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.
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:
|Denomination||No. of Judicatories Reporting||No. of Clergy Deaths||% of Reported Deaths|
|African Methodist Episcopal Church||1||1||0.85%|
|Anglican Church in North America||5||0||0%|
|Assemblies of God||10||12||10.17%|
|Evangelical Lutheran Church in America||13||7||5.93%|
|Evangelical Presbyterian Church||4||0||0%|
|Lutheran Church of the Missouri-Synod||9||1||0.85%|
|Presbyterian Church (USA)||2||0||0%|
|United Church of Christ||9||4||3.39%|
|United Methodist Church||9||16||13.56%|
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:
|Denomination||COVID Death Rate (%)||Estimated Total Deaths|
|Assemblies of God||0.21%||79|
|Evangelical Lutheran Church in America||0.20%||34|
|United Church of Christ||0.17%||16|
|United Methodist Church||0.26%||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:
|Region||No. of Judicatories Reporting||% of Total Reporting Judicatories||Reported Deaths by Region||% of Reported Deaths by Region|
|Alaska & Hawaii||7||4.24%||1||0.85%|
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.