Church Member Profile points to continuity as well as change

The past three decades have been a time of rapid growth for the Brethren in Christ Church in North America, and as a result, it is increasingly difficult to speak of an “average” BIC congregation or parishioner. Within our 298 congregations and eight regional conferences, there is considerable diversity of opinions, attitudes, and even theological perspectives. However, as the Church Member Profile (CMP) 2006 demonstrates, there are points of significant agreement and commonality within our fellowship of churches.

At least that’s the message from Ron Burwell, a sociologist at Messiah College and the BIC representative to the CMP 2006 project. In his presentations to pastors and other church leaders, Ron points to the following evidences our high and orthodox view of Christianity:

  • 93.1% of BIC members surveyed believe that Jesus is both fully divine and fully God.
  • 98.6% believe that Jesus was born of a virgin and 88.2% acknowledge Jesus as the only way to God.
  • 91.7% believe Jesus died to complete God’s plan of salvation.
  • 99% testify to having accepted Christ as Savior and Lord.
  • 97% claim the Bible as the Word of God.

Ron also notes that persons associated with the Brethren in Christ Church back up their beliefs with their actions. For example, of the survey respondents:

  • 29.6% report that, at least once a month, they are involved in introducing someone to faith in Christ.
  • 60.9% assist neighbors in need several times a month.
  • 69.6% give at least 10 percent of their household income to church and other charitable causes.
  • 76.2% set aside time each day to pray.
  • 36.2% read or study the Bible on their own.

In addition to the Brethren in Christ Church, Church Member Profiles were also drawn from the membership of the Mennonite Church USA and the Church of the Brethren. The 2006 study builds upon similar work in 1972 and 1982 and so provides a longitudinal look at the beliefs, values, practices, and needs of persons in the three churches. Leadership for the CMP has been provided by Donald Kraybill of the Young Center for Anabaptist and Pietist Studies at Elizabethtown (Pa) College. Support for the project was provided by the Young Center, the three denominations, Mennonite Mutual Aid, Mennonite Central Committee, and Mennonite Disaster Service.

Surveys were mailed to 1,000 members of BIC churches, with a 73 percent response rate. Spanish-language congregations and the Canadian Conference of the BIC Church were not included in the original sample, but are now being added to the survey population.