U.S. Church Demographics

Discussion in 'The Commons' started by Sean611, Jul 19, 2012.

  1. Sean611

    Sean611 Well-Known Member

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    The following link is to an incredible research database on U.S church demographics. The surveys that were conducted give incredible insight into the demographics of several denominations and contain many surprises.

    For example, 36% of mainline church members (which includes TEC) consider themselves conservative, 41% moderate, and only 18% liberal. If only the clergy in mainline churches were as evenly divided as this! As far as political party affiliation, the split is near even. Mainline protestants also tend to favor smaller government.

    For Roman Catholics, 36% identify as conservative, 38% moderate, and 18% liberal. Catholics are more likely to belong to the Democratic Party than mainline protestants. Catholics tend to favor larger government and more social programs. Catholics and mainline protestants share almost identical views regarding abortion, homosexuality, and the environment.

    As far as religous and spiritual beliefs, Roman Catholics and mainline protestants score almost identical in the surveys.

    The purpose of this thread is not to cause division over politics or religous beliefs, but to show that even orthodox church hierarchy (like the Vatican and U.S. Bishops) doesn't guarantee that church members share these same orthodox social and theological beliefs (most Roman Catholics identify with liberal leaning beliefs). Mainline protestant church hierarchy and clergy are generally wildly liberal politically and theologically, however, a majority of mainline protestant church goers are conservative to moderate in their political and religous beliefs.

    I think that the problem with TEC leadership and other mainline churches is that they have overestimated the support for their wildly liberal social and theological beliefs.

    http://religions.pewforum.org/portraits
     
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  2. Scottish Monk

    Scottish Monk Well-Known Member

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    Does the tail wag the dog?

    ...Scottish Monk


    [​IMG]
     
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  3. Sean611

    Sean611 Well-Known Member

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    It sure seems like it! :D
     
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  4. Anna Scott

    Anna Scott Well-Known Member

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    Very interesting statistics. What is being taught by leadership in any given faith is not necessarily embraced or practiced by those sitting in the pews.

    Anna
     
  5. Sean611

    Sean611 Well-Known Member

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    No doubt, the statistics are very interesting. One of the other points that sticks out is that mainline protestants, Anglicans, and Catholics do a poor job of catechism and Christian formation. On the other hand, evangelicals do a fantastic job with formation and their form of catechism.
     
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  6. Scottish Monk

    Scottish Monk Well-Known Member

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    Sean611...

    This is a very interesting observation. Easy to believe about the poor catechism and Christian formation found among mainline protestants and Anglicans. However, the local Roman Catholic catechism classes in my community are 9 months of weekly classes. However, if Christian formation (growth of spirituality) is separated from catechism (learning of doctrine), then I agree that Roman Catholics do a poor job of Christian Formation--except for those pursuing contemplative retreats and time in monasteries. I once read that evangelical spirituality often consists of Bible study and evangelism. A type of spirituality that fits well with line-by-line and word-by-word weekly Bible study courses, exegetical sermons involving interaction with the congregation, and evangelism teams.

    Thank you for sharing this research.

    ...Scottish Monk
     
  7. Toma

    Toma Well-Known Member Anglican

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    What fascinating statistics... I was afraid of opening this, in case it was about skin-colour or ethnicity.

    I can believe the claim that Roman Catholic churches generally 'fail' in terms of catechising people. In Canada, at least, there isn't much going on in a parish when it comes to teaching.

    Were the Christian message well-presented in a formal catechism that everyone had to go to, I think we'd see the 'conservative' percentages increase: either relatively or absolutely. Relatively, because everyone who isn't conservative would leave after their catechist started teaching about militancy against evil, about abortion, about the justice of God, and about Hell. Absolutely, because those who are already conservative don't mind hearing this stuff and will flock to the Church(es).

    Of course, by 'conservative' I mean moral, ethical, upright orthodox Christians. :p Terms tend to have different meanings depending on who you're asking... 'liberal' means capitalist in Europe, and 'liberal' means socialist in America, very broadly.

    It's also very interesting that the evangelicals tend to do 'better' with teaching the truths of the faith, since I've often heard from RC and Orthodox friends that evangelicals are a bunch of no-nothings who have no doctrines, and just chaos.
     
  8. Anna Scott

    Anna Scott Well-Known Member

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    Sean,

    I was surprised to see that no group scored 100% for "Belief in God: Absolutely Certain." Belief in God or Universal Spirit by Protestant Denomination. Protestants as a whole scored only 84%.

    Denominations placed under the Evangelical Tradition have a wide variation in beliefs. For example: The Southern Baptist Convention (my former Church) is placed under the Evangelical Tradition. While Southern Baptists consider themselves to be Evangelical, they not part of the National Association of Evangelicals due to disagreements.

    I think there are Episcopalians who would be shocked to find TEC placed under a Protestant Mainline Tradition. If you asked anyone in our Parish if they are Protestant, they would say, "No. We are one of the three Catholic Traditions."

