The subject of church growth continues to bedevil ecclesiastical discourse. Is it a matter of mere numbers or should some account be taken of active commitment? Is baptism still the best metric of Christian identity or should the researcher also look for evidence of spiritual transformation? Is it better for a denomination to generate many small congregations or a few larger ones with satellite congregations?
In the Anglican Communion a more stark debate has been under way over the last twenty years concerning which provinces are thriving and which are in retreat. In the past year, I have been assembling data on The Episcopal Church (TEC) in the United States of America for a volume to be published by Ashgate in 2015 that examines changing patterns of provincial membership. Underpinning this research are two significant questions: is TEC – taken as a whole – in decline and, if so, does that decline reflect something peculiar to the Anglican experience or is it part and parcel of a general retreat within mainline American Protestantism?