Baptists losing their market share, Pew study shows

The choir at Sharpstown Baptist Church in Houston sings during an Easter service. A new Pew Center study says Baptists are shrinking even though Evangelicals are growing in number. (Photo: Sharpstown Baptist Church)

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NASHVILLE, Tenn. (BNG)—For every American who joins a Baptist church, two others who were raised Baptists are leaving the denomination, according to a new Pew Center Report.

pew landscape survey341The report, America’s Changing Religious Landscape, found nearly one in five—19.2 percent—U.S. adults describe their childhood religion as Baptist. One in 12—8.4 percent of all Americans—say they no longer are Baptist, compared to 4.5 percent who entered the denomination from a different tradition or no faith.

Since 2007, the share of evangelical Protestants who identify with Baptist denominations has shrunk from 41 percent to 36 percent, the report says. Meanwhile, the share of evangelicals identifying with nondenominational churches has grown from 13 percent to 19 percent.

“Baptist” is one of a few denominational labels diverse enough to span all three major Protestant traditions. The Southern Baptist Convention, the nation’s second-largest faith group behind Roman Catholics, belongs to the evangelical tradition. American Baptist Churches USA is counted as part of the mainline tradition, while others like the National Baptist Convention USA, Inc., are part of the historically black Protestant tradition.

More than six in 10 people in the historically black Protestant tradition identify with Baptist denominations, including 22 percent who identify with the National Baptist Convention, the largest denomination within the historically black Protestant tradition.

SBC down, American Baptists up

One in 20 U.S. adults—5.3 percent—identify with the Southern Baptist Convention, down from 6.7 percent in 2007.

American Baptist Churches USA, meanwhile, gained a market share from 1.2 percent of the population in 2007 to 1.5 percent in 2014.

Six in 10 U.S. Baptists identify with the evangelical tradition, 14 percent as mainline Protestant and 26 percent with the historically black Protestant traditions. One in three U.S. Protestants belongs to a Baptist tradition.

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Nearly six in 10 who were raised Baptist still identify with their childhood denominational family, while 23 percent now identify with a different Protestant group. Two percent of former Baptists are now Catholic, 4 percent have joined another faith and 15 percent now identify as religiously unaffiliated.

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