From: Star&Tribune

TEST OF FAITH: THE UNCHURCHING OF AMERICA

AS CHURCHES CLOSE,
A WAY OF LIFE FADES

Minnesota’s mainline Christian denominations face unprecedented declines, altering communities and traditions celebrated for generations.

About the seriesThis is the first in an occasional series about Christianity at a crossroads — a time of unprecedented decline in church membership and a changing future for the faith. …

Mainline Protestant churches have been hit the hardest.

The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) in Minnesota has lost almost 200,000 members since 2000 and about 150 churches. A third of the remaining 1,050 churches have fewer than 50 members. The United Methodist Church, the second largest Protestant denomination in Minnesota, has shuttered 65 churches since 2000. …

And it seems likely to get worse. Most Americans still report that they are Christian, but the worshipers in the pews on Sunday increasingly have gray or white hair. The median age is older than 50 for nearly all mainline Protestant denominations, according to the Pew Research Center, a national polling and research group in Washington, D.C. For Catholics, it’s age 49. …

Church attendance has been declining for decades nationally, but the pace appears to be accelerating. Since 1990, the Episcopal Church, the Presbyterian Church U.S.A. and United Church of Christ have lost nearly half their national members. The ELCA has lost a third. The Catholic church still shows membership growth, but has 2,000 fewer parishes today, according to Catholic studies.

A record one in five Americans now report no religious affiliation, according to Pew. …

Not every denomination or church is fragile. Some smaller evangelical denominations in Minnesota, such as Assemblies of God, and some megachurches report continued growth. But as a whole, even membership in the evangelical churches has plateaued, according to the Hartford Institute and other studies.

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