Literal bible interpretation brings more people to church – study

© Carlo Allegri
Theologically conservative churches that adhere to a literal interpretation of the Bible grow faster than liberal ones that don’t, a five-year academic study has revealed.

The Canadian study, which, will be published in next month’s Review of Religious Research, found that evangelical sects that focus on the Gospel and prayer have increasing rates of attendance, while churches that skew Christian doctrine to be more liberal are declining.

In churches where attendance is on the rise, 93 percent of the clergy and 83 percent of the worshippers agree with the statement “Jesus rose from the dead with a real flesh-and-blood body leaving behind an empty tomb,” compared with 67 percent of worshippers and 56 percent of the clergy from declining churches.

Similarly, in growing churches, 100 percent of the clergy and 90 percent of the worshippers agree “God performs miracles in answer to prayers,” compared to 80 percent of the worshippers and 44 percent of the clergy from declining churches.

The study’s lead researcher, David Haskell, said he expects the findings, which are based on surveys of 2,225 churchgoers in Ontario and interviews with 29 clergy members and 195 congregants, will prove controversial.

“If you’re in a mainline church and that church is dying, and you’ve just heard that the theological position that you have is likely what’s killing it, you’re not going to be very happy about that,” he said, stressing that “theological orientation cuts to the very core of the religious practitioner.”

The study comes at a time when many churches are struggling to adapt to changing social mores. Leaders in the Church of England opposed the legalization of same-sex marriage and banned the clergy from marrying same-sex partners, but liberal clerics voiced dissent.

The findings may bolster arguments from traditionalists who oppose liberalizing the church.

Figures published by the Church of England last month show that its attendance has dropped to an all-time low, with just 960,000 adults and children attending church each week during the sample month of October 2015. This represents less than 1.5 percent of the population.

Between 1980 and 2015, attendance at Church of England services dropped by 50 percent.