The (S.C.) State launches five-part series on why Bible Belt folks are quitting church

GetReligion | 8/12/2018 | Julia Duin
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The State, a McClatchy newspaper in Columbia, S.C., doesn’t have a religion reporter due to budget cuts, but its staff has sure published out a lot of religion news lately. Several weeks ago I wrote here about a piece by one of its writers on the state’s exotic snake industry and how snake-handling preachers in surrounding states get their serpents from South Carolina.

This year, the staff embarked on a lengthy series called “Losing Faith: Why South Carolina is abandoning its churches.” At least 97 S.C. churches have closed since 2011, a subhead said. Other churches are dying slow deaths, losing thousands of members, so what’s happening to the Bible Belt?

Article - Points - People - South - Identify

As this first article points out, three out of every four people in the South identify as Christian and 80 percent say religion is important in their lives. The South has the country’s highest rate of church attendance. Now we learn that adherence is slipping even in the Bible Belt.

Many churches are dying slow deaths, stuck in stagnation if not decline. And if they don’t do something, in the near future, they’ll share the fate of Cedar Creek United Methodist, a 274-year-old Richland County congregation that dissolved last year; Resurrection Lutheran, a church near downtown Columbia that will hold its last service on Sept. 2; and the dozens of churches that sit shuttered and empty around the state.

Time - Churches - Churches - Grandparents - Grandparents

At the same time, some churches are growing, and some growing quickly. But they might not look much like the churches your grandparents (and their grandparents) were raised in. From meeting in unconventional places to tweaking their traditions, many churches are adapting, offering something different that many people thought the church couldn’t do for them.

What they’re doing reflects the results of an ongoing conversation among churches: How can they stay alive?

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