ELCA Hosts 'FACT' Coalition Meeting; Survey Results Due in 2001
From: News News <NEWS@ELCA.ORG>
Title: ELCA Hosts 'FACT' Coalition Meeting; Survey Results Due in 2001
August 22, 2000
ELCA HOSTS 'FACT' COALITION MEETING; SURVEY RESULTS DUE IN 2001
CHICAGO (ELCA) -- Nearly 100 people representing 45 religious denominations and faith groups gathered here Aug. 7-9 at the churchwide offices of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA). The group discussed preliminary responses from an extensive study of North American religious life aimed at strengthening Christian, Jewish, Muslim and Baha'i congregations across the nation.
The ELCA is among 40 denominations and faith groups involved in the study. Overall study results are expected to be made public early in 2001.
"It is a rare occurrence for so many faith groups to be working together on a common project," said the Rev. Robert N. Bacher, executive for administration, ELCA Office of the Bishop. "The results should provide a clear snapshot of religious life in America at the beginning of this new century."
Bacher, who is part of the ELCA team involved in the project, said the ELCA was privileged to have this group meet here at the Lutheran Center.
"Many commented on the warmth and competence of our staff and the utility of our building," he said. "We look forward to doing it again next summer."
The survey of congregations, mosques and synagogues was conducted by the denominations and faith groups working together in a coalition known as Faith Communities Today (FACT). Ninety-five percent of all worshippers in the United States will be represented in the study results, said David Roozen, professor of religion and society, Hartford (Conn.) Seminary, and co-director, Center for Social and Religious Research. Roozen is also the project's co-director.
The meeting marked a transition from gathering data to using it, he said. "The hard work is over; now our fun begins," Roozen said. "Analysis of the extensive data will occupy scholars for months, even years."
Carl Dudley, project co-director, led conversations among researchers, educators and communication specialists about ways that local groups will study themselves in the light of the FACT findings. "We want to help congregations build on their strengths and overcome any weaknesses," Dudley said. "This will be the most powerful use of the data." Dudley is professor of church and community, Hartford Seminary, and co-director of the seminary's Center for Social and Religious Research.
Preliminary analysis of the responses shows most of the congregations consider themselves "spiritually vital and alive" and 48 percent of the congregations report that the number of regularly participating adults has grown since 1995.
Incomplete returns indicate that youth participation is also surprisingly high. Fifty-five percent of the congregations reported that "most" or "almost all" high-school-aged children of adult members are involved in the religious life and activities of a congregation. Another 27 percent of the congregations said "some" of the members' children were involved.
The coalition that developed and conducted the survey includes mainline, Pentecostal, Evangelical, independent and mega-church Protestants, as well as Catholic and Orthodox Christians, Jews, Muslims, Mormons, Baha'i and others. During plenary sessions, many speakers remarked on the inclusive nature of the gathering.
Researchers and educators from the 40 faith groups have been working on the project for about five years. The FACT data will help faith groups develop strategies and programs that also can be based on U.S. Census statistics. Congregations and other religious organizations will be able to study the FACT data within zip-code geographic areas.
The research was funded in part by Lilly Endowment, Indianapolis.
Each faith group was responsible for gathering its own data through statistically valid samples and will develop its own follow-up programs. The faith groups used nearly 190 questions from a common "core questionnaire." Some groups added questions of a specialized nature.
More than 80 percent of the ELCA congregations that participated in the study responded, said Dr. Kenneth W. Inskeep, director, ELCA Department for Research and Evaluation.
"I was extremely pleased with the response rate," said Inskeep, also a member of the ELCA team. "It will ensure that Lutherans will be well-represented in the study and that we will leave behind an excellent body of information for the researchers and historians of the future."
Roozen and Dudley said among the materials that will be developed to help local congregations will be self-guiding workbooks, study documents, analytical reports, Web sites and newsletters. Workbooks will be offered to seminaries, interfaith organizations and denominational offices as well as to local churches, synagogues and mosques, they added.
Editors: Information about FACT can be found at the Hartford Seminary's Web site at http://fact.hartsem.edu.
©Copyright 2000, Hartford Seminary