Ryan Miller
Monday, September 17, 2007

ELKHART, Ind. (Mennonite Mission Network) — Results from the 2006 Mennonite Member Profile for Mennonite Church USA indicate, if not an identity crisis, at least a potential identity divide between urban and non-urban Mennonites and between racial/ethnic Mennonites and the rest of the denomination.

Conrad L. Kanagy, associate professor of sociology at Elizabethtown (Pa.) College, compiled the statistics, based on returned surveys from more than 2,200 members of Mennonite Church USA. Because racial/ethnic people have been underrepresented in past demographic surveys of the church, the study included a special sample of underrepresented groups from three urban areas.
 

Urban Connections – September 2007
1.  On our street: Displaying who we are Who have we been? Who are we? Who are we seeking to become? Discovering and displaying our identity - or identities - can be tricky, but is vital as we relate to the world.
2.  Demographic study indicates divide It may not be an identity crisis, but results of a recent survey indicate at least an identity divide among urban and non-urban Mennonites in the U.S.
3.  Are we invited now? Name change opens doors Removing the denomination from its name has helped an Elkhart, Ind., congregation change neighbors' perceptions without changing its theology.
4.  Identity is more than a word In Raleigh, N.C., and Pittsburgh, being clearly Mennonite has helped congregations define themselves both internally and externally.
5.  Why Mennonite? A new-church conversation-starter Asian church planter Kuaying Teng believes the unfamiliarity of "Mennonite" is a blessing for new churches, not a barrier.
6. Urban briefs: News from across the street How have identity questions affected other parts of the church?

Statistics that particularly highlighted demographics, attitudes and trends among urban and/or racial/ethnic church members include:
  • When asked what two religious words best identify them, two-thirds of the overall Mennonite Church USA respondents chose “Mennonite” or “Anabaptist.” Among pastors, 84 percent chose one of those words. Among urban racial/ethnic respondents, though, only 41 percent of those in Mennonite Church USA chose one of the two words. In fact, urban racial/ethnic respondents were just as likely to identify themselves as “evangelical” or “spiritual” as “Mennonite.”
According to the Mennonite Church USA 2007 Directory, 75 percent of churches’ names denomination-wide include the word “Mennonite.” Of the 57 churches in the country’s 25 largest metropolitan areas, 58 percent use the word “Mennonite” in their names.
  • In the past five years, 25 percent of new members have been from racial/ethnic groups. Before 2001, racial/ethnic new members made up just 6 percent of those entering new membership.
  • About 34 percent of Mennonite Church USA live on farms or in the open country and less than 10 percent live in cities of more than 250,000 people. (Another 11.4 percent live in cities with populations between 50,000 and 250,000.) However, 39 percent of racial/ethnic members live in urban areas, compared to just 8 percent of white Mennonites.
According to the Mennonite Church directory, counting only the top 25 metropolitan areas in the country – a group that makes up more than 11 percent of the nation’s population, according to the U.S. Census Bureau – would include just 6.2 percent of Mennonite Church USA congregations and 3.5 percent of its members.
  • About 82 percent of urban racial/ethnic respondents said it was very important or fairly important that their congregation be a part of Mennonite Church USA, compared to about 70 percent of the entire denomination. And 63.3 percent of urban racial/ethnic representatives polled said they will always want to be members of the denomination, compared to 47.7 percent of the church as a whole.

More information and analysis of the profile data is in Kanagy’s recently released Herald Press book, “Road Signs for the Journey.”

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