Is a flock of 200 big or small?

The staggeringly in-depth conservative Anglican website TitusOneNine has an interesting take by a reader named Karen B. dissecting a New York Times report about the escalating Episcopal Church warfare in Connecticut.

To read the original Stacey Stowe news story, click here. To dig into Karen B.’s critique, click here.

As always, this wrestling match is linked to the Bible and sex outside of marriage. However, Karen is interested in how newspapers can actually bias a story with a highly nuanced, or uninformed, use of statistics.

Here is the Stowe paragraph that sent Karen to the web for some interesting research and statistics.

The Vassar College Episcopal chaplain, the Rev. Susan McCone, is now the priest in charge of St. John’s, a church with fewer than 200 members. A retired priest from western Massachusetts has been leading Sunday services. . . .

Seems innocent enough. But wait: What is the percentage of Episcopal parishes that average fewer than 80 to 100 in worship?

Read it all.

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About tmatt

Terry Mattingly directs the Washington Journalism Center at the Council for Christian Colleges and Universities. He writes a weekly column for the Universal Syndicate.

  • Karen B.

    Tmatt, you asked the percentage of Episcopal parishes that average fewer than 80-100 people for average Sunday attendance. Here’s the breakdown (from 2001):

    source a report by ECUSA statistician Kirk Hadaway, as posted on Dr. Louie Crew’s website:

    “The average or mean size of Episcopal churches in terms of average Sunday attendance is 118 persons. Because this number is skewed upward by very large churches, a more useful indicator of the “typical” Episcopal congregation is the median (the middle value in which 50% of churches are larger and 50% are smaller). The median Episcopal congregation has 80 persons in worship.

    The following percentages show the distribution of Episcopal churches across size categories in 2001:

    1-50 ASA 33.4%
    51-100 25.5%
    101-150 16.1%
    151-225 12.9%
    226-325 6.6%
    326-450 3.0%
    451-800 2.1%
    801+ 0.5%

    So just about 60% of ECUSA parished average less than 100 folks in attendance on a given Sunday.

    I haven’t ever seen St. John’s Bristol data, but eyeballing the chart on the ECUSA congregational resources page (linked in my Titusonenine comment), the 2003 attendance looked to be in the vicinity of 150 which would put it in the top quartile of ECUSA churches in average attendance.

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