 local churches stayed the same or nearly so in Confirmed Communicants between 2014 and 2021: Holy Cross, Sullivans Island (1,000/1,050);  St. James, Charleston (500/533);  Christ/St. Paul's (245/239);  St. Paul's, Conway (212/217);  Redeemer, Orangeburg (173/179);  All Saints, Florence (160/152);  St. Bartholomew's, Hartsville (125/120);  St. Matthew's, Ft. Motte (86/91);  Ascension, Hagood (48/45):  Resurrection, North Charleston (44/41);  St. Barnabas, Dillon (39/35);  St. Paul's, Orangeburg (19/18);  Grace, North Myrtle Beach (13/13).

The above figures are all for Confirmed Communicants. If we look at the broader baptized membership numbers, we would find the same general pattern. Likewise, if we go year-by-year, we would see a consistent downward trend.

Here are the conclusions we can draw from studying the diocese's published statistics for the local churches:

---The ADSC lost significant numbers of members in the seven year period after the schism, from 2014 to 2021.

---The only large/medium parish that is showing healthy growth is Church of the Cross.

---Most of the large parishes lost significant numbers of members, with several remaining about the same.

---The parish that used to be the largest, St. Philip's, of Charleston, lost a third of its members in the seven year period after the schism.

---The schism was not the overwhelmingly popular event the diocesan leaders claimed at the time of the schism. Well after the break occurred, nearly a quarter of the active members of the ADSC left the diocese in just seven years. The numbers of people leaving the diocese far exceeded the numbers of people coming in.

---ADSC's falling membership is in stark opposition to the demographic boom of coastal South Carolina. 

---At its recent rate of decline, the ADSC will soon start experiencing challenges of an existential nature. This year's budget is less that last year's. Adjusted for inflation, the ADSC annual budget has fallen significantly in the last decade.

---There is nothing on the horizon to indicate that the decline of the ADSC will turn around.

---One possible outcome of this crisis is the joining of the overlapping ACNA dioceses, The Anglican Diocese of the Carolinas and the Anglican Diocese of South Carolina.

---Judging from the ADSC's own statistics, one may say the schism has been a failure. The ADSC is in relentless decline.