NEW YORK, March 13, 2001---The typical American has a faulty picture of the
nation's churches, synagogues and mosques, a prominent sociologist said here
"When we see President Bush go to church it is to a Texas-size United
Methodist Church," Professor David A. Roozen explained. "And newspaper
pictures show Roman Catholic Cardinal Edward Eagan in the vast St. Patrick's
Cathedral where he is flanked by a group of other priests."
The reality, according to Roozen, is demonstrated by a new study of religion
in the United States today. "Half of all congregations have fewer than 100
regularly participating adults. And fully 52 percent are located in small
towns and open country," he said.
He cited the most extensive and inclusive research survey ever conducted of
American congregations, called Faith Communities Today or FACT.
Another scholar, Professor Carl S. Dudley, reported that among congregations
enjoying financial health, a whopping 71 percent see themselves as "moral
beacons" in their communities. "Personal morality is an important factor for
healthy congregations," he says, citing the example that "69 percent of such
congregations emphasize the importance of abstinence from premarital sex."
Dudley and Roozen, who co-directed the FACT study with major support from the
Lilly Endowment and 41 faith groups, are faculty at the Hartford Institute
for Religion Research, Hartford Seminary. More than 100 other researchers,
teachers and communicators from a wide spectrum of religious groups helped
design and conduct the survey and have already developed follow-up plans.
Dudley told a news conference at the Greek Orthodox Holy Trinity Cathedral
here today that the study reveals how faith-based programs of human services
provide a national, personal network that reaches into nearly every community
in America. Day care and health clinics, for example, already have government
connections or meet government standards.
More than two out of three congregations report sponsoring or supporting a
thrift shop, for example, and more than one of three are involved in tutoring.
Their responses suggest that more than 200,000 congregations sponsor thrift
shops and 120,000 help tutor children and youth nationwide. "Even if we
modify the projections on the assumption that a third of the congregations
work with other groups providing shared services, the religious contribution
to community welfare is far greater than other estimates suggest," Dudley
"The FACT study shows that these programs often are located in remote or
impoverished communities where other services are absent or would be more
expensive than recipients can afford," he said. The Bush Administration
currently is encouraging these so-called "charitable choice" efforts,
promising more federal assistance to "faith-based programs."
"Our data shows that nearly all faith groups-from liberal and evangelical
Protestants to Catholics, Orthodox and such world religions as Jews, Muslims
and Baha'i's-support these outreach ministries," he said, acknowledging that
the historically Black protestant groups "are slightly more active than the
Roozen called attention to charts in the 68-page FACT Report on Religion in
the U.S. Today that show how "clarity of mission and purpose" and "strictness
of member expectations" contribute to membership growth. FACT's research,
based on responses from 14,301 congregations located in every state, show
that half of these congregations report membership growth. The findings also
show that social ministries and working for social justice have contributed
Other topics covered by the massive study include public worship, spiritual
growth, and how congregations are managed and led.
Faith Communities Today is thought to be the first major research on
congregational life that also includes wide-ranging efforts to help local
religious groups use the data to strengthen their own programs and ministries.
One innovative approach, an on-line interactive workbook, was also made
available today to churches, synagogues and mosques across the nation. Three
years in the making, that workbook is known as "Interact with Fact" and may
be accessed on the Faith Communities Today website at http://FACT.hartsem.edu
Copies of the Report on Religion in the United States Today are available
from the Hartford Institute for Religion Research, Hartford Seminary, 77
Sherman Street, Hartford, CT 06105. Call 860-509-9543 or write to
FACT@hartsem.edu for copies.
Director of Public and Institutional Affairs
©Copyright 2001, Hartford Seminary
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