The Largest Religion in America in 2037

The rise of the "nones" (those claiming no religious affiliation) has been well documented in general, and also here on this blog.  Assuming the shift away from religious affiliation continues, when might the largest "religious group" in America become those without a religious affiliation? Rise of the Nones Allen Downey, Professor of Computer Science at Olin College, recently shared on his blog an extended version of an article he initially published in Scientific American titled "The Read More …

The Disappearance of Young Pastors

Last week I saw a link to Kate Shellnutt's article, "Only 1 in 7 Pastors is Under 40" appear on my social feeds a few times before I clicked through to read it and to learn about the latest research on the topic. The research was conducted by the Barna Group and Pepperdine University. It included 14,000 pastors. Findings include: Average Age of Protestant Senior Pastors 2017: 54 1992: 44 Young Senior Pastors  2017: Only 1 in 7 is under age 40 Getting Personal This topic Read More …

Mainline Protestantism = Old

Until around the year 2000 I always thought of the group of churches to which I have belonged as Mainline or Mainline Protestant.  Over the last several years I have heard a variety of terms used that convey the considerable decline in membership and cultural capital. Data from the Pew Religious Landscape Study shows just how old the Mainline/Sidelined/Oldline Protestant traditions have become.   Mainline Denomination Median  Age Percent of Members Age Read More …

Fewer and Fewer Christians (& Even Fewer Mainline Protestants)

In 2007 the Pew Research Center conducted their initial U.S. Religious Landscape Study.  The 2014 edition, published earlier today, shows Christianity declined by 8% in America over the last seven years (78.4% to 70.6%).  Allowing for the margin of error, this means the number of Christian adults in the U.S. has shrunk by somewhere between 2.8 million and 7.8 million. Decline Impacts All Christian Traditions Mainline Protestants and Catholics top the list for experiencing the greatest Read More …

From Mainline to Sideline to Oldline

I grew up in a Mainline Protestant congregation.  The congregation I was raised in belonged to one of the seven sisters of Mainline American Protestantism: the Congregational Church (now a part of the United Church of Christ), the Episcopal Church, the Evangelical Lutheran Church, the Presbyterian Church (USA), the United Methodist Church, the American Baptist Convention, and the Disciples of Christ. While my childhood congregation has remained a part of the Presbyterian Church (USA), the Read More …

Changes in Christian Affiliation in Latin America

Last week the Pew Research Center released findings from their recent survey examining religious affiliations, beliefs and practices in 18 countries and one U.S. territory (Puerto Rico) across Latin America and the Caribbean.  While this region of the world is home to over 400 million Catholics (nearly 40% of the global total) and despite the popularity of the first Latin American Pope, affiliation with Catholicism is declining rapidly. Dramatic Decline From the 1900s through the 1960s Read More …

Shifts in Religious Affiliation (1972-2012)

The changing role of religion in American culture is a popular topic of conversation among religious leaders.  Those leaders situated within Mainline Protestantism (a tradition I claim as my own) are talking more openly than ever before about decline.  Even the names used to describe the tradition increasingly recognize that the decline is both about diminishing numbers of adherents (Oldline) and a more marginalized role (Sideline).  While I am encouraged by increased attention given to the Read More …

Who REALLY Attends Church?

Over the last 10 days I have seen at least a few dozen different articles or blog posts talking about the gap between who says they attend church and who actually attends.  The sudden focus on the topic is a result of a survey by the Public Religion Research Institute, which was release on May 17.  More specifically, the latest inquiry finds that people are more honest about the topic when asked in an anonymous online survey than when asked by phone.  Interestingly, three groups were more likely Read More …

Latinos Leaving Catholicism

The longstanding cultural expectation that Latinos are overwhelmingly Catholic is shifting.  New data from Pew Research finds that "a majority (55%) of the nation’s estimated 35.4 million Latino adults – or about 19.6 million Latinos – identify as Catholic today."  To put this in perspective, one must understand that the percentage of Latinos self-identifying as Catholic has been declining for two decades, and the rate of decline is accelerating.  Over the last four years alone, the number has Read More …

Progressive Identity

Many people think of the United Church of Christ as a progressive Protestant denomination.  Since it is a congregational tradition, it is important to note that this tradition features congregations and members with views all across the theological continuum.  Individual congregations that claim progressive as a core part of their identity should be intentional in communicating that message. Recently I encountered an exemplary example of how to tell the progressive story well on the website Read More …