Sunday, April 24, 2011

Church Stats: Where have all the Baptisms Gone?

                                Water Lilies Blooming on Easter 2011

Easter used to be a traditional time for baptisms, and the season got me to thinking about the future church, what with its embrace of the new sexualities and all, and the question came to mind, "Will TEc go extinct?" I know that some may consider that to be an inappropriate thought for Easter, but to be honest,  Easter scares the devil out of me. We might be more comfortable with a God who stayed in the grave and didn't live among us, but this ever present God of Easter keeps opening our eyes to new directions, and one of the ways that we see those new directions is by paying attention to the works of God occuring in our daily lives, in the lives of our Parish, our Diocese, and our demonination.

Lo and behold, this eye opener came around last week from that usually reliable source, Statman.

From the comment section at MCJ (details in parentheses added for the uninitiated).

April 19, 2011

"...Surely, ASA (Average Sunday Attendance) is a big problem for TEC (The Episcopal church). But Infant Baptisms are much more alarming. From 2002 through 2009, TEC lost 19.3 percent of ASA but it lost 31.7 percent of Infant Baptisms. In 2009, the following dioceses had LESS THAN ONE Infant Baptism per church: E. Oregon, N. Michigan, and W. Kansas. It is absolutely depressing to sit in church for an entire year and not observe even ONE Infant Baptism. Statmann"

I went over to the Episcopal church's statistics pages and updated the numbers using 2010 data and teased out the numbers for "domestic" dioceses.

2002 data found here.
2002 ASA 869,065 (22,425 was in non domestic dioceses)
2002 Baptisms of children: 47,232 (2,237 were in non domestic dioceses and 44,995 domestic baptisms).

2010 data found here.
2010 ASA 724,789 (41,826 was in non domestic dioceses)
2010 Baptisms of children: 33,778 (3096 were in non domestic dioceses and 30,682 domestic baptisms).

So we see

A 19.45% decline in domestic ASA from 2002-2010, and

a 31.8% drop in Baptisms from 2002-2010.

Give Statman credit once again.

The ASA numbers may not be 100% accurate since we stopped using those handheld clicker type counters long ago, but the baptism numbers are probably valid.

I went back and checked out the numbers for the Diocese of Upper South Carolina (DUSC) to include burials and marriages and got the following,

406 children baptised in 2002 in DUSC
71 adults baptised in 2002 in DUSC

309 burials in DUSC in 2002
38154 burials in TEc Domestic Dios in 2002

171 marriages DUSC in 2002
18798 marriages in TEc Domestic Dios

1.5:1 ratio of DUSC baptisms to burials in 2002

2:1 ratio of DUSC burials to marriages in 2002

ASA of DUSC was 9103 in 2002

For 2010,

377 children baptised in 2010 (down 8.2%)
43 adults baptised in 2010 (down 39.4%)

317 burials in DUSC (up 2%),
30,853 burials in TEc Domestic Dios (a drop of 19.2%)

121 marriages DUSC (down 29.3%),
11,647 marriages in TEc Domestic Dios (a drop of 39.1%)

1.3:1 ratio of DUSC baptisms to burials in 2010 (a drop in this ratio is not a good sign).

2.6:1 ratio of DUSC burials to marriages in 2010 (a rise in this ratio is not a good sign).

ASA 8337 ( a drop of 8.4%) in DUSC from 2002

People will say that the drop in marriages and church attendance merely parallels the pattern seen in other old denominations, but that is an excuse that they will have a hard time passing along to the man that just walked out of the grave.

Could it be that young families seeking a safe, God fearing place to raise their future precious young Christians are using reason, tradition, and scripture, to vote with their feet?

There are still plenty of old people left in the oldline denominations to bury, but at the current rate of replenishment, there won't be enough new old people to pay the bills fifty years from now.
Our living God is warning us that we are headed in the wrong direction. Will we listen to His call to turn from the error of our ways, and to rebuke the words of the false teachers who would take us along  paths of licentiousness and desires of the flesh?
Or will we heed his call to walk away from the way of sin and death, and instead become fruitful, multiply, and go out and gather all to Him?
Jesus' resurrection is a serious call for us to get out of our comfortable tombs and start producing flowers for His garden.

That call, to come out of my cave and walk with Him, sacres the devil out of me.

Sorry if I spoiled anyone's Easter.


  1. One of the things my mother always says is, "The only time people think of Jesus, he's either a baby in a crib or hanging on the cross. He's not a threat to them in either place." That comment came to mind in reading your post about being more comfortable with a God who remained in the grave. Praise Him, He didn't.

    Cheers, my friend.

    BTW, Easter was the first Sunday Baptisms could be performed in the Baptist church for those who came forward during the winter, simply because the creek thawed. Still cold, though, as my father told me when thinking about his baptism.

  2. I'm a bit confused. Weren't we assured (way back in 2003)that by sweeping scripture, tradition and reason under the carpet and becoming radically inclusive, our future would be assured? Weren't we told that the masses would flock to our doors? What went wrong?

  3. Randall,

    Some day I'll have to tell you the story of the ole timer who was partially baptized.

  4. Cato,

    It must be the fault of you divisive wrascly consweratives. I mean, the nerve of them to seek God elsewhere. It can't be the liberal theology that is to blame.

  5. ToilNotSpin12:44 AM

    Dear UP, it is such a privilege to read your blog, and as a conservative old lady Episcopalian I am happy to have you in our corner. But, as Ecclesiastes reminds us, there is a time to weep and a time to mourn, and a time to rejoice. Easter is one of the few moments in our Christian History when we are able to rejoice with slowly dawning wonder--not mindlessly, but in the ultimate tribute to the Savior, who has risen for us.
    I am sorry about the drop in baptisms, but I think that belongs to one of your trenchant essays all on its own. Does Christ arising from the grave bring about some responsibilities as well as joy to us? Of course it does! But it is hard to believe that on this day of all days we are meant to meditate on how many children are being baptized during this period.
    As always, your sincerity and devotion come through clearly, as did yet another beautiful picture of the Easter water lilies. You did not scare me about Easter--nothing could render this day anything but beautiful to me. I do hope that somewhere today you found some joy, if not in your church then perhaps with family and friends. May I count myself one of those? Randall is so nice with his "Cheers, my friend."

  6. TNS,

    As I tried to explain, this walk with the risen Lord is upsetting, and scary to me personally. I did not mean to scare anyone else. I am scared because of all the things I have not done for Him and with Him. I have been part of this denomination since my baptism. These statistics reflect my failures, and that is something for which I will be held accountable.


  7. Dave+4:06 PM

    If I've done the math correctly, and removing the overseas numbers, we had 846640 in ASA domestically in 2002.

    ASA domestically in 2009 (7 years)is 682936.

    The difference is 163704 divided by 7 years and the average is 23386. That is the equivalent of losing the Diocese of Los Angeles. And yet we are supposed to believe al is well?

    Stark. Very stark.

  8. Dave+,

    I am afraid that all appears to be well and getting better as fewer "conservatives" are around to be "divisive."

    TEc will become more politically homogeneous and the progressives will be very happy in a smaller, purer, church.

    Getting smaller and increasingly isolated seems like the opposite of what the Gospel is all about.