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Churches continue to disband, merge
Springfield News-Sun ^ | September 18, 2012 | Mark Fahey

Posted on 09/19/2012 5:57:03 AM PDT by Alex Murphy

A local church will close its doors after a final worship service on Sept. 30, less than two years away from its 100th anniversary.

Oakland Presbyterian will join at least 28 other mainline protestant churches that have been disbanded or consolidated in Clark County since 1980, according to data from the Association of Religious Data Archives.

The loss of mainline protestant congregations in Clark County mirrors trends at the national level, where rolls dropped by more than 7 million members between 1980 and 2010.

Gloria Sesslar has been a member of the Oakland congregation since 1980. She said many current members have been with the church their entire lives and some remember when, according to Oakland Clerk of Session John Emerich, Oakland claimed a congregation of 1,400 members.

By the 1980s, that number had dropped to 800. Today, the church has 90 members and draws fewer than 35 congregants to most services.

“Because of the various things that have changed in society, we’ve seen the membership go down,” Sesslar said. “The few members that are left cannot sustain paying a full-time pastor.”

The church’s retired members are on fixed incomes, and many of the church’s few young families don’t have the resources to give heavily. Members are upset to see the church, a piece of Springfield history dating back to the Oakland missionary school in the 1870s, close.

“It’s hard for them to accept, but I think they understand,” Sesslar said. “It’s been a very giving congregation.”

Although increases in Evangelical churches, Latter-day Saints, and nondenominational and Catholic congregations overcome losses nationally, the new churches that have sprung up in Clark County have not seen the membership boosts to counter the almost 18,000 members lost from mainline protestant churches in the area between 1980 and 2010.

National surveys show a 34 percent increase in the overall number of church members in that period, but Clark County experienced a 30 percent reduction in membership. Over that time, the county saw an 8 percent drop in population.

Nondenominational churches are experiencing similar problems, said Jamie Noel, pastor of Crosspoint Community Church on South Limestone Street.

“Each year it seems like less and less people become interested in attending church,” Noel said. “I see more churches having to share space to stay open, I’ve seen more churches having to go to a less traditional time frame for worship and I see more pastors having to go to work over the next 10 years.”

Mainline protestant churches, especially Lutherans, Methodists and Presbyterians, as well as Catholic churches played an important role in the development of Springfield, said Kevin Rose, historian with the Turner Foundation. Their influence expanded with the city, leading to the founding of Wittenberg University and shaping the downtown skyline.

“Churches are always landmarks in a community,” Rose said. “Churches are what you come to recognize a community for; when you go to communities you look at their churches.”

While Oakland is only the second Presbyterian congregation lost in Clark County since 1980, other denominations have seen substantial reductions, including 12 United Methodist churches and 7 Evangelical Lutheran churches.

In 2009, three local Methodist churches combined into Faith United Methodist in downtown Springfield, which now serves the former congregations of Central, Story-Hypes and Lagonda United Methodist churches.

The move was motivated by dwindling memberships and financial troubles at the individual churches, said Jeff Mullinix, pastor for the combined church.

“They all had a desire to continue ministry, and they felt the best way to survive and to utilize their resources and gifts was to merge together and become one congregation,” he said. “They did not want to see those ministries die, and if that meant merging together to form a new church, they were willing to do whatever it took.”

Mullinix said that although the loss of the individual church identities was a challenge for the combined church, the move allowed the church to serve their current congregation of 375 members and to expand their ministries in the downtown area.

The former Lagonda United Methodist building is being used by another church, but the Story-Hypes building lies vacant a few blocks from where the Oakland Presbyterian building will soon sit empty.

Some of the area’s old unused churches have architectural significance, said Rose. The Oakland Presbyterian building was designed by local architect William K. Schilling, who was responsible for the Springfield post office and courthouse. While having those historical buildings stand empty is unfortunate, Rose said consolidating area churches could strengthen their impact.

“I think it has as much to say about how we worship today as it does about the state of the community,” he said. “Even if you say things are a little worse here in Springfield than they are in other places, I think in some ways merging churches will strengthen the community. Part of what churchgoing is about is that sense of community … and where we see a loss in one area we’ll see strength in another.”

