Monday, September 9, 2019


The Episcopal Church recently released their new membership statistics for last year, 2018. Find it here . The overall news is that TEC membership continues its long-term decline, down to 1,835,931 "active baptized members" in the year 2018 (1,676,349 in the domestic dioceses). This means that TEC is about half as large in terms of membership as it was at its height a half century ago, in 1967.

For the Church diocese in eastern South Carolina, the Episcopal Church in South Carolina, the story is the opposite. TECSC has seen constant and significant growth since the schism of 2012. Here are the official statistics of TECSC's "active baptized members":

2013 --- 5,781

2104 --- 6,387 (+ 5%)

2015 --- 6,706 (+5% 2014-15; +16% 2013-15)

2016 --- 7,053 (+5% 2015-16; +22% 2013-16)

2017 --- 7,309 (+4% 2016-17; +26 % 2013-17)

2018 --- 7,587 (+4% 2017-18; +31% 2013-18)

In summary, TECSC has grown in membership every year since the schism. As of last year, it was about a third larger than it was at the time of the schism, five years before. Thus, TECSC has seen significant growth in the post-schism period even while the national church has lost members every year.

The membership statistics of the schismatic diocese, the Diocese of South Carolina, tell an opposite story. The latest official figures of DSC are from 2016. Since then, the diocese has refused to post its membership statistics, thus we have no information on 2017, 2018, or 2019. Here is what we do know about DSC's membership from the posted data. These figures are for the 50 local churches that adhered to DSC in the schism of 2012. ("Communicant" is defined as a parishioner who attends church at least once a year):

2011 --- 21,993 communicants

2013 --- 17,798 communicants (-19% 2011-13)

2014 --- 16,351 communicants (-8% 2013-14; -26% 2011-14)

2015 --- 15,556 communicants (-6% 2014-15; -29% 2011-15)

2016 --- 14,694 communicants (-6% 2015-16; -33% 2011-16)

In summary, DSC lost communicants every year since the schism. As of 2016, the diocese was a third smaller than it had been five years earlier, before the schism. Thus, DSC has seen significant, relentless, decline in the post-schism period.

When Mark Lawrence was consecrated bishop of the Diocese of South Carolina, in 2008, DSC as a whole listed 27,670 communicants. Eight years later, the entity called DSC listed 14,694 communicants. This was a decline of 47%. In his first eight years as bishop, Lawrence presided over a diocese that lost nearly half its communicants. In practical terms, this drastic decline meant fewer people paying proportionately more to support the diocese at the same time as paying two sets of lawyers, one for the parish and one for the diocese. As communicant numbers declined, expenses soared.

As I showed in my blog posting of February 16, 2019, the five schisms in the Episcopal Church (2007-2012) have resulted in significant, even startling, losses of membership in the departing entities. Find the posting here . The schismatic dioceses of Pittsburgh, San Joaquin, and South Carolina have seen serious and continuous declines in communicant numbers since their schisms. 

In South Carolina, some of the individual parishes lost large numbers of communicants between 2011 (the last year before the schism) and 2016 (the most recent year of statistics):    St. Helena's, of Beaufort, -49% (1,737 to 880);   St. Michael's, of Charleston, -50% (1,847 to 919);   St. Philip's, of Charleston, -60% (2,677 to 1,069);   Christ Church, of Mt. Pleasant, -65% (925 to 328);   Old Saint Andrew's, of West Ashley, -54% (962 to 446);   Holy Comforter, of Sumter, -65% (525 to 183). These numbers came from the official data provided by DSC.

In conclusion, the totality of the membership statistics suggests:

1. The schism in South Carolina was not overwhelmingly popular, as DSC claimed and continues to assert.

2. Members fled, and are still fleeing from DSC churches. New members are moving into TECSC churches.

3. DSC is in relentless annual decline. It has lost significant numbers every year since the schism. TECSC is in annual growth.

4. The social goals of the leaders of the schism in SC were to declare homosexuality sin and to keep women submissive to men. These have not resonated with the public in SC.

5. The schismatics' claim that "liberal" religion, i.e. horizontal, would decline by its own nature while "conservative" religion, i.e. vertical, would naturally grow has been disproven by the post-schism membership statistics. Data show that the reactionary counter-revolution against TEC in South Carolina and the other four schisms has failed to gain popular support.

In my history of the schism in SC, I emphasized that the schism was from the top down. It was a revolt of the diocesan leadership against the Episcopal Church directly resulting from the leadership's opposition to TEC's reforms of equality for and inclusion of homosexuals and women into the life of the church. The schism in SC was not the result of a popular uprising of the people in the pews. The post-schism membership statistics bear out my theory of the schism. If it had been a populist revolt, the membership figures would be in the reverse. All of this suggests our conclusion should be that the leadership of DSC bears the primary responsibility for the clearly declining state of the schismatic diocese.