Why do progressive/liberal/mainline churches decline?
For years academics and church officials have denied that decline has anything to do with beliefs. Decline resulted from external factors, not internal factors.
Former Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal church, Katharine Jefferts Schori, claimed that since Episcopalians were better-educated and cared for the earth, they had lower birth rates than other Christians.
Recently a Canadian study has concluded that theology does matter.
The authors of Theology Matters: Comparing the Traits of Growing and Declining Mainline Protestant Church Attendees and Clergy surveyed 2,225 churchgoers in Ontario, Canada, and conducted interviews with 29 clergy and 195 congregants.
- Only 50% of clergy from declining churches agreed it was “very important to encourage non-Christians to become Christians”, compared to 100% of clergy from growing churches.
- 71% of clergy from growing churches read the Bible daily compared with 19% from declining churches.
- 46% of people attending growing churches read the Bible once a week compared with 26% from declining churches.
- 93% of clergy and 83% of worshippers from growing churches agreed with the statement “Jesus rose from the dead with a real flesh-and-blood body leaving behind an empty tomb”. This compared with 67% of worshippers and 56% of clergy from declining churches.
- 100% of clergy and 90% of worshippers agreed that “God performs miracles in answer to prayers”, compared with 80% of worshippers and 44% of clergy from declining churches.
About two-thirds of congregations at growing churches were under the age of 60, whereas two-thirds of congregations at declining churches were over 60.
Why study the decline of the Protestant mainline? We watch and learn, or their future will become ours.