Hold the phone!

I love it when stats prove me wrong. One of my favourite wikipedia pages is Demographics of the United States which contains an interesting section on religious affiliation.

I've always found this article compelling because of the state of American Baptists. According to the article, Baptists in America declined from 19.8% to 17.2% of the population between 1990 and 2000 - and also declined in number by 0.4%.

It's a statistic that is quite damning of American Baptists especially the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC).

Given that the entire makeup of the Baptist movement is to baptise adult believers only, and the enormous power given to individual churches, one would think that the structure would be ideal for grass-roots evangelism and church growth.

Apparently not. I blame Charles Finney for most of this.

The real surprise is the growth of the Episocopal Church and the United Church of Christ. Although their numbers are small, both bodies grew at enormous numerical rates during the 1990s - 13.4% for the Episcopal church and 130.1% for the United Church of Christ.

Both denominations are very theologically liberal and their growth during this period knocks on the head predictions of their demise. No wonder they feel safe ordaining homosexuals - to them there is no link between theological liberalism and church decline.

Why is this important?

It's because here in Australia the situation is different. The Uniting Church and the non-evangelical dioceses that make up the Anglican Church are representative of mainstream theological liberalism. Both, however, are suffering terrible numerical decline. By contrast, Evangelical churches like the Sydney Anglicans are growing in number. (Interestingly, the Baptists in Australia are not growing much)

The interesting thing about comparing Australian and American religious beliefs is the large amount of people who tick "no religion" in the census. Americans of no religion increased from 6.4% of the population in 1990 to 15.0% of the population in 2000. Australia in 1996 was 16.5% non religious. So what's going on?

I wish I had the stats at hand, but I'm fairly certain that America has a higher attendance rate than Australia does. This means that census figures for America are far more accurate in terms of discerning religious trends than Australian census figures are. What I mean is that when you see churches growing or declining in American census figures, it means that those particular churches are, in fact, growing or declining. In Australia, census figures will show that Anglicans and Presbyterians to be declining in number - but denominational stats will show churches probably growing in number, there being a disparity between regular members and those who tick the box on the census form.

And I can't think of anything else to say. This was supposed to be a short post.

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