Tuesday, October 14, 2014

The Numbers: 2013

Well, the 2013 statistics are out, mostly. I say "mostly" because the overall by-diocese numbers have not yet been published. But the overall totals are here, and they show the familiar story of decline: reported domestic membership is down 1.4%, while domestic ASA is down 2.6%. (Overseas numbers are croggled by a change in Honduras's reporting which has cut their numbers in half.)

Only it isn't this good. Last year I remarked that this would be the year when the South Carolina departure would be manifested in the losses. The overall reported numbers for the diocese, however, are strange, showing a decline in ASA of only 366 attendees, which would represent no more than one good-sized parish departing. It's not a plausible number.

So what is going on? Well, the parish charts have been updated, and here we see a major discrepancy. The ECUSA remnant has a list of parishes largely consonant with the parishes listed on the national chart, with a number of omissions, most of which appear to be because the parish/mission is brand-new. There are also four parishes which plainly represent the remnant of a large departure. Add it all up, however, and there are at most thirty-four parishes and missions with a total ASA of about 3,200, as estimated from the parish charts; and eight of these either don't have charts or aren't even listed on the national site. It is a huge drop from the seventy-two parishes counted in 2012.

So where are the rest? Well, the schismatic diocese, it turns out, keeps detailed statistics too. And their 2013 report shows forty-nine parishes with a total ASA of 9,223. Add this to the ECUSA parishes and you get eighty-three parishes, which when you take out the non-reporters and doubly-counted splits, is pretty close to seventy-two.

Nine thousand plus three thousand, however, gets you surprisingly close to the 12,005 reported in the overall totals, suggesting that reported ASA is inflated. Add the schismatics' ASA to the reported domestic drop of 16,451 attendees, and suddenly things look noticeably worse: the 2.6% loss turns into a 4% loss. Membership losses almost double, to 2.7%.

It is not terribly obvious why these numbers are being reported, which is a polite way of saying that, by all appearances, the numbers have been substantially fudged. Revisions have be made in previous years, however, and it is possible that these numbers may likewise be updated. Even without that, however, we are still in the same rut: 3% losses per year, every year, for over a decade.


Anonymous said...

One commentator felt good that the decline rate had not changed, that it, that the rate had not increased. Of course, he failed to note the South Carolina fudge.

Dick Mitchell

C. Wingate said...

I'm not seeing how an asymptotic decline to zero is a good thing, whatever the rate.

tjmcmahon said...

I see you have done more homework on this than I have. Any idea what happened in Honduras?

I also noted some steep declines (10% in Springfield, for instance, and 5% in several dioceses) which leads me to think that either there have been some unreported parish sized departures, or that reporting is only now catching up with some departures of previous years.

I am always a bit suspicious when TEC claims that ASA drops faster than membership- I would actually expect it to be the other way around. The folks who are not going to church regularly are most likely to jump ship. But it is hard to get off the rolls- I was still in the parish directory of parishes in 2 dioceses a year after I left TEC.


C. Wingate said...

Judging from the note, Honduras has been doing something that basically double-counted everything for some years. I have no idea what.

Springfield is caught in a demographic vise that I do not think they can escape from, and while I like Bishop Martins I don't know he is viewed there and whether a positive opinion can even translate into growth. The people just aren't there.

The classical pattern with membership vs. ASA is that the former tends to drop abruptly when a rector leaves, because that is when the rolls get cleaned.