Anglican Church in North America Set to Surpass Anglican Church of Canada in Average Sunday Attendance


By David W. Virtue DD

The upstart Anglican Church in North America (ACNA) is set to surpass the Anglican Church of Canada (ACoC) in Average Sunday Attendance, if it has not already done so.

New figures obtained by VIRTUEONLINE ( reveal that over the past two years the ACNA has steadily gained in numbers, while the ACoC, which has been on a steady decline since the beginning of the 21st Century, is now rapidly declining even as it attempts to position itself as a major global player in talks on reconciliation in the Anglican Communion.

In 2001, the ACoC claimed an annual Average Sunday Attendance of 162,138. By 2007, the last year official figures could be obtained, the ASA had dropped to 141,827 a drop of 19,311.

The total number of Anglicans on parish rolls in 2007 was 545, 957. The total number of Anglican parishes was 1,676. The true barometer of health is, however, Average Sunday Attendance.

Based on attrition rates in 2007, including loss of membership to the Anglican Network in Canada (ANiC), death, moving to other denominations and parish closures, now estimated to be some 300, Average Sunday Attendance, based on annual losses of about 3044, (between 2007 and 2014) the estimated attendance in 2014 in all churches in all provinces would, in fact, be closer to 100,000!

By contrast, the Anglican Church in North America, which officially birthed in St. Vincent’s Cathedral, Bedford, Texas in 2009 under the authority of the Bishop of the Anglican Diocese of Pittsburgh, Robert Duncan, reveals a missionary Anglican denomination of some 983 congregations and a membership of 112,504 with an Average Principal Service Attendance (APSA) of 80,471. That compares to 700 known congregations in June of 2009. This is a 40 per cent growth in absolute numbers of congregations. 105 new congregations were reported (in the 2013 congregational/diocesan reports) as anticipated start-ups in 2014.

The figures for last year (2013) do not include some 230 congregations which did not get reports in, therefore these figures are actually higher.


In April of 2012, the ACoC Synod said it may have to merge seven Eastern Canadian dioceses into three.

The Ecclesiastical Province of Canada – the domestic province of the Anglican Church of Canada covering Quebec and the Maritime Provinces said in a statement released on April 17, 2012, that a motion put forward by the Provincial Governance Task Force seeks to create “a leaner, more efficient ecclesiastical province better equipped to carry out God’s mission in eastern Canada.”

Consolidating dioceses “recognizes the changing demographic of the Anglican Church within the Ecclesiastical Province of Canada in terms of both decreasing numbers and the increased cost of providing ecclesiastical services within our seven existing dioceses,” the explanatory note accompanying the motion stated.

Among the proposals are merging the dioceses of Eastern, Central and Western Newfoundland – which were formed out of the Diocese of Newfoundland and Labrador in 1976 – back to a single diocese. The Diocese of Fredericton, which covers the province of New Brunswick, could be merged with the Diocese of Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island, while the dioceses of Quebec and Montreal could form a single diocese.

According to the 2011 Anglican Church Directory, Montreal has 96 active clergy, 66 parishes, and approximately 12,000 members on its parish rolls. Quebec has only 23 clergy, 45 parishes and 4000 members.

Fredericton has 69 active clergy, 85 parishes, and approximately 24,000 members, while Nova Scotia & PEI has 127 clergy, 111 parishes, and 127,000 members.

Western Newfoundland has 27 clergy, 32 parishes and 36,000 members; Central Newfoundland 34 clergy, 32 parishes, and 33,000 members and Eastern Newfoundland and Labrador has 48 clergy, 27 parishes, and 61,000 members.

Depopulation of rural Canada is placing pressure on the Anglican Church of Canada to change its current structures. At its 5 June 2011 meeting of synod, the Diocese of Moosonee voted to dissolve the diocese due to a sharp fall in the northern diocese’s population. Delegates unanimously adopted a resolution directing its officers to begin talks with the Province of Ontario to dissolve the diocese and create a mission area to oversee its 26 parishes.

