United Brethren has retired.

Positive growth in America

Over at the Bloggernacle Times I blogged about the stagnation, even retrogression of Church growth in Europe. Some commenters thought I was being overly negative. Perhaps, but I wanted to point out that the Church is really struggling to grow in Europe, something that sometimes gets forgotten when we marvel at missionary success elsewhere. I don't want the Church to abandon missionary work there, but the continent is a special case of post-religion secularism and our whole approach needs a rethink. By the way, there's an article at USA Today about missionaries in Paris which reminded me so much of my own beat in Vienna. Ah, good times!

Anyway, I'm glad to report that the Church is the fastest growing denomination in the US and ranks number 4 in total membership according to the National Council of Churches. It seems that Europe and America are poles apart in yet another thing.

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Blogger Clark Goble said ... (February 23, 2005 1:15 PM) 

Note that the "fastest growing" claim applies only to membership of record and not self-identity. i.e. it neglects to count those who leave the church but don't have their names removed from the records.

According to several government studies, when you look at what people identify their religion as then church growth has been remarkably flat the last 10 years.

(I'd link to the survey, but I can't seem to find it right now)


Anonymous J. Stapley said ... (February 23, 2005 1:32 PM) 

Thanks for the USA Today link. Good times indeed!

I know that it not that recent, but Ivan Wolfe cites (2003) that while the majority of Americans change their faith at least once in their lifetime, 81.4% of Mormons retain the faith of their childhood. That would seem to bode well for the Church...if there is a significant amount of children of record and convert baptisms.

And while I did not comment over at BT, I concur emphatically with your ananlysis.


Anonymous Anonymous said ... (February 23, 2005 3:24 PM) 

I often wonder, what percentage of those that no longer choose to take part in the services, still consider themselves LDS, and what percent would mention they were baptised at one point, but figure if they just stop going that somehow, they are no longer part of it... we know about those that leave and have some psychotic hatred of the church from there...


Anonymous Anonymous said ... (February 23, 2005 11:05 PM) 

This may be the survey Clark aluded to.


It shows only 2.8 million Mormons in the U.S., far below the official numbers. It also shows a fair amount of "out-switching" among Mormons.



Blogger Clark Goble said ... (February 23, 2005 11:57 PM) 

That's the one Ed. I know someone who worked on the study as well. It was fairly carefully done. Word around the campfire was that it was partially the reason behind some of the changes in missionary work of late.


Blogger Ronan said ... (February 24, 2005 8:05 AM) 

It seems I can't win! I'm all negative about Europe so try to inject a little positivity about America, and what do I find? Things are lousy here too!

Thanks for the link ed. Self-identification is all-important I think. A lapsed Catholic is likely to always call themselves a Catholic nonetheless. The only lapsed Mormons who do this are those with a Mormon heritage. A convert who goes inactive will simply stop being "a Mormon".


Anonymous Anonymous said ... (February 24, 2005 10:07 AM) 

It's hard for me to believe that the folks in the church office building would have been surprised by the survey. They have much better data than that (e.g. sacrament meeting attendence), they just don't let anyone else see it.

Don't get too depressed, Ronan...the fraction who self indentify as mormon in the U.S. is still much higher than in Latin America and other places. I expect there is substantial real growth going on in the U.S., too, although the ARIS survey numbers are probably too noisy to answer that question very precisely.



Anonymous Anonymous said ... (February 24, 2005 8:44 PM) 

"............I'm all negative about Europe so try to inject a little positivity about America, and what do I find? Things are lousy here too!"

Could the church be like an empire? When it stops expanding it collapses from within?


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