We rarely undertake studies on questions related to our community. Perhaps we avoid them for economic or other reasons that have to do with accountability.
Thus, we are grateful to the well known Pew Research Center for conducting a study on the future of religion, which naturally includes our own: Orthodox Christianity.
The results are devastating. They show a religion in an advance stage of crisis that should concern us all very deeply, especially the leaders of the Church.
Among the findings we read that the percentage of the Orthodox Christian population in the country is in steep decline.
In fact, “Orthodox Christians have one of the lowest rates of retention across Christian and non-Christian denominations. Only 53% of adults who were raised in the Orthodox Church still identify themselves as Orthodox Christians. Compare that to Hindus (80%), Jewish (75%), Mormon (64%) and Catholic (59%).”
Essentially, Pew discovered that nearly half of all Orthodox Christians leave the religion once they become adults.
Moreover, according to other sources, the Greek Orthodox paid membership nationwide has fallen dramatically in the past five years some say by as much as of 38%.
These findings are in total contradiction with the rosy picture painted by the leadership of our church. This misleading picture constitutes a bad service to our faith and community, because valuable time is wasted in taking action to reverse the course.
Yet this is exactly what is needed: we must wake up and face reality. Church officials must understand that the lack of strong leadership, the scandals that have come to light over the past couple of decades that turn off especially our youth, the lack of paying attention to the basics of our religion, that is its spirituality, the imbalance in the power bases between clergy and laity at the local level, the oft-lack of transparency, and the void of formulation and presentation of a vision for the future, are all eating at the heart of our community and our church.
Let these highly disturbing findings act as a wakeup call. Let there be a dialogue between our clergy and laity people as to what is need. Let us bring in experts to advise us. But above, all let’s do something.
This status quo is not pretty, it is not worthy of us, and it is not sustainable.