Total Christian Clergy Deaths Resulting from COVID-19

by Darren Slade, PhD – FaithX Director of Research

Over the past year, the FaithX Project, in partnership with researchers from the Global Center for Religious Research (GCRR), conducted a study to answer one very important question about clergy deaths:

How many Christian “clergy” members, from all denominations and traditions, died as a result of the COVID-19 virus?

While the study can only provide estimates and statistical probabilities, the research is finally complete and the preliminary numbers are in.

Preliminary Summary

Our researchers were in contact with major Christian leaders across the United States from 16 different denominations where they received data from over 160 judicatories. The FaithX Project documented a total of 118 clergy deaths that were directly related to the Coronavirus.

The following table shows the data in alphabetical order by denomination:

DenominationNo. of Judicatories ReportingNo. of Clergy Deaths% of Reported Deaths
African Methodist Episcopal Church110.85%
American Baptist765.08%
Anglican Church in North America500%
Assemblies of God101210.17%
Episcopal Church2354.24%
Evangelical Lutheran Church in America1375.93%
Evangelical Presbyterian Church400%
Lutheran Church of the Missouri-Synod910.85%
Presbyterian Church (USA)200%
Seventh-day Adventist110.85%
Southern Baptist61210.17%
United Church of Christ943.39%
United Methodist Church91613.56%

As expected, the Catholic denomination suffered the greatest loss of life among its clergy simply because of the size and expansiveness of Catholicism in the United States. According to the study’s finding, which will be published later this year in the Socio-Historical Examination of Religion and Ministry (SHERM Journal), the Catholics experienced a 0.78% death rate (with less than 3% margin of error). This means that conservatively, roughly 192 Catholic clergy members (or more!) died due to COVID-19. Similar results appeared for other denominations but at a lower rate.

For instance, the American Baptist denomination had the next highest death rate at 0.45% (with an approximate 7% margin of error), meaning that as many as 28 American Baptist clergy died from the Coronavirus.

The Episcopal Church was the third highest with a 0.43% death rate (about a 4% margin of error), totaling approximately 21 clergy fatalities for the entire denomination.

Other significant denominational findings are shown in the table below:

DenominationCOVID Death Rate (%)Estimated Total Deaths
American Baptist0.45%28
Assemblies of God0.21%79
Episcopal Church0.43%21
Evangelical Lutheran Church in America0.20%34
Southern Baptist0.12%85
United Church of Christ0.17%16
United Methodist Church0.26%96

Preliminary Regional Summary

Obviously, not all judicatories responded to our inquiry, and several refused to participate entirely. The following is a breakdown of which regions in the United States responded to our requests for information:

RegionNo. of Judicatories Reporting% of Total Reporting JudicatoriesReported Deaths by Region% of Reported Deaths by Region
Rocky Mountain127.27%86.78%
Alaska & Hawaii74.24%10.85%

Total Clergy Deaths Across All Denominations

With the information obtained from these 16 denominations, the study researchers believe they can extrapolate an estimate for the total number of clergy deaths spanning across all Christian denominations.

If there exists roughly 458,000 Christian clergy members in the entire United States, then as many as 1,100 (or more) clergy members have died as a direct result of COVID-19.

Look for the full report with additional details in the Winter 2021 issue of SHERM Journal.

**Disclaimer: This blog post is not meant to report the official numbers that will be published later this year. The numbers in this blog post are only preliminary estimates that are still awaiting peer-review and an accuracy check.