America’s largest evangelical denomination, the 16-million strong Southern Baptist Convention, is holding its annual meeting in Indianapolis on Tuesday and Wednesday against the backdrop of a decline in the number of yearly baptisms.
This is serious stuff indeed for a group that places much emphasis on the conversion experience, the acceptance of Jesus as a person’s savior and the rite of passage that goes with this acceptance: a public immersion in water or baptism.
In April the SBC released its latest baptism numbers — figures it tracks closely, underscoring the importance attatched to them.
In 2007, baptisms decreased by 5 percent to 345,941 from 364,826 in 2006. It was the third straight year that the number of baptisms fell and the lowest total since 1987.
I have blogged on this topic in the past, before the latest figures, which one Southern Baptist official told me “hit everyone in the guts.”