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Road signs revisited: a comparison of Anabaptists in the "global south" and the United States.

Abstract: In 2008 the author conducted an exploratory social science survey of twelve different Anabaptist-related church bodies in ten countries--eleven of these churches being in Asia, Africa, and Latin America. This study analyzes results of that profile of more than 18,000 church members and compares the findings with a 2006 profile of Mennonite Church USA members. The combined effect of the two profiles is to show the dramatic divergence in growth trends between the U.S. and the Global South as well as important theological similarities and differences among Anabaptists in both hemispheres. The study's findings highlight the value of further research among Anabaptists outside North America and Europe.

In 2006 a team of scholars conducted social science surveys of three Anabaptist denominations in the U.S. --Mennonite Church USA, the Church of the Brethren, and the Brethren in Christ. (1) The Church Member Profile 2006 was the third major study of Anabaptist groups in North America conducted across nearly four decades, allowing for the comparison of Mennonite members at three points in time--1972, 1989, and 2006. (2) Road Signs for the Journey: A Profile of Mennonite Church USA, a publication based on the findings of the 2006 profile, reported several significant changes among U.S. Mennonites since the two earlier studies. (3) The results of the profile, which surprised many members of Mennonite Church USA, included the following findings:
  The average age of members was 54 years, up from 49 years in 1989. (4)
  Thirty percent of members were within childbearing range (18-45 years
  of age), representing a decline from 45 percent in 1989 and 54 percent
  in 1972.
  Mennonite Church USA represented 7 percent of all Anabaptists
  globally, down from 15 percent in 1989.
  The denomination's membership fell by 16 percent since the late
  The percent of Mennonites with a four-year degree doubled in just
  over 30 years to 38 percent a higher level of education than for
  most other U.S. religious groups.
  The proportion of Mennonites in professional occupations jumped by
  more than 100 percent, from 30 percent in 1972 to 68 percent in 2006.
  The percent of members no longer living on farms decreased threefold
  from 36 percent to 12 percent across three decades.
  Those interested in church planting decreased from 22 percent in
  1989 to 8 percent in 2006.
  In 1972, 16 percent said they had never invited someone to church
  --by 2006, one-third of Mennonites said they had never done so.

While most Mennonites in the 2006 profile expressed agreement with questions related to Christian orthodoxy--e.g., Jesus was born of a virgin; Jesus physically rose from the dead; the Bible is inspired--their responses revealed little evangelistic and outreach activity, even as they affirmed the need for such. The exceptions to many of the findings within the denomination were among racial/ethnic Mennonites--they are younger, are having more children, are more Pentecostal/charismatic in their worship and experience, are more conservative in their moral beliefs, and exhibit more energy for evangelism and the recruitment of new members.

The implications of the findings in Road Signs for the Journey might be summarized as follows:
  Like other denominations, Mennonite membership in the U.S. is
  declining dramatically and its membership is aging rapidly. Within
  two generations, Mennonites in the U.S. moved from a farming/working
  class status to professional occupations and the highest levels of
  education among nearly any denomination in the U.S. This upward
  mobility deeply shaped how Mennonites view and experience the
  society around them. The outcome of such assimilation has been the
  loss of a visible and distinguishing identity.

  Interest in recruiting others through evangelism and outreach has
  declined over time. Even as Mennonites in the U.S. have become more
  like the broader society in education, occupations, and movement
  away from rural communities, they are less willing to invite others
  to join their faith communities.

  The absence among many members of an emphasis on the work and
  movement of the Holy Spirit, still evident in the worship and lives
  of racial/ethnic members, has contributed to a diminished sense of
  spiritual vitality and commitment to missions.

While some U.S. Mennonites were startled by the findings, many others acknowledged in written responses and in person their recognition of the challenges facing the church. The latter had sensed dramatic shifts taking place within their local congregations as Sunday worship attendance declined, offerings dwindled, young people left for larger and more "contemporary" congregations, and morale began to drain from the congregation's mission and vision. Though perhaps these changes have been more substantial among Mennonites, they mirror those facing most denominations in the United States, where nearly all are struggling with declining memberships, shrinking budgets, and aging members. In the United States, only Pentecostal denominations, the Roman Catholic Church, and Seventh-day Adventists are growing in the early twenty-first century. Even those denominations accustomed to strong historical growth such as Southern Baptists have begun declining in recent years. (5) In fact, the most rapidly growing category of religious individuals is "religious-nones," those Americans who no longer identify with a major religion. (6)


From the 1960s into the 1980s, sociologists of religion were quick to argue that secularization--often defined as the loss of religious authority within a society--was a necessary outcome of modernization. (7) In defense of the thesis, the scholars pointed to European and North American social and religious experiences that reflected many of the findings reported for Mennonite Church USA. The upshot of the secularization thesis is that modernity creates a context where faith in the supernatural is superseded by scientific knowledge and where answers to life's deepest questions are eventually satisfied by empirical data.

By the late twentieth century, however, other sociologists began to argue against the linear and deterministic trajectory of the secularization thesis, pointing out that the early American frontier was no more religious than today, and perhaps less so. Others noted Americans' continued strong belief in God and the afterlife as evidence against secularization. (8) But perhaps the most challenging argument for the secularization thesis began to emerge within the last decade, as scholars focused their attention on Christian trends in Asia, Africa, and Latin America--often referred to as the "Global South."

Beyond the fairly limited efforts of particular denominations to study the Christianity of the Global South, scholars of religion, historians, and sociologists had largely ignored the rapid growth of Christianity in the southern hemisphere until the publication of The Next Christendom by Philip Jenkins in 2002. (9) In his groundbreaking book, Jenkins argued that the Christianity of the Global South is characterized by charismatic expressions, a focus on social justice, and a more conservative theology than its cousin in the northern hemisphere. As secularization has created religious stagnation and decline in Europe and North America, the rapid growth of Christianity in the Global South, suggests Jenkins, has been ignored by scholars because it does not meet Enlightenment expectations about the declining future of religion. That is, the growth of Christianity in Asia, Africa, and Latin America challenges the predictions of sociologists at the turn of the twentieth century that religious life would disappear within the century.

