By Barbara Dadd Shaffer

This article is about numbers and statistics. Items which you would think would be the concern of the conference statistician. But, no, they fall to the Conference Secretary to compute. He or she is expected to complete something called the Business of the Annual Conference or the” BAC.” It’s in the Journal if you want to check it out. It includes lots of lists. For example, all retired clergy are listed by name. There are a couple questions which are really two charts of statistics. Having a head for figures and being married to that Conference Secretary, they fall to me. Several of them are really quite interesting. Here goes.

The two charts are about our clergy and people leading congregations or working in agencies. One sorts out the number in various categories like local church pastors and extension ministries. The second chart sorts out the same people by gender and ethnicity.

One good question to ask of the statistics is “How many women clergy do we have?” And compared to the total number of clergy? Looking at the chart, it would appear that there really isn’t that large a percentage of women clergy. Of the 470 clergy recorded in the charts, 155 or 33.2% are women. But we look around and see so many women. The chart separating out our clergy by gender includes all the retired clergy, too. Most of them are men (180 men and 33 women). And they tend to live a long time. It wasn’t that long ago that essentially all of the clergy were male.

If only the 257 active clergy are included, then the percentage (of female clergy) jumps to 51%.

If you want to make the calculation only for elders, there are 196 of which 85 are women which is 43%. As a woman, I notice these percentages and I think they are really good. Dare I say, “Pretty darn good!”

In addition to these 470 clergy described in the paragraph above and recorded in those two statistical charts, there are another 90 people who are not included. Members of other conferences or other denominations (34), diaconal ministers (9), lay persons assigned by the district superintendents (36) and retired local pastors (11). Also, several retired elders are working in our churches and agencies but not counted twice (23).

What’s the grand total? Active and retired, ordained and not. Add ‘em all up and there are 560 men and women with an official relationship to our conference.

Another question to ask of the statistics is “What is the ethnic makeup of our conference?” Of the 470 persons, 48 are ethnic minorities, a small 10%. When those retired clergy are taken out of the numbers, it improves a bit to 11.3% (29 out of 257). Of the retired clergy, the amazing number of 17 are Asian.

Let’s look at the districts. The district with the most people under appointment is no surprise. The Seattle District with 60 people. Next is the Inland District with 54 and close behind is the Tacoma District with 50. Seven Rivers District has 45, followed by the Vancouver District with 37 and the Puget Sound District with 34.

One interesting figure is the number of elders in each district. It’s not necessarily proportional to the total number of people under appointment.

The percentage ranges from 57% (Inland) to 77% (Seattle and Puget Sound); the overall average is 69%. Don’t bother looking in the charts for these figures. They aren’t there. I computed the figures by district so I could recount (something which happened too much) more easily on the way to giving the numbers to that special Conference Secretary in my life.

What doesn’t show in the 2012 charts are the changes from the previous year. The total number of persons (470) is up by 8 which is less than 2%. The number of retired people is stable (up 2). The number of elders increased by four as the number of provisional elders dropped by six. Retirements make up the difference. We retired fewer elders than we ordained and we commissioned fewer than we ordained. The biggest change is in the number of local pastors, both full time and part time. Up from 30 to 39. Quite a percentage increase (30%). I’ll leave it to others to analyze the reasons for this.

Who told you that statistics can be dry and uninteresting?

Barbara Dadd Shaffer
Number one assistant to the conference secretary, soon to leave his position.

744 words


  1. Barbara- thanks for both compiling and sharing these numbers – I did, indeed, find them interesting.

    Patrick – thanks to you as well for providing this format for sharing such info.

  2. Barbara,
    Truly a “labor of love” to compile all these most interesting stats. Appreciate all the info and that it has been shared with all. Now, want to do the same with lay leaders in the PNW???

  3. “…biggest change is in the number of local pastors, both full time and part time. Up from 30 to 39. Quite a percentage increase (30%). I’ll leave it to others to analyze the reasons for this.”

    Pretty simple, seems to me:
    There is a rapidly increasing number of local churches unable to afford the $$ to provide for an ordained clergy (costs incl health insurance, pensions, etc on top of remuneration).

    Much of the strong smaller churches of the past are now hurting.

    HOWEVER, I wonder if the spiritual vitality of our Local Pastors may well be a seed of Renewal for us!

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