Spreading the good news: Southern Baptists on the decline.

Considering how rough things have been at work as of late, this bit of news cheered me considerably:

Declining membership, baptisms worry Southern Baptists – USATODAY.com

For most of four decades, Southern Baptists could boast of rising membership even as more moderate and liberal Protestant denominations lost members in droves.

But with membership slightly down last year, and flat for the past five, Southern Baptists face a growing anxiety about their future as they gather for their annual meeting Tuesday in Indianapolis.

“We have peaked,” Southern Baptist statistician Ed Stetzer wrote in an online commentary on the latest statistics from 2007. “…For now, Southern Baptists are a denomination in decline.”

What worries Southern Baptist leaders even more than the membership numbers is a steady decline in the conversion ritual that gave their denomination its name — baptisms.

Annual rates of baptisms have steadily declined not only in recent years, but also during the past 35 years. In 2007, Southern Baptist churches reported 345,941 baptisms. That’s down 12% from 2002 and 22% from 1972.

It goes without saying that the Southern Baptists are a long way from becoming extinct, but anytime their numbers shrink is cause for optimism in my book. It’s enough of a decline that church leaders are starting to get worried so that’s reason enough to hope.

10 thoughts on “Spreading the good news: Southern Baptists on the decline.

  1. So the Southern Baptists are meeting in that notoriously Southern city of Indianapolis?!?

    Les, I don’t know if you’ve ever made it down here to the South, but you should visit Birmingham (for instance) sometime and see the rows of big, ugly churches.  Not all of them are So. Baptists, but they all have ugly churches.  In Atlanta there are some big, ugly churches, too, but they are spread out more.

  2. This is excellent news.  I hope that the trend continues and accelerates.

  3. Last I looked at numbers, not only is religion in general on a decline, but so are church numbers, and the number of young people that associate with a particular religion.

    It’s only a matter of time…

  4. They’ve declined from massively ludicrously incomprehensibly overrepresented to just massively incomprehensibly overrepresented.  No wait; they’re still ludicrous so maybe take out massively.  Hmm, have to fine-tune the statistical adjectives…

  5. Never underestimate the lure of a lie in on a friday. The question is how many of those 22% from 1972 were practicing baptists that abandoned it, and not those who were just baptised but never actually followed the religeon.

    All we could be seeing here is a decline in family tradition rather than a decline in religeon. I’m a pessimist, sorry.

  6. I dont know how good that news is. Islam AFAIK is rising all over the world including the US. Bad as the Baptists are, the muslims are worse.

  7. I dont know how good that news is. Islam AFAIK is rising all over the world including the US. Bad as the Baptists are, the muslims are worse.

    Shades of grey, Julian. There’s lots of pleasant Muslims too (though I’d still prefer pleasant Atheists). But you will rarely see the pleasant Muslims on Fox. Or even in the NYT.

  8. There are pleasant muslims too no doubt. Of my three best friends, one is a moderate muslim, one is an atheistic hindu and the third is a staunch catholic so I know that muslims can be more moderate than christians.

    But it comes down to percentages. What percentage of christians are fundies? Is it lower than the percentage of fundies among muslims? Far lower I would say, although I really dont have any data or numbers to back me up.

    But imagine if every christian in the US was replaced by a muslim and vice-versa. Do you think you would have more or less religious freedom?

  9. What percentage of christians are fundies?

    That’s an impossible question to answer and pretty pointless unless trying to determine the size of the penis of one religion versus another. tongue wink

    But imagine if every christian in the US was replaced by a muslim and vice-versa. Do you think you would have more or less religious freedom?

    I think things would be the exact same as they are now. Because in your hypothetical we changed nothing. Still have the same history and some consciences of the historical figures.

    What makes Muslims come off as a despicable (something I won’t argue against) is the fact they are living in a much more tribalistic environment than we in the US ever have. This isn’t appeasement just an explanation for your answer. And I’m sure the Middle East environment would give rise to radical christian fundies that do some sick shit because that’s the kind of environment that supports those actions.

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