Jenkins's work contributed to a burst of scholarly material examining mission, globalization's effect on religion, and religious trends of the Global South. (10) The exponential growth of Christianity in the Global South provides an additional challenge to secularization scholars who posited that religion, and particularly Christianity, is on the wane in the face of a modernizing world. It also provides hope to denominations, such as Mennonite Church USA, which face the kinds of challenges and decline documented in Road Signs for the Journey. The emerging reality of Christians in the Global South stands in sharp contrast to that of the West and may provide models for renewal and regeneration in Europe and North America.


To date, much of the discussion of Christianity's growth and nature in the Global South has been based upon anecdotal reports, sometimes irregularly gathered membership statistics, and ethnographic or case-study methodologies. (11) All have made important contributions to the literature about Christianity in the Global South. But few religious organizations or scholars have attempted to carry out systematic profiles of groups in the Global South that provide detailed demographic information or careful surveys of religious beliefs and practices. To be sure, the Seventh-day Adventists, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latterday Saints, and the Church of the Nazarene all require some form of reporting from their global churches. (12) And since 1981 the World Values Survey, affiliated with the University of Michigan, has conducted national surveys in ninety-seven societies focused on changing values within these societies and the impact of these changes on social and political life. (13) Yet relatively little data has yet to emerge from churches in the Global South comparable to what has long existed for groups in Europe and North America.


In early 2008, Eastern Mennonite Missions (Salunga, Pa.) agreed to sponsor a study, the Multi-Nation Anabaptist Profile (MNA), of Mennonite churches linked to the agency's mission efforts. (14) In 1933, Eastern Mennonite Missions sent its first international missionaries, to Tanganyika in Africa, and over the subsequent decades the agency would be actively engaged in evangelism and church planting in countries throughout Asia, Africa, and Latin America. Through the Multi-Nation Anabaptist Profile, the mission agency wanted to develop a "photograph" of the churches they had planted and to measure where these churches were on a host of religious and social variables. (15)

The countries and churches represented are: Ethiopia (Meserete Kristos Church), Guatemala (Iglesia Nacional Evangelica Menonita Guatemalteca), Honduras (Organizacion Cristiana Amor Viviente and the Iglesia Evangelica Menonita Hondureha), India (Fellowship of Christian Assemblies), Indonesia (Persatuan Gereja-Gereja Kristen Muria Indonesia), Kenya (Kenya Mennonite Church and Happy Church Ministries International), Tanzania (Kanisa la Mennonite Tanzania), the United States (Lancaster Mennonite Conference), Vietnam (Hoi Thanh Mennonite Viet Nam), and the Philippines (The Integrated Mennonite Church of the Philippines). These churches should not be assumed to represent all Anabaptists globally given the narrow slice both demographically and geographically of these churches and their close affiliation with a single North American mission agency. At the same time, the findings closely parallel those of Jenkins and others that have emerged in the last decade. (16)

Anabaptists Globally

The twelve churches in the MNA Profile encompass 1,441 congregations and 261,102 members. (17) These churches represent approximately 15-20 percent of all Anabaptists globally (including Old Order groups and Brethren in Christ), according to Mennonite World Conference membership data from 2009, which reported 1,616,126 Anabaptists globally. (18) There has been substantial change from 1978 to 2009 in Anabaptist memberships by continent. While 51 percent of Anabaptists were in North America in 1978, that percentage is now just 32 percent, despite a threefold increase among the Brethren in Christ since 1972 and continued growth among Old Order Amish and Old Order Mennonite groups. European Anabaptists have declined from 16 percent of all Anabaptists in 1978 to just 4 percent today. Africa, Asia, and Latin America have all experienced growth, with Africa's increase being the greatest--from 14 percent of all Anabaptists in 1978 to 37 percent today. Africa now represents the continent with the highest number of Anabaptists.

Currently, there are fewer Anabaptists in North America and Europe combined (588,709) than in the continent of Africa (592,106), even though in 1978 there were nearly five times as many Mennonites in Europe and North America as Africa. These data indicate the dramatic shift from North to South in membership size and growth, and there is every reason to believe the North-South divergence will continue.
Table 1. Membership changes by continent from 1978 to 2009

Continent    1978                   2009

           Number   Percentage  Number of  Percentage
             of      of Anab.    members    of Anab.
           members   globally               globally

North      313,000        51.0    523,969        32.4

Europe      96,011        15.7     64,740         4.0

Africa      85,771        14.0    592,106        36.6

Asia        74,257        12.1    265,447        16.4

Latin       44,211         7.2    169,864        10.5

Total      613,250       100.0  1,616/126        99.9

Research Methods

The MNA Profile formally began with a consultation of participating denominations in Delhi, India, in September 2008. Participants to the consultation included research associates (anchors) appointed by each participating church to lead the profile in their respective church. Many, but not all, of these anchors were university-trained young people, and many were on the staff of their denomination. Anchors assisted in the design of the research methods and questionnaire for the MNA Profile during the consultation in Delhi. (19) Anchors decided upon a "paper and pencil" questionnaire, to be completed by members of participating local congregations in the context of a worship service or other congregational gathering. The questionnaire was prepared in twelve languages, including Amharic, Dholuo, Hindi, Indonesian, Kekchi, Oromo, Spanish, Swahili, Tagalog, Tamil, and Vietnamese. Before the questionnaires were distributed, all translations were back-translated into English to allow comparison with the original English version.

The survey was to be distributed to congregational members 18 years of age and older, although some churches included younger members. Anchors were responsible for implementing the profile, including training others to administer the questionnaire in local congregations when the anchor could not be present. Once anchors received data back from congregations, they were responsible for entering it into spreadsheets, which they forwarded for analysis. As director of the MNA Profile, I provided regular coaching to the anchors as a whole and also to individuals as questions and concerns emerged.

