Why did EPC lose 27,826 members (18.54% of 2016 members) between 2016 and 2020?

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Relztrah

Puritan Board Freshman
Interesting. I'm not in the EPC and I'm not familiar with those statistics. But of the many former PCUSA churches in our area that have left the denomination, all of them have joined the EPC. In fact, I believe this is the pattern for churches leaving the PCUSA, although I've heard of churches going to the ECO. With whole congregations joining, how can they be losing members?
 

SolaScriptura

Puritanboard Brimstone
Interesting. I'm not in the EPC and I'm not familiar with those statistics. But of the many former PCUSA churches in our area that have left the denomination, all of them have joined the EPC. In fact, I believe this is the pattern for churches leaving the PCUSA, although I've heard of churches going to the ECO. With whole congregations joining, how can they be losing members?
I've noticed that too. But I wonder: what are the doctrinal differences between EPC and ECO? It seems to me that the only difference I can see is that in the EPC only some are egalitarian while in ECO they all are. But there has to be more to it than that. After all, if the EPC permits egalitarianism, then why would those who founded the ECO have not been satisfied to go there?
 

jwithnell

Moderator
Staff member
Here's a guess: Let's say in 2016 a congregation with 200 folks joined a new denomination. Around 20 members did not like the move and drifted away to other churches. That would be a 10 percent drop. If you had a steady number of churches joining the new denomination, you'd expect a net increase, but I think there was a mass move after a particularly contentious GA. Just a possibility.
 

Edward

Puritanboard Commissioner
I looked at the 2017 -2019 numbers last night, and was surprised at the number of churches in the EPC with single digit membership. I would have expected those to die out, but the number of churches has increased, more than off-setting that. So the losses have to be in the larger churches.
 

arapahoepark

Puritan Board Post-Graduate
I think many churches probably left and went nondenominational. I don't know for certain but, I think I recall a rather large EPC church in my area that is no longer affiliated with it. I can't remember which one or when. It's denomination was also pretty hidden in the website, if I recall, when it was.
 

PointyHaired Calvinist

Puritan Board Sophomore
I've noticed that too. But I wonder: what are the doctrinal differences between EPC and ECO? It seems to me that the only difference I can see is that in the EPC only some are egalitarian while in ECO they all are. But there has to be more to it than that. After all, if the EPC permits egalitarianism, then why would those who founded the ECO have not been satisfied to go there?
ECO thinks egalitarianism is a non-negotiable, like the PCUSA, other mainline churches, and many evangelical groups today. As I understand they require all their pastors to support it.

This article is a bit dated but still accurate.
 

SeanPatrickCornell

Puritan Board Sophomore
I'm surprised the PCUSA actually requires their pastors to support anything. The PCUSA, in fact, has at least one pastor that publicly denies the existence of God as a supernatural deity. He's a "cultural Christian" and doesn't think anyone has the right to say he's not a Christian just because he happens to be an atheist.
 

J.L. Allen

Puritan Board Sophomore
I looked at the 2017 -2019 numbers last night, and was surprised at the number of churches in the EPC with single digit membership. I would have expected those to die out, but the number of churches has increased, more than off-setting that. So the losses have to be in the larger churches.
Many of the Mainlines have a ton of money to keep them afloat. My guess is that the money coming over into the EPC from the Mainlines have kept those tiny congregations alive.

Our church rents from a UCC (have so for over 20 years). The congregation is in single digits and has been for many years. How do they continue to survive? Partly because of all the things they rented the building out to (the communist red death wu-flu saw the renter list dwindle down to just our church), and because of the deep pockets they had when they had more people decades ago.
I've noticed that too. But I wonder: what are the doctrinal differences between EPC and ECO? It seems to me that the only difference I can see is that in the EPC only some are egalitarian while in ECO they all are. But there has to be more to it than that. After all, if the EPC permits egalitarianism, then why would those who founded the ECO have not been satisfied to go there?
They (the eventual-ECO folks) probably don't seriously consider the move to the EPC because hardliner egalitarians won't tolerate the tolerance found in the EPC. ;)
 

BayouHuguenot

Puritanboard Clerk
Token EPC guy here. I honestly don't know what to make of the numbers, by the grace of God the EPC churches in La. are doing reasonably well. @Pilgrim might know more than I do on this point.
 

Pilgrim

Puritanboard Commissioner
Token EPC guy here. I honestly don't know what to make of the numbers, by the grace of God the EPC churches in La. are doing reasonably well. @Pilgrim might know more than I do on this point.
I've never been a member of the EPC, although I've attended or visited several congregations. I have heard that some in the EPC are very "woke" but I don't know that a reaction against that would account for all or even most of the losses. But I'd be surprised if it isn't a factor. Plus, how many Revoice fans and proponents of "Side B" Gay Christianity are there in the EPC? That's another big controversy that would lead to defections. And some may leave churches if they think it is too conservative on those issues.

