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Free Churches and Liturgical Churches: Behind the Numbers

My post is up at Christianity Today's Leadership Journal Out of Ur blog:

Catalyst, Liturgy, and Innovation What liturgical church leaders and the Catalyst Conference can learn from each other.

It has also been published in a slightly different form at Duke Divinity School's Faith & Leadership website on the Call & Response blog:

What Liturgical and Free Church leaders can learn from each other.

Make your comments there.  Thanks.  


Free Churches and Liturgical Churches: Behind the Numbers

The first two sentences in the post attempt to show that there is a significant split in the United States between liturgical churches and free churches. 

According to data from the National Congregations Study (2006-2007), 38% of people in the United States associate themselves with liturgical churches (Roman Catholic, Lutheran, Episcopal, etc.); while 46% associate themselves with free churches (Baptist, Pentecostal, non-denominational, etc.). The 14% of people associated with Methodist and Reformed/Presbyterian churches sit atop this watershed—some sliding down the liturgical slope, others down the free church slope.

The data I draw from in these sentences is from the following chart.  I have marked the liturgical numbers yellow, free church numbers pink and Reformed/Methodist green.

Explore the Data: Wave 2 - 2006/07


Denomination
Response Frequency Percent Valid Percent Cumulative Percent
ROMAN CATHOLIC 421 27.9 27.9        
BAPTIST 312 20.7 20.7 48.7
METHODIST 136 9.1 9.1 57.7
LUTHERAN 77 5.1 5.1 62.9
PRESBYTERIAN OR REFORMED 68 4.5 4.5 67.3
PENTECOSTAL 84 5.6 5.6 73.0
OTHER MODERATE OR LIBERAL PROTESTANTS 26 1.7 1.7 74.6
EPISCOPAL CHURCH 43 2.9 2.9 77.5
OTHER CONSERVATIVE, EVANGELICAL, OR SECTARIAN PROTESTANTS 97 6.5 6.5 84.0
OTHER CHRISTIAN, NOT OTHERWISE SPECIFIED 191 12.7 12.7 96.7
NON-CHRISTIAN 50 3.3 3.3 100.0

NOTE: this table reflects the number of persons in congregations.

To get it:

  1. I went to the National Congregations home page.
  2. Clicked explore the data 
  3. Clicked on Basic Findings for each Variable in the Surveys: Wave 2: 2006-2007 data 
  4. Clicked under the Variables.  "Denomiation." 
  5. Clicked: "I want my tables to reflect the number of persons in congregations"
  6. Clicked: Create Frequency Table. 

The same information is presented slightly differently on page 27 of The National Congregations Study report "American Congregations at the Beginning of the 21st Century" by Mark Chaves

RELIGIOUS TRADITION:
Percent with no denominational affiliation                         13.9   

    Percent associated with each denomination or tradition:
Roman Catholic                                                                 27.9       
Baptist conventions/denominations                                   20.7       
Methodist denominations                                                    9.1         
Lutheran/Episcopal denominations                                     7.9
Pentecostal                                                                         5.6
Denominations in the reformed tradition                             4.5
Other Christian                                                                  20.9
Jewish                                                                                  1.6
Non-Christian and Non-Jewish                                             1.7

I reflected on the Report at:

Two new reports: Thumma / Bird on Megachurches and Chaves on American Congregations

Duke sociologist Mark Chaves has written the 2004 Harvard University Press book:

More raw unweighted data is available at:

National Congregations Study, Cumulative Dataset (1998 and 2006-2007)

From this type of data (if it was properly weighted), one would begin to form the chart above. 

9) Denominational affiliation (collapsed 1) (DENCODE)

TOTAL%
0) No denomination31311.4
1) Roman Catholic66324.2
2) Southern Baptist Convention28510.4
3) Black Baptist913.3
4) American Baptist Churches260.9
5) Other Baptist1204.4
6) United Methodist Church2458.9
7) Black Methodist230.8
8) Other Methodist90.3
9) Evangelical Lutheran Church in America1114.1
10) Lutheran Church - Missouri Synod521.9
11) Other Lutheran190.7
12) Presbyterian Church (USA)823.0
13) Other Presbyterian90.3
14) Assembly of God481.8
15) Other Pentecostal542.0
16) Church of God in Christ210.8
17) Disciples of Christ170.6
18) Episcopal Church772.8
19) United Church of Christ511.9
20) Reformed Church in America80.3
21) Church of the Brethren70.3
22) Jehovah's Witness281.0
23) Mennonite70.3
24) Church of the Nazarene200.7
25) Seventh-day Adventists150.5
26) Unitarian Universalist Association160.6
27) Eastern Orthodox130.5
28) Church/Churches of Christ160.6
29) Various Church of God260.9
30) Latter-day Saints (LDS, Mormon)451.6
31) Jewish451.6
32) Non-Christian/non-Jewish531.9
35) Evangelical130.5
36) Christian and Missionary Alliance130.5
37) Other Mainline/Liberal90.3
38) Other Conservative/Evangelical341.2
39) Other Christian, nec562.0
TOTAL2740100.0


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