The ELCA released a news report this morning regarding the annual membership census. The data for 2007 shows “a decline in membership of 64,247 and a decrease of 22 congregations from 2006″. As this table shows, membership in the ELCA has been in steady decline since it was created in late 1980s.
Looking at tables is all well and good, but I’m a visual learner, so I decided to make a couple of graphs to put things into perspective. Using the data from the aforementioned table, the first graph shows the total “baptized membership” of the ELCA from 1987 to 2007.
You can clearly see a significant decline in membership over the last twenty years — but keep in mind that in the same time frame the ELCA also lost 685 congregations. If you lose churches, you’re going to be losing members. At the same time, I certainly don’t believe that the 685 fewer churches account for the entire loss of membership during these years.
The second graph shows the yearly change in membership as a bar graph.
The 1990s were up and down in terms of membership, but since 1999 — and even more so since 2002 — the ELCA has been losing lots and lots of members.