For reasons having to do with the current discontents in the Anglican Communion I went to the Anglican Communion website and noticed the content had changed recently. Here is what it now says about the Anglican Communion:
"…the world-wide Anglican Communion, comprising over 80 million members in 44 regional and national member churches around the globe in over 160 countries."
That's a considerably larger number than I had expected, and 44 "regional and national member churches" seemed larger as well.
On this last matter – the number of regional and national member churches – the collection is a bit like a collection of apples and oranges. There are the 38 Provinces, some of which are regional and some national churches (Southern Cone, regional; Brazil, national) In addition to these there are 6 extra-provincial dioceses – namely the Church of Ceylon, Iglesia Episcopal de Cuba, Bermuda, the Lusitanian Church, the Reformed Church of Spain, and the Falkland Islands.
These six dioceses are of different sorts: five are extra-provincial to Canterbury, Cuba to a consortium of other provinces; two, the Lusitanian Church and the Reformed Church of Spain are independent churches that have cast their lot with Anglicans. They are all part of the untidiness of the Anglican Communion, but they are all connected to existing provinces. So really it is more accurate to say the Anglican Communion consists of thirty-eight provinces, some with arrangements made for special circumstances. So I think the description needs to be "in 38 Provinces (being national or regional autonomous churches) around the globe in over 160 countries." The six special circumstance dioceses are to be counted in some other way.
Returning to the 80 million figure: Where does that come from? I went to a variety of sources on line, beginning of course with the Anglican Communion web pages. In the past I believe a number of the pages for particular Provinces gave numbers – sometimes rounded up to the nearest million (I recall Rwanda as 1,000,000), sometimes a number so precise as to be odd in itself. But at any event there were numbers available. I looked about at Anglicans Online. They had a smattering of numbers, mostly not too useful.
Louie Crew's Anglican Pages gives the 1997 figures from the Anglican Communion Office at 76 million. (The map to the right is from Crew's pages) The book, Beyond Colonial Anglicanism, published in 2001, also gives a total of 76 million, but David Hamid, who authored Chapter 3, on "The Nature and Shape of the Contemporary Anglican Communion" admits the numbers present a bit of a quandary.
My curiosity was further aroused by the following note in the GAFCON Frequently Asked Questions pages, "These bishops (the ones doing the inviting to the conference) and their colleagues represent over 30 million Anglicans out of the 55 million active Anglicans. (Nigeria 18m, Uganda 8m, Kenya 2.5m, Rwanda 1m, Tanzania 1.3m plus Southern Cone, US, Sydney, England). The notional total of the Communion is 77m. The active membership is nearer 55m, since of the 26m notional members in CofE 3.7m attend at Christmas Services." GAFCON presumes the number of Anglicans at 77 million noted, 55 million active. CANA speaks simply of "the Anglican Communion, a worldwide fellowship of some 70 million…"
So the numbers are a variable feast: 55m, 70m, 76,m, 77m, 80m.
I am interested in why there is not "official" listing of numbers of members of the Communion from the various Provinces available on the Anglican Communion web site – numbers that they can give with some rationale. In many places those numbers are going to be estimates only, since who is counted and why is a bit difficult, but some reasonable guess must be possible in every Province.
Playing with the numbers is sometimes an exercise in futility. The numbers get warped or misused with great abandon. GAFCON's rather snotty decision to exclude all but 3.7 million CofE members because they don't attend Christmas Services, and the dissenter's often gleefully pronouncement that the Episcopal Church has less than 800,000 members in church on Sundays, is an effort to drag the decadent West's numbers down.
The very small number reported for the Southern Cone – 25,000 plus or minus – is sometimes countered by saying that many more attend who are still listed as Roman Catholic or evangelical but have not formally joined the Church. Alternately I have sometimes taken that number as an indication that the evangelical fervor of Anglicans in the Southern Cone has not yielded much.
The numbers are of value mostly in the context of looking at the history of the development of the various churches and in assessing the sorts of ministries we might do as a Communion. But it would be helpful to have a better guess of what those numbers might be then we have now.