Imagine an Institution

A short illustration, posted on April 20 by Jerry Bowyer on the forbes.com blog, was printed in the May 31, 2011 edition of the Christian Century: Imagine an institution that requires its leaders to attend not only college, but graduate school.  Imagine that the graduate school in question is constitutionally forbidden from receiving any form of government aid, that it typically requires three years of full-time schooling for the diploma, that the nature of the schooling bears almost no Read More …

Do Mainline Protestants Really Have Bigger Brains?

A recent study funded by the National Institutes of Health and the Templeton Foundation suggests that mainline Protestants have larger brains than those with other religious affiliations.   Yonat Shimron's article summarizes the findings: It found an association between participants' professed religious affiliation and the physical structure of their brain. Specifically, those identified as Protestant who did not have a religious conversion or born-again experience — more common among their Read More …

The End of Mary

Philip N. Cohen, professor of sociology at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, recently wrote two posts (A and B) on his blog about the declining popularity of the name Mary.  To put the trend in perspective he offers these remarks: For the first time in the history of the United States of America, the name Mary is not in the top 100 given to newborn girls. Mary was the #1 name every year in the Social Security name database from 1880 — it’s first year — to 1961 (except for Read More …

Learning from Gen Y: Thoughts of a New Reformation

Bradley N. Hill, a minister in the Evangelical Covenant Church, recently wrote an article for the Christian Century suggesting that the way most churches operate (an attractional model) will never effectively engage Generation Y (those he characterizes as being born between 1976 and 2000) for many reasons including: . . . advertisement is just part of the background white noise of our culture. No impersonal website or advertisement, no program or event flyer, poster or radio spot will entice Read More …

Reality Check: A Typical Mainline Church in 2010

The Research Services Office of the Presbyterian Church (USA) just released the 2010 Survey of Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) Congregations, which was part of the Faith Communities Today (FACT) 2010 study of 10,000 congregations from 100 Christian denominations and other faith groups in the United States.  The data was provided by leaders of 706 PCUSA congregations.  Among the statistics worth noting: The median worship attendance for all Sunday morning services is 70 people Congregations Read More …

Lead by Letting Go

The Reverend Canon Dr. Frederick W. Schmidt, Jr. is an Episcopal Priest, Director of Spiritual Formation and Anglican Studies and Associate Professor of Christian Spirituality at Perkins School of Theology at Southern Methodist University.  Previously he served as Canon Educator, Director of Programs in Spirituality and Religious Education, and Acting Program Area Manager at Washington National Cathedral.  He is the author of seven books as well as numerous scholarly articles and book chapters. Read More …

An Overview of American Church Membership

Earlier this week the National Council of Churches released its annual analysis of church membership: 2011 Yearbook of American and Canadian Churches.  According to the Rev. Dr. Eileen Lindner, editor, the data in this year's report suggests that recent membership trends have continued: "That is, churches which have been increasing in membership in recent years continue to grow and likewise, those churches which have been declining in recent years continue to decline." The yearbook reports a Read More …

The Presbyterian (PCUSA) Church is Deathly Ill

"Where Have All The Presbyterians Gone?" could be the title of a denominational funeral hymn for the 2.3 millionmember PCUSA, but is actually the title of a recent Wall Street Journal article by Russell Moore.  Moore (pictured at left) is a Southern Baptist minister who currently serves as the Dean of the School of Theology and Senior Vice-President for Academic Administration at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary and as a preaching pastor at Highview Baptist Church. Jack Haberer, a Read More …

The Future of Mainline Denominations

The Future of Mainline Protestantism As a group, mainline Protestants have experienced ongoing decline in membership for multiple decades.  In recent years some have replaced "mainline" with terms like "old line" or "sidelined."   Looking forward, almost everyone agrees that unless something changes significantly the decline will continue.  While some writers have focused on the decline including the likely causes and others are calling for the end of denominationalism in favor of a Read More …