In 2007, I wrote two articles on trends. The first that proceeded the one below which I am reproducing here was about the changing demographics of America and how the decline of the GI Generation (60% churched) and replacement by the Millennial Generation (10% Churched) would bring church membership down to 20%. Church membership in the US now stands at 20%.
In the second, I took out my crystal ball and projected this into TEC’s future. A friend kept these articles and sent them to me asking how thought I did. I have commented in red about how my predictions have worked out. Here is what I wrote:
If the trends that I highlighted in my previous post continue, what will be the practical effects of this upon our community?
When will the number of congregations drop below 7000? A/ 2009
I hit this one close, but the answer is distorted because 815 continues to count the ACNA Churches that left. They do this to underscore our legal ability to claim them and suite for the property, for examples Fort Worth and South Carolina.
When will the church be forced to reduce the number of diocesan bishops or be forced to merge dioceses or subsidize dioceses? A/ 2010 - 2012. for mergers, we already subsidize indirectly a large number of dioceses.
I was wrong on the mergers. I underestimated the ability of our diocesan institutions to preserve themselves. Now, it has started (N.W Texas with Fort Worth and N.W. Pennsylvania with Western New York) , it will happen in places like the mid-west where parishes are hard pressed to sustain a Diocesan Bishop and organization.
When will we no longer be able to sustain our present national church staff and operations? A/ 2009
Starting in 2009, TEC has had to make steady cutbacks in our operations.
When will we be forced to use endowments to subsidize our national operations? A/ We already are.
And endowment income was used extensively by our former PB and her chancellor to pay our legal bills. This despite the stated intentions of some of the endowment gifts. This raises the question, what if a PB acts arbitrarily and the House of Bishops doesn’t object? BTW, we didn’t get much property back, but the Chancellor and his firm made a lot of money.
When will the number of full-time parish clergy drop below 7,000 (including all Rectors, Vicars and assisting clergy? A/ Around 2010
The Church Pension fund has documented this trend for 10 years and its implications much better than I could have done.
When will dioceses be forced to close congregations and to sell their property to sustain their diocesan budgets? A/ 1992 (it has been happening for a long time!)
That, obviously, was not a prediction, just a fact that continues.
When will our national leadership admit that the consent to Gene Roberson's election costs us thousands of people, hundreds of parishes, and much financial loss? A/ Never.
Much of the Progressive Leadership of TEC can’t admit this. Therefore, they almost never talk about the decline. The real risk here is that the avoidance and even denial of this decline helps create an attitude of complacency or that everything is OK. Decline of the Episcopal Church seems to now be the accepted position of much of our leadership.
When will we elect our last Presiding Bishop? A/ 2015
I missed this one, thank God. However, I was imprecise in my question. It should have been “when will we have the last PB who will preside over a Church that covers all of the US?” While the Church has declined dramatically, we have been able to maintain parishes in each State.
When will the number of Episcopalians equal the current number of UCC members? A/ 2020
I really missed this one because I forgot to allow for the continuing decline of the UCC. These trends effect all denominations in the U.S.
What is the point of all this? Demographics are destiny; unless our leadership has a vision and takes strategic action to off-set them. Our Current PB and several Bishops are attempting to do this. All who love our Church should make every effort to support these leaders.