Tom Garrity

Will New Mexico’s Empty Churches Go on Sale?

In Uncategorized on January 3, 2015 at 6:17 pm

An article in the Wall Street Journal this morning caught my attention and held it (yes sometimes I am a headline scanner): Europe’s Empty Churches Go on Sale.

The article by Naftali Bendavid provided insight on the flight of worshipers, resulting in the closure of churches around Europe.

Here is one paragraph from the story that jumped out to me: The Church of England closes about 20 churches a year. Roughly 200 Danish churches have been deemed nonviable or underused. The Roman Catholic Church in Germany has shut about 515 churches in the past decade.

The article is worth a read; the paragraph doesn’t do it justice. A copy of the full article is here (subscription required): http://www.wsj.com/articles/europes-empty-churches-go-on-sale-1420245359

The article ends with a quote from an overseer of a vacant church: “But there are not worshipers anymore.”

The article prompted me to see how the favorability of church/organized religion and trust of religious leaders are faring in the eyes of New Mexico residents. Those are two of the institutions and professions tracked annually in the Garrity Perception Survey.

Based on third party surveys of New Mexico residents, with a 95 percent confidence level, the church/organized religion and religious leaders have pause for concern.

In 2011, 69 percent of New Mexico residents had a favorable view of the “Church or Organized Religion.” That is a good thing for those attached to the institution. Since then, it has all been downhill. According to the 2014 survey, only 59 percent of residents are favorable toward the “Church or Organized Religion.” A drop of 10 percent.

Meanwhile trust of “Pastors, Priests or Other Religious Leaders.” Has seen an even larger decline than favorability of the Church.

In 2011, 67 percent of New Mexico residents trusted “Pastors, Priests or Other Religious Leaders.” In 2014, that number is 52 percent. New Mexico residents’ trust of religious leaders has dropped 15 percent over the last four years.

Breaking down the four year numbers by region reveals that residents Southwest (-23%) and North Central (-21%) are losing trust of “Pastors, Priests or Other Religious Leaders” at a faster rate than those in other parts of New Mexico.

What does all of this mean? New Mexico religions institutions need to heed what is happening overseas and find ways to be relevant or face a possible similar fate as their brethren Europe.

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