LOUISVILLE, Ky. (AP) — Southern Baptists are facing a membership decline that could shrink the nation’s largest Protestant denomination by nearly half in 40 years, its convention president said Tuesday.
The Rev. Johnny Hunt, a megachurch pastor from Woodstock, Ga., told convention members gathered in Louisville that Southern Baptists need give more to worldwide missions and attract minorities.
“I really do believe we need a revival,” Hunt said in a 45-minute address to kick off the two-day convention.
The denomination is declining at a rate that could shrink its membership from 16.2 million to 8.7 million by 2050, Hunt said.
Hunt, himself a Native American from the Lumbee tribe of North Carolina, urged members to recruit minorities, whom he called “our brothers in ethnicity.”
The Rev. Richard Land, head of the denomination’s public policy arm, has said the convention’s minority membership, including blacks, Asians and Latinos, had grown to about 18 percent by 2007.
According to U.S. Census figures, minorities make up 34 percent of the nation’s total population.
The convention, which formed in 1845 after a dispute with northern Baptists over slavery, is expected to vote this week on a resolution acknowledging the historical importance of President Barack Obama’s electoral victory.
Hunt also said that despite hard economic times, members must dig deep and continue to give to the convention’s Cooperative Program, which supports missions around the world.
“All of us ought to do more,” he said.
Giving to that program was down slightly by 0.65 percent for the fiscal year 2007-08 after four straight years of growth. Donations to the program for 2007-08 totaled $204 million.