The 21st Largest City in Canada: Anglican Church Attendance in Canada


This will be the first of three posts I am going to put up here on my blog.

  • This one is going to be about the attendance statistics collected by the General Synod.
  • The second will be about how the statistics are used to produce the number of delegates allocated to each diocese, as well as how people get to vote at General Synod in other ways. I do some number crunching in that blog, to show that not all votes are equal (and argue why that is actually OK).
  • The third post will combine the weighting of the each vote as a representation of attendance with how those votes went with respect to the First Reading of the Amendment to the Marriage Canon.

Delegates at General Synod 2010 in Halifax debating the proposed amendment to change how delegates to General Synod are apportioned. The motion on the screen was eventually amended.

At the General Synod meeting of 2010 in Halifax the rules around how delegates to General Synod were determined for each diocese was changed. Each diocese was entitled to send its bishop or bishops, as well as one youth delegate. That did not change. The way in which it determined how many clergy and lay delegates there were in each diocese was changed. Prior to 2010 it was based on the number of clergy licensed to active ministry. After Second Reading of the Amendment in 2013, the rule to determine clergy and lay delegates became:

Dioceses shall be entitled to elect clerical and lay members of the General Synod as follows:

i) for dioceses having an average attendance of 4,999 persons or less, two members of each Order;
ii) for dioceses having an average attendance between 5,000 and 9,999 persons, three members of each Order;
iii) for dioceses having an average attendance between 10,000 and 14,999 persons, four members of each Order;
iv) for dioceses having an average attendance of 15,000 or more persons, five members of each Order plus one additional member of each Order for each 5,000 of additional average attendance in excess of 15,000.
v) the words “average attendance”, as used in this section and elsewhere in the Constitution, shall mean the average attendance for liturgical celebrations for Easter, Pentecost, the second Sunday in September and Christmas in the second and third calendar years prior to the year in which General Synod will take place, as reported by the Diocese to Church House.
Constitution of the General Synod II. 8. f)

Accordingly, in 2014 and 2015 the dioceses collected the statistics required for the four days, namely Easter, Pentecost, the Second Sunday in September, and Christmas. Christmas is understood to include the services of Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, and Easter includes any attendants at the Vigil. The four days in the two years (I.e. eight days) are added up, averaged, and the average number then determine how many lay and clergy attend. Easter and Christmas are typically high numbers, whereas the other two are pretty normal Sundays for weekly attendance.

So, for example, my Diocese of British Columbia had an average of 6135.38. This means that in addition to one bishop and one youth delegate, we were entitled to send three clergy and three laity. The diocese itself determines how these delegates are chosen – in some dioceses the bishop has the right of appointment of one or two – but usually they are elected by diocesan synods. In the Diocese of BC we always elect our clergy and lay delegates, and I was one of the three clergy honoured to be so selected.

The Office of the General Secretary confirmed my hope that the attendance records were public, so I asked and received these numbers on an Excel spreadsheet. Some of the dioceses did not submit any figures, namely Algoma, Mishamikoweesh, Moosonee, and Quebec. This may be due to administrative challenges – as a former executive officer of the Diocese of BC I know what a hassle it is to get parishes to give statistical information on a timely basis. Each of these jurisdictions are small, and they may have made the back-of-envelope calculation that they would not get out of the minimum level of representation, so it was not really necessary to file a report. That said, I haven’t inquired, so I don’t really know.

Here are a few observations.

First, the two year average for attendance at Christmas is 241,913. While one can make all kinds of comments about that figure, the fact is that this is a heck of a lot of people. On a regular basis at least once a year we get close to a quarter of a million people in our churches. Say what you will about the church, and our Anglican denomination in particular, but 241,913 is a big number. We get fewer on Easter – 190,357 – and the numbers for the Second Sunday of September is a mere 93,786, but this raw number suggests that as a church we are still affecting the lives of many people. Should we do more? Absolutely. Have we had better numbers in the past? Yes. But we’re not dead yet!

