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The Dying Horizontal Church

 

December 2, 2016   |   PASTOR ZACHARY PUDLO
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The Current Religious Situation
 
From what we see in pop culture, social media, and the news it might lead us to think that the world as we know it is becoming more and more secular. However, the statistics show otherwise. I am well aware that starting out an article stating a number of current statistics is not the best way to capture the reader’s attention (the pictures and graphs will hopefully keep you interested). And if you can make it through the stats you might find some current trends in the world’s religious state of affairs surprising.
 
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In April of 2015, Pew Research Center published an article concerning the current and future World Religion populations. Summed up: many religions will grow overall, but not all of them will grow at a rate that keeps up with the growing population of the world. Perhaps the most surprising statistic was the projection that the percentage of the world’s atheists, agnostics, and the religiously unaffiliated will slowly but steadily decline from 16.4 percent of the world’s population today to 13.2 percent forty years from now. What does that mean? The world is projected to become more religious over the next 35 years.
 
While Christianity will remain static in its makeup of the world’s population, there is some flux within its denominations. The membership of different denominations over the past fifty years reveals an interesting trend. If we look back 50 years we can see a clear and unequivocal trendline: liberal denominations have declined sharply while conservative denominations have increased or remained the same.
 
A Horizontal Problem
 
What is the reason for the decline in the liberal denominations? A closer look at the theology of the more liberal Christian denominations is telling. Using the United Church of Christ (UCC) as a case study provides some telling information. The UCC is one of the fastest declining Christian denominations. In 1965, the UCC had 2,070,413 members. In 2016, there were 914,871 members, a decline of nearly 56 percent in just over 50 years.
 
Being on the liberal end of the spectrum they fall right in line with the trend of declining liberal churches. So what is it the UCC teaches? One of their statements of faith is,
 
“The unity that we seek requires neither an uncritical acceptance of any point of view nor a rigid formulation of doctrine.”

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