Church and synagogue membership in America reached a record high of 114,449,217 in 1960, but barely kept pace with the population increase.
The increase as shown in the 1962 Yearbook of American Churches, published this month, amounted to 2,222,312 members or 1.9 per cent over the 1959 figures. The overall U. S. population increase for that period was 1.8 per cent.
The Yearbook figures are based on reports from 259 religious bodies in 50 states and the District of Columbia. The book is edited by Benson Y. Landis and published by the National Council of Churches.
In 1959 the membership increase was 2.4 per cent, and the 1958 gain was 5 per cent while the population increases for both years was about 1.8 per cent.
Last year, 63.6 per cent of an estimated national population of about 180,000,000 belonged to a church or synagogue.
Of the major religious groups, both Protestant and Roman Catholics reported gains in membership while Jewish and Eastern Orthodox membership fell off.
Total Protestant membership in 227 bodies was 63,668,835 or a gain of 1.8 per cent over the 1959 membership. Roman Catholic membership increased 3.2 per cent for a total of 42,104,900. (The figures do not represent an accurate comparison of relative strength, however, because the Roman Catholic statistics include baptized children while most Protestant bodies do not bestow church membership until persons reach their teens.)
Jewish membership fell off 133,000 for a 1960 total of 5,367,000. Eastern Orthodox churches reported 2,698,663 members, a decrease of 108,949 from 1959.
The Yearbook measures the growth of U.S. Protestantism in a table which shows that Protestants made up 27 per cent of the total population in 1926; 33.8 per cent in 1950; and 35.4 per cent in 1960. In the same period, the Roman Catholic population increased from 16 per cent in 1926 to 23.6 per cent in 1960.
Overall statistics in the Yearbook show that the proportion of church members to the total population has almost doubled in the first 60 years of this century—from 36 per cent in 1900 to 63.6 per cent in 1960.
Perhaps the most surprising aspect of the newly-released statistics is that they show a slight drop in Protestant Sunday school enrollment. The total for 1960 was given as 40,241,650, compared with 40,349,972 a year earlier. Protestant churches reported 93.1 per cent of the total enrollment of 43,231,018. In all religious bodies reported in 1960 there were 283,885 Sunday or Sabbath schools with 3,637,982 teachers and officers.
Protestant Denominational Totals
The 1962 Yearbook of American Churches indicates that about 90 per cent of all Protestant church members in America are found in 22 denominational groups or families.
Relative strengths of family groups are quite stable. In 1960 there were 28 Baptist bodies with an inclusive membership of 21,148,862. Next were Methodists (21 bodies) with 12,424,623, Lutherans (15 bodies) with 8,080,867, and Presbyterians (10 bodies) with 4,333,249.
A comparison of the 1960 figures with those of 1959 shows that The Methodist Church is still the largest among Protestant denominations in America. The Protestant Episcopal Church pushed the United Presbyterian Church out of fourth place while the Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod climbed into seventh place ahead of the United Lutheran Church of America. The newly-organized American Lutheran Church appeared in the listing for the first time. The top 10 U. S. denominations:
In 1960 for the first time the 34 member bodies of the National Council of Churches showed a total membership of more than 40 million. Their combined membership was reported as 40,185,813 or about 63 per cent of all U.S. Protestant church members.
Roman Catholic Totals
Roman Catholicism added about 13 million persons in the year ended June 30, according to a news release distributed this month by the Bureau of Information of the National Catholic Welfare Conference in Washington, D. C.
The release said the increase “was at about the same rate as that of the world population.”
Thus Roman Catholicism continues to claim 18.3 per cent of the world population (now estimated at slightly above 3 billion), or about 550 million persons.
Only the Roman Catholic population of Brazil and Italy exceeds that in the United States: U. S., 42,104,900, 22.9 per cent; Brazil, 62,734,533, 93.5 per cent; Italy, 48,782,515, 99.5 per cent.
