By Aaron Earls
Churches have made a “slight movement” to the right in the last five years, according to the American Congregations 2015 study.
The research from the Hartford Institute for Religion Research found an increasing number of churches saying their members are theologically “very conservative.”
More than a third (33 percent) of churches are very conservative, up from around 29 percent in 2010. Moderate congregations saw a more than 3-point decline, down from 25 percent in 2010 to 22 percent in 2015.
“Somewhat conservative” remains the top choice of congregations, with slightly less than 37 percent, but it is down by more than 1 point since 2010.
Taken together, the percentage of congregations described as conservative climbed more than 3 points to 70 percent of all American churches.
At the other end of the theological spectrum, liberal churches remained a small minority of American churches. In the last five years, the share of very liberal and somewhat liberal churches remained virtually unchanged—accounting for around 8 percent.
The study connected the conservative shift with the “slide” of a social justice emphasis among churches. In 2005, just over 48 percent of churches agreed or strongly agreed their congregation was working for social justice. Since then, the percentage of churches who agreed declined to less than 44 percent.
Churches are also participating in drastically fewer multi-faith activities in their communities. After a “dramatic post-9/11 surge” up to 38 percent, only 15 percent of churches participated in such events in 2015.
AARON EARLS (Aaron.Earls@Lifeway.com) is online editor of Facts & Trends.