Sampling Design

In order to select congregations and members to participate in the profile, each anchor submitted a list of congregations in his or her church, along with the region or diocese of each congregation and each congregation's membership size. The churches were treated as separate strata within which each congregation or cluster had an equal probability of selection. Within each cluster (or congregation) all members had an equal probability of selection. This type of sampling is called "one-stage cluster sampling."

From the list of congregations submitted by each church, congregations were randomly selected for participation in the profile. In doing so, attention was paid to the overall regional distribution of the prospective sample as well as the number of congregations and members in the prospective sample. The overall sample size of each church depended on the size of local congregations and the total number of congregations selected for the sample.

Anchors were asked to review and authorize the list of congregations. In some cases they suggested deleting or adding a few congregations depending on the viability or geographic location of the congregation or the relative strategic importance of the congregation's involvement in the profile. There was relatively little deviation from the original sample in terms of additions and deletions. In only a few cases were congregations that chose not to participate in the profile replaced.

All members of selected congregations were invited to complete the questionnaire. In some instances anchors distributed the questionnaires. In other cases regional leaders or local pastors were responsible for the distribution. Often the number of members who completed a questionnaire was lower than the number of members originally listed for a given congregation. In a few instances, however, the number of members who completed a questionnaire was actually higher than the number of members originally reported by the church. (20) Table 2 provides information about the populations and samples of the participating twelve church bodies.
Table 2. Populations and samples of participating MNA Profile churches

                        Population          Sample

Church          Congs.    Members     Congs.  Members

Fellowship of       43       2,497      25    1,566

Persatuan          102      18,880      30    8,565

Kristen Muria

Hoi Thanh           79       2,702      30    1,316
Mennonite Viet

Meserete           474     162,131      29    9,549

Kenya               98       8,814      25    2,477

Happy Church        59       4,902      27    3,020

Kanisa la          126      19,129      35    5,850

Organization        32       8,642      15    5,522
Cristiana Amor

Iglesia            136       4,753      40    2,012


Iglesia            105      12,000      35    3,990

Integrated          20         701      20      701
Church of the

Lancaster          167      15,951      39    4,011

Total            1,441     261,102     350   48,579

Response Rates

Table 3 shows the response rates of congregations and members--that is, how many of the selected congregations and members chose to participate. (21) Response rates of congregations (the percent of local congregations in each church body's sample that agreed to participate) were relatively high. The lowest congregational response was in Persatuan Gereja-Gereja Kristen Muria Indonesia where 14 of 30 (47 percent response rate) selected congregations participated. In four church bodies, all of the congregations selected for the profile agreed to participate. In the end, 281 congregations agreed to join the profile so that the average response rate for congregations was 80.3 percent.
Table 3. Response rates of members and congregations

                Respondents             Response

Church            Congs.     Members   Congs.   Members

Fellowship of            25    1,159      100%      74%

Persatuan                14      462       47%       5%
Kristen Muria

Hoi Thanh                27      802       90%      61%
Mennonite Viet

Meserete                 24    5,507       90%      58%

Kenya                    19      817       76%      33%

Happy Church             27    1,902      100%      63%

Kanisa la                22    1,002       63%      17%

Organizacion             15    2,700      100%      49%
Cristiana Amor

Iglesia                  31    1,385       78%      69%

Iglesia                  33    1,096       94%      28%

Integrated               20      609      100%      87%
Church of the

Lancaster                24      760       62%      19%

Total                   281   18,201       80%      38%

Responses of members within congregations also varied from church to church, ranging from Persatuan Gereja-Gereja Kristen Muria Indonesia, where 5.4 percent of the total members in that sample agreed to participate, to 86.9 percent of the members in the sample of The Integrated Mennonite Church of the Philippines. (22) In other words, in Persatuan Gereja-Gereja Kristen Muria Indonesia there were 462 usable questionnaires from an original sample size of 8,565 members, compared with the Integrated Mennonite Church of the Philippines, where there were 609 usable questionnaires from an original sample size of 701 members. Altogether for all twelve church bodies, the average response rate for members was 37.5 percent and the final sample was 18, 201 respondents. (23)


The purpose of this essay is to present some of the major findings from the Multi-Nation Anabaptist Profile of 2010 and to compare these results with those of the Church Member Profile among Mennonites in the U.S. conducted in 2006. For most of the analyses I will also report separately the findings for Lancaster Mennonite Conference, the area conference of which Eastern Mennonite Missions is a part and that also participated in the MNA Profile. Doing so adds validity to the comparison of the MNA Profile and the CMP 2006--Lancaster's 2010 results often mirror those of the denomination as a whole in 2006. (24)

Growth and Youthfulness

Age. The average age of U.S. Mennonites in the Church Member Profile 2006 was 54 years while the average among the Global Southern churches in the MNA Profile was 37. Among the eleven Global Southern churches represented in the MNA Profile, the churches with the oldest members were the Philippine and Honduran Mennonite churches, where members averaged 41 years of age. Four churches have members with average ages of 38 years (Tanzania, Amor Viviente Honduras, Vietnam, and Indonesia), two with averages of 37 years (Kenya Mennonite and the Kekchi of Guatemala), one at 34 years (North India), one at 33 years (Happy Church Kenya), and one at 32 years (Meserete Kristos). (25)

Demographers often designate 18-45 years as the age of childbearing. For churches that depend upon reproduction for growth, the higher the percentage of members between the ages of 18-45 years, the longer the sustainability of the church. The lower the percentage, the more likely the church will struggle to remain viable. As of 2006, 32 percent of U.S. Mennonites were between the ages of 18-45 compared with 76 percent of Global Southern Anabaptists in 2010. Among Global Southern churches, the Happy Church in Kenya has the highest proportion (88 percent) of members within childbearing age, followed by Ethiopia (86 percent) and India (83 percent). The other eight churches reported that between 64 percent and 75 percent of their members were 18-45 years of age.
Table 4. Percent of members by age.

