Church ‘purity’ set to grow




While the number of adult Americans attending church has fallen below 50 per cent of the population for the first time in more than a century – one leading UK academic believes the slump will be beneficial ‘in the long term’.

Church membership across the pond has been dropping steadily since the start of the century, culminating in a three per cent decline between 2018 and 2021, as revealed last month in a Gallup poll

But Stephen Bullivant, a professor of theology and sociology at St. Mary’s University in Twickenham (London) describes the revelation of just 47 per cent of Americans identifying themselves as church-goers as a symbolic marker.

‘This is one more little data point alongside a great many that are all, for the most part, pointing in a single direction,” he said. ‘And that is the waning of Christian America.’

Bullivant believes that although the decline started just over 20 years ago, the factors were generations in the making.

Committed ones

Interestingly, the trends highlighted by the latest study seem to be especially exaggerated in Catholic circles. Since 2000, the rate of church membership has dropped twice as quickly among self-identified Catholics (down 18 per cent) than it has among Protestants.

Nonetheless, men like Bullivant aren’t without hope.

‘You always hear things like, ‘If present trends continue, the last Christian in Britain will die in 2070,’ which is [rubbish], because present trends don’t continue,’ he told the National Catholic Register, pointing to places like Sweden and Estonia – deeply secularised countries where church membership is actually growing – as examples of places where trends have been reversed.

And the UK academic remains hopeful in the long-term.

‘It’s not that we want a smaller, purer Church,” he continued. ‘It’s just that’s the way secularization is heading: the Church will be smaller. And if it’s smaller, then it has to be purer, because only the kind of more committed ones will still be there.’



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