The Magazine of The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America


Face the facts

But we must avoid discouragement

“Roll Over, Martin Luther" reads the Time headline (Aug. 16, page 53). After almost four centuries of numerical dominance, Protestants will soon make up less than 50 percent of the U.S. population. The greatest growth in the survey is among those who claim "no religious preference," especially among young adults.

The Time writer attributes Protestantism's decline to three primary factors:

1. Mainline denominations did not require enough commitment theologically and evangelistically from congregations so enthusiasm waned.

2. Denominations that once aggressively courted members turned to other tasks, such as social activism.

3. Mainline birthrates lag behind the national average.

Lutherans were not mentioned in the article, but we are not exempt. ELCA baptized membership declined in 2003 by 53,081 — about 1 percent (see page 53). We have now slipped below 5 million baptized members.

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