Those sentiments were echoed by Rev. Gail Eastwood, pastor of First United Church of Christ on the corner of Belmont and High. She said they are successfully recruiting new members and have a congregation of about 350.

Eastwood said churches will find ways to stay viable.

“It’s a widespread problem in the county, what’s going on with mainline protestant churches in particular,” said Eastwood. “I think we’re going to see church that’s different than it’s been before, but I think people will still gather to find God.”


TOPICS: Evangelical Christian; Mainline Protestant; Ministry/Outreach; Religion & Culture
KEYWORDS: churches; churchmergers; ohio; protestantchurches; religiousleft; schism; trends
The loss of mainline protestant congregations in Clark County mirrors trends at the national level, where rolls dropped by more than 7 million members between 1980 and 2010....

....Although increases in Evangelical churches, Latter-day Saints, and nondenominational and Catholic congregations overcome losses nationally, the new churches that have sprung up in Clark County have not seen the membership boosts to counter the almost 18,000 members lost from mainline protestant churches in the area between 1980 and 2010. National surveys show a 34 percent increase in the overall number of church members in that period, but Clark County experienced a 30 percent reduction in membership. Over that time, the county saw an 8 percent drop in population....

....“Each year it seems like less and less people become interested in attending church,” Noel said. “I see more churches having to share space to stay open, I’ve seen more churches having to go to a less traditional time frame for worship and I see more pastors having to go to work over the next 10 years.”

1 posted on 09/19/2012 5:57:06 AM PDT by Alex Murphy
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To: Alex Murphy

Maybe those churches should preach the Gospel and stop worrying about how society views them. Just a suggestion.


2 posted on 09/19/2012 6:02:54 AM PDT by Anitius Severinus Boethius (http://www.amazon.com/dp/B008BAL1OK/)
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To: Alex Murphy

What state is this?

The article doesn’t say if this if due to a general loss of church membership or maybe demographic changes in a city.


3 posted on 09/19/2012 6:04:40 AM PDT by Will88
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To: Alex Murphy

There is a cure to this ....
Preach the Gospel ...
the real one ...
not the social one many of these churches have been preaching


4 posted on 09/19/2012 6:07:49 AM PDT by Lera (Proverbs 29:2)
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To: Anitius Severinus Boethius

They are like the MSM taking their liberalism to the grave.


5 posted on 09/19/2012 6:09:20 AM PDT by Goreknowshowtocheat
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To: Lera

“There is a cure to this ....
Preach the Gospel ...
the real one ...
not the social one many of these churches have been preaching”

This works. I moved from Presbyterian to a very conservative SBC church because of the social Gospel cant from the pulpit. It was a good move but I have found that the SBC is out and about in the community doing things for people every day, much more so than in my old church. The difference is that we do it to bring more people to Jesus rather than believing that Salvation is through social action (the heart and soul of the Social Gospel movement).

It works.


6 posted on 09/19/2012 6:17:02 AM PDT by buffaloguy
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To: Alex Murphy

As a manager of a venerable AM radio station once told me, “we lose ten listeners a day through the obituary column”.

The same is true of my Catholic parish. As older members die off they are not being replaced by the young, who are either becoming completely secular due to a poor upbringing and liberalism taught in the schools, or they are gravitating towards Evangelical churches which appeal to their spiritual needs more effectively.

Rewriting the language of our Mass in outdated language from the Middle Ages sure did not help in this regard.


7 posted on 09/19/2012 6:25:18 AM PDT by Buckeye McFrog
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To: Alex Murphy
The worst thing that ever happened to my church was getting a building.

Each Sunday we met in the local high school gym and set up chairs in front of the bleachers. We placed our fake silk plants out and positioned the podium. Our pastor was young and enthusiastic and we filled all the chairs and much of the bleachers on that one side.

The best I can explain it was it felt like how I imagine an old tent revival would sound. We sang loud, spoke loud, and worshiped with jubilance! (Rev. Sammy Rodriguez's GOP benediction reminded me of those sermons!) And of course, we collected week after week and eventually we had enough money to build a dedicated building.

