A report commissioned by the Anglican Church of Canada has predicted the rapidly-approaching demise of the Anglican Church of Canada.
The report, described as “dire” by at least one bishop, was authored by the Rev. Neil Elliot, an Anglican priest from British Columbia. It was delivered during the church’s General Synod in Mississauga, Ontario earlier in November.
Elliot gathered information based on multiple data streams: church membership and attendance statistics, parish roll surveys, donor information, and subscription numbers for the church’s official publication, the Anglican Journal. The available data sample covered a time period dating back as far as 1961.
At that time, when membership was at its peak, the Anglican Church of Canada boasted 1.3 million members. The most recent numbers show a reduction to less than 400,000. Elliot says the trend is crystal-clear:
Projections from our data indicate that there will be no members, attenders, or givers in the Anglican Church of Canada by approximately 2040… For five different metrics with five different methodologies to give the same result is a very, very powerful statistical confirmation which we really, really have to take seriously and we can’t dismiss lightly.
When asked how his numbers compared to other denominations, Elliot cited similar numbers for the Evangelical Lutheran Church and the United Church in Canada, with Episcopalians expecting to reach zero members in 2050 and the Church of England in 2065.
To be clear, the trends may be heading downward, but it’s next to impossible to imagine the religions will disappear entirely. More likely, they’ll level off at some point with no real growth, but no real room for decline either. That’s as much due to the increasing age of believers than the abilities (or lack thereof) of the Church.
Archbishop Linda Nicholls called these statistics “a wake-up call” for the Anglican Church of Canada. Priorities mentioned for the future of the Church include dismantling systemic racism and prioritizing the needs of Indigenous Anglicans.
We’re called to do and be God’s people in a particular place, for the purpose of sharing the good news of Jesus Christ, and the only question is: how do we need to share it, so that it might be heard by those around us?
While it would have been nice to see the Anglican Church of Canada prioritizing race issues before it became a play to revive flagging membership, maybe these sorts of “wake-up calls” are exactly what massive, ossified church structures need to shock them into championing marginalized people. The proof will be in the Church’s actions… if it sticks around long enough to make them.
The church’s Strategic Planning Working Group intends to focus on identifying and implementing the needed changes leading up to the 2022 General Synod in Calgary, Alberta. Whether it will be enough to stave off zero-membership remains to be seen.
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