Dear friends in Christ around the globe,
I’m writing today from our North American context where we just concluded our COVID-19 survey of congregations. I want to first thank all of you for engaging and participating. We have approximately 8,000 readers in addition to those connected to our Facebook and Twitter accounts. Through our international update, we also reach many of these readers outside North America, and we deeply appreciate their responses which will be shaping what we address in our upcoming updates. All your responses will also help shape the ministry initiatives that we provide to Anglican leaders and congregations at every level of the Church.
Since 1996, the American Anglican Council has been a mission movement that has sought to keep the Church faithful to the Bible. When we could no longer do this in The Episcopal Church USA, we helped give birth to the Anglican Church in North America (ACNA). Times have changed, but our mission remains the same: to build up and defend Anglican followers of Jesus Christ committed to fulfilling his Great Commission (Matthew 28:16-20) to make disciples everywhere. Today the resources we offer serve the needs of Anglican leaders and congregations not only in the ACNA but in other provinces around the world.
This survey was designed to help analyze the state of Anglican churches around the globe, though most of our responses came from within North America. In surveys of any defined group, the conventional threshold for having statistical significance is a five percent response rate from the survey group. Our survey distributed to 8,000 readers yielded 556 responses – approximately a 6.95% response rate over the 33 days the survey was open. Again, we are very grateful for this response!
We see that our audience is composed primarily of committed Anglicans, many of whom are already returning to Church. On July 8, The Barna Research Group reported that “One in three Practicing Christians has stopped attending Church during COVID-19” (https://www.barna.com/research/new-sunday-morning-part-2/). According to this Barna Survey, 35% were only attending their pre-COVID19 church, a combined 32% were either watching multiple online worship services or switching to a new church, and 32% stopped attending church during COVID. The drop out right was higher (50%) for the millennial generation.
By contrast, one in three of our audience (35.9%) have already resumed in-person worship weekly at the church they attended prior to and during COVID, another combined 37.7% view online worship every week plus an online Bible study and/or service in the community, while 16.3% watch online worship weekly without any other connections to their church. That leaves just over a combined 10% who responded that they are not connected with a local church weekly, worship with their family at home, or no longer attend church at all.
What this tells us is that our readers are very committed followers of Jesus Christ in the Anglican way! Almost 90% identified as Anglican/Episcopal. They are mature in age and life experience (most are 65+) and are already members or intend to become members of the church they attend (79%). A strong majority (86%) are involved weekly in worship, bible study, and/or served in a ministry area in the local church prior to COVID. It is evident from the submitted comments that those surveyed are still very engaged in their churches in multiple capacities because they care very deeply about their faith, the Church, and where we are headed as a nation.
But there is a concern to note! When asked when they plan to return to in-person worship, the second largest result from those asked was 27.5% who said they weren’t sure when they will return. This may represent those who are 65-and-older and who are considered a “high-risk” population. Since most respondents are retired as well, this raises a significant pastoral concern: how will church leaders, ordained and lay, provide meaningful Christian community and relationships for those who choose to stay home and continue to worship online?
Isolation among older members may be a situation we need to address, not only in the Anglican churches but in many different denominations. Other needs were reflected in our survey, though most (51%) did not claim any pressing needs or any significant impact on personal or family income from the pandemic. This reflects financial security among the majority of those surveyed who are either retired (49%) or continuing to work at home (23%) with no change in employment. Yet almost one-in-four (23%) listed spiritual/faith-related or emotional/mental health-related issues as pressing needs. A number of written responses expressed anger and frustration at church closures, government restrictions on worship, church leadership, and the loneliness of being and feeling disconnected from friends and church family.
When we asked people, “How can we pray for you and/or your family?” these pressing needs became more apparent. In response to this question, 280 people asked us to pray for very real needs. This word cloud composed from those prayer requests is worth more than a thousand words:
At the close of the survey, we asked how the American Anglican Council could help in these times. Among the largest responses were: “Help me and my church to reach unbelievers and others currently outside the church with the Gospel” (27%), and “Help my church reach out in service to my neighborhood and community” (10%). In other words, more than one-in-three people who took this survey are focused on evangelism, discipleship, and mission rather than maintenance and consumption. This is enormously encouraging!
Right now, the American Anglican Council provides these resources which you can access on our website or by contacting us:
- For evangelism: Our Video series “Rediscovering Evangelism” with study guide here [https://americananglican.org/rediscovering-evangelism-session-1/]
- For moving your Church to a more outward mission-service focus: REVIVE! Church Revitalization Workshop, online and in person, which you can find here [https://americananglican.org/revive-church-revitalization/]
- For experiencing Holy Spirit presence in your ministries: Our video series “Fire in the Fireplace” with study guide that you can access here [https://americananglican.org/fire-in-the-fireplace-1-anglican-perspective/]
- And for leadership consultations for your Vestry and/or clergy: Please contact me [firstname.lastname@example.org] or Canon Mark Eldredge [email@example.com]
Our motto at the AAC is Semper Reformanda: Always Reforming. That begins with us. We are reviewing this survey carefully to see how we have succeeded and fallen short in meeting needs of Anglican churches around the world. We want to address the issues that those surveyed have raised, and more, with fresh expressions of Biblically faithful ways to present the word of God in its fullness (Colossians 1:23). We pledge to do this so that people everywhere may come to know Jesus Christ as their LORD and Savior and that our churches may indeed be the “salt and light” (Matthew 5:13-16) Jesus has called us to be!