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Older American increasingly willing to change religious practices

Older American increasingly willing to change religious practices

In Church circles these days, a great deal of energy is expended in trying to understand and reach out to younger people whose religious affiliation and participation has dropped markedly in comparison to previous generations.

Now, a new study suggests that older Americans are increasingly willing to make significant changes in their religious lives, with nearly a third changing their religious affiliation.

69 % of older adults changed some element of their response regarding religious affiliation during the course of the study, but once responses were classified more broadly by religious tradition, the proportion changing was 27 %. There were also significant changes between Protestant denominations, and between specific organizations within Protestant denominations.

The study suggests that older adults in mainline denominations (like the Episcopal Church) were more likely to make changes than Roman Catholics or members of traditionally African-American churches.  The study also suggested that conservative Protestants were also more likely to change.

The study raises issues about the well-being of older Americans, as religious participation has been shown to be a significant contributor to their health and well-being.

In addition to their significance for societal change, these changes in religious organizational affiliation may also have important implications for individual well being by disrupting social support networks on one hand and by providing a better fit between individuals and group values on the other. Older adults are likely to especially susceptible to these impacts of religious change, because religious groups are thought to be especially salient sources of well being later in life.

The Anglican tradition has long sought to hold together a diversity of beliefs and practices, but this study suggests that many individuals are realigning their religious affiliation to be with people who are more like themselves, which may particularly affect the Episcopal Church.

Aside from asking how will this increasing religious mobility among older members and the reluctance of younger people to commit affect the church and what will our response be, a key question for Episcopalians should be; why are we more susceptible than others?  Is there something inherent to our way of christian life that lowers commitment?




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JC Fisher

“a key question for Episcopalians should be; why are we more susceptible than others? Is there something inherent to our way of christian life that lowers commitment?”

I so wish we could have a respectful conversation around this topic, w/o being overrun by the “You Suck!” crowd.

“many individuals are realigning their religious affiliation to be with people who are more like themselves”

On NPR today I heard a story about “more and more people are eating alone”. EVERYONE is sorting. EVERYONE is atomizing. This isn’t about “what the latest GC did” (much less LGBT people). This is a planet swamped in fear, starving for Love. How can we meet that need? Answer that, and the “commitment” question will take care of itself…

George McClellan

Older Americans are going to increasingly leave TEC because we have become the “Church of What’s Happening Next!” It seems that each General Convention people try to outdo each other for new resolutions to be the most politically correct, non-offensive, bland, non-traditional denomination in the world. TEC, no one can offend anyone and political correctness is the new center of worship. No wonder people are leaving in droves.

Charels Martel

Sadly (as a older person myself), there is less and less of that grand tradition – these days. And I am NOT a right-winger, but also I am not a left-winger. No room left in organized religion for the middle of the road, and especially not in today’s Episcopal church. If not all the way, none is good enough. GLB persons are people – transgender; nonsense and is a tragic disorder. And so forth on and on it goes with society’s social justice warriors. All is the only ‘truth’, and the truth is as ‘they’ see it.
The sooner one drops today’s church, the better it is.

The Rev. John W. Biggs

Our commitment to the Lord, one another, and our society are all based on acceptance and commitment. Because we will not say that to disagree with “us” will send you to hell, make you my enemy, and bann you from all acceptable society then when a choice is forced we lose. Up against your church is not a church, do this and you are dead to me, my way or the highway, we lose. It’s the old adage we may be right but we won’t call you wrong. Maybe it’s our British background better to be a gentleman.

Lelanda Lee

Yes, we older people continue to grow–not just grow older. And many of us older people came of age during cultural shifts that planted within us the willingness to be adaptable, including being willing to adapt to radical changes as we saw through reflection and reasoning the benefits of making such changes.

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