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Southern Baptist Membership Hits New Low as Church Tackles Abuse, Racism, and Role of Women

Church Steeple AP
Church Steeple AP

For the first time in 30 years, membership with Southern Baptist Churches is at a record low.  

New numbers from Southern Baptist Churches show that membership fell from approximately 15 million to 14.8 million in 2018. This is the first time in 30 years that it's been below 15 million. 

The denomination will hold its annual meeting in Birmingham, Alabama in two weeks where the decline will be discussed. Other talking points at the convention will be abuse, racism and women in the church.

President of the Southern Baptists' Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission Dr. Russell Moore confirmed that membership decline has been a steady issue.  

"This is a problem that is long running. It has to do with a number of things. One of those things has to do with secularization and the outside society, but more than that is the issue within the church. Both in terms of fervency for evangelism and also in terms of moral credibility," he said, referring to recent sex abuse scandals in the church.

Southern Baptists launched a task force last year to study sexual abuse within the church. Dr. Moore said they've begun making successful strides in this area.

"The advisory study group has been working all year. They have really been working very hard and will be bringing a series of recommendations to the convention. This is the beginning of what really has to be year after year after year of vigilance and reform when it comes to these issues."

Dr. Moore agreed that the SBC should take steps to actively remove churches that respond poorly to abuse disclosures. When combating racism, he talked about unity and fellowship.

"I am hoping for, at the annual meeting, continued emphasis on what Jesus has taught us on what His kingdom is to look like, which is a kingdom of people tearing down carnal divisions loving each other and also standing up for one another and bearing one another's burdens, and so I am hoping that that will be the tenor of this year's meeting as well."

When asked about the role of women in the church, Moore said, "Well I'm really encouraged by some of the things that are happening in Southern Baptist life when it comes to women and leadership. From what I understand, there will probably even be a woman nominated for one of our positions at the convention this year. I think that is all positive development."

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