A spokesman for the Bureau of Information said the bulk of the data was obtained from a map issued by the Catholic Students’ Crusade of Cincinnati. A number of reference works were utilized in the compilation.
Of a total of 99 million persons in the Soviet satellite countries, some 46 million are Roman Catholic, the crusade reported. Biggest concentration is in Poland, where 95 per cent of the 30 million population are included in the statistics of the Vatican-ruled church.
In both Hungary and Czechoslovakia, about three out of five persons are said to be Roman Catholic.
In Soviet Russia itself the percentage is reported to be much smaller (approximately 10 million out of approximately 215 million).
In addition to Brazil, Italy, and Poland, the church claims more than ninetenths of the population in the following major countries: Mexico (94.4), Colombia (97.4), Peru (95.7), Spain (99.7), and Belgium (95.5).
Other heavily Catholic countries are Austria (89.8), Portugal (89.6), and Ireland (94).
Among regions and continents, Central and South America are by far the most predominantly Roman Catholic: Central America, 45,023,000 or 94 per cent; South America, 132,396,000, or 92.3 per cent.
• Evangelicals in the Anglican communion are forming a world-wide fellowship—“not partisan in any narrow or negative sense, but positive and ironical”—under the presidency of the Most Rev. H. R. Gough, Primate of Australia. Sponsors hoped to hold the first informal meeting during the World Council of Churches assembly in New Delhi this month.
• Soviet authorities have taken over and closed the Agenskalna Baptist Church in the capital city of Riga, Latvia, according to a report in the Baptist World. Only three Baptist churches out of eight in Riga remain open, the report said.
• Some 8,000 Koreans made professions of faith during an evangelistic mission conducted this fall by 13 American Methodists. The mission was directed by Dr. Harry Denman, director of the Methodist General Board of Evangelism.
• Representatives of 11 missionary societies from four countries met for two days in Kobe last month and came up with a “declaration of intent” to organize a united Lutheran church in Japan. Plans were approved to hold a constituting convention next October 31—Reformation Day, with the formal merger to take effect in January of 1963. The new church, expected to consolidate five missions from the United States, three from Norway, two from Denmark, and one from Finland, will consist of some 10,000 members in 200 congregations and preaching places served by 100 Japanese pastors and 100 missionaries.
• Decision, monthly publication of the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association topped the 1,000,000 mark in circulation with its November issue. Meanwhile, the evangelist’s eight-night television crusade was reported to have produced the biggest mail response that association offices in Minneapolis have ever handled.
• The Lutheran Foundation for Religious Drama will sponsor December performances of “A Cradle of Willow,” a Nativity play by English playwright Dorothy Wright.
• Government should not “use the churches” to promote political programs and ideologies, says a statement from the Baptist Joint Committee on Public Affairs. The statement was adopted at a semi-annual session of the committee in Washington last month.
• The first Protestant church built in Israel since its establishment as a state in 1948 was dedicated last month in Nazareth. It will house a congregation of the Church of the Nazarene. Officiating at the dedication was Dr. Hardy C. Powers of Dallas, Texas, a general superintendent of the Church of the Nazarene. The new church seats about 200.
• White Temple Methodist Church of Miami received Guideposts magazine’s annual Church Award for its three-year-old program of spiritual and material aid to Cuban refugees.
• Central Baptist Theological Seminary of Kansas City, Kansas, is recipient of a bequest valued at some $260,000 from the estate of the late Leo Kull of Topeka. Kull’s will provides for a 20-year trust with a monthly income to the seminary. A nursing home eventually will be deeded to the seminary as well.
• “Two Offerings,” a sermon by Thomas B. Peake, Jr., of Dallas, Texas, won first place in the 1960–61 Stewardship Sermon Contest sponsored by Unified Promotion of the Christian Churches (Disciples of Christ). The sermon was given from the pulpit of Dallas’ Highlands Christian Church.