    Anna
     
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  9. Toma

    Toma Well-Known Member Anglican

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    Anna, regardless of what individual Episcopalians think, the official name is The Protestant Episcopal Church of the United States of America. Deny it they may, but Protestantism is the "family" of all Anglican offshoots. The Church of England protested against Rome, without losing its ancient episcopal character. Can't one be Catholic and protest? I think that's the point of the label. :)

    It's understandable that you would dislike being called mere "protest"-ers, since we Christians firstly stand for something, and only secondarily against something if it denies what we affirm. I think "Protestant" is more of an affectionate allegiance in history for many people; a beloved tradition, if you will (ironically). Only the first few followers of Luther and the first bishops who left Rome behind could be called by this name, for their protest against Rome.

    Even more ironically, these Protestants (descendents of the first Christians in 1000 years to write catechisms for the laity) no longer seem content to protest error by affirming written truth - but 16% of 'em affirm the worst error of all: denying Genesis 1:1, from which flows all else...

    Not sure how anyone can be a Protestant, Catholic, Orthodox, or any sort of Christian and not believe in God. Why even keep the title for yourself? Pride?
     
  10. Toma

    Toma Well-Known Member Anglican

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    *Catholic mode*: Pff, yet another protestant denomination - what is that now, 38 976 102? :p

    *Sober mode* - :( They could at least be more imaginative and less copyright-infringing. Split after split, schism after schism, and for what?

    A discussion about demographics inevitably must become a discussion about ecclesiology.
     
  11. Anna Scott

    Anna Scott Well-Known Member

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    Consular,

    In the 1964 General Convention, there was a change in the Constitution and Canons which allowed for two official titles:

    "The Protestant Episcopal Church in the United States of America, otherwise known as The Episcopal Church (which name is hereby recognized as also designating the Church), is a constituent members of the Anglican Communion, a Fellowship within the One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic Church, of those duly constituted Dioceses, Provinces, and Regional Church in communion with the See of Canterbury, upholding and propagating the historical Faith and Order as set forth in the Book of Common Prayer."
    Source: The Anglican Communion Institute, Inc.

    So, there are actually two official names:
    The Protestant Episcopal Church in the United States of America
    The Episcopal Church

    The Episcopal Church title is more in line with Anglo Catholics, who see TEC as a Catholic Tradition. Anglo Catholics in TEC are just as Anglican as more reformed Episcopalians.
    _____________________________

    Sean,
    Please forgive the sidebar. :blush:
     
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  12. Toma

    Toma Well-Known Member Anglican

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    Anna, thank you for the clarification. That is really very interesting... :)

    It isn't really a sidebar, if you think about it. Exactly what was being asked and who was being addressed with what terms... very crucial stuff... it can influence results.
     
  13. Anna Scott

    Anna Scott Well-Known Member

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    Consular,
    Yes, I suppose you're right. :D

    Anna
     
  14. Anna Scott

    Anna Scott Well-Known Member

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  15. Toma

    Toma Well-Known Member Anglican

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  16. mark1

    mark1 Active Member

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    Much of the surprise is due to perceived definitions.

    For example, Catholics who call themselves moderates maybe liberal Democrats and accept homosexual marriage (60% of Catholics do according to another Pew study).

    I do NOT believe that mainline US church leadership is grossly out of step with their membership, except to the degree that the membership often ignores some of the teachings of the leaderships (e.g. adultery, gossip, divorce, contraception).

    IMHO, it is a mistake to think that Protestants who broke in two over social issues are somehow all conservatives aby the definition of conservatives. I think much more likely that ELCA and Presbyterian Church and TEC folks are much more "liberal" than those here would accept as reasonable. Again 60% of Catholics accept gay marriage. I would think that Episcopal numbers would be about the same or higher.


     
  17. Sean611

    Sean611 Well-Known Member

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    Mark, I largely agree with these observations. I hope my posts didn't come across like I was claiming that a vast majority of mainline churches are very conservative. The point I was trying to make is that the clergy tends to be wildly liberal in mainline denominations, while the majority of laity are not wildly liberal. Also, the definition of "moderate" is problematic, I definitely agree. Furthermore, some who identify themselves as conservative may be socially liberal. The point remains, though, that there is a rather large group who identify as conservative in mainline churches that have largely been marginalized by the church political process or ignored.

    Further, I would suggest that a majority of the laity, in TEC, hold "conservative/traditional" beliefs in regard to the historic creeds and biblical miracles. I do believe that a vast majority of Episcopalians reject the theology of Bishops like Spong

    I also stand by the comment that TEC has overestimated the level of support they would have for their radical agenda. This is evident by the chaos and membership exodus over the last decade.
     
  18. mark1

    mark1 Active Member

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    Let me comment on these three points. When I use the word "conservative", I will try to use in reference to doctrine and not in terms of social or political issues. Obviously, this is a difficult distinction for many US conservatives and evangelicals.

    The open question is who is a conservative in terms of doctrine. For example, I would NOT include opposition to women's ordination; others would.

