Skip to comments.New survey shows Protestants’ loyalty flagging
Posted on 01/15/2009 9:50:50 AM PST by NYer
.- A new survey of denominational loyalty reports that churchgoing Catholics are significantly less likely than churchgoing Protestants to change denominations.
Six out of ten active Catholics would only consider attending a Catholic church, while about 30 percent would prefer attending a Catholic church but would consider others, the survey says. Eleven percent of churchgoing Catholics reportedly do not show a specific preference for attending a Catholic church.
By contrast, only 16 percent of Protestant churchgoers will only consider attending a church of their present denomination. About 51 percent express a preference for one denomination, while 33 percent do not have any preference for a specific denomination.
Phoenix-based Ellison Research released the results of the poll on Monday.
The good news for the Catholic church is that six out of ten Catholics will not even consider attending church in any other denomination, which is far higher than for Protestants. The bad news, of course, is that four out of ten active Catholics would at least be open to another denomination, even though most would prefer to remain in the Catholic Church, commented Ron Sellers, president of Ellison Research.
The survey of a representative sample of 1,007 American adults included 471 respondents who regularly attend worship services at a church broadly considered to be in the Christian tradition, categorized into Protestant, Roman Catholic, Mormon, and Orthodox.
Respondents who attend worship services at least once a month were first asked the specific denomination of the church they attend most often. This distinguished Southern Baptist from Free Will Baptist, for example.
The respondents were then asked what role that denomination would play if they could no longer attend their current church, in the case it closed or the respondent moved.
Sellers explained that there may be additional factors affecting the difference between Catholic and Protestant denominational loyalty.
Its not as though there are two hundred different Roman Catholic denominations, he said. On the Protestant side, there are scores of different denominations, with some of them fairly similar in practice and theology.
The story of this research is that many Protestants may not see a lot of difference among some of these denominations, Sellers said.
For comparison, Ellison Research asked Americans about their loyalty to certain brands in more than 32 categories of products and services. Respondents expressed between about 10 to 20 percent exclusive loyalty to brands like automobiles or toothpaste, while between about 60 to 70 percent reported a brand preference.
Respondents were especially loyal to toothpaste, with 22 percent saying they use one brand exclusively.
It may not be lack of loyalty so much as it is the presence of so many options that is causing Protestants to be about as loyal to a brand of toothpaste or bathroom tissue as they are to their church denomination, Sellers remarked.
Among all churchgoing respondents, three out of ten said they would only consider attending one denomination, while 44 percent said they have one preferred denomination but would also consider others. Eleven percent reported a small number of denominations they would consider.
According to the survey results, denominational loyalty does not vary significantly by gender, household income, age, or type of community. It does vary by race or ethnicity and by region of the United States.
Hispanic churchgoers, who are majority Catholic, are the most intensely loyal to their denomination. African-Americans reportedly have the least denominational loyalty.
Denominational loyalty is highest in the Northeast U.S., where Catholicism is more common than elsewhere in the country. Such loyalty is lowest in the South, where Catholicism is less common.
People who report attending a non-denominational church, the Ellison Research survey says, are actually more committed to remaining non-denominational than churchgoers in Protestant denominations are to staying within their denomination. About 29 percent of non-denominational churchgoers will only consider a non-denominational church, while 32 percent express a preference for a non-denominational church.
Which means 40% are still lacking in good catechesis about their faith.
It must take a lot willpower to be a loyal Protestant.
I believe just the opposite may be true. It is as a result of willpower that protestant churches have branched off into ... what is the present number? 35,000+? ... denominations. The one fidelity they all share is belief in Jesus Christ as the Messiah.
But they can't all agree on what He said, or meant when He said it.
Could it possibly be because there are fewer brands of Catholicism than of Protestantism?
In my experience, as a Protestant, I see too many people who don’t bother to understand their particular denomination’s teachings. This might actually require reading the bible and (gasp) additional literature related to that particular denomination’s teachings. People don’t bother to have convictions anymore b/c it takes too much effort. Most people just go where the music is upbeat and there are tons of programs for their children.
Protestants are more apt to see religion as something to feel comfortable with, a social phenomenon and if it doesn't validate them they will just move on to a church where they are more "comfortable."
There is only one brand with 22 different flavors.
"The Catholic Church is the work of Divine Providence, achieved through the prophecies of the prophets, through the Incarnation and the teaching of Christ, through the journeys of the Apostles, through the suffering, the crosses, the blood and the death of the martyrs, through the admirable lives of the saints. When, then, we see so much help on God's part, so much progress and so much fruit, shall we hesitate to bury ourselves in the bosom of that Church? For starting from the Apostolic Chair down through successions of bishops, even unto the open confession of all mankind, it has possessed the crown of teaching authority." - St. Augustine of Hippo ("The Advantage of Believing" 4th century A.D.)
If it makes you more comfortable to believe that, by all means do.
>> Protestants are more apt to see religion as something to feel comfortable with, a social phenomenon and if it doesn’t validate them they will just move on to a church where they are more “comfortable.”
The interesting question would be, how many Protestants would consider converting to the Catholic Church, and vice versa, if that were the only option in town. As it is, this survey is no news at all, since obviously switching between Protestant demonimations is not exactly a life-altering event in most cases.
As a side remark, we Catholics tend to exaggerrate the importance of “30,000” denominations in Protestantism. My observation is that the majority of them are quite interchangeable for a Protestant. A significant divisions are liturgical vs. low church and calvinist vs. arminian. My intuitive feeling is, most Protestants have high loyalty to either of these four groups, but would switch inside the group rather painlessly.
Another factor is that a Catholic would make a distinction between visiting a Protestant denomination — even as often as weekly — and converting to Protestantism. I remember a conversation we once had with a new neighbor down the street, a couple with grown children. “We are Catholic. But we mostly go to the Calvary chapel. It is kind of nondenominational. We like it”. But when the husband passed on, the funeral was in a Catholic Church; they moved, and a year later I bumped into the widow in a supermarket. “Tell your wife, I returned to the Church”, she said. In other words, the identity remained Catholic all along, — the inclusive, non-credal Calvary chapel environment did not seem to challenge that.
>> It must take a lot willpower to be a loyal Protestant.
No more than it does to be a Catholic.
It seems to work that way with probably 2/3 of the Protestants I know and I live in a mostly Protestant town.
IMHO (and not being Catholic, someone correct me) Catholics by and large believe that the Catholic church is the only legitimate denomination/church. So, of course they aren’t going to be open to switching denominations when their basic belief is that there is only one denomination to begin with.
Protestants believe that any group of believers can get together and form a legitimate denomination/church (”For where two or three have gathered together in My name, I am there in their midst.”)
I don’t what to start a debate about what is/isn’t a legitimate church, just to point out that the suvey results are predictable based upon the fact that Catholics and Protestants generally have differing opinions on the subject.