Decline in Conservative Churches

Until recently, the vulgata of those on the right side of the theological spectrum was that conservative churches are growing numerically (precisely because of their conservative stance), while the moderate or liberally inclined churches decline steadily (precisely and simply because of their more  liberal stance. Never mind the numerical growth of some cults or of those streams of the charismatic movement promoting the heretical ‘prosperity gospel’. As the saying goes, ‘don’t bother me with facts; I have already made up my mind’.

This sort of simplistic and triumphalistic thinking has received quite a blow recently, when a Pew research project observed decline in America, not only in liberal churches, but also in conservative ones.

This is the theme of the 14 December comment by Martin Marty in Sightings. here is how introduces his subject:

Did “the conservative turn” much reported on, bragged about by the turners in that camp, and raising points of envy among non-growers prove durable?  Dean Kelley’s 1972 Why Conservative Churches Are Growing, and a host of later sociological studies, turned into prescriptions that became manuals-of-arms in denominational conflicts, where gloaters and bashers derided “mainline,” “moderate,” and “liberal” churches as they suffered losses.  Post-Kelley, the counsel against moderation was:  Prosper by being strict, demanding, maybe fundamentalist, certainly conservative, ready to battle for “values.”  There is enough to that counsel for it to be taken seriously, but some cultural trends in America have shown that that strategy for winning wars in denominations has limited pay-off values in the new America.

It is clear that the world is changing rapidly, but those more fundamentalistically inclined tend to characteristically live in the past and seem totally unable to grasp the complexities of the present reality.

You may read HERE the whole article.

Author: DanutM

Anglican theologian. Former Director for Faith and Development Middle East and Eastern Europe Region of World Vision International

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