Second, the dioceses vary widely in their average attendance, which is an indication of a huge disparity in size. Have a look at this:

Easter Incl. Vigil Day of Pentecost 2nd Sunday in Sept. Christmas Eve & Day Average
Toronto 46933.5 20130.5 20766 47541.5 33842.88
Huron 20627.5 10067 9930.5 23971.5 16149.13
Niagara 12885.5 6884 7070 17207.5 11011.75
Ottawa 12414.5 6119.5 6231 17423 10547.00
New Westminster 10383 5237.5 5044 16167.5 9208.00
Eastern Nfld. & Lab. § 9679.5 4564.5 4503 17149 8974.00
N.S. and PEI 8219.5 4487.5 4264.5 13135.5 7526.75
Fredericton 8295 4635.5 4645.5 10176 6938.00
British Columbia 7509.5 3881.5 3706 9444.5 6135.38
Calgary 6371 3215 3357.5 9325.5 5567.25
Rupert’s Land 6839 2990.5 3152.5 7535.5 5129.38
Edmonton 5754.5 2694 2913 6733.5 4523.75
Montreal 6140.5 2988.5 3093.5 5834 4514.13
Western Nfld. 4429.5 2187 2143 7698 4114.38
Central Nfld. 4397 2533.5 2542 6714 4046.63
Arctic* 5060 1329 2210 6871.5 3867.63
Ontario 2647.5 1627 1642 3475.5 2348.00
Kootenay 2757 1578 1365 3402 2275.50
Qu’Appelle 2176 1343.5 1320 2712.5 1888.00
Brandon* 1169 840 749 2032 1197.50
Saskatchewan* 1303 779 660 1867 1152.25
Saskatoon 1099.5 631.5 814.5 1429 993.63
Athabasca* 903.5 497.5 542.5 1341.5 821.25
APCI* 970.5 552 499.5 1263 821.25
Caledonia* 985.5 389 452 888.5 678.75
Yukon* 406.5 188.5 169.5 574 334.63
TOTAL 190357 92371 93786 241913 154606.8

* Council of the North           § Archdeaconry of Labrador is in the Council of the North

As you can see, the average attendance in the Diocese of Toronto is more than forty times that of the Anglican Parishes of the Central Interior, and more than 100 times that of the Diocese of Yukon. If we were to range them the Diocese of Toronto is in a class by itself, being more than twice the size of the next largest diocese by attendance, namely Huron. The next four dioceses fall between 7,500 and 11,000, which means Toronto is at least three times their size. The next nine dioceses range between 3800 and 6900, five are between 1152 and 2348, and the rest are all below 1000. To put it another way, close to 2/3rds of the Canadian church is found in just seven dioceses. While we can be proud that we are in every corner of the country, we are overwhelmingly an urban church.

A third observation is that if we were a city we’d be 21st on the list of metropolitan areas. At times it feels like the Anglican Church of Canada is a small village that just happens to spread across the country from shore to shore to shore, but the data suggests that we’re really a mid-size city with all the diversity that entails. Our church is bigger than you think it is.

diocesanmap850Fourth, some of these dioceses are really small in terms of population. But they are also often responsible for large geographic areas. An argument might be made that some dioceses should just merge – Quebec with Montreal, or Saskatoon with Qu’appelle. Indeed, the leadership of the Diocese of British Columbia a few years ago had a very, very informal discussion about whether it would make more sense in terms of stewardship of resources to join with the Diocese of New Westminster (I know this ‘cause I was there) but the conclusion was “God put us on an island and determined the boundaries of the Diocese that way”, so we did not go forward to get more serious. Despite that experience I believe we need to push that question of stewardship of resources, but at the same time we need to be respectful of the trajectories of different dioceses in their traditions and cultures.

A final comment is to observe that there are other measures of our size. Based on nine year old data from the ACoC website at there are 545, 957 persons listed on the parish rolls. This suggests that even at our major feasts only half the people we count as Anglicans are actually in church. According to Statistics Canada and the 2011 census some 1,631,845 people in our country consider themselves Anglican. Both of these statistics bear witness to the quip by Reginald Bibby that our problem is not that people have dropped out, but that they aren’t dropping in. In terms of a strategy for evangelism we would do well to consider how to encourage those who think that they are already members to become more active!

In the next blog post I’ll look at how those numbers translate into representatives at General Synod.

About Bruce Bryant-Scott

Canadian. Husband. Father. Christian. Recovering Settler. A priest of the Church of England, Diocese in Europe, on the island of Crete in Greece. More about me at
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1 Response to The 21st Largest City in Canada: Anglican Church Attendance in Canada

  1. Pingback: Not All Delegates are Alike | The Island Parson

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