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Spero News publishes on the Internet news reports supplied by a large group of contributors. 1 One of their articles deals with the decline of membership in Canada's major Christian denominations. It was sent to them by Ferdy Baglo and published on 2005-DEC-05. 2 It was attributed to a report by Ecumenical News International (EMI). 3

The main topic of the article is the declining membership of two major Canadian Protestant denominations: the Anglican Church of Canada (ACC) and the United Church of Canada (UCC). It is a good example of how to not report religious information. 

Some of the problems with the article are:

bulletThe original article is copyrighted by Ecumenical News International. However, their copyright was not acknowledged even though it appears to have been copied in full from their web site.
bulletThe article quotes Keith McKerracher who prepared a membership study for the ACC. He indicated that:
bulletThe church membership was 642,000 in 2001. However the source for this information is not given. Other information sources give much higher memberships. For example, the 2001 Canadian Census reports that 2,035,500 Canadians identify with the ACC. To be helpful, the article should give the source of the data, and a definition of who is included in the number -- whether it be only active and baptized adult members, all adult adherents, adults and children, etc.
bulletThe church is losing 13,000 members a year and "is facing extinction by the middle of this century." The assumption(s) for the extinction conclusion are not given. Presumably McKerracher divided the 2001 membership by the loss in membership per year and came up with the value of 49 years. If one assumes that the rate of decline in membership will remain constant over the next five decades, then his conclusion is valid. However, that is not necessarily valid. The article gives no room for other scenarios.
bulletThe article refers to at least six organization directly by name. But when the mention the name of the group that maintains this web site, they state: "A group that calls itself Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance....." (Emphasis ours). To at least some readers, this probably projects a condescending attitude to our organization and may imply hypocrisy or phoniness.
bulletThe article refers to Anglicans, Christians, Jehovah's Witnesses, Lutherans, Mennonites, Pentecostals, and Roman Catholics:
bulletIn each case, they capitalized the name of the faith group. This is normal practice, and is  a sign of respect. But when the refer to non-Christians, they use lower case, as in "atheists, agnostics, humanists, secularists..." which might indicate lack of respect.
bulletThey refer to Christian groups directly by name. But when referring to non-Christians, they  refer to "self-professed atheists, agnostics,..." (Emphasis ours). This term appears frequently in the media and on the Internet. Christians, Muslims, Jews, etc. are referred to directly; references to such folks as Wiccans, Atheists, Agnostics are "self-professed" or "self-identified." This can project an condescending, belittling attitude.
bulletThe article states that the Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance web site refers to self-professed atheists.... Many readers would conclude that one of our essays, presumably the one on non-Christian census data, uses this phrase "self professed." It does not and to our knowledge never did. We do avoid the phrase (except when quoting the media) because we regard it as derogatory.

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References used:

  1. Ferdy Baglo, "Canada's churches suffering serious decline. Researcher says membership losses pushing Canadian churches to brink of 'extinction'," 2005-DEC-06, at: http://www.speroforum.com/
  2. Highlights: "Plummeting attendance shows Canadian church faces 'extinction'," ENI-05-0938, 2005-DEC-15, Ecumenical News International, at: http://www.eni.ch/

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Copyright © 2005 by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
Originally posted: 2005-DEC-16
Latest update: 2005-DEC-16
Author: B.A. Robinson

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