Saturday, March 16, 2013


In 1959 the Episcopal Church had 3,444,265 members and 8,708 clergy. Clergy was .25% of membership.

In 2009 the Episcopal Church had 2,006,343 members and 15,404 clergy. Clergy was .76% of membership. Were the Episcopal church staffed at 1959 levels, the number of clergy would be 5,073.

A causal link between the increase in clergy and the decline in membership is not proven, but it is interesting. In the fifty years since 1959 (the high water mark for membership), membership has declined by 41% and the ranks of the clergy have increased by 77%.

Ignoring theology, the increase in clergy relative to membership has to be putting a strain on finances. It is a truism that a church in financial trouble is less attractive to a prospective new member than a church that is not.

Granted that there has been a boom in part-time and non-stipendiary clergy in the past few decades, how much better would the finances be if two thirds of the currently existing clergy were off the rolls?

Figures from here.

I would like to point out that trimming dioceses and bishops would be an even better bang for the buck than dropping priests. The Episcopal Church has a ludicrous amount of middle management compared to almost every other organization.


Andrew said...

I'm inclined to believe that both statistics are the result of ideological shifts in the church.

Fewer members are the result of members leaving a church that no longer respects their values. More clergy is a result of attracting people to clergy BECAUSE they do not respect those same values.

The Underground Pewster said...

If all things were proportional, and if "staffing" in 1959 was adequate, the Episcopal church should now have 6,092,726 members to keep the current clergy fully occupied.