Friday May 20, 2022

Americans church membership at lowest

By News Report
April 21, 2022

WASHINGTON: Americans' church membership is at its lowest numbers in years, Gray News reported. According to a poll from Gallup, memberships to houses of worship continued to decline last year and dropped below 50 percent for the first time in Gallup's eight-decade trend.

In 2020, 47 percent of Americans said they belonged to a church, synagogue or mosque, down from 50 percent in 2018 and 70 percent in 1999. Researchers with Gallup said the US church membership was 73 percent when they first measured such numbers in 1937. Church membership remained near 70 percent for the next six decades, before beginning a steady decline around the turn of the 21st Century.

Gallup reports the decline in church membership is primarily a function of the increasing number of Americans who express no religious preference. Over the past two decades, the percentage of Americans who do not identify with any religion has grown from 8 percent in 1998-2000 to 13 percent in 2008-2010 and 21 percent over the past three years.

Gallup also reported it found declines in church membership when it comes to the younger generations but less of a drop among Republicans, as well as married adults and college graduates. Church membership was found to be the highest among those groups, people who live in the South and Black adults.

Meanwhile, the researchers for the American Bible Society's annual State of the Bible report said roughly 26 million people had mostly or completely stopped reading the Bible in the last year, international media reported.

"We reviewed our calculations. We double-checked our math and ran the numbers again … and again," John Plake, lead researcher for the American Bible Society, wrote in the 2022 report. "What we discovered was startling, disheartening, and disruptive."

In 2021, about 50 percent of Americans said they read the Bible on their own at least three or four times per year. That percentage had stayed more or less steady since 2011. But in 2022, it dropped 11 points. Now only 39 percent say they read the Bible multiple times per year or more. It is the steepest, sharpest decline on record.

According to the twelfth annual State of the Bible report, it was not just the occasional Scripture readers who did not pick up their Bibles as much in 2022 either. More than 13 million of the most engaged Bible readers—measured by frequency, feelings of connection to God, and impact on day-to-day decisions—said they read God’s Word less.

Currently, only 10 percent of Americans report daily Bible reading. Before the pandemic, that number was at about 14 percent. Plake thinks the dramatic change shows how closely Bible reading—even independent Bible reading—is connected to church attendance. When regular services were interrupted by the pandemic and related health mandates, it impacted not just the corporate bodies of believers but also individuals at home.

"The elephant in the room is Covid-19," he told CT. “As we've been tracking and kind of digging into what really happened around Scripture engagement in 2022, we realised there were some big issues happening in the United States at the time that we were collecting the data."