By Bob Allen
Membership in the Southern Baptist Convention declined for the fifth straight year in 2011, falling under 16 million for the first time since 2000, according to annual statistics released June 12 by LifeWay Christian Resources.
The 2011 Annual Church Profile counted total membership of 15,978,112, a nearly 1 percent drop from 16,136,044 reported in 2010.
Baptisms increased 0.7 percent in 2011 after declining 5 percent the year before. The 2011 baptism total of 333,341 is 16,396 (4.6 percent) fewer than the number that Southern Baptist churches baptized in 2009. The record year for baptisms was 445,725 in 1972.
The Southern Baptist Convention first topped the 16-million member mark in 2001 with a then all-time record of 16,052,920. Membership peaked at 16,306,246 in 2006, before declining every year since. The 2007 decline was the first membership loss in a decade, and just the second since 1926.
The Annual Church Profile is self-reported data from individual churches that is submitted to Baptist state convention offices and compiled by LifeWay, the SBC publisher.