01: While the membership figures in Eastern Orthodox churches in the U.S. have long been considered inflated, a new study suggests the overestimates are greater than expected.
The study, authored by Alexi Krindatch of the Russian Academy of Sciences for the Religious Congregations project at Hartford Seminary, finds that the actual membership figure for Orthodox adherents (meaning baptized members who attend at least such major holy days as Easter and Christmas) is 1,200,000. This is in sharp contrast with the commonly accepted estimates ranging as high as four million members. The greatest discrepancies were in the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese, with the study finding actually 440,000 members while official figures claim one million.
Krindatch derives his figures by comparing church mailing lists with the nationwide circulation of denominational periodicals. Another misconception Krindatch dispels is the belief that Orthodox membership growth has come from the birth of children into the church rather than immigration. But immigration is still just as important a source of membership as births, and in some cases immigrants (such as from Serbia, Romania, Bulgaria, Macedonia and Egypt) are the major source of growth.
Krindatch also finds that assimilation to American culture (as seen in intermarriage rates, use of English in the liturgies) is strongest among those churches from traditionally Eastern Orthodox countries and weakest amongÂ Oriental Orthodox churches. The latter are the diaspora from churches that areÂ usually minorities in Muslim societies (such as the Coptic Church of Egypt and the Syrian Orthodox Church) and have generated communities that are more resistant to integration with American society.
(The study is available on the Hartford Seminary website: http://hirr.hartsem.edu/research/research_orthodoxpaper.html)
02: A new survey of worshippers at church services finds that while nearly a quarter of them had switched congregations in the past five years, not many were unchurched.
The U.S. Congregational Life Survey polled 300,000 worshippers during one Sunday last spring and found that of the one quarter who had switched congregations, only one-third of these were actually unchurched.
The Christian Century (Jan. 30-Feb. 1) reports that among the other newcomers were returnees (18 percent), those switching from other denominations (18 percent) and transfers from within the same denomination (57 percent).