Age                 Global South %  MC USA %  LMC %

18-35 years                   55.8      17.2   21.5

36-A5 years                   20.6      14.9   11.7

46-55 years                   13.9      20.9   19.5

56-65 years                    6.3      18.3   21.1

66 years and older             3.3      28.7   26.2

Number of cases             12,091     2,195    714

Birth rates. The birth rate among women 18-45 years of age is an important predictor of the sustainability of a church, particularly for those churches that depend most upon their own membership for growth rather than upon recruitment of new members from outside the church. The birth rate "replacement level" for any society is 2.0 children per woman. Mennonite Church USA is no longer replacing itself, with an average of 1.4 children per woman 18-45 years of age in 2006 compared with a Global Southern Anabaptist rate of 3.2 in 2010. In the Global South, only Indonesia is at or below the minimum replacement level with an average of 2.0 children per woman. Birth rates are much higher in the other churches, including 4.6 children in Tanzania and Ethiopia, 4.3 in Guatemala, and 4.2 in Kenya Mennonite. The two most urban churches--Happy Church Kenya and Amor Viviente Honduras--had lower rates of 2.8 and 2.4 children, respectively. (26)
Table 5. Decade when respondent became a Christian

Church          Before  1981-1990  1991-2000  2001
                 1980                         -2010

Fellowship of       2%         4%       18%,    77%

Persatuan          31%        22%        36%   21%,

Hoi Thanh           4%        12%        64%    21%
Mennonite Viet

Meserete            5%        14%        43%    37%

Kenya              33%        20%        32%    16%

Happy Church        6%        14%        41%    39%
- Kenya

Kanisa la          22%        16%        25%    37%

Organizacion        6%        17%        40%    37%
Cristiana Amor
Viviente -

Iglesia            10%        15%        32%    44%

Iglesia            14%        15%       29%)    42%

Integrated         16%        21%        34%    30%
Church    of

Lancaster          66%        14%        14%     6%

MC USA average    75.9       11.2       10.1   2.8*
year of

Global South        8%        16%        37%    39%

* 2000-2005

Year of conversion. Respondents in the CMP 2006 were asked about their year of baptism while those in the MNA Profile were asked about their year of conversion. Because the questions are not directly comparable, Lancaster Mennonite Conference's results are helpful in showing the strong association between baptism and conversion among Mennonites in the U.S., suggesting that it is appropriate to use baptism as a proxy for conversion in the U.S. church. Again, North America is the outlier or the "exception The average Mennonite member in Lancaster Conference was baptized in 1970, compared with 1995 among Global Southern Anabaptists. The average year of baptism among Mennonites in the CMP 2006 study was 1965.

The decades of greatest growth are starkly different by hemisphere. In Lancaster Conference, 20 percent of current members were baptized between 1991 and the present 80 percent prior to that period. In Mennonite Church USA, 87 percent of members were baptized before 1991 and only 13 percent after, compared with the Global South where 74 percent have come into the church since 1991. Specifically, among North Indians, 95 percent were converted to Christ during the last two decades followed by churches in descending order: Vietnam (85 percent), Ethiopia and Happy Church Kenya (80 percent), Amor Viviente Honduras (77 percent), the Evangelical Mennonite Church of Honduras (76 percent), the Kekchi of Guatemala (71 percent), the Philippines (64 percent), Tanzania (62 percent), Kenya Mennonite (48 percent), and Indonesia (47 percent).

Age of conversion. The two profiles also allowed us to look at the average age when a member became a Christian. The findings given that many often think of the Global South movement as being driven by young people--were somewhat surprising. Among U.S. Mennonites in 2006 (the Church Member Profile findings), the average age of conversion (or baptism) was 13.9 in 2006. Among Global Southern Anabaptists the average age of conversion was 21.3 years in 2010; for Lancaster Conference members it was 14.3. Clearlv, Mennonites in the U.S. are relying upon their children for growth while Global South churches are bringing in adult converts from outside the church.
Table 6. Age when respondent became a Christian

Year                       Global South %  MCUSA %  LMC %

10 years or younger                  16.3     15.7   25.2

11-20 years                          39.7     76.0   61.7

21-30 years                          23.4      5.2    7.4

31-40 years                          11.7      1.8    3.2

More than 40 years of age             8.9      1.3    2.5

Total number of cases              11,534    2,167    628


Education. Among U.S. Mennonites, 88 percent have completed high school and 39 percent have at least a four-year college degree. Among Global Southern Anabaptists, 39 percent of members have completed high school and 8 percent have completed college. The highest levels of education are found among members from Amor Viviente Honduras (70 percent have graduated from high school) and Indonesia (64 percent are at least high school graduates). Churches with the most college graduates are in Indonesia, the Philippines, and Amor Viviente Honduras.
Table 7. Educational level of respondents

Educational level                    Global South %  MCUSA %  LMC %

Self-education, no formal education            11.0   _____*    0.3

Some elementary                                30.3      5.6    4.2

Some high school                               19.5      6.2   10.3

High school grad                               19.3     22.3   34.4

Some college                                   11.7     27.5   21.0

College grad (bachelor's degree)                7.1     17.1   16.5

Master's or Ph.D. degree                        1.1     15.7   13.4

Total number of cases                        13,513    2/168    710

* Not asked in the CMP 2006.

Occupation. In the U.S., a majority (68 percent) of Mennonites hold some type of professional occupation. But there is substantial variation by occupation among churches in the MNA Profile. Where the members are located, in rural urban communities, affects one's occupational choice as well as one's level of education. Agricultural occupations were most present (at least one-third of members) among the Kekchi of Guatemala, the Vietnamese, Kenya Mennonites, and Tanzania Mennonites. These members were also among the most rural of churches in the profile. Churches with the higgest percent of professional and white-collar occupations (at least one-third of members) included the Indonesians, Amor Viviente Honduras, Happy Church Kenya, and American members.