It was very exciting! But in the end, what we had built was a very beautiful but very serious space. It was no longer appropriate for the younger kids to run around the floor before service started. Jeans and Ts were suddenly not dressy enough. Voices sang less loudly. And I think we underestimated how important the social event of arriving early to set up chairs and drink coffee together was really part of our... I don't know... We felt like a big family.

Just 3 short years after building a church our amazing pastor got moved to a different state. Our new pastor is a good guy but he is also very serious. Mostly I just attend when my Mom feels like singing some hymns! Anyway, I guess all I am saying is that you don't need a impressive building to have an amazing church.

8 posted on 09/19/2012 6:31:52 AM PDT by Casie
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To: Anitius Severinus Boethius

Maybe those churches should preach the Gospel and stop worrying about how society views them. Just a suggestion.””

Precisely. There are many false prophets preaching the new religion of false christianity which embraces many of the ancient beliefs of the deviant crowd. What we really need are more queers getting married in churches. sarc


9 posted on 09/19/2012 6:39:52 AM PDT by Neoliberalnot (Marxism works well only with the uneducated and the unarmed.)
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To: Alex Murphy
The mainline Protestant churches have been in decline, sometimes freefall decline, for a half a century, in congregants and influence in society. Up until the 1950s, big city newspapers would report the sermons of influential, and often liberal, Episcopal, Methodist, Presbyterian, and Congregationalist congregations in their Monday editions. After the Eisenhower era, they lost their swaying power. Liberal politicians recognize two sacraments: money and votes. The mainline churches stopped delivering votes and were accordingly ignored.

Liberal theology, notably modernism and neo-orthodoxy, took over the mainline denominations in the early 20th Century. The early 21st Century will see their effective demise.

The more important issue is the survival of the evangelical church in an increasingly secular and anti-religious nation. The effects of neo-evangelicalism and sundry other efforts to water down the Gospel may have the long term effect on the evangelicals that liberalism had on the mainline churches. Evangelical and fundamentalist churches have done a poor job in retention of the young. All the efforts of Sunday schools, youth groups, and college ministries have yielded scant fruit. If the Millennials do not return to evangelical churches as did the Baby Boomers and to a lesser extent, Generation X, did after they married and started families, Baptist churches, both Southern and independent, conservative Presbyterian congregations, independent Bible churches, Assemblies of God, etc., may well be in rapid shrinkage mode in 20-30 years. Today the Gothic mainline church facilities in the central cities are distressed real estate; tomorrow it may be the megachurch structures in the suburbs.

10 posted on 09/19/2012 6:41:41 AM PDT by Wallace T.
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To: Will88

Ohio. The problem these “mainstream” churches have is their liberalism and deviance from Christianity. Liberal churches always claim that they are “reaching out” and “broadening their base” but that never really happens.


11 posted on 09/19/2012 6:46:03 AM PDT by iowamark
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To: Wallace T.

About 45 years ago I took a nice tour of parts of Europe, mostly Spain. The Cathedrals are beautiful, old, dusty but beautiful. In talking to the priests at various cathedrals I asked when they use these beautiful old buildings. People come on Easter and Christmas and for funerals. Most sundays there will be a few old people taking communion and that is all. We are now nearly at the same place in this country. I used to think that in America it would never happen.

What has caused this evil to befall our country? The Nanny state. Nobody depends on churches for a safety net, every one has an entitled minimum standard of living. nobody belives is Heaven or Hell anymore.

Schools teach that there is no god. That religion is a fairy tale for silly people. When teachers say it kids believe it. I well remember when my oldest child came home from her first grade in school and told me I was wrong about something I said. I assured her that I was right but she told me that her teacher told her I was wrong and that her teacher was a “teacher” and knew more than me.

Teachers unions and teachers, newspaper, TV reporters and Democrat politicians have hurt this country more than most of the other stuff combined.

