Decades ago, Dorothy E. Payton and her husband moved with their young children to a small prairie town in Montana. Although a devoted Methodist, Dorothy and her husband attended a United Church of Christ congregation. The only alternatives in town were Missouri Synod Lutheran and Catholic churches.
The nation’s largest Lutheran denomination, above the 5 million mark in baptized membership since the merger of three Lutheran bodies in 1987, slipped swiftly below that in the past two years—sharply punctuating losses experienced by most mainline Protestants in recent times.
Protestants could cease to be the majority religious group in the United States within the next year, and their numbers already may have dipped below 50 percent, says a new study by the National Opinion Research Center.
Colorado’s highest court has ruled unconstitutional a state law that would have set up a school-voucher program, including religious and other private schools. On a 4-3 vote, the Colorado Supreme Court ruled June 28 that the state’s law violated a state constitutional provision regarding local school boards’ control over educational instruction in their districts.
Last year the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) suffered its biggest single-year loss in communicant members since the reunion of the “northern” and “southern” denominations in 1983. The net decline during 2003 was 46,658 members, leaving the year-end membership at barely above 2.4 million.
When Christians in one body instinctively mourn with the mourners in another, or rejoice with the rejoicers, we see the ecumenical spirit at work. We Protestants did not mourn the deaths of Popes Pius XI and XII, but we did spontaneously join in lamenting Pope John XXIII’s death. Today is another lamentation day.
The numbers of Lutherans in Africa has grown by 9 per cent over two years, but Lutheran church membership in Europe and North America has declined in the same period, according to statistics released last month by the Geneva-based Lutheran World Federation.
Dear Chad: Your recent e-mail brought back rich memories of the long-ago days when you were my confirmand and I was your catechist. Your self-description and question moved me: “Does it take formal attendance at worship services to be religious?” You describe yourself as having paid your dues, as it were, by congregational membership, including in leadership roles.
A. M. Stroud III, a former prosecutor in Louisiana, expresses regret for the role he played in sending Glenn Ford to death row in 1984. “I was 33 years old. I was arrogant, judgmental, narcissistic and very full of myself. I was not as interested in justice as I was in winning.” Stroud says he presented dubious evidence from a forensic pathologist, precluded black jurors from the trial (Ford, since exonerated, is black), and ignored the fact that the appointed defense attorney had never before tried a criminal or capital case. “I . . . hope that providence will have more mercy for me than I showed Glenn Ford,” Stroud said in a letter to the editor of the Times of Shreveport. “But, I’m also sobered by the realization that I certainly am not deserving of it” (ABA Journal, March 25).