Both the CMP 2006 and the MNA Profile questionnaires presented members with a set of "religious identity" categories from which to select those that best described them. The list of possibilities was slightly different between the two surveys but did have a substantial overlap of categories. In both cases respondents were asked to indicate the categories that described their religious beliefs.

Among Mennonites in the U.S., 45 percent identified themselves as Anabaptist 48 percent as Mennonite, 18 percent as Evangelical, and 4 percent as Charismatic/Pentecostal. In the Global South, 18 percent identified themselves as Anabaptist, 33 percent as Mennonite, 31 percent as Evangelical, and 14 percent as Charismatic/Pentecostal. Among MNA Profile churches with the word "Mennonite" in their name, members were most likely to choose that term as an identifier. These included the Vietnamese Mennonite Church, the Kenya Mennonite Church, the Integrated Mennonite Church of the Philippines, the Kekchi Mennonite Church, the Honduran Evangelical Mennonite Church, and the Tanzanian Mennonite Church. Those who were most likely to identify as Anabaptist--which included many who identified as Mennonite--were the Indonesian church (GKMI), the Kenya Mennonite Church, the Tanzanian Mennonite Church, the Honduran Evangelical Mennonite Church, and the Integrated Mennonite Church of the Philippines.
Table 8. Respondent's religious identity

Religious identity       Global South %  MCUSA %  LMC %

Anabaptist                         18.1     61.9   63.6

Evangelical                        30.9     30.8   26.7

Mennonite                          32.6     73.0   75.4

Charismatic/Pentecostal            13.8      8.1    5.5

A number of churches were high in their of Christian Assemblies--ranked high in their identification with Charismatic/Pentecostalism.

Evangelism and Outreach

Both the CMP 2006 and the MNA Profile were designed to solicit responses regarding belief and engagement in such activities as personal evangelism, church planting, and outreach to non-Christians. Large majorities of U.S. Mennonites and Global Southern Anabaptists strongly support the notion that one should do everything possible to convert others to Christ. But when queried about individual actions in support of recruitment, stark differences emerged between the Global South and the U.S.

When asked about the extent to which they speak about their faith to people outside their church or family, 70 percent of Global Southern respondents indicate that they do so at least two or three times a month. Among U.S. Mennonites, 39 percent said they do the same. Among U.S. Mennonites, 14 percent agreed that they try to convert others to faith in Christ two or three times a month or more. In the Global South, 66 percent of Anabaptists indicated leading others to faith in Christ two to three times a month or more. When the question was whether they invite people to attend worship services two or three times a month, 60 percent of Global Southern respondents said that they do so compared with 9 percent of U.S. Mennonites.
Table 9. Evangelism and outreach activities (percent reporting 2-3
times a month or more)

Effort                         Global South %  MCUSA%  LMC %

Talk with others about faith             69.8    39.0   38.4

Convert/lead others to Christ            66.4    11.5   10.1

Invite others to church                  60.1     8.8   16.1

Peacemaking and Social Justice

In both profiles, several questions addressed respondents' commitment to values that have been historically important to Anabaptists. The percent of Global Southerners who believed that Christians should do all they can to promote social justice ranged from 84-99 percent among the eleven Global Southern churches and represented 91 percent of Global Southern Anabaptists overall. Eighty percent of U.S. Mennonites agreed with this statement. (27) The percentage supporting the idea that "Christians should do all they can to practice peacemaking and non-violence" ranged from 87-99 percent in the Global South and was endorsed by 92 percent of respondents overall. This compared with 91 percent of U.S. Mennonites who endorsed a similar statement about the importance of peacemaking and nonviolence to their personal faith. Global Southern churches in the profile revealed little variation among themselves in their endorsement of these two historic teaching positions of Anabaptists.

Several other items addressed certain activities that have long been important to Anabaptists. One question asked: "Is it wrong for Christians to fight in any war?" Here, 65 percent of U.S-Mennonites in 2006 agreed, compared with 54 percent of Global Southern Anabaptists in 2010. The Global Southern churches most likely to embrace this statement were from Vietnam, Kenya Mennonite, Happy Church, Tanzania Mennonite, and the Philippines, where 60 percent or more agreed with this statement. Those least likely to agree were members in the three Central American churches and Meserete Kristos Church, with percentages ranging between 39-49 percent

Another behavior that Anabaptists have historically rejected is the filing of lawsuits in a court of law. "Is it all right for a Christian to file a lawsuit?" was asked of respondents in both profiles. In the Global South, the strongest set of negative responses to this question came from the Kekchi, North Indians, and Ethiopians, in that order. Two other groups, the Vietnamese and the Kenyans of KMC, joined them with greater than 60 percent of their members saying no. Sixty percent of Global Southern members rejected this statement compared to 55 percent of U.S. Mennonites who did so. Some of the greatest evidence of Anabaptist commitments in terms of these practices came from two groups--Meserete Kristos Church and the Fellowship of Christian Assemblies (India). (28)
Table 10. Views of peacemaking and social justice (percent affirming)

View                              Global  MCUSA  LMC
                                   South     %      %

Christians should do all they       90.9   79.7  91.8
can to promote social justice

Christians should do all they       92.0   90.8  96.9
can to practice peacemaking
and nonviolence

It is wrong for Christians to go    53.9   65.3  72.6
to war

It is all right for Christians      40.0   42.9  39.6
to file a lawsuit

Experience with the Holy Spirit

In every participating group in the MNA Profile except one, two-thirds or more of the members believe that the charismatic gifts are genuine gifts of God's Spirit. In fact 83 percent of Global Southern members endorsed this statement compared with 61 percent of U.S. Mennonites.
Table 11. Personal experiences of the charismatic gifts of the Holy

Experience                         Global South %  MCUSA %  LMC %

Deliverance from demons                      28.9      3.5    6.1

Speaking in tongues                          28.8      7.6   18.3

Prophecy                                     16.3      5.8   17.1

Resurrection from dead                        7.9     -- *    1.0

Healing                                      46.0      5.6   41.7

Interpretation of tongues                     7.8     -- *    7.1
or prophecies

Have not experienced any of these            19.9     55.7   46.4

Not asked in the CMP 2006.