In November 2009, Bishop Barry Clarke of Montreal and Bishop Dennis Drainville of Quebec initiated a two year “discernment process” to look into “opportunities and obstacles to partnership” between the two dioceses including a possible merger.

In 2009 Bishop Drainville told the Canadian House of Bishops his diocese was “teetering on the verge of extinction.” Of the diocese’s 82 congregations, 50 were childless and 35 congregations had an average age of 75. These graying congregations often had no more than 10 people in church on Sundays, he reported. “The critical mass isn’t there, there’s no money anymore,” he added. The bishop declared that he could possibly be “the last bishop of Quebec.” Total ASA for the whole diocese is about 4000! For the record, just one church, Christ Church Anglican in Plano, Texas, boasts a membership of just under 4000!

“The critical mass isn’t there, there’s no money anymore,” and yet parishes want to function the way they always have. With no money coming in from parishes, “we have not paid our national assessment in church for two years,” said Bishop Drainville. “I have no pride in that. There will be many other dioceses that will fail.”

At an open forum, Bishop Patrick Yu (Toronto area bishop, York-Scarborough), related that he was “troubled by the sense of panic….” He said that a bishop’s role is “to be the non-anxious presence,” to say that “the church may be falling, but here’s what we can continue doing.”

Between 1961 and 2001, the Anglican Church of Canada lost 53 per cent of its members, with numbers declining from 1.36 million to 642,000. The rate of decline has increased in recent years, according to an independent report given to the Canadian House of Bishops in 2006 by retired marketing expert Keith McKerracher.

In 2010 the Diocese of BC made what it called “visionary” changes: closing 13 churches. A report by the Diocese of BC’s Diocesan Transformation Team (DTT) suggested that the diocese is not “closing parishes in order to prop up a dying institution or to delay its inevitable collapse” but that its mission is about being “a people on a journey” and, no, not people on a journey to oblivion.

In an interview, the new bishop of the Diocese of BC, Logan McMenamie, mentions that the diocese is suffering from “negativity and creeping congregationalism”. Although the latter sounds a little like a skin disease, it is actually an understandable response to the diocese taking parish buildings from congregations that paid for and maintained them and selling them for its own gain, observed a Canadian blogger.

Noting the overall decline, the Rev. Keith Nethery, media relations officer for the Anglican Church’s Diocese of Huron, commented, “Obviously the world is a different place. Our bishops realize this isn’t the church we grew up in or our parents attended. People in the world have changed and their needs are different.”


With the ordination of an openly homogenital priest to the episcopacy in 2003 in the person of Gene Robinson, many orthodox Episcopalians believed the time had come to separate themselves from The Episcopal Church. Common Cause Partnership was formed in June 2004 from six conservative Anglican organizations. They became a united, missionary and orthodox Anglican Union in North America and drafted a theological statement in 2006.

In September 2007, fifty-one bishops met in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, to discern direction and to bind themselves constitutionally, saying they intended to found an “Anglican union”. Some of the bishops present were foreign bishops, including a retired archbishop.

Key members of the partnership participated in the June 2008 meeting of conservative Anglicans in Jerusalem, the Global Anglican Future Conference, which in turn prompted the formation of the Fellowship of Confessing Anglicans.

In December 2008, the Partnership met at Wheaton, Illinois, at a constitutional convention to form a “separate ecclesiastical structure in North America” for Anglican faithful distinct from the Episcopal Church and the Anglican Church of Canada. On June 22, 2009, delegates of the ACNA’s founding bodies met at St. Vincent’s Cathedral in Bedford, Texas, for an inaugural Provincial Assembly to ratify its constitution and canons.

At this meeting, a number of major steps were taken to officially establish the new province including the election of Robert Duncan, Bishop of the Anglican Diocese of Pittsburgh, as archbishop.

