Church of the Brethren Membership Experiences Decline in 2009

Church of the Brethren Newsline
Aug. 27, 2010

The Church of the Brethren denomination’s membership declined by almost 1,600 people in 2009, according to data from the “Church of the Brethren Yearbook,” and continues a decades-long trend of declining membership since the 1960s. The denomination’s total membership stood at 122,810 in 2009, declining from the 124,408 members reported by congregations in 2008. The denomination reported a total average weekly worship attendance of 58,830 for the year, also a decline from the previous year’s 59,084.

Yearbook figures are based on data provided by congregations that turn in statistical reports. In 2009, 686 or 65.5 percent of Church of the Brethren congregations turned in a statistical report–a number consistent with most recent years providing a consistent means for comparing statistics. About 66 percent reported in 2008.

Atlantic Northeast continues as the largest district, with 14,336 members in 2009, and also is the leading district in terms of membership decline having lost 335 members. The second largest district is Shenandoah District with 14,189 members in 2009, representing a gain of 33 people over 2008. The third largest is Virlina District with 10,947 members, a decline of 69. Mid-Atlantic District gained the most members, 37, to arrive at a total membership of 9,694 for 2009.

The total number of congregations in the denomination, which includes the United States and Puerto Rico, also declined by five to 994 in 2009, down from 999 in 2008. There were 53 fellowships and projects in 2009, an increase of three from the previous year.

The number of baptisms reported by congregations, 1,394, posted a sharp decline from the previous year’s 1,714, but was higher than the 1,380 reported in 2007.

Giving to general ministries of the denomination–which totaled $3,519,737 in 2009–fell by more than $91,000 from 2008’s total of $3,611,474. Giving to special purpose funds such as the Emergency Disaster Fund or other specially designated gifts to the work of the denomination, came to $1,401,454 in 2009, a drop of almost $354,000 from the previous year’s total of $1,755,359. Such giving, especially to the EDF, often is determined by the nature and scope of disasters or other events that occurred during that period.

Giving to the other two Annual Conference agencies that receive financial support from congregations also dropped in 2009, with Bethany Theological Seminary seeing a decline of more than $22,000, and On Earth Peace seeing a decline of more than $52,000. In 2009, Bethany reported actual giving of $414,988 and On Earth Peace reported $51,878.

The 2010 Yearbook will be available this fall in a new electronic format on CD, for the price of $21.50 and will be shipped automatically to customers on the standing order list with Brethren Press. Others should purchase the Yearbook at or call 800-441-3712.

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