Both the CMP 2006 and the MNA Profile asked an additional question about one's experience with the charismatic gifts. Among U.S. Mennonites, 3 percent reported having experienced the casting out of demons, 8 percent had spoken in tongues, 6 percent had prophesied, 33 percent received the baptism of the Holy Spirit, and 6 percent had healed someone. Fifty-six percent of U.S. Mennonites said they had never experienced any of these manifestations of the Holy Spirit.

The MNA Profile phrased the question a bit differently, asking whether respondents had ever personally experienced six different manifestations of the Spirit, but the survey did not specify whether the experiences were personal or whether they had simply observed these gifts among others. Among Global Southern Anabaptists, 20 percent reported never having experienced a set of manifestations of the Spirit. Twenty-nine percent of Global Southerners indicated that they had experienced the deliverance from demons, 29 percent speaking in tongues, 16 percent prophecy, 8 percent resurrection from the dead, 46 percent healing, and 8 percent the interpretation of tongues orprophecies. (29)

The way the presence of the Holy Spirit is experienced varied across the MNA Profile churches, including those in the Global South. For example, the number of members who reported having experienced deliverance from demons varied from more than 50 percent in North India and Vietnam to fewer than 10 percent in Guatemala and Tanzania. Those who reported speaking in tongues varied from more than 50 percent in North India and Vietnam to fewer than 5 percent in Indonesia and Guatemala. Forty-two percent of U.S. members reported experiences of healing, compared with Vietnam (72 percent), Kenya Happy Church (68 percent), North India (67 percent), and the Honduran Mennonite Church (67 percent), which indicated the greatest experience with healing.


Trajectories of the Churches

For the churches from Asia, Africa, and Latin America, the combination of high birth rates and the large proportion of members giving birth suggests strong growth into the future. But for the U.S., the inverse patterns of low birth rates and fewer adults within childbearing years mean certain continued declines. The youthfulness and fertility rates of the Southern hemisphere members point to increases for decades, even if these churches were to depend solely upon biological reproduction for their membership. Eventually, such dependence would lead to inevitable declines as in the U.S., assuming the effects of modernization would lower birth rates as they have historically in many places. But as we have seen, the biological reproductive strength of Global Southern Anabaptists is currently combined with an enthusiasm for recruitment that is unseen among most Mennonites of the Global North (other than among immigrant churches from the Global South). Assuming the continued one-two punch of reproduction and recruitment, the diverging membership numbers of the Global North and Global South will become only more exaggerated with time.

But the MNA Profile data also reveal that the trajectories of older (by date of origin) churches in our Global Southern sample are beginning to plateau and even enter decline. Some of these churches exhibit less energy for recruitment and appear to be relying upon the reproductive activity of their members to fill their pews, evidenced by the much lower average age of new converts relative to these churches that are growing rapidly. These findings are a reminder that regardless of hemisphere, the Christian church, as with any social movement in history, always faces the challenges of institutionalization and the life course patterns of growth and decline unless turned around by renewal, increased birth rates, or more intentional recruitment.


Mennonite audiences in North America who hear the results of the MNA Profile are sometimes inclined to ask: "To what extent are the Global Southerners in your sample truly Anabaptist?" Embedded within this inquiry seems to be a kind of skepticism that Anabaptism in the Global South is emerging with the kind of theological and lifestyle authenticity that many assume to be present in Europe and North America. But neither the CMP 2006 nor the MNA Profile offer empirical support for the idea that Anabaptist identity in the Global North is somehow more genuine than that in the Global South.

First the rapid assimilation of Mennonites into the broader culture in the U.S. has occurred simultaneous with the deterioration of a discernable Anabaptist identity in many Mennonite congregations. Mennonites in the U.S. look more like the society around them today--and less Anabaptist--than at any time in our history. Second, the Anabaptist churches of the Global South are emerging in contexts closer to that of sixteenth-century Anabaptists (poverty, persecution, oppression) than has been true for Mennonites in the U.S. over the past several centuries. That is, if there is any place one might expect an authentic Anabaptist witness to emerge based simply on social and economic contexts, it would be the Global South. Third, the data collected about Anabaptist identity in the MNA Profile show substantial diversity across Southern hemisphere churches, eliminating any possibility of declaring the Global South as a whole less Anabaptist than the Global North. Fourth, the differences between the U.S. and the Global South on some Anabaptist identity indicators are relatively small, suggesting that Mennonites in both hemispheres have much in common in their understandings of what it means to follow Christ. Any differences in identity that exist point toward the importance of continued dialogue and learning across hemispheres.

Evangelism and Outreach

Although demographic trends in birth and death rates are affecting the decline of the church in Europe and North America and the growth of the church in the Global South, these trends alone do not explain the differences between hemispheres. A primary explanation for the growth of Anabaptist chinches in the Global South is the willingness of members to share their salvation story with others. The connection between salvation and witness for many Global Southerners is clear--one comes to Jesus in order to be sent by Jesus into God's mission. The energy for recruitment among Global Southern churches and the excitement of members about sharing their personal testimony is rarely witnessed in the same way in the U.S. The privatization of religion within the U.S. has meant that most Christians, including Mennonites, compartmentalize their faith in such a way that it often finds little public expression. Without a renewal of witness among Mennonite Church USA members, the downward trajectory of the denomination will only accelerate, accompanied by an aging membership, fewer children in the pews, and losses of young people to other more vital churches.

