Demographics of mainline decline
Since the publication of Dean M. Kelley’s classic study Why Conservative Churches Are Growing in 1972 it has become axiomatic for many people that the mainline denominations (Methodist, Episcopal, Lutheran, Presbyterian) are in decline while conservative denominations (Southern Baptist, Assemblies of God, Pentecostal and holiness churches) are growing. Most observers of this phenomenon—such as Jeffery Hadden, Richard John Neuhaus, James Davison Hunter and Thomas Reeves—assume that the reason conservative churches are growing is that they are attracting converts from the mainline churches. The conservatives, it is said, have a strong appeal because of their emphasis on traditional teachings.
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