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Monday, February 25, 2008

Changing Denominations in the US - A monday rant on the Church


Boston Globe reports today the recent Pew study on  how More Americans are Changing Religious Denominations. The report states:
A sweeping new study of religious affiliation in the United States finds a country in which Protestants are becoming a minority, Catholicism is becoming heavily Hispanic, and the number of people who say they are not affiliated with any religion is growing.

The study, which is the most comprehensive such examination in at least a half century, finds the United States to be in a period of unprecedented religious fluidity, in which 44 percent of American adults have left the denomination of their childhood for another denomination, another faith, or no faith at all.

"Americans are not only changing jobs, changing locations, changing spouses, but they're also changing religions on a regular basis,'' said Luis E. Lugo, the director of the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life, which conducted the study. "We have nearly half the American public telling us they're something different today than they were as a child, and that's a staggering number. It's such a dynamic religious marketplace, and very competitive.''

The study is based on a survey of 35,000 Americans, a very large number for survey research, and the size of the pool allowed the researchers to get more detail about minority religious groups than is usually available from smaller studies.

The nation is still predominantly -- 78 percent -- Christian, but 5 percent are now adherents of other faiths and 16 percent are unaffiliated.

A full report is available at pewforum.org.
US News and World Report also did an article on the subject. Find it here.

Q. How about you? Are you still attending the church of your family / childhood? Why or why not? 

For me, we've been denominational 'shape shifters'. I started out a Roman Catholic (and look fondly back at my childhood in the church). Since I've attended Baptist, Assembly of God, Vineyard, Word of Faith, Presbyterian, Foursquare and, currently, a historically African American denomination, the Church of God in Christ, (where I currently hold my ordination). I've found a few things: 

  1. All churches have problems
  2. I'm orthodox in my beliefs. Not in the 'Eastern Orthodox' sense.  
  3. I am much more of a Christ follower than a church goer. In fact, I really can't relate to the Christian sub-culture. Most of what I see on Christian TV, magazines and websites disturbs me. It doesn't represent what I see in scripture. 
  4. There are honest, God fearing Christians in most churches. In fact, in all churches there are sincere seekers. 
  5. Denominations are good and bad. I think there is a place for 'tribes' - Everyone has the right to worship with folks who think like them. When denominations provide an excuse to be territorial, 'catty' and generally divisive, then they are bad. 
  6. The US is in desperate need for renewal and revival. Change begins with the Church. 
  7. When the Church does what the Church is supposed to do (i.e care for the poor, prophetically call for justice, exhibit and promote true biblical values, provide a loving community,  disciple it's followers and engage in true worship) people take notice.
  8. The Church IS the vehicle God uses to extend his Kingdom on the earth. It's not the government, social services, non-profits NGO's,  rock stars or activists who will make the difference. It's the Church, being what God called the Church to be, that will change the world. 
  9. It's certainly not the Church making a deal with a political party that will affect change. I recently read Greg Boyd's book "The Myth of a Christian Nation." It's a good read, great points on the Church's role in society.  
I certainly have a love / hate relationship with the church. Much like any other relationship,  at times I become frustrated and cynical. Other times I am in love with what the Church is and does. But, in the end, being in fellowship withe believers, working out the issues and struggling together is what God intended for us to do. She's not perfect, but She is what we have. I guess, in the end, I'm part of the imperfections in the Church. I once hear it said, "If you find the perfect church, as soon as you join it you made it imperfect!"

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