Experience of the Spirit

It is impossible to analyze the MNA Profile data or to visit the Global Southern churches without recognizing the striking differences in experience and understanding of the Holy Spirit between them and the U.S. church. In Lancaster Conference, just over one-half of respondents have experienced the charismatic gifts. In contrast, 82 percent of Global Southern Anabaptists have experienced these gifts. The centrality of the work and movement of the Holy Spirit in the Global South in general, and among Anabaptists in particular, may be the most critical difference between North American Mennonites and Global Southern Anabaptists. Reliance upon the Holy Spirit in settings of poverty, persecution, and oppression has led to a church that is imaginative and risk-taking in its missional engagement, whose worship is uplifting, and whose structures are nimble and less institutionalized than those in the West. While time will tell, the reality of the Spirit's presence in these churches may in fact challenge the typical life course trajectory of birth, growth, plateauing, and decline with which the Western church is so familiar.


The MNA Profile was in many ways among the first of its kind as a social science research model. The strengths of the profile's methodology were its inclusion of research partners from participating churches, the ownership of the project among the same churches, the strong response rate of both congregations and members, and the breadth of information gleaned from the questionnaire.30 still, the profile had several limitations:

* It represented only a small proportion of Anabaptists globally.

* European churches were excluded from the sample.

* Measures of identity were limited in the questionnaire.

* Responding to a survey was new for many respondents.

* High levels of illiteracy created distribution and response challenges.

Much of the research about the Global Southern church has depended largely on membership data rather than public opinion questionnaires that have the potential to diagnose more deeply the roots of the Global Southern Christian emergence. Future global studies will likely follow the MNA Profile--whether of Anabaptists or of other faith traditions. The increasing education and modernization of developing countries will create contexts ever more amenable to social science methodologies. While the MNA Profile has brushed the surface of the rapidly growing Anabaptist global church, future studies should expand our knowledge with a broader sample of churches, more intentional questions about Anabaptist identity, and the development of multiple methodologies, including interviews and participant observation.

In conclusion, the secularization thesis of the twentieth century, which assumed the continued linear decline of religion as modernization increased, has been amply challenged at many levels. Such challenges, for those who continue to care about the church and its future, offer hope for renewal in the Global Northern church. The growth and vitality of Global Southern churches, along with their commitment to understanding the call to follow Jesus, have the potential to both revitalize and encourage Mennonites in the U.S. and Europe. The question that remains, however, is whether those churches that descended most directly--in both genealogy and geography--from their Swiss/German and Dutch roots, can recognize the direness of their situation and accept as authentic the Anabaptist expressions of their Southern brothers and sisters.

(1.) The data for the Church Member Profile 2006 were collected in early 2006. The Mennonite component of the profile was based upon a scientifically selected, random sample of 3,080 Mennonite Church USA members, using membership directories of selected and participating congregations from which to draw the final sample. Data were collected through the use of a paper and pencil survey that was mailed to selected members. The response rate of these members was extraordinarily high, with 76 percent of Mennonites returning 2,216 usable questionnaires for analysis. The CMP 2006 was led by Donald B. Kraybill, with Carl D. Bowman giving direction to the Church of the Brethren component and Conrad L. Kanagy leading the Mennonite Church USA component. The profile was sponsored by the Young Center for the Study of Anabaptist and Pietist Studies of Elizabethtown College. The project was funded by participating denominations, Mennonite Central Committee, Mennonite Disaster Service, Goodville Mutual and Casualty Company, the Showalter Foundation, Mennonite Financial Services, Eastern Mennonite Missions, the Louisville Institute, Elizabethtown College, and private contributors.

(2.) Church Member Profile I was conducted in 1972 by J. Howard Kauffman and Leland Harder. Church Member Profile II in 1989 was led by J. Howard Kauffman, Leland Harder, and Leo Driedger. The results of these two projects are reported in J. Howard Kauffman and Leland Harder, Anabaptists: Four Centuries Later (Scottdale, Pa.: Herald Press, 1975); J. Howard Kauffman and Leo Driedger, The Mennonite Mosaic: Identity and Modernization (Scottdale, Pa.: Herald Press, 1991); and Leland Harder, Doors to Open, Doors to Close (Scottdale, Pa.: Herald Press, 1993).

(3.) Conrad L. Kanagy, Road Signs for the Journey: A Profile of Mennonite Church USA (Scottdale, Pa.: Herald Press, 2007).

(4.) For the sake of comparison with the 2006 profile, the samples of Mennonites from the 1972 and 1989 profiles include only those who were members of the General Conference Mennonite Church and the (Old) Mennonite Church in the United States.

(5.) Yearbook of American and Canadian Churches 2011, ed. Eileen W. Under (New York: National Council of Churches, 2011).

(6.) The Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life. The U.S. Religious Landscape Survey, 2007,

(7.) Rodney Stark, "Secularization RIP--Rest in Peace," Sociology of Religion 60, no. 3 (1999), 249-274.

(8.) Roger Finke and Rodney Stark. The Churching of America, "1776-2005 (New Brunswick, N.J.: Rutgers University Press,' 2005).

(9.) Exceptions include the work of a number of missiologists who have for some time been documenting and reporting the rapid growth of Christianity in the Global South, including Lamin Saneh and Andrew Walls.

(10.) Mark A. Noll The New Shape of World Christianity: How American Experience Reflects Global Faith (Downers Grove, Ill.: IVP Academic, 2009); Robert Wuthnow, Boundless Faith: The Global Outreach of American Churches (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2010).

(11.) For the most thorough analysis of global Christian trends see Todd M. Johnson and Kenneth R. Ross, Atlas of Global Christianity (Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 2009).

(12.) The First Adventist World Survey was carried out in 1994 and included samples from more than 100 countries.

(13.) For more information about the WVS see Another recent example of the use of survey research in an international context is the 2010 Pew Research Center's study of more than 2,000 evangelical leaders from 166 countries who participated in the Third Lausanne Conference of World Evangelization in Cape Town, South Africa. In that study, global leaders responded to questions about religious and social issues, some quite similar to the kinds of questions asked in the Multi-Nation Anabaptist Profile. The Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life, 2011,

(14.) The MNA Profile was supported financially by Eastern Mennonite Missions, Elizabethtown College, the Schowalter Foundation, and several private contributors.

