Tuesday, May 13, 2014

The Numbers: 2012

So another year's statistics are out, and the five year fast facts summary brings the cheery news that domestic membership is down 1.5%, same as last year, and that domestic ASA, after last year's interruption, has resumed its steady decline, not quite the traditional 3% this year. overal summary informs us that in a decade we've lost 24% of our ASA, and that not only did half our parishes lost ASA, but that over half had lost at least 10% of their ASA over a decade.

On a diocese-by-diocese basis, I note first of all that 2012 will be the last year that all of South Carolina is counted; as the 19th largest diocese by ASA, its loss means a decline of up to 1.9% of the total, alone. That year will also see the disappearance of Quincy into Chicago, but given that it was the smallest domestic diocese (Navaholand, which is a mission, is smaller), around 4% of parishes each have more ASA, and its membership is less than the typical error in that number. It's also a sign of How Things Have Changed that Quincy was not merged into Springfield, which in the old days would have been a far better fit; but most of the diocese having passed on to ACNA, I suppose Springfield would represent, to the remnant, that which they wished to avoid.

At any rate, the diocesan numbers are somewhere between "not as bad as they could be" and "well, pretty bad actually". Nineteen dioceses recorded gains in ASA, San Joaquin squeaking in with one, that's right, one extra attendee. Only three relatively large dioceses recorded gains: Chicago, Southeast Florida, and (oh well) South Carolina. Four of the gainers were overseas, including three of the top four by percentage gained. Lots of dioceses scored big losses, topped out by Los Angeles, whose loss was 10% of the total domestic ASA loss. Ohio also did quite poorly, with a 14%+ loss.

Then we get some other cheery numbers. In the domestic dioceses, burials outnumber child baptisms by 2300 ex-people, or in the 8% range of the total of either. Receptions alone are enough, for now, to make up the difference, and presumably some adult confirmations also register an increase, but again, the losses show that the attendance problem is caused in large part by people just not coming anymore. Overseas dioceses did better, as usual.

Next year's numbers are sure to be bad, what with the departure of most of SC. A continuation of the 3% ASA decline is a near certainty. And it will be a sad day when the best we can come up with is the observation that, well, at least our financial investments increased.


AAK said...

...but again, the losses show that the attendance problem is caused in large part by people just not coming anymore.

Small wonder, isn't it, given everything that you and I write about? What reason is there to walk into most churches? What food for the soul? The music is sub-par, the liturgy spotty, and the preaching (which, to my mind, is the most important thing that happens on a Sunday) unspeakably trite, sentimental, and theologically empty?

I'm sorry to say it, but a lot of churches simply have nothing worthy on offer. I love the church, as I am sure you do as well, and I wouldn't walk into most parishes if you paid me. There's just nothing happening in so many places.

AAK said...

I must to follow up to say that what we have is not a problem with the Gospel or the faith, but a problem with the church, which has forgotten what it ought to be and what it ought to do.

Even the 1979 Prayer Book has it right: The Church pursues its mission as it prays and worships, proclaims the Gospel, and promotes justice, peace, and love.

I have seen the Gospel, when proclaimed, move hearts of stone. But in most churches we find no Gospel, just a lot of sentimentality, lefty politics, and pop psychology dressed up as the Gospel, and it isn't working.