• The Evangelical Alliance Mission plans to begin operation of a new radio station in Lima, Peru.
• Canadian Bible College of Regina, Saskatchewan, affiliated with the Christian and Missionary Alliance, was granted accreditation last month by the Accrediting Association of Bible Colleges at the group’s 15th annual meeting in Chicago. Admitted to associate membership were Kentucky Christian College of Grayson, Kentucky, and Southern Pilgrim College of Kernersville, North Carolina.
A new “Lutheran inter-church agency for common theological study and Christian service” was proposed this month.
The new agency, embracing 8,000,000 or more U. S. Lutherans, would replace the present National Lutheran Council and would include the Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod, which cooperates in certain phases of NLC work but which has steadfastly refused to become a member.
As late as February, 1959, the Missouri Synod had turned down a membership bid from the NLC. Missouri Synod President John W. Behnken at that time said there was a “state of flux” in the doctrinal positions of NLC churches and called attention to the work of the Lutheran Synodical Conference of North America toward “greater Scriptural harmony in doctrine and practice.”
Three months ago, however, the back of the Synodical Conference was broken when the Wisconsin Evangelical Lutheran Synod, charging liberalism, severed relations with the Missouri Synod. The two churches had been the conference’s two principal members.
The move for a new agency was announced in the following statement released by representatives described therein:
“The third of a series of consultations between representatives of the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod and the National Lutheran Council regarding the issue of Lutheran cooperation was held at the Lake Shore Club of Chicago, October 31–November 1, 1961. This meeting was the final one of a series of three held during 1960–61. The earlier conversations centered around the subject ‘Doctrine of the Gospel’ and ‘The Significance of Confessional Subscription.’
“Papers prepared by Dr. Martin Franzmann of Concordia Seminary, St. Louis, Mo., and Dr. Alvin Rogness, president of Luther Seminary, St. Paul, Minnesota, on the subject ‘What Kind of Cooperation is Possible in View of Discussion to Date?’ were read and discussed by the participants of whom 14 represented the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod, and 18 represented the National Lutheran Council.
“It was the unanimous judgment of the participants that the papers and discussions revealed a consensus on the doctrine of the Gospel and the meaning of confessional subscription sufficient to justify further exploration regarding the possible establishment of a new cooperative Lutheran agency to replace the National Lutheran Council. The successor agency would have as one of its major functions the continuing of theological study with the objective of achieving ever greater unity.
“The representatives of the two groups are to take appropriate steps whereby resolutions will he submitted to the next conventions of the churches involved which would authorize negotiations looking toward a possible future cooperative association of Lutheran churches in America. If the proposal is approved by the churches involved all Lutheran church bodies in the United States will be invited to participate in planning and formation of the new association, which would serve as a Lutheran inter-church agency for common theological study and Christian service.”
Boycott Of Television?
A Lutheran editor proposes a “great American TV strike” as a protest against the quality of television programs.
“Turn the thing off and leave it off until the networks can come up with a new plan,” Dr. G. Elson Ruff, editor of The Lutheran, said in an editorial published in the November 8 issue of the weekly news magazine of the United Lutheran Church in America.
Ruff was commenting on two articles dealing with television which appeared in the magazine.
The only way to “rescue” TV, he said, is to “take it away from advertisers and give it to the authors.”
He asserted that “TV at present is at least 50 per cent a device of businessmen to push the sale of cereals, detergents, cathartics.”
“They are cooperating in a deceptive racket,” he charged.
In an article tided “Save Our Children from TV,” Mrs. Eleanor D. Mora, a church school teacher from Marlton, New Jersey, said television “may be extremely harmful to the spiritual growth of our Christian families.”
Dr. Robert E. Huldschiner, assistant editor of the magazine, came to the defense of the medium in a “memo to a frustrated church school teacher.”
Huldschiner is also a writer of TV scripts.
He argued that there is a “lot of good in TV” and that there would have been more if many of the best writers had not left TV after the first few years.
