Thursday, July 28, 2005

New Life for Denominationalism :: FACT

Of interest to Episcopalians:

On the cusp of the 21st century, a strange thing is happening. Congregations--not all, but a noticeable number--are choosing to highlight their denominational particularities.
. . .
If most churches face the reality that half or more of their members did not grow up with the programs, heroes, liturgies and lore of the denomination, surely those denominational cultures are increasingly fragile. Given all that, it is perhaps surprising that 55 percent of the Protestant congregations we studied--slightly more among conservatives, slightly less among liberals--report that they consider themselves strong standard-bearers of their denominational tradition. . . .
More than any other group, Episcopalians pointed to their worship traditions--not to beliefs--as the force binding them together. . . . Even Episcopal members we surveyed who did not grow up in the Episcopal Church said that the parish's denominational identity was important to them in choosing to join. This distinct liturgical tradition, precisely because it is distinct, is attracting new adherents.

Not too surprising, I suppose. You should expect a self-selected group of Episcopalians, new adherents, to have liturgy among their preferences.

Continuing, here:

Two Protestant groups, the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America and the Episcopal Church, stood out in the FACT study as having significantly higher identification with their respective denominations than the other mainline churches. This created a distinctive dynamic within the congregations of these two denominations. Those ELCA and Episcopal congregations that had strong ties to their denominations were much more likely to be larger in membership and they also were more heavily populated with persons who had joined in the past five years.
Emphasis added. The faster-growing Episcopal congregations are those that emphasize their Episcopal-ness. That does not necessarily mean the slower-growing congregations would do better if they adopted the same strategy - downplaying denominational ties might be the strategy that works best for them in their local environment; that they are slower growing should not be surprising given these denominations -- especially the Episcopal Church with its emphasis on the Book of Common Prayer and the tradition of Apostolic succession.

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