For the past decade, the well known polling organization, the Barna Group, has been tracking the numbers of pastors who identify their churches as “Calvinist or Reformed” vs. “Wesleyan or Arminian”. The report of their findings brings pretty good news almost all around. Here are some notable points from the study (quotes have been taken from the full study, which we recommend you read):
“Currently, about three out of every 10 Protestant leaders say this phrase accurately describes their church (31%). This proportion is statistically unchanged from a decade ago (32%). In fact, an examination of a series of studies among active clergy during the past decade indicates that the proportion that embraces the Reformed label has remained flat over the last 10 years.”
“Pastors who embrace the term “Wesleyan or Arminian” currently account for 32% of the Protestant church landscape – the same as those who claim to be Reformed. The proportion of Wesleyan/Arminian pastors is down slightly from 37% in 2000.”
Arminian churches are typically bigger. Calvinist churches have grown in number by about 13% from 10 years ago while Arminian churches have grown by about 18%.
“In terms of the age of pastors, among the youngest generation of pastors (ages 27 to 45), 29% described themselves as Reformed, while 34% identified as Wesleyan. Pastors associated with the Boomer generation (ages 46 to 64) were evenly split between the two theological camps: 34% Reformed, 33% Arminian. Pastors who were 65 or older were the least likely to use either term: 26% and 27%, respectively.”
“Regionally, Reformed churches were most common in the Northeast, while least common in the Midwest. Wesleyan/Arminian congregations were equally likely to appear in each of the four regions.”
Quite surprisingly, “The study found that 31% of pastors who lead churches within traditionally charismatic or Pentecostal denominations were described as Reformed, while 27% identified as Wesleyan/Arminian.”
Also surprising: “Despite the common public view of Reformed churches being doctrinally conservative, a greater proportion of these leaders described themselves as “theologically liberal” than was true among Wesleyan/Arminian leaders (17% versus 13%).”
David Kinnaman, “who serves as Barna Group president, concluded, ‘there is no discernable evidence from this research that there is a Reformed shift among U.S. congregation leaders over the last decade. Whatever momentum surrounds Reformed churches and the related leaders, events and associations has not gone much outside traditional boundaries or affected the allegiances of most [sic] today’s church leaders.’ ”
This study focused on pastors. Personally, I would guess that Calvinism has been growing among church attenders, especially in Calvinistic churches. There are probably many who attend Calvinistic churches who are not Calvinistic themselves; indeed, there are SEA members who attend Calvnistic churches. But I suspect that Calvinism has also been growing in Arminian churches. The influence of popular Calvinistic church leaders has probably been reaching many laymen through Christian media, including books, magazines, and the internet. Moreover, I have the impression that there may be many being trained in seminary now who are Calvinist or will become Calvinist and will become pastors, and perhaps significantly change these polling figures. Hopefully not. SEA exists partially to keep this from happening by lovingly and respectfully promoting and advancing sound, biblical Arminian theology, and refuting Calvinism. For now, the news is good. May the Lord bring his truth to prevail in his Church! To him be all glory, praise, and honor.