“One of the reasons why they did,” he said, “is because so many well-meaning people courtmartialed TV after a brief hearing and placed it out of bounds for the educated and discerning audience.”
‘In God We Trust’
Beginning next month, all new U. S. one-dollar bills will bear the words “In God We Trust.” Congress voted that the motto be applied to currency some six years ago, but old engravings have continued in use. Bills of all denominations eventually will carry the motto.
Two more American colonial churches are being added to the Registry of National Landmarks by the U. S. Department of the Interior.
Holy Trinity (Old Swedes) Church of Wilmington, Delaware, and the Dutch Reformed (Sleepy Hollow) Church of North Tarrytown, New York, were given the distinction in an announcement made this month by Secretary of the Interior Stewart L. Udall.
The Old Swedes Church, according to Udall, was erected in 1698 and is “the oldest surviving Delaware Valley Swedish Church.”
“No other structure so closely related to Swedish settlement contains such architectural integrity,” he said.
The Sleepy Hollow church was hailed as a “distinguished relic of Dutch America.” Architects believe it was erected about 1690. A new church was built as an extension of the first about 1840, and since then the old church has been used only on infrequent occasions for worship services. It has, however, been maintained in good condition. In its adjacent burial ground lies the famous author, Washington Irving, who wrote “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow.”
Each new historical site is identified with a marker from the National Park Service, but the buildings continue to be maintained by their owners without cost to the government.
A Family Plea
President Kennedy’s Thanksgiving proclamation called upon Americans to observe the day “with reverence and with prayer that will rekindle in us the will and show us the way not only to preserve our blessings, but also to extend them to the four corners of the earth.”
“I ask the head of each family,” he said, “to recount to his children the story of the first New England Thanksgiving, thus to impress upon future generations the heritage of this nation born in toil, in danger, in purpose, and in the conviction that right and justice and freedom can through man’s efforts persevere and come to fruition with the blessing of God.”
Mennonites And Society
Mennonites are doing an about-face in their relationships with society, according to a report from their General Conference News Service.
The report was one of several covering a four-day fall “Study Conference on the Church and Society” held in Chicago and attended by Mennonite leaders from the United States and Canada.
“The last generation has turned up new facts about Anabaptist-Mennonite history,” the report said. “The original roots of this Reformation group lie imbedded not in withdrawal but in a bold witness to society. This boldness came from a simple acceptance of biblical imperatives.”
The report noted how Mennonite history has been marked by continual moves in search of isolation, but added that the Mennonite church is now “facing the world that it once regarded as evil to the point of hopelessness.”
Among topics discussed at the Chicago conference: international relations, civil defense, labor-management, race, church-state, capital punishment, alcohol, urbanization, and agriculture.
In Halifax, Nova Scotia, a crowd of 10,000, said to have been the largest Protestant gathering in the city’s 212-year history, witnessed the closing service November 3 of a three-week “Mission in Evangelism” by the Rev. Tom Allan.
Allan, minister of St. George’s-Tron (Presbyterian) Church in Glasgow, Scotland, has now held a number of successful evangelistic crusades in Canada. His ministry is highly esteemed among Canadian evangelicals of many denominations.
Allan met area ministers in a week-long “School of Evangelism,” appeared before 5,000 public school children and teachers, conducted a campus mission at Dalhousie University, and preached at noon-day meetings in St. Paul’s Anglican Church, oldest Protestant church in Canada.
Thirteen evening meetings were held at the Halifax Forum, with 770 recorded decisions for Christ. Sunday services were broadcast over a local station as well as through a short-wave outlet. One was telecast throughout the province.
General chairman of the Halifax mission was the Rev. Ronald C. MacCormack, a Baptist pastor.
