Religious Growth Trends
by Erin Roach
Jehovah's Witnesses reported the largest growth rate - 2.25 percent - of all churches in the United States and Canada in the span of a year, according to the National Council of Churches, and the Episcopal Church reported the largest decrease at 4.15 percent.
The NCC's 2008 Yearbook of American & Canadian Churches said Jehovah's Witnesses claim just over 1 million members and are the smallest "church" in the council's rankings of the twenty-five largest bodies. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints grew 1.56 percent to 5.7 million members, the report, based on self-reported membership figures from 2006, said.
Only four other denominations in the top twenty-five reported membership increases: the Southern Baptist Convention, the African Methodist Episcopal Zion Church, the Roman Catholic Church, and the Assemblies of God.
The Catholic Church remains the largest in the United States, the report said, with 67.5 million members, followed by the SBC with 16.3 million and the United Methodist Church with 7.9 million.
Jehovah's Witnesses disagree with the traditional Christian understanding of God and Christ, according to 4truth.net, an apologetics Web site run by the SBC's North American Mission Board. One of the ways they most differ from Christianity is that Jehovah's Witnesses deny the deity of Christ and believe He was created by God and is inferior to Him, the Web site notes.
Mike Licona, director of apologetics and interfaith evangelism at NAMB, says Christians should be prepared to discuss their beliefs with Jehovah's Witnesses when they knock on the door. Common ground between the two faiths, he wrote on the Web site, is that both believe that the Bible is inspired and preserved by God. The difference comes in the translation and interpretation of many verses.
"When talking to JWs, it is easy to get sidetracked and move from one issue to another. Many of these issues are of minor importance," Licona writes. "So why spend a lot of time on them? Does it really matter if I spend eternity with Jesus on a 'heavenly earth' rather than in heaven? Stick to the single issue that really matters: the deity of Christ. This will keep the conversation on the focal point that separates JWs from Christians."
A recent Pew study notes that Jehovah's Witnesses have the lowest retention rate of any religious tradition. Only 37 percent of all those who say they were raised as Jehovah's Witnesses still identify themselves as Jehovah's Witnesses.
Our Changing Family Profile
by Erin Roach
Overall, seven in ten American children live in two-parent homes, about two-thirds live with two married parents, and about six in ten children live with both biological parents, according to a recent analysis of statistics released by the U.S. Census Bureau.
The report, based on data collected in 2004, can be compared to stats from 1970 that found 85 percent of children were living with two parents and 11 percent with their mother only, The New York Times noted, and with stats from 1990 that said a little more than 70 percent of children lived with two parents and slightly more than 20 percent lived with their mother only.
"The comparable figures in 2004 were about 70 percent and 23 percent," The Times said. "The figures suggest that the tumultuous shifts in family structure since the late 1960s have leveled off since 1990."
Nearly 45 million of the nation's 73 million children younger than eighteen lived with their biological mother and father in 2004 regardless of the parents' marital status, the Census Bureau said February 20.
"People realize the value of giving kids a mother and a father," Glenn Stanton, director of global family formation studies at Focus on the Family, told CitizenLink February 21. "We need to understand that that is the norm, that it's the overwhelming majority and not the minority. That should give great encouragement to the majority of people out there that are trying to make their marriages work and their parenting relationships work."
Jenny Tyree, an associate marriage analyst for Focus on the Family Action, said she was disappointed to see among the stats that cohabiting families are on the rise with 3.7 million children living with one biological parent and an unmarried partner.
"Research continues to show that these children have poorer emotional health and are at higher risk to suffer abuse than their peers in married families," Tyree told CitizenLink. "Marriage continues to be one of the greatest gifts a parent can give a child."