So I have been looking at the recently released data from the 2010 US Religion Census. The Episcopal Church has 1.9 million members according to the latest figures. (This is down from the historic high water mark of 3.4 million in the 1960s.) In most US counties where TEC is present (and there are plenty where it is not), the average number of Episcopalians is at or below 1% of that county’s population. Now, as the Crusty Old Dean has reminded us, the Episcopal Church has never been numerically large. But the visual graphics are striking. Here is the map I am talking about:
So, red is the highest population of Episcopalians (mostly around Native American reservations), clocking in at 5% or higher of the population. Then you get a nice smattering of oranges in the traditional East Coast bases of the church. But even there we are only talking about 1% to 4.99% of the population. Then the yellows and greens (like where I live in California) show where less than 1% of the population is part of the Episcopal Church. Then take a minute and look at all the grey area. County upon county where the Episcopal Church is not present. Sure, you can point to the middle of the country and say, well, no one lives there. But that would be a lie. And you see many counties with solid population centers. The Episcopal Church just is not there.
Some would look at this map and see a map of the decline and near-collapse of the Episcopal Church.
I look at that map and see a great option for the mission of proclaiming the Anglican way of living out the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
I don’t see decline. I see new opportunities for ministry and mission.