On the day when all the headlines are about the UN’s official world headcount hitting 7 billion, it’s worth noting that a former cornerstone of American protestantism also hit another ominous milestone. The Episcopal Church — by some counts, the religious home of more American presidents than any other denomination — reported last week that its membership has declined below the 2 million mark. For some perspective, note that the Mormon Church claims at least three times this number of adherents in the U.S., with independent surveys showing closer to 5 million Americans who self-identify as Mormon.
By most accounts, the Episcopal Church set itself on a steep downward glide when it embraced more liberal theology:
At their peak, Episcopalians in the United States numbered 3.6 million members, which was in 1966. Along with other mainline Protestant denominations, the church declined from the 1960s to the present.
Many exited the denomination following the 2003 consecration of openly gay bishop the Rt. Rev. V. Gene Robinson and later the decision in 2009 by The Episcopal Church’s highest legislative body to open the ordination process to all baptized members, which many saw as giving the green light to practicing homosexuals.
Some 100,000 conservative members left and formed their own body, called the Anglican Church in North America, that year (2009).
These institutional splits have led to all kinds of disputes over church property, most recently in Pittsburgh.
And as the Christian Post concludes, the liberal Episcopal Church may be increasingly pushed to the margins as the worldwide Anglican movement, like the Catholic Church, sees most of its growth in a part of the world less inclined to embrace progressive social norms:
The Episcopal Church is part of the worldwide Anglican Communion, which has about 80 million members and is increasing in numbers in the more socially conservative global south.