When our nation ceases to be a “Christian” nation then we can say good-bye to the protection of the Almighty God. We will fall, it won’t be pretty. It’s been a good 225 years.


12 posted on 09/19/2012 7:12:25 AM PDT by JAKraig (Surely my religion is at least as good as yours)
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To: Will88
This Clark County is outside of Dayton, OH. The county population peaked at 150,000 people in 1970 and has slowly declined to about 130,000 today. It still seems pretty rural.

Like most rust belt cities, it is a combination of demographics and the young fleeing ice and snow for a job.

There is no doubt that the public education system and entertainment has changed our children's culture away from their parents culture.

The same story is repeated in nearly every city across the North.

Of course, the article did not mention many growing nondenominational churches in Ohio.

13 posted on 09/19/2012 7:14:21 AM PDT by texas booster (Join FreeRepublic's Folding@Home team (Team # 36120) Cure Alzheimer's!)
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To: Anitius Severinus Boethius
Maybe those churches should preach the Gospel and stop worrying about how society views them. Just a suggestion.

New churches are founded by passionate and strong-willed starters who seek what is lately called "muscular Christianity", but they grow because of the joiners who are attracted by an energy which they do not, themselves, possess. Eventually, joiners greatly outnumber starters and the church comes to be governed by a new force, the only power the joiners do have -- socializing.

When the blue-haired biddies take over, the church is doomed. They leverage their standing in their own little social networks into positions in church business in a pattern not unlike Stalin's lateral transition from a party leader to government office. They use their sanctioned influence to drive off competing interests and eventually become the principle monetary contributors, though their tithing will never match the expenses the church will incur in pursuit of their whimsical interests. When the old ladies are all that's left of the congregation, the church will not outlive them, and will usually dissolve while the last dozen or so are creepily pivoting around in the pews like a clutch of nosferatu looking for fresh blood to just walk in.

14 posted on 09/19/2012 7:55:49 AM PDT by Brass Lamp
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To: buffaloguy
You're telling my story; coming from a life long Presbyterian and becoming a So. Baptist.

As such, we also reach out to the poor but follow the path of the One who taught us, help the poor by giving them the Bread of Life, then teaching them how to help themselves, ,not teaching them to lean on us for other than love and prayer.

15 posted on 09/19/2012 8:01:39 AM PDT by zerosix (Native sunflower)
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To: JAKraig
What has caused this evil to befall our country? The Nanny state. Nobody depends on churches for a safety net, every one has an entitled minimum standard of living. nobody believes is Heaven or Hell anymore.


The social doctrines of political correctness which includes divorce, adultery, homosexuality, diversity racism, etc., were used as battering rams to bring the cause of sin into the churches and divide the congregations like they divide people politically and racially in secular society. To avoid controversy they either adopted the cause of promoting sin or went silent on morality in order to avoid conflict.

Churches stopped evangelizing while doing service and extending the healing love of Jesus. They don't even help their own members going through hard moments. The churches that did not focus on condoning sin to kill themselves were busy with prosperity worship- enriching themselves with alms. Fancy Real estate and wealthy preachers was bigger than using alms for Christian service.

I am thinking there will be a revival as the dead churches fall.

Churches can not use alms to promote the opposite of Bible teachings and culture and they can't use alms to enrich themselves. These anti-Christ belief systems and actions will remove the Holy Spirit.

16 posted on 09/19/2012 8:26:50 AM PDT by SaraJohnson
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To: iowamark

**Oakland Presbyterian will join at least 28 other mainline protestant churches that have been disbanded or consolidated in Clark County since 1980, according to data from the Association of Religious Data Archives.**

Ppresbyterian?


17 posted on 09/19/2012 8:38:47 AM PDT by Salvation ("With God all things are possible." Matthew 19:26)
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To: Salvation
Ppresbyterian?

A breakaway dyslexic sect of Presbyterians.


18 posted on 09/19/2012 10:20:37 AM PDT by Buckeye McFrog
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To: JAKraig
We in America are only a few decades behind our European counterparts. Our culture and traditions once favored favored pluralism within a Christian context, since we lacked government supported churches at the Federal level, and at the state level after 1830 or so. However, the consensus behind Biblical values was slowly ruptured by public education, the media, and other parties, as you stated.