Today the ACNA boasts 29 dioceses from coast to coast, including Canada, as well as a special Armed Forces and Chaplaincy Jurisdiction in a unified Anglican Church in North America. The Anglican Network in Canada is a continent-wide family of churches and a diocese in the Anglican Church in North America, under its Bishop Charlie Masters.

“We sowed in tears. We reap in joy,” noted Archbishop Robert Duncan recently, as he prepared to pass the mantle of leadership on to a new generation.

A recent Provincial Council reported that the number of congregations could be as high as 1088, or a fifty-five per cent increase in congregations since 2009. This is our “net.” What about our “gross?”

If one adds the 50 congregations from the Anglican Mission under Bishop Philip Jones, the number of congregational start-ups would be 488.

While admitting that 1000 church plants might have been a reach, the new Archbishop of the ACNA Foley Beach noted that 488 is not 1000, “but it sure is an awesome harvest.”

“We threw away the rear-view mirror. This was God’s doing, enabled by our cooperation in His call. To my knowledge, no other Christian group in North America has done anything like this in the last five years.” Noting the difficulties and opposition, Beach said the devil does not like what we Anglicans are up to! “It has been transformative and given us unparalleled joy. The call for 1000 new congregations was God’s call. The call is not ended. It carries on, and in any case, this is just the first thousand for a Church whose mission is to reach North America with the transforming love of Jesus Christ. What has been established is the understanding that our chief form of domestic mission is achieved through church-planting. Sixty Hispanic congregations are a part of the 488. Other ethnic congregations have also been established. Congregations have been established in assisted living communities, on college campuses, in store-fronts and even in prisons.

“Our DNA all across this Church has been coded for church-planting. I am thrilled to report that the 2013 congregational reports reveal a healthy Church. Most of our people are at worship most Sundays. Of a total number of 3097 baptisms, thirty-one per cent, 969, are of those above the age of 16, converts not transfers. There were 3197 conversions reported. There were 6011 new people reported to have been brought into our congregations through evangelism and outreach. There were 2079 confirmations, 1312 receptions and 293 reaffirmations of Faith. (These figures are for the 763 congregations reporting.)”

By contrast, the statistics for the Anglican Church of Canada show staggering losses including the single largest Anglican parish in Canada – St. John’s Shaughnessy, Vancouver with almost 2,000 members and closures almost weekly across the country.

Newspaper headlines can now be found which read, “The Decline and Fall of the Anglican Church of Canada.”

In 1961, 1.3 million people attended an ACoC church; making the average yearly number of those exiting the ACoC around 20,300 people. If one assumes a constant number of people exiting per year, one ends up with no one left by the year 2025!

The deeper question is why, and the answer is not too difficult to come by. The ACoC is bent on proclaiming a gospel quite different from that of its immediate rival, The Anglican Network in Canada (ANiC), which proclaims itself a missionary diocese out to proclaim the gospel of Jesus Christ, making and baptizing disciples, and spreading the gospel of the kingdom.

The mission of the ACoC can best be summed up in the words of the former Bishop of British Columbia, James Cowan when he declared in a CBC interview that he wants to “forge a deeper connection with the culture and engage in more ‘social justice’ and ‘spirituality’.” In December of last year, he reversed a policy that prohibits clergy in same-gender relationships from serving in the diocese. It sounds as if the mission is more of the same pseudo-Christian clap-trap that has brought the diocese to its knees, noted one Canadian observer.

The ACoC is, of course, only following the script of its sister province, The Episcopal Church USA, with which it enjoys deep harmonic convergence. If the two Anglican ships of state do go down together in the next 20 to 25 years, at least they will know they both got the script wrong even as the Anglican Church in North America eats its lunch.

The Archbishop of Canterbury may still be agonizing over whether or not to recognize the new Anglican entity. In the end his recognition of the ACNA will be irrelevant. In time it may well be the only game in town.


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