Thanks to everyone who has been sending me the Religion News Service article on Seventh-day Adventist church membership growth. It was featured in USA Today and I thought it would be interesting to have someone analyse the data before posting it here, but it's already becoming part of a larger conversation. For instance, there are about 200 comments on it at the USA Today website. Written by G. Jeffrey MacDonald, the article was picked up widely, appearing in media from The Kansas City Star to the Pew Center on Religion and Public Life to The Christian Century.
Rest on the Sabbath. Heed Old Testament dietary codes. And be ready for Jesus to return at any moment.
If these practices sound quaint or antiquated, think again. They're hallmarks of the Seventh-day Adventist Church, the fastest-growing Christian denomination in North America.
The recent mainstream reporting on Adventist health is one reason given for this reported growth, according to G. Alexander Bryant, executive secretary of the North American Division of Seventh-day Adventists. I have to say that it's good to see the church getting good press, and reportedly growing. On the other hand, I'd like to have more confidence in the data. It seems a little strange to see a reporter base a whole article on "newly released data" without citing the source or the year of the fresh numbers. It seems to be The 147th Annual Statistical Report—2009. Helpfully, the article does include some context from Adventism's chief academic evangelist.
"We don't feel that we're growing very much, and that is a source of concern, especially for North America," said Ron Clouzet, director of the North American Division Evangelism Institute at Andrews University in Berrien Springs, Mich. Hispanic Adventists are "the one group that is growing very well," he added. "If we didn't have that group, we would look even more dismal."