Social Welfare And The Churches
The National Council of Churches held its second National Conference on Social Welfare in Cleveland, October 23–27. More than 2500 delegates and 600 social welfare specialists from 40 major Protestant and Eastern Orthodox communions grappled with the momentous problems of the handicapped and unemployed, the blind and ill, and those incapacitated by narcotics, alcoholism, and injury. The parley sought to implement goals and policies growing out of the first conference in 1955 and the policies formulated at a strategy conference in Atlantic City in 1957. Yet throughout the week-long discussions it was evident that progress was hampered by the divergencies of basic positions held by the delegates regarding the ways, means, goals, and purposes of welfare service.
The parley was consistently concerned with the welfare needs of all members of the civil community. There was no desire to serve only its own membership, or to first determine whether the man in need were a brother in Christ. The conference was moved by a Christian compassion to visit the sick, feed the hungry, and clothe the naked of whatever creed, color or race.
The parley also appeared to be governed by the consensus that the Church is obliged to serve men in need and thus administer to them the mercy of Christ.
It was widely held that the diakonia—the service rendered by the traditional deacon—belongs to the very heart of the Church’s task. What, it was asked, would the Church be if the hearts of its members were not stabbed by the pain of the neighbor’s need?
Yet this very Christian concern for all men in need, and the awareness of the obligation to reveal the suffering servant form of her Lord in social concern, constantly threatened in the floor discussions to thin into something more shadow than substance.
A substantial number of voices urged that when governmental or other secular agencies could equal or better the Church’s concern and provision for the needy, the Church should turn the service over to them and concern itself with other areas of social need. The feeling was that the obligation to feed the hungry and clothe the naked rests upon the State rather than upon the Church, the Church being obliged to do so only in an emergency situation in which government lags behind its duty. According to this view, if the community and State did its whole duty, the Church could be freed of a duty which really did not belong to it.
Other voices—again not in the majority, but of sufficient number to be disturbing—asserted that the Christian’s act of social service carries no distinctive quality that renders its service better or more desirable than acts of such service accomplished by secular or governmental agencies. Social service rendered by the Church had no “plus value.” And other floor voices contended that the Church’s social welfare action need not be employed as a witness to the redemption that God has accomplished in Christ.
The willingness to hand the task of social service to the secular or governmental agency, the denial of any “plus value,” and the willingness to sever Christian social action from the Church’s redemptive concern, are all ideas which stem from an obliteration of the difference between Church and world.
While these floor voices which seemed to threaten the dissipation of the distinctive character and purpose of Christian social service seemed not to be in the majority—and were indeed often strongly rejected—yet it is significant that the verbalized formulations of the expressions of the delegates often echoed those sentiments heard on the floor.
The Section on Government and Social Welfare declared that the American people enjoy the special asset of having “a form of government which is designed to be an instrument of the community to promote the general welfare.” The draft also asserted, “We believe that the American people should make full use of their government in meeting welfare needs.” Government was described as “one of the instrumentalities which the community may use to discharge its responsibilities for meeting all the welfare needs of all the people.” This same report stated, “The provision for social welfare is the responsiblity of the total community functioning through the channels of government.” Thus what seemed to be the minority view is the view presented in the written formulation to be sent to the churches for further study. Whether the various churches of the National Council are willing to buy the idea that Americans should make full use of the government—even where no large scale emergency exists—in meeting welfare needs; whether they are willing to buy the idea that the provision for social welfare is the responsibility of the whole community “functioning through the channels of government,” remains to be seen.
The presuppositions, discussions, and tentative conclusions of the conference suffered from blurred ambiguities stemming from the failure of the delegates to make clean-cut, recognizable distinctions between Church and community, Christian and non-Christian. The result was a lack of clarity and the unhappy situation where a Christian observer feels obliged to both agree and disagree with so many of the conference’s significant utterances.
Meeting at a time when the country was discussing as never before the need for fallout shelters, the Cleveland conference was strangely silent on the problem.
