The Southern Baptist Convention will convene next week in Houston to the disheartening news that their denomination continues to decline in membership. Within the past year, America's largest Protestant denomination has lost more than 105,000 members and 188,000 Sunday worshipers by their own count.
Florida, with 1.1 million members and 2,485 churches ranks behind Texas, Georgia and North Carolina in membership. Nationwide, the Southern Baptists have nearly 6 million members and more than 46,000 churches.
The most disturbing trend in the decline is the drop in baptisms, writes Jeremy Weber for Christianity Today:
Although baptisms were a bright spot in last year’s report, increasing 0.7 percent, this year’s report shows a decline of 5.5 percent to 314,956 people. Reported baptisms have declined six of the last eight years with 2012 the lowest since 1948. The ratio of baptisms to total members increased to one baptism for every fifty members.
“While we celebrate every new baptized believer represented by these numbers, fewer reported baptisms is heartbreaking,” said Thom S. Rainer, president and CEO of LifeWay. “Southern Baptists cannot rest on what God accomplished through us in prior years.”
The self-described reaction of Frank Page, president of the SBC's executive committee: "God forgive us and God help us."