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Defying Trends, Anglican Church Attendance Strongly Rebounds

By Jeffrey Walton
On June 21, 2023, Anglican Church in North America delegates gather at Christ Church Cathedral in Plano, Texas for the denomination's annual Provincial Council. (Photo via Facebook)

Anglican congregations in the United States, Canada and Mexico are reporting a significant attendance increase of 17,228 persons following a widespread return to regular worship services post-COVID. The Anglican Church in North America (ACNA) is also reporting modest growth in both membership and total number of churches in 2022.

Overall Average Principal Service Attendance in 2022 was 75,583, up 30 percent from 58,255 in 2021. Membership increased 2,549 (up 2 percent from 122,450) in 2021 to 124,999 in 2022. Congregations grew by three to 977 total.

Membership and attendance are among several metrics tracked year-over-year by ACNA. Baptisms were up 27 percent and confirmations up 25 percent from 2021-2022. Receptions from other liturgical denominations were down 8 percent, while reaffirmations were up 46 percent.

“The bottom line in 2022 is that membership and the total number of our congregations showed modest increases, while attendance has rebounded encouragingly and pastoral ministry has bounced back significantly,” ACNA Canon for Communications Andrew Gross told ACNA Provincial Council on Friday, June 23 at Christ Church Cathedral in Plano, Texas. Gross noted that attendance remained down from a pre-COVID high of 84,310 in 2018.

Attendance appears to be healthy across most of the ACNA: only three dioceses out of 29 jurisdictions reported a decline from 2021 to 2022. Membership, which was less volatile amidst the period of COVID restrictions, was mixed: 18 of the 29 reported a gain across the same period.

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Among dioceses reporting the largest attendance increases are the Anglican Diocese of South Carolina up 2,722 (48 percent), the Diocese of the Mid-Atlantic up 1,756 (53 percent) and the Diocese of Churches for the Sake of Others (C4SO) up 2,540 (46 percent). Significant increases were also reported by the Anglican Network in Canada up 1,018 (42 percent), the Anglican Diocese of the South up 1,231 (28 percent) and the Diocese of the Rocky Mountains up 1,085 (45 percent).

Gross shared that the largest number of ACNA congregations are in the state of Texas (113), followed by South Carolina (101), California (73), Pennsylvania (55) and Virginia (51). North Dakota remains the only U.S. state without an ACNA congregation.

The 2022 numbers are a welcome improvement from 2021, when ACNA congregations reported a 30 percent decline since pre-pandemic 2020 numbers. Membership in 2021 had dropped 3 percent and the net number of churches grew by two with 25 churches planted in 2021.

Anglican Church in North America logo

Growth trends in the ACNA during 2022 are despite a sex abuse scandal that came to light in summer 2021 in the denomination’s Upper Midwest Diocese. The scandal, involving former lay leader Mark Rivera who was sentenced in April to 21 years in prison for child sex abuse, escalated into a power struggle among several ACNA leaders.

Accordingly, the Upper Midwest Diocese was one of few ACNA regions that saw a decline in membership (14% from the prior year). Yet average service attendance in these churches still increased. In fall 2021, the ACNA official website added a section on “Child Safety.”

ACNA official Gross noted that the total number of churches in 2022 does not include the Diocese of All Nations (formerly CANA West) that joined ACNA this year. When those 2023 numbers are reported, it should bring ACNA to more than 1,000 total congregations, Gross predicted.

These numbers can be accessed from the Congregational Reporting presentation at the Provincial Council 2023 document center here

The ACNA is among the earlier U.S.-based denominations to provide a complete report of 2022 statistics, following the Presbyterian Church (USA) in May. The Episcopal Church customarily reports statistics for the prior year in the autumn. Growth in the ACNA defies recent trends in several other Protestant denominations.

Josh Shepherd contributed to this article, which originally appeared at Juicy Ecumenism.

Jeffrey Walton is Communications Manager and Anglican Program Director for the Institute on Religion & Democracy.



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One Response

  1. Recently, I’ve started visiting an Anglican church. Though the ACNA has some big problems right now (see the mess with Bishop Ruch – HL griffin on twitter has some great insights), AT LEAST they have an accountability structure that is present in local churches (vestry) and beyond (bishops).

    Every other church in my area that I’ve visited seems to have a lead pastor at the top of a pyramid structure of authority and even those with elder boards seem to have formed elder boards full of “yes men” who are friends with the pastors and current leadership. I have seen some truly weird stuff in these local non-denom churches including a “congregational meeting” of a 1000+ member church in which 7 people showed up and “voted” on elders and a budget using an “affirmation model” that, apparently, had zero effect on whatever the elders were going to do anyway. It wouldn’t have surprised me if the ballots were immediately shredded after the vote.

    In addition, the liturgical style of worship greatly downplays the role of worship minister and rector (pastor). The homily takes up about 20-25% of the worship time instead of 50-60% and the culmination is communion, instead of the sermon. Also, there’s a greater connection to church history that is absent in many non-denom churches.

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