(15.) While the MNA Profile is the first sociological analysis of global Anabaptists, it was preceded by The Global Mennonite History Project (GMHP), sponsored by Mennonite World Conference and edited by John A. Lapp and C. Arnold Snyder. That project sought to convey the origins, development, and mission of Anabaptist-related churches in each region with the hope that doing so would bring about a "renewal and extension of Anabaptist Christianity world-wide." The project also expected to reveal more about "the shift in church energy, leadership and numbers from North to South, from developed to developing nations/' for more information see the Mennonite World Conference site at http:/7option=com_content&vievv=article&id:=24&-" Four volumes have been released to date: Anabaptist Songs in African Hearts (Intercourse, Pa.: Good Books, 2006); Testing Faith and Tradition: Europe (Intercourse, Pa.: Good Books, 2006); Mission and Migration: Latin America (Intercourse, Pa.: Good Books, 2010); and Churches Engage Asian Traditions (Intercourse, Pa: Good Books, 2011).

(16.) For a fuller description of the methodology and findings of the MNA Profile see Conrad L. Kanagy, Richard Showalter, and Tilahun Beyene, Winds of the Spirit: A Profile of Anabaptist Churches in the Global South (Harrisonburg, Va: Herald Press, [forthcoming]).

(17.) Again, the sample size of members is lower than figures often reported for these churches. This is true for a variety of reasons including the fact that we specified baptized adult members. In other contexts, some churches publicly report children and unbaptized members.

(18.) For Mennonite World Conference membership statistics see Two churches in the profile-Fellowship of Christian Assemblies and Happy Church Ministries International--are not members of Mennonite World Conference.

(19.) The anchors were: Jumanne Magiri of Kanisa la Mennonite Tanzania, Alfredo Carcamo of Iglesia Evangclica Menonita Hondurena, Carlos Marin Montoya of the Organization Cristiana Amor Viviente, Moses Otieno of the Kenya Mennonite Church, Boniface Runji of the Happy Church Ministries International, Javier Xol and Galen Groff of the Iglesia Nacional Evangelica Menonita Guatemalteca, Trung Quang and Gerry Keener of the Hoi Thanh Mennonite Viet Nam, Karl Landis of Lancaster Mennonite Conference, Kristina Setiawan and Andreas Wijaya of the Persatuan Cereja-Gercja Kristen Muria Indonesia, Yemiru Tilahun and Tariku Gebre of the Meserete Kristos Church, Thomas Chacko and Blessan Abraham of the Fellowship of Christian Assemblies, and Edgardo Docuyanan and Richard Rancap of the Integrated Mennonite Church of the Philippines.

(20.) It is possible that church leaders underestimated a congregation's membership at the outset, or that the congregation grew between the time of the original membership estimate and the profile's implementation. Unlike the U.S., where the membership of Mennonite Church USA declined during the time we were conducting the profile from 2005-2007, in some of the participating churches in the MNA Profile memberships grew during the profile's implementation. A third possibility for discrepancies in some congregations has to do with how membership is defined and measured in that particular church (something that also varies in the U.S.).

(21.) Some congregations reported zero members. These congregations were included in the sampling frames from which congregations were randomly drawn.

(22.) Because of the small size of the Philippine church, we invited all members to participate, resulting in what is typically called a saturated sample.

(23.) It is impossible to compare the response rates of congregations and members in the MNA Profile with those of the Church Member Profiles since sampling methodologies were quite different. In addition, the irregularity with which some Global Southern churches estimate their memberships made it difficult from the outset to know the accuracy of the estimated sample size.

(24.)While the CMP 2006 showed substantial differences between Lancaster Mennonite Conference and the rest of Mennonite Church USA, the MNA Profile results--when compared with the MNA Profile--show greater differences between Lancaster Conference and Global Southern Anabaptists than between Lancaster Conference and Mennonite Church USA.

(25.) The age comparisons between CMP 2006 and the MNA Profile were made of members 18 years and older.

(26.) Birth rates for the other three churches were India (2.6), Vietnam (2.2), and the Philippines (2.9).

(27.) The statement about social justice varied slightly between the two profiles. In the CMP 2006 the question was: "How important to you is each of the following in your personal faith commitments (promoting social justice in the world)" and in the Profile respondents were asked their level of agreement with the statement that "Christians should do all they can to promote social justice in the world."

(28.) Table 10 reports the percent who affirm filing lawsuits rather than those who rejected that statement.

(29.) Although the question response categories were asked differently in the CMP 2006 and the MNA Profile, it is likely that the differences would remain regardless, since Lancaster Conference responses were also so different from Global Southern responses in the MNA Profile. According to several anchors, respondent affirmation of resurrection from the dead reflected well-known stories that circulated among their churches of people who had been raised to life after an experience of death.

(30.) At the final consultation of the M.NA Profile in Thika, Kenya, in August 2010, anchors and church leaders presented and interpreted the results of their own profiles. They uniformly expressed appreciaton for what the findings revealed to them about their churches. In addition, substantial time was spent in conversation among churches, reflecting on what they were learning from one another. Several anchor comments included: "There were various positive findings. We want to congratulate our congregations and at the same time call attention to changes that need to happen. ... We found a very high awareness of missions in our church--we want to move this forward in concrete ways; people clearly have a vision for missions. The high number of young people was a great surprise and we want to take advantage of this resource. How do we transition to give opportunities to these young people? We are concerned that even though evangelism is very high, our churches should be fuller." And another: "Even though our results were not ideal the snapshot nonetheless was very useful. Hearing the results was great. Please bear with us as we continue to ask questions: if Mennonites in Lancaster are SO rich in literature and score so low in Bible reading, what is the point of writing so much literature?"


*Conrad Kanagy is associate professor of sociology at Elizabethtown College, Elizabethtown, Pa.
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Author:Kanagy, Conrad
Publication:Mennonite Quarterly Review
Article Type:Report
Geographic Code:90ASI
Date:Apr 1, 2012
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