German churches lost more parishioners than ever in 2022

German Church

Last year, the church tax revenue of the Catholic and Evangelical churches amounted to 13 billion euros, but the drop in the number of parishioners puts their future finances at risk.

The two largest churches in Germany, the Catholic and the Evangelical, received around 13 billion euros in church taxes in 2022, according to a study by the German Institute of Economics in Cologne (IW), published this Saturday (04.08.2023) on your website. This means around 200 million euros more than the previous year. Almost 6,800 million euros corresponded to the Catholic Church and 6,100 million to the Protestant Church.

However, study author Tobias Hentze warned that churches would have to save in the future: “Resignations and demographic change are now taking their toll more and more on church coffers.” The German Catholic and Evangelical Church, the main Protestant denomination in Germany, lost a total of 1.3 million parishioners who resigned in 2022, between deaths and resignations, which represents a historical record of abandonments and deepens a trend that it takes years.

Since the church tax is collected in proportion to the income tax liability, the nominal tax revenues of the two Christian churches generally increased with the state revenues from this item. But while income tax revenue rose about 4.5 percent in 2022, churches received only about 1.5 percent more money.

The decline in revenue from 2027

According to the Economic Research Institute study, church tax revenue will decline in real terms by 2027 as a result of inflation and demographic change. Adjusted for purchasing power, churches will earn a total of 11.3 billion euros in 2027, almost four percent less than in 2022 and around eleven percent less than in 2019 before the start of the coronavirus pandemic crisis.

Inflation will be an important factor in this process and also in the coming years the generation of the so-called “babyboom” will receive a pension, with which they will pay less church tax. The IW advises against coping with a church tax increase, which could lead to more people leaving the church, and encourages churches to save and use their heritage resources.

The Evangelical Church in Germany had already published its membership forecasts for 2022 this month, according to which it lost around 575,000 members in 2022, including 380,000 through resignations. For the first time, the number of apostates exceeded the number of deaths. At the end of 2022, more than 19.1 million Germans belonged to the Evangelical Church. The German Catholic Bishops’ Conference wants to publish its 2022 statistics by the summer. However, the IW study allows us to anticipate that the number of Catholics fell by around 725,000 to around 20.9 million in total.

Among the reasons that are usually mentioned to explain the increase in desertions are the scandals of sexual abuse in ecclesiastical institutions, which affects the Catholic Church the most, which last year had already registered a record number of departures.