Sunday, May 20, 2007

Numbers game?

WaPo piece on the "art" of counting denominational membership:
Next month, Ascol [a Southern Baptist pastor] plans to bring a resolution to the denomination's annual meeting in San Antonio calling for "integrity in the way we regard our membership rolls in our churches and also in the way we report statistics."
Integrity? As in picking out who are the real Baptists? I always thought that was a job for the Great Thresher of Heaven. Everyone knows there is a big number gap between those who claim Catholicism as demographic identity marker and those who claim it as their personal all-encompassing faith. That seems to give Protestants cause to shake their heads at the way we inflate our numbers way beyond actual "practicing" Catholics. But what defines membership? The individuals who have privately marked the Church as their own or the Church's mark (or to be more accurate, seal) on the individual as one of its own? I'd say the latter is a far more fair and consistent measurement, both demographically and ecclesiologically.