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.