At the time (around 1967) you visited Spain, that country was still governed by Francisco Franco, an authoritarian ruler who had crushed the Communists and other leftists in a civil war 30 years earlier. His opponents were largely killed, imprisoned, or fled the country in the civil war's aftermath. The Catholic religion was taught as part of public education, and the Left, both Marxist and social democrat, was still somewhat underground there, unlike the case north of the Pyrennes. Nonetheless, it appears that even then, the Spanish people had largely abandoned their historic Catholicism in spite of government support of that faith and restrictions on the Left's ability to propagandize.

To maintain the Christian faith in a society, you not only need to counter the anti-Christian elements, whether secularist, Marxist, Muslim, et. al., but you also have to effectively convey your teachings to passing generations. Evangelical and fundamentalist churches have been ineffective in this area, as have mainline Protestant churches.

19 posted on 09/19/2012 10:24:14 AM PDT by Wallace T.
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To: Alex Murphy
The two PCUSA churches in town here merged a couple years ago. Now I see that one of the United Methodist congregations is worshiping with the other one on the edge of town.

demographics.

20 posted on 09/19/2012 3:26:07 PM PDT by Lee N. Field (Never argue eschatology with a crazy person.)
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To: buffaloguy
This works. I moved from Presbyterian to a very conservative SBC church because of the social Gospel cant from the pulpit. It was a good move but I have found that the SBC is out and about in the community doing things for people every day, much more so than in my old church. The difference is that we do it to bring more people to Jesus rather than believing that Salvation is through social action (the heart and soul of the Social Gospel movement).
It works.



On the first Sunday following the tragedy of September 11, 2001 Carter Conlon delivered this soul stirring message at Times Square Church in Manhattan

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6A6lWl_XzKA

Listen to me like you’ve never listened to me ever in your life.

We have got to lay our lives down for the purposes of God.
This is not a Sunday School picnic, the church of Jesus Christ.
This is not an invitation to have continuous good times. This is a war for the souls of men.

Come out from among them.
Run for your life. Because this is about your life.
This is not just about an opposing theology or conflicting viewpoint on Jesus, this is about your life.

My mind is forever branded with the stories that I heard of police officers from the city of New York.
As people were fleeing from a crumbling building there were police officers and firemen and others that were running towards the buildings saying “Run for your life,” at their own peril. And in some cases I believe they knew they were going to die but there was a sense of duty.

I was crying out to God, I said “God, oh Jesus, don’t let my sense of duty be less for Your Kingdom than these beloved firemen and policemen were for those that are perishing in a falling tower. We’re living in a generation when Truth is falling into the streets. I want to be among those that are not running away from the conflict but running into the conflict and saying, “Run for your life.”
Run from gospels that focus only on success and prosperity. Run!
Run from those who use the name of Christ only for personal gain.
Run from those that are picking your pocket in the name of Jesus. Run!

Run from gospels that only focus on self improvement. Run!
Run from churches where men and not Christ are glorified. Run!

Run Body of Christ, Run! Get out! Don’t touch the unclean thing.
Run from churches in America and Canada where there is no Bible ,there’s no cross in the theology ,there’s no soul-searching word ,there’s no repentance from sin ,there’s no mention of the blood of Jesus.
Run! It’s unclean. Run!

Run from churches where you’re comfortable in your sins.
If you come into the house of God and you’ve got sin in your life and you’re not convicted of it, you’re at a table of devils.

Run from pulpits that are filled with political men, who are using the pulpit of God for a personal political agenda. Run!
Run from those who preach division between races and cultures. Run!

Run! Get out! Turn it off! Get away from it!
They know nothing of God.

Run from ungodly spasmodic movements and aimless empty prophesying. Beloved Church, run for your life.
Run from preachers that stand and tell stories and jokes. Run like you’ve never run before!
RUN!RUN!RUN!

21 posted on 09/20/2012 11:35:50 AM PDT by Lera (Proverbs 29:2)
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