01: Presbyteries (regional associations of Presbyterian churches) that voted against a liberal measure on sexuality in their denomination are more likely to have grown and retained members, according to recent research.
While conservative congregations in mainline denominations have been found to grow faster than liberal churches, the Presbyterian Layman (September/October) newspaper of the conservative Presbyterian Lay Committee finds that the sexuality issue by itself is a strong indicator of church growth. “Amendment A” was a controversial statement making the rounds earlier this year in the Presbyterian Church (USA) that would have eliminated the requirement that ordained officers of the church live in fidelity in marriage and chastity in singleness (which many viewed as a gay right initiative).
The overall attrition rate among presbyteries favoring the measure was nearly triple the attrition rate of presbyteries voting against Amendment A. For instance, All 16 presbyteries in the Synod of the South Atlantic that voted against the amendment grew by 1.6 members. Even within the declining Northeast Synod, the 19 presbyteries that voted for Amendment A had a membership loss of 13.2 percent from 1990 to 1996, while the two presbyteries against the measure experienced an attrition rate of less than half that rate — 6.2 percent. It was also found that per-member contributions from 1996 among pro-amendment presbyteries were almost 10 percent lower than among presbyteries voting against the measure.
(Presbyterian Layman, P.O. Box 2210, Lenoir, NC 28645-2210)
02: The clergy of America’s Protestant churches are optimistic about their future and self-described theological conservatives and “seeker-oriented,” according to a recent Barna Poll.
A survey conducted by the Barna Research Group, found that more than four out of five pastors called their church “evangelistic” and “theologically conservative.” Six out of ten (58 percent) claimed the label “seeker-sensitive” (which means tailoring services for the unchurched). Only one out of every three pastors called their church “fundamentalist” (36 percent) or “liturgical” (35 percent). Far smaller numbers embraced the designations “charismatic” (19 percent) and theologically liberal (13 percent).
More than half of the pastors (54 percent) said their worship service attendance had increased in the past year, while only six percent said they saw a decline. This finding conflicts with the actual weekly adult attendance showing a decrease of nine percent during the past year. Finally, the survey shows that in the past year the growth of small groups available to congregants rose from 72 percent of churches with such activities to 85 percent.
(Barna Research Group, 5528 Everglades Street, Ventura, CA 93003)
03: Germany’s largest churches consist mainly of immigrant and evangelical churches, according to a survey published in Quadrant (September), the newsletter of the London-based Christian Research Association.
Of the 25 largest churches in Germany, 15 are immigrant churches, eight are non-immigrant Free (or evangelical) churches, and only two are state churches. Leading the list of the eight largest churches in Germany in 1996, was the 3,000 member Mennonite church in Bielefeld, with mostly immigrant members; the 2,200 member largely Mennonite church in Espelkamp, and the 2,100 Our Church on the Way Free Church in Berlin.
(Quadrant, Vision Bldg., 4 Footscray Rd., Eltham, London SE9 2TZ UK)