- The Washington Times - Thursday, June 6, 2013

Once again, the membership rolls of Southern Baptists, the largest Protestant denomination in the country, have dipped.

The statistics released Wednesday by the Southern Baptist Convention’s Lifeway Christian Resources show a drop-off of membership by 0.66 percent in 2012, The Associated Press reported. That percentage translates into 105,000 fewer Baptists last year than in 2011.

By way of context: The Christian Post reported that the denomination saw a 0.15 percent from between 2009 and 2010 and a 0.98 percent drop from 2010 and 2011. AP said this current dip represents a six-year trend; The Christian Post reported that this year’s drop is the fifth year in a row, not sixth, for the denomination.

Either way, the trend is the same: declining.

“Based on the trend of annual percent change in SBC total membership, we are catching up with the Methodists, and will match their decline rate consistently by 2018,” said Ed Stetzer, president of LifeWay Research, The Christian Post reported. “This trend points to a future of more and faster decline — and it is a 60-year trend.”

At the same time, the Southern Baptist Convention continues to grow in churches. Another 270 church buildings were added in 2012, AP reported.

Baptisms, meanwhile, have fallen in the past year. The number of baptisms performed dropped by 5.5 percent last year — and that’s after seeing a slight increase in 2011, AP reported.

The annual Southern Baptist meeting takes place next week in Houston, AP said.

• Cheryl K. Chumley can be reached at cchumley@washingtontimes.com.

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