Other factors:

Given the typical demographic of the average mainline (and even Reformed) congregation, some of the losses are due to death, I'm sure.

As at least one other person noted, some of the losses may be due to people who opposed the move to the EPC (or were ambivalent toward it) and perhaps a subsequent "rightward" turn in the ministry of the local congregation and eventually left.

Maybe some people got turned on to Reformed theology if that became more of an emphasis and decided to go more thoroughly Reformed.

I do think that the EPC has to be said to be functionally egal even if a congregation doesn't even have women deacons, much less elders. (And those definitely exist, although I have no idea what the percentage would be.) Since there are women elders in every Presbytery, isn't there a sense that every member is submitted to women elders? At least in terms of numbers, this has been a big change with the PCUSA congregations coming in. Before that, the idea that many egals had was that the EPC was generally hostile to egal regardless of their "open" stance. 15-20 years ago I think there was literally a handful of women Teaching Elders.

The Presbyteries that Jacob and I are familiar with are among the most conservative in the whole denomination, so what we're familiar with isn't tremendously different than the average PCA congregation in some respects. What goes on elsewhere may be much further to the "left." If the PCA is much more "liberal" outside of the South wouldn't it be safe to assume that that's more or less the case with the EPC also? What are EPC congregations like in the Northeast and West Coast?

The nature of something like the EPC is that it will be too liberal for some and too conservative for others.

I don't know how much it has really grown, but the ACNA seems to be getting a lot of press these days. There seems to have been an influx of former Baptists and others who are drifting leftward on women's ordination and even sexuality, which is alarming considering why the ACNA was formed to begin with. My theory for a long time has been that some of the Kellerite people would probably be as comfortable in Anglicanism and maybe moreso, but practically speaking it was not really an option in many places.
 
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Pilgrim

Puritanboard Commissioner
I've noticed that too. But I wonder: what are the doctrinal differences between EPC and ECO? It seems to me that the only difference I can see is that in the EPC only some are egalitarian while in ECO they all are. But there has to be more to it than that. After all, if the EPC permits egalitarianism, then why would those who founded the ECO have not been satisfied to go there?
The wiki gives this as a reason: "While other conservative Presbyterian churches in the United States existed, most of these did not permit female clergy with the exception of Evangelical Presbyterian Church, to which most of the PC(USA) presbyteries would not release the departing congregations to leave with their church properties due to the fact that the EPC did not mandate female clergy regarding it as non-essential."

I think the ECO formed a few years after the largest wave of congregations entered the EPC. That would seem to suggest that those congregations were willing to put up with more than the ones that left for the EPC did. It's probably not quite that simple in some cases, but that may be fair as a general rule.
 

Edward

Puritanboard Commissioner
Simple answer to the ECO / EPC distinctions:

ECO supports the feminist agenda but is opposed to homosexuality

EPC opposes the feminist agenda (but tolerates egalitianism) as well as homosexuality
 

LadyCalvinist

Puritan Board Junior
I am a member of a conservative EPC church, no female elders or deacons, strongly pro-life, and many ministries, and we are growing. I know nothing about the denomination.
 

J.L. Allen

Puritan Board Sophomore
I am a member of a conservative EPC church, no female elders or deacons, strongly pro-life, and many ministries, and we are growing. I know nothing about the denomination.
That's good to hear that the congregation you are a part of is holding the line. Out of curiosity, is there any inkling of the church joining a different denomination that is more consistent to what you all hold to locally? What is the disposition of the officers (and the rest of the congregation, for that matter) towards the EPC in general?
 

Daniel Silva Mendanha

Puritan Board Freshman
I am a member of a conservative EPC church, no female elders or deacons, strongly pro-life, and many ministries, and we are growing. I know nothing about the denomination.
I have a guess. (Forgive my English, I'm learning). As the EPC has churches that ordain women and churches that do not, each group has more in common with other denominations than with each other. So, if EPC members change cities and in the first city the church had a position and in the next city the EPC has a different position on women's ordination, they can go to PCA or OPC if they are against ordination or ECO if they are favorable. When they move to another city, they can change their denomination, because it has more in common with other denominations than with each other.

It makes sense?
 

LadyCalvinist

Puritan Board Junior
J.L. Allen, I think most people are happy to be in the EPC, I have heard nothing about wanting to leave and go elsewhere. I know at least one elder who is Arminian, and Calvinism is rarely talked about. I would call it more broadly evangelical than anything else. But I will say one thing for it: there is a lot of love there.
The sermons are okay and some are very good, but they rarely have the depth an OPC church might have.
 

