I’ve been looking at statistics lately for an article I’ve been writing for a magazine coming out later this spring. According to the 2001 census reports, over a quarter million fewer Canadians identify the United Church as their denomination of choice. Over the same time period, the number of Canadians stating they have no religious affiliation increased by one and a half million.
The United Church of Canada is not the only denomination to see such a dramatic decline. The second largest protestant denomination in Canada, the Anglican Church, lost 152,000 members or adherents in the same time span.
But one and a half million.
That’s a lot of people who are unchurched.
Many people I know my age do not go to church. Neither do their parents, nor, if they have any, their children. We are entering our third generation of an increasingly unchurched nation.
Many people think we have entered into a post-Christian society. I agree. The church has not been the centre of our communities for a number of years. But, I also think that we are entering a post-denominational society as well.
No longer are people choosing a religious denomination. According to census stats the second highest “religion” in Canada is “No Religion” at over 16% of our population in 2001. That is a 44% increase in 10 years. Given the trends, no doubt has continued to increase over the last 10 years as well.
What then, do we as denominations, with our various differences which keep us apart, do we do to connect with people in our communities? Especially when most people who may be seeking at church home are less particular about the denomination and more concerned with finding a church they like.
I confess that I am a member of the clergy of the United Church of Canada because it was the denomination I was involved in when I felt the call of God to serve full-time. So here I am, part of this denomination, it could have easily been any other, but it was the local United Church that I felt most at home at.
Knowing people are less tied to a denomination than previous generations, are ecumenical partnerships more crucial now than ever before? Even at the expense of the other churches growing while we might not?
I am blessed to live in a community where ecumenical relations are better than they have ever been. The churches and leaders are eager to work together to introduce our town to the love of God shown in Jesus Christ. We don’t care which church you go to, we would be more than happy just to hear you’ve picked one!
So, what are your thoughts? Do our denominations need each other more than ever, or have we begun to turn back the clock to a time when we need to begin to reunite our churches under a single banner? That banner being our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ above all other things.