The Episcopal Church’s national offices, often referred to as “815” after the building number of church headquarters in Manhattan, recently published figures from the 2017 annual report, which must be filed on a yearly basis by all parishes in the church. The data reveals that Bob Malm’s campaign of shunning and harassment continues to negatively impact the parish.
Reviewing the report, attendance at Sunday services (ASA) remains down by about 17%. Total giving remains static, which masks the fact that the church has lost approximately 120 pledging units. The difference has been offset by two factors:
1. Increases in individual pledges
2. Generous end-of-year giving of appreciated stock by several key families.
Here’s the relevant chart:
Nonetheless, assuming a steady $880,000 in annual pledge and plate giving from 2015 through 2017, the church has lost $30,084.93 in purchasing power, or 3.4% of total, which is due to the compounding effect of inflation. This trend has accelerated in recent months, attributable to what Bloomberg reports is the fastest growth of inflation in the previous six-year period.
This trend is even more starkly illustrated when one examines the issue from a ten-year perspective. Assuming a steady $1 million in annual pledge and plate income (in reality, the average is a little lower), one sees a loss of $182,201.39 in purchasing power from 2007 to 2017, a cumulative decline of 18.2% of the baseline.
These issues are compounded by the aging demographics of the parish. My back-of-the-envelope calculation suggests that more than half of the active congregation is over age 65, with a sharp drop-off in active members below age 40. Thus, the following factors suggest that the church will face increasing challenges in the coming years:
- Ongoing conflict, both within and connected with the parish
- Lack of strategic and tactical planning and direction
- Inability to address conflict in a healthy manner
- Excess compensation of the rector, Bob Malm
- Changing demographics
- Lack of accountability for clergy and staff
- Feckless leadership, particularly from the rector
- Use of resources to support unwarranted litigation
In short, future prospects for the church are, at best, uncertain, and survival will require strong leadership and a clear vision of the future, including a transition from a consumption-based cost structure to one that correlates cash flow and savings with future organizational needs.