Southern Baptists Report Gain in Baptisms, Decline in Membership for 2009

Southern Baptists reported a 2.2 percent increase in baptisms in 2009, stemming a four-year decline, but membership in the denomination fell and the sagging economy led to a drop in missions giving, according to the Annual Church Profile (ACP) compiled by LifeWay Christian Resources in conjunction with Baptist state conventions.

Baptisms last year totaled 349,737, up from 342,198 in 2008, a year in which Southern Baptists recorded the fewest baptisms since 1987. Total membership fell 0.42 percent to 16.16 million, and Sunday School enrollment dropped 0.04 percent to 7.75 million.

While the baptism numbers are encouraging, they do not necessarily signal a reversal of fortune for the nation's largest Protestant denomination, said Thom Rainer, LifeWay's president and CEO.

"Every baptism is a celebration of another person finding new life in Jesus Christ," Rainer said. "The fact that more people were baptized this year than last year gives us a reason to hope we're ...

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