Many observers felt that such social welfare conferences are surely needed. Equally needed, they felt, is an admixture of hard-headed leadership and clean-cut thinking with the traditional American’s compassion for the needy.
A suburban Denver church is being designed to double as a community fallout shelter, first such in the nation. Two underground levels of the Green Mountain Christian Church will accommodate 800 persons for a two-week period.
Civil defense officials in Washington say every U. S. church eventually will be inspected to determine its suitability as a shelter.
The Latin Protestants
There are now at least 3,441,415 baptized Protestant church members in Latin America, according to a new reference work published by the Evangelical Foreign Missions Association.
The figure still represents a small minority in the Latin American population, estimated at some 190,000,000. It is a conservative figure, however, inasmuch as data compilers were unable to secure statistics from a number of independent groups. Even so, it represents an eightfold growth over the 1937 figure of 422,395.
The new reference work, Protestant Missions in Latin America, consists of a 314-page cloth-bound book and 30 maps, each measuring 28 by 36 inches. It is the most comprehensive survey of Protestant impact in Latin America ever produced. Editors are Dr. Clyde W. Taylor and the Rev. Wade T. Coggins.
Among agencies which assisted in the collection of data were the Interdenominational Foreign Mission Association, the Committee on Cooperation in Latin America, and the Evangelical Missions Association (England).
A five-day conference in Cordoba marked the first time in Argentine history that Protestant leaders of conservative and liberal persuasion had ever assembled together for joint prayer and study.
On hand for the September 25–29 conference were 450 pastors, lay leaders, and missionaries from 20 denominations in Argentina and Uruguay. It was organized by the Federation of Christian Churches of Argentina and held under auspices of World Vision. Speakers included World Vision President Bob Pierce, Dr. Bernard Ramm, and Dr. Paul Rees.
The Latin Americans took special note of Ramm’s unusual ability to present profound theological terms in simple terms, well illustrated and seasoned with humor. Conservatives as well as liberals expressed appreciation for his thorough understanding of ancient and modern theology.
Such scholars as Ramm, who is well-known in the United States as a leader of evangelical thought, are still obscure in Latin America. Union seminaries and publishing houses related to the Committee on Cooperation in Latin America have presented the liberal theological viewpoint in thorough, scholarly terms. Serious evangelical books, on the other hand, are practically unknown. Even some of the leading evangelical works have not yet been translated. The void has resulted in the conservative position being associated with theological obscurantism.
Using The Church
The ruling Convention People’s Party of Ghana is setting up party branches in all churches, as well as in industrial and cultural organizations, cooperative farms, and factories.
The CPP paper Evening News declared that formation of party branches in churches “would help chase away unnecessary suspicions, promote peace and happiness in Ghana and forever stabilize the churches with their music and sense of mission as an important wing in Ghana’s move to create work and happiness for all.”
As unfavorable reaction became apparent, the party’s official organ hastened to assure the public that the CPP had no intention of interfering with the religious life of any church.
“The party needs the friendship of the churches in the great national task of furthering Nkrumaism,” an editorial stated. It asserted that Nkrumaism is “a beautiful and impressive comradeship that is almost biblical, expressing the unity of man in a society that knows no class or creed.”
An archaeological expert in Israel claims that 64 first-century documents unearthed last winter constitute the greatest find of that type since the discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls.
Yigael Yadin, professor of archaeology at Herbrew University of Jerusalem, said in a press conference that the primary importance of the find is that the documents “are absolutely dated—many of them triple-dated with the year, month, and day.”
The Last To Leave
The Dutch Reformed Church of the Cape Province decided by an overwhelming majority at its synod meeting this month to withdraw from membership in the World Council of Churches.
The decision came in the wake of earlier synod action repudiating the findings of a WCC-sponsored conference in Johannesburg last December which criticized the apartheid (racial segregation) policies of South Africa.
All direct links between the South African Reformed churches and the WCC have now been severed, two other bodies having already withdrawn their memberships.
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