The Anglican Church is Growing

The New Trend of Anglican Growth

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The Anglican Church in North America (ACNA) reported another year of numerical growth, reaching its highest-ever Sunday attendance level. The increase represents a complete recovery from COVID lows, a new growth trend, and a mandate for mission.

All-Time High

Reported 2023 Sunday Attendance came in at 84,794, an all-time high for the ACNA since its founding in 2009. The number of congregations increased by 36 to 1013. With the addition of the Diocese of All Nations, there are now 29 Dioceses serving North America.

Sponsored

Previously, much of the growth in the ACNA has been powered by church planting, but this year there was also a sizable increase in attendance in existing congregations. Average attendance per congregation increased from 77 to 84. These numbers confirm statistically what David Roseberry observed anecdotally in his “Suddenly Surging” articles.

Complete Recovery From COVID

The 2023 numbers represent a complete recovery from COVID-19 lows. In 2021, attendance dropped to 73,832 (or even lower, to 58,255, on a different counting method). The recovery began in 2022 with a bounce to 75,583, an increase of 2.3%. 2023 attendance increased 9,211, a gain of 12.2%.

All church growth warrants thanks and praise to God, and here especially so. The Lord has delivered us from the significant challenges of lockdowns, health concerns, and broken church-going habits.

A New Growth Trend

The return to growth is a new trend for the ACNA and a departure from the pattern of mainline decline.

Historically, the “mainline” refers to a group of seven protestant denominations, including the Episcopal Church, the United Methodist Church, and the Evangelical Lutheran Church. During the 20th and early 21st centuries, the mainline churches abandoned Biblical authority in the pursuit of cultural relevance. Ironically, however, the result was a decline in both attendance and relevance. For example, the most recent decadal data from the Episcopal Church shows Sunday attendance of 657,102 in 2013 and 372,962 in 2022, a 43% decline.

Since its founding in 2009, one of the major questions for the ACNA has been whether it would continue the trend of mainline decline or develop a new identity with a new trajectory. In fact, it has proven difficult for some parts of the ACNA to develop a new trajectory, especially where an entire Diocese retained the mainline DNA.

But the reported growth demonstrates that, overall, the ACNA is charting a new path. With God leading the way, we repent of our sins and step out in faith. By God’s grace and Christ’s gospel, we have a real hope for growth, both in holiness and in number.

A Mandate for Mission

Most importantly, the reported numbers demonstrate that the ACNA has a mandate for mission. As Jesus put it, “The harvest is plentiful” (Matthew 9:37). When we see God blessing a missionary work, we should see his blessing as an invitation to give more.

The first way Jesus asks us to give is to pray:

The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few; therefore pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest.

Matthew 9:37-38

So consider this, dear reader, an invitation to join the missionary work. You can start right now with a prayer. Then consider, are you the laborer for whom you just prayed?


Photo of Clergy Procession at Saint Vincent College, from Provincial Assembly 2024, by Peter Johnston.

Author

Peter Johnston

The Ven. Dr. Peter Johnston is the Ministry President of Anglican Compass. He is a priest and archdeacon in the Anglican Diocese of All Nations and the rector of Trinity Lafayette. He lives with his wife, Carla, and their eight children near Lafayette, Louisiana.

View more from Peter Johnston

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