    1) Yes, there are large groups of self-indentified conservatives in the mainline churches. If they have been marginalized, it is partly because their conservative brethren have chosen to leave or split. This has happened in the Episcopal Church, The Presbyterian Church and the Lutheran Church. I expect schism to also occur in the Methodist Church. Yes, minorities views should be treated better, but it has been made clear that those who disagree with the social views of the majority have a place to go. I suspect that many, probably most, of the self-identified conservatives are not marginalized at all. They simply follow the Spirit as he leads them in their local church. I live a diocese and parish that is more at odds with national leadership than almost anyone. The national issues have never been mentioned from the pulpit is the 4 years I have been here. Even after the convention, all that was said was that comments regarding the recently held convention were available on the diocesan web site (and copied on our parish web site). Parishioners are completely shielded from any "chaos".

    With regard to doctrinal conservatism, I do NOT believe that the leadership of TEC and ELCA is wildly liberal with regard to doctrine. I do agree that they are liberal on social issues (sadly, hence the schisms). I also agree that there are heretics among the leadership that are sometimes mislabeled as liberals instead of the heretics that they are. Spong is certainly an example.

    For example, it is indeed very doctrinally liberal to want to welcome everyone to the Table, including non-Christains. It is traditional or conservative to reject non-believers from participating in the feast. For me, disagreements on this type of issue is not a reason for schism or even for strong protest. My bishop disagrees.

    2) I agree that a majority of the laity are traditional/conservative with regard to the historical creeds and with regard to miracles. IMHO, that is also true of the leadership of TEC and ELCA. I would only note that doctrinal issues are of different levels of importance. As Bishop Wright indicates (quoting a cab driver): Christianity is all about belief in the Resurrection; all the rest is rock and roll. I suspect Saint Paul would have agreed.

    3) I agree that the leadership of TEC has overestimated support for its radical agenda. For example, the ouster of Bishop Lawrence was rejected by the bishops. Also, open communion was rejected by the convention. I agree that the support for these positions is even less with the membership than the leadership.

    CHAOS AND MEMBERSHIP EXODUS

    We can might this in another thread if you wish. The chaos and loss of membership in TEC in the US is not much different than the experience of mainline churches across the world. I don't think that this has been caused by a radical agenda. I understand that many conservatives believe that the radical agenda is the cause of decline; others blame political liberals, as they do for almost every problem. IMHO, there has been schism as folks split when the decisions of the leadership does not suit us (how Protestant of us). This has happened in the past 50 years for many Protestant denominations. I would mention that there is also the movement toward consolidation and toward mutual respect of denominations and inter-communion.

    IMHO, Christianity is alive and well in the US and throughout much of the world. For example, the percentage of Christians in the world has not changed from 1910 to 2010. 90% still believe in God in the US, although many search for Him in all the wrong places.

    In particular, I believe that the mainline churches are doing fine. Measures of "spirituality" have shown little difference between liberal and conservative denominations (or portions of denominations). In the next 100 years, it may be the mainline churches who are most unified and most able to reach out to the unchurched and the marginalized in other churches. A revival may be coming to those churches. TEC, ELCA, UMC and others will be in full communion and yet keep their individual denomination distinctives, especially regarding worship style and the explanation of the mysteries. The Holy Spirit works in mysterious ways indeed.

    The open question is who is coming to Christ, who is serving others, and who is helping the spiritual walk of their parishioners. Local churches in the mainline churches are doing fine.

    THE MARGINALIZED

    It is difficult when we are in the minority and cannot accept the actions of our bishops, priests and councils. Thankfully, most places in the US provide us with many choices of church attendance and/or membership. Unfortunately, many cannot find the church that meets their standards of doctrinal purity, acceptable liturgy and acceptable community attitudes. I would only say that the situation is much, much worse elsewhere in the world where such choices are not available, or where church members are persecuted. I have almost always been blessed to have at least 50 churches within relatively easy driving distance. I have been able to experience the variety of ways the Spirit has led folks to worship God.

    I am now at home in the Anglican Church. I don't think that this would change if the bishop took a different view of national decisions. I do prefer a wider view of Church. Personally, I do not want to leave the Communion. I do like the branch theory of Church (not accepted by any church). In my view, there are Catholic, Orthodox, Anglican and Protestant parts of the fractured Universal Church. To believe that only one is True and chosen by the Holy Spirit for exclusivity seems a somewhat strange position to me. For those who believe this, I would humbly suggest spending lots of time praying with those from other churches.

    =====
    I APOLOGIZE FOR THE RAMBLING



     
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  19. Sean611

    Sean611 Well-Known Member

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    Don't apologize, I enjoyed your post!
     
  20. mark1

    mark1 Active Member

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    I too would like to see much less politics from the pulpit. The Catholic Church told folks that they would go to hell of they voted for Al Gore in 2000. Of course, this also happened in many other churches. This preaching from the pulpit was the difference in the election. This is not what the RCC or TEC should be about.

     
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