A new report by Lifeway Research suggests that the Southern Baptist Convention lost nearly half a million members in 2022.
The report, released on Tuesday, revealed that the SBC had 13.2 million members last year, a 457,371 drop from 2021, when it had 13.68 million members.
According to the Annual Church Profile compiled by Lifeway, this membership decline is the largest drop in over a century.
In 2016, the SBC peaked with 16.3 million members, but by 2018, it had lost 1.5 million members. Since 2006, the denomination has lost more than 3 million members. Membership is currently the lowest it's been since the 1970s.
According to Religion News Service, the world's largest Baptist denomination has been the subject of several controversies in recent years, including sex abuse scandals, social justice issues and leadership problems.
Lifeway Research executive director Scott McConnell noted that the delayed updating of membership records has a lot to do with the drastic decline in membership numbers.
"Much of the downward movement we are seeing in membership reflects people who stopped participating in an individual congregation years ago and the record keeping is finally catching up," McConnell said in a statement.
The SBC also lost 416 churches and another 165 "church-type" missions.
Despite the decline in congregants, SBC church attendance has recovered from the hit it took during the COVID-19 pandemic, increasing by 5 percent to 3.8 million in 2022 after dropping from 4.4 million in 2020.
There has also been a 16 percent increase in baptisms from 2021 to 2022, with 180,177 baptisms. During the pandemic, however, there were 123,160 baptisms in 2020, a drop from 235,748 in 2019.
This June, the SBC will hold its annual meeting from June 13-14 in New Orleans. Members will vote between incumbent SBC president, Texas pastor Bart Barber, and Georgia pastor Mike Stone for the denomination's next president. Stone previously lost the bid to pastor Ed Litton in 2021.
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Milton Quintanilla is a freelance writer and content creator. He is a contributing writer for Christian Headlines and the host of the For Your Soul Podcast, a podcast devoted to sound doctrine and biblical truth. He holds a Masters of Divinity from Alliance Theological Seminary.