Have Americans lost faith in the old "mainline" churches?
Millions are attending unaffiliated churches that lack liberal, irrelevant and even litigious national hierarchies. Will Methodists, Presbyterians, Lutherans and Episcopalians gradually fade away?
Do Americans have less faith in God?
Or is their crisis of faith in the professional bureaucracies claiming to represent Him — particularly in the old, historic “mainline” denominations — the Presbyterians, Episcopalians, Lutherans, Disciples of Christ, Methodists and what remains of the Congregationalists?
The New York Times’ Ross Douthat a few days ago observed that the Episcopalians’ and Presbyterians’ recent conventions didn’t “seem to be offering anything you can’t already get from a purely secular liberalism.” In other words, why bother going to such a church when you can get more at the Rotary Club or your favorite sports bar? The same week, Gallup released a new poll showing that Americans have decreasing faith in organized religion as an institution.
However, their disinterest isn’t in the Almighty. Gallup consistently shows that an overwhelming majority – more than three-fourths – of Americans say they are Christians.
Worldwide, church membership is up – and growing. Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary’s Center for Global Christianity reports that there are 1.1 billion Roman Catholics – and in the next 12 years, the number will increase 15.5 percent to 1.3 billion. In the same period, traditional mainline Protestants are expected to grow by 11.22 percent – from 346 million to 385 million.