I’m embarking on an interesting story this week about the steep drop in people who belong to organized religion in York County. The statistics come via a national survey comparing religious affiliations in 2010 with those in 2000.
The Catholic Church and mainline Protestant churches in York and Adams counties followed a national trend, losing about one in six followers during the same period.
But other churches in the region showed explosive growth, although their congregations account for a tiny sliver of the south-central Pennsylvania population, according to data released last month by the Association of Religion Data Archives, which collected statistics from 236 religious groups for every state and county in the United States.
In York, the Catholic Diocese of Harrisburg lost over 2,100 members, or about 6 percent. The drop was greater for the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, which lost 8,754 members, or nearly 23 percent of its York County membership.
The latter figure might be related in part to a controversial decision the ELCA made in August 2009 to permit gays in “lifelong, monogamous” relationships to serve as clergy and professional lay leaders. Several local congregations have departed the ELCA since then.
The Presbyterian Church of the USA (PCUSA) lost 2,400 members in York County, or 38 percent. PCUSA also made a change last year, approving an amendment to its constitution giving local congregations the option to ordain partnered lay elders and deacons and allowing presbyteries to ordain or install pastors who are in same-sex relationships.
Among the winners in the survey are the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, which added 861 members in York County, a 48 percent increase.
Overall, the number of York County residents who claimed a church affiliation dropped from 45 percent in 2000 to just under 39 percent in the latest data.
I am looking for comments and reaction to these figures. Do you think fewer people are attending church these days? Do you have a personal experience to share about leaving church?
Contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org, or by phone at 771-2024.