Wednesday, August 24, 2016

We now have enough statistical data from the two post-schism dioceses in South Carolina to begin comparing the effects of the schism of 2012 on each in terms of membership and income. This may help us pass the time as we wait, endlessly it seems, on the state supreme court to hand down its decision on the church case. I have given up trying to predict when the court may rule. I first thought it would be before the end of 2015, then by March 31, 2016, then June of 2016. With this dismal record, I am not making any more predictions about the court. We have now passed the eleven month mark. Next month will be the one year anniversary of the hearing of September 23, 2015. It is rare, but not unheard of, for the court to hold out on publishing a written decision for more than a year.
Meanwhile, let's look at the relative health of the two parts of the old diocese of South Carolina, the schismatic entity legally called the Diocese of South Carolina and the Episcopal Church part called at present The Episcopal Church in South Carolina. When the old diocese split in the schism of October 2012, 50 local parishes and missions went along with the break while 21 remained with the Episcopal Church. The question of the moment is, How have the two parts fared since the schism?
DSC has suffered a significant decline in membership with leveling out in its budget. On the eve of the schism, the 50 local churches (of the pre-schism total of 71) that adhered to Bp Lawrence in the schism reported 23,862 baptized members. The last report, in 2014, showed 22,953 baptized members, a loss of 4%. Communicant (actual church attendees) numbers were much more severe: from 21,993 before the schism to 16,361 in 2014, a drop of 26%. In other words, the local churches that followed Lawrence out of the Episcopal Church lost a quarter of their active membership as a result of the schism. If one looks at the whole diocese (27,003 communicants in 2011, to 16,361 in 2014), the post-schism DSC is 61% of its pre-schism size. In other words, the present DSC is about three-fifths the size of the pre-schism diocese.
When Mark Lawrence became bishop of South Carolina, in January of 2008, the diocese listed 31,559 baptized members and 27,670 communicants and an annual budget of about $3m. As of 2014, the DSC listed 22,953 baptized members, 16,361 communicants and a budget approximately $2m. This means that overall, in the first six years of Lawrence's episcopacy, the Diocese of South Carolina lost 41% of its active membership and 33% of its budget.
Some local churches of DSC saw staggering losses as a result of the schism. St. Michael's of Charleston lost 45% of its active membership (1,847 in 2011--before the schism, to 1,015 in 2014--after the schism). Old St. Andrew's of West Ashley dropped 47% (962 to 509), St. Helena's of Beaufort lost 47% (1,737 to 964), Holy Comforter of Sumter lost 53% (525 to 246), St. John's of Florence dropped 39% (652 to 395), Trinity of Myrtle Beach lost 35% (595 to 388), St. Luke's of Hilton Head fell 30% (951 to 669), St. Philip's of Charleston lost 20% (2,677 to 2,135). The great majority of the 50 churches that adhered to Bp Lawrence in the schism lost members.
On the Episcopal Church side, the Church diocese (legally designated as The Episcopal Church in South Carolina) counted 21 parishes and missions as a result of the schism of 2012. Since then, it has added one new parish (St. Mark's of Port Royal in 2015), and nine missions. These started as worshipping communities of refugees from the local schismatic churches. TECSC has gained 16% in membership since the schism (5,781 baptized members in 2011 to 6,700 in 2015, the last year of reporting). Some local churches have seen significant growth. Perhaps the most affected by the schism was Grace Church of Charleston which saw its Average Sunday Attendance jump from 692 before the schism to 819 after. The communicant numbers soared at Grace, from 1,718 (in 2012) before the schism to 2,177 after (in 2015), a gain of 27%.  St. George's of Summerville ballooned by a whopping 50% (324 members before the schism to 488 in 2014). Holy Cross Faith Memorial of Pawleys Island grew by 17 % (450 to 525). St. Thomas of North Charleston rose 11% (235 to 261). Holy Communion of Charleston was up 6% (523 to 553). In terms of budget, the first contribution, in 2013, was $250,000. That has nearly doubled.
On the Episcopal Church side, ten new local churches have come into being since the schism (St. Mark's of Port Royal had actually existed for years but the old diocese had refused to allow it to become a mission). St. Mark's is now a parish of 220 members with a parish income of $214,040 (in 2015). The nine worshipping communities/missions range in size from 110 in Conway to a dozen in Cheraw. They are served by part-time and supply clergy.
DSC lists five new local churches since the schism. One is actually a union of two existing churches, Christ the King and Grace in Pawleys Island, and another a restoration of a defunct mission, St. James of Blackville. There is a new mission, St. Timothy's at Moncks Corner and two worshipping communities, in North Myrtle Beach and North Charleston.
Thus, the statistics published by the two dioceses show that the schismatic part, DSC is declining and the Church part, ECSC is growing. DSC lost 26% of its active membership as a result of the schism. ECSC gained 16% as a result of the schism.
DSC has to be concerned about the trajectory of its decline. It has rising legal costs to be borne by a falling membership. According to DSC, it has already spent well over $2m. on legal fees. Joining the Anglican Church in North America will be of no help in this or any other measure. The outlook for the future of DSC is grim.
The once grand old Diocese of South Carolina, which a dozen years ago counted nearly 32,000 members, now lies broken in pieces. This was willful and needless self-destruction. The effects of these bad choices can now be seen. In time, when the schism is finally over and the remnants of the old diocese reunite, this period will be remembered as the Civil War in a long and otherwise glorious history of one of the nine premier dioceses of the Episcopal Church.

(NOTE. For earlier information on the statistics of the DSC, see the postings on this blog of Feb. 20, 2015, "The Decline of the Diocese of South Carolina," and of March 11, 2016, "The Decline of the Diocese of South Carolina--Part II."

All data for DSC in the posts on this blog came from the official statistics published by the DSC in its annual Journals of the meetings of the convention. These are available on the DSC website under "Convention>Journals." The data for the Episcopal Church in South Carolina came from the official statistical tables provided to me by the office of the diocese.)