Southern Baptists Numbers Fall, Assemblies of God Continues to Grow

This Dec. 7, 2011 file photo shows the headquarters of the Southern Baptist Convention in Nashville, Tenn. The Southern Baptists lost more than 200,000 members in 2015. It's the ninth straight year of decline for the nation's largest Protestant denomination, which also saw baptisms drop by more than 10,000 in 2015. (AP Photo/Mark Humphrey, File)
This Dec. 7, 2011 file photo shows the headquarters of the Southern Baptist Convention in Nashville, Tenn. The Southern Baptists lost more than 200,000 members in 2015. It’s the ninth straight year of decline for the nation’s largest Protestant denomination, which also saw baptisms drop by more than 10,000 in 2015. (AP Photo/Mark Humphrey, File)

The Southern Baptist Convention is the largest Protestant denomination in the country, but it continues to lose members and baptize fewer people each year.

The latest statistics, compiled by LifeWay Christian Resources from church reports, show membership has dropped by more than 204,000, down 1.3 percent to 15.3 million members in 2015. It’s the ninth year in a row there has been a membership decline.

Baptisms, which have declined eight of the last 10 years, totaled 295,212, a 3.3 percent drop, researchers said Tuesday (June 7).

“God help us all! In a world that is desperate for the message of Christ, we continue to be less diligent in sharing the Good News,” said SBC Executive Committee President Frank Page in a statement.

Meanwhile, the Assemblies of God, the world’s largest Pentecostal denomination, is continuing to see increases in this country. The latest statistics, compiled using reports from its churches and released last week, show a 1.4 percent rise in U.S. adherents to 3,192,112 in 2015, up from 3,146,741 in 2014.

Hartford Seminary sociologist of religion Scott Thumma said changes in denominational totals are driven by such factors as birthrate, retention of children as they reach adulthood, and immigration. He said the Assemblies of God are benefiting from immigration — particularly from Central and South America as well as Africa — much more than the Southern Baptist Convention.

Thumma said some of the drop in SBC membership may be due to a growing preference for nondenominational congregations.

“Nondenominational churches have most of the same characteristics in terms of theology and worship style as SBC churches but without the denominational baggage of its reputation or pronouncements,” he said.

The Pew Research Center said in 2015 that the share of evangelical Protestants who identify with Baptist denominations has decreased since 2007 from 41 percent to 36 percent while the percentage identifying with nondenominational churches has increased from 13 to 19 percent.

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SOURCE: Deseret News
Adelle M. Banks, Religion News Service

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