Pilgrim

Puritanboard Commissioner
Simple answer to the ECO / EPC distinctions:

ECO supports the feminist agenda but is opposed to homosexuality

EPC opposes the feminist agenda (but tolerates egalitianism) as well as homosexuality
Some people might say that the last statement is a distinction without a difference. Egal in Reformed denominations (as opposed to (arguably) pentecostal/charismatic ones) is influenced by feminism. But I suppose you're referring to whatever the hard left feminist agenda is in 2021 as opposed to the 1970s version that says that if a woman can be in charge at work, she should be able to be in charge at church as well.
 

Pilgrim

Puritanboard Commissioner
In 2016, the EPC had 150,042 members (Statistics EPC - 2016). In 2018, it reported having 145,210 members (Statistics EPC - 2018). In 2019, 136,336 members (Statistics - EPC 2019).

And the latest stat, for the year 2020, had 122,216 members (Statistics EPC - 2020).

What would be the cause for the loss of 27,826 members (18.54% of 2016 members) in just 4 years?
I just noticed that you can click through and look at the numbers at the congregational level. It looks like some churches did not submit a report in 2020, so that might account for some of the difference between 2019 and 2020. (That being said, I don't know how many would not have submitted a report in 2019. But I wouldn't be surprised if COVID was an issue with submitting reports.)
 

Pilgrim

Puritanboard Commissioner
I reached out to an EPC pastor. He said some of the discrepancy with the numbers is due to people not filling out forms, as I had noted above.

The ECO only requires a broad evangelicalism. In the EPC, affirmation of the Essentials document is a non-negotiable, and elders must affirm the system of doctrine contained in the Westminster Standards. I remember seeing a document about the admissions of the New Wineskins congregations (former PCUSA) that required some study on Reformed theology before they could be admitted to the EPC. An EPC minister cannot be a Barthian, for example. But perhaps one can in the ECO?
 

BayouHuguenot

Puritanboard Clerk
I reached out to an EPC pastor. He said some of the discrepancy with the numbers is due to people not filling out forms, as I had noted above.

The ECO only requires a broad evangelicalism. In the EPC, affirmation of the Essentials document is a non-negotiable, and elders must affirm the system of doctrine contained in the Westminster Standards. I remember seeing a document about the admissions of the New Wineskins congregations (former PCUSA) that required some study on Reformed theology before they could be admitted to the EPC. An EPC minister cannot be a Barthian, for example. But perhaps one can in the ECO?

That makes sense. The losses described sound like the TEC and that just doesn't seem accurate.
 

Pilgrim

Puritanboard Commissioner
That makes sense. The losses described sound like the TEC and that just doesn't seem accurate.

That being said, I doubt the reporting is as bad as the SBC. There you have churches that report 2000 members with an attendance of 300. (I think they may only count attendance as well.) And then you have others that refuse to submit that information.


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J.L. Allen

Puritan Board Sophomore
I reached out to an EPC pastor. He said some of the discrepancy with the numbers is due to people not filling out forms, as I had noted above.

The ECO only requires a broad evangelicalism. In the EPC, affirmation of the Essentials document is a non-negotiable, and elders must affirm the system of doctrine contained in the Westminster Standards. I remember seeing a document about the admissions of the New Wineskins congregations (former PCUSA) that required some study on Reformed theology before they could be admitted to the EPC. An EPC minister cannot be a Barthian, for example. But perhaps one can in the ECO?
As LadyCalvinist said above, one of her elders isn't even reformed (this isn't saying they aren't nice and caring). What you describe seems to be an ideal, but practice is elusive.
 

Pilgrim

Puritanboard Commissioner
As LadyCalvinist said above, one of her elders isn't even reformed (this isn't saying they aren't nice and caring). What you describe seems to be an ideal, but practice is elusive.

That can be said of most denominations. One member of a PCA nearby told me that the PCA “had dealt with” the Federal Vision. But one of the elders is an “out and proud” Federal Visionist whether or not he applies that name to himself. And he was put on the session after the FV report.

Sadly, in many churches, the elders only act as sort of a board of directors that isn’t really involved in ministry. Too often they are chosen based on their prominence in the community rather than their theological acumen or spirituality. About 10 years ago I had downloaded a mobile app for a prominent PCA congregation. One day, I got a notification that a document had been uploaded. It had to do with elder candidates who had been nominated, and included a paragraph or two about them. Almost without exception they were what might be termed “high powered professionals” such as doctors or lawyers. Perhaps they were all eminently qualified. Certainly, those types are over represented in Presbyterian churches, especially the big steeple ones. But I wondered if any blue collar guys (or even men who are less prominent or less obviously successful in their careers) are ever nominated, and if so, whether they would be seriously considered.


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genevabound

Puritan Board Freshman
I am a new member at a EPC church, but they only recently affiliated. They were independent before then. If there were a shift I could see them going back to being independent. The church is growing and has been for a while, lots of young families.
 
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