From the Worldwide Faith News archives

NCC's 2001 yearbook looks at 'charitable choice'

Date 28 Feb 2001 18:43:27

Feb. 28, 2001	News media contact: Linda Bloom·(212) 870-3803·New York

NOTE: This report is a sidebar to UMNS story #102.

NEW YORK (UMNS) - While President Bush's plan for faith-based initiatives
has received attention recently, the idea itself took root in the welfare
reform act of 1996.

An initial analysis of the results of that 1996 provision, known as
"charitable choice," can be found in the 2001 Yearbook of American and
Canadian Churches, produced by the National Council of Churches (NCC).

Charitable choice is "probably the most significant conceptual change" in
how the government supports social service programs since President Franklin
Roosevelt's New Deal, said the Rev. Eileen Lindner, yearbook editor, in
remarks to NCC executive board members. The board met Feb. 26-27 in New

While buoyed by politicians promoting the potential of volunteerism, the
charitable choice provision met resistance by mainline denominations and
religious liberty groups concerned over church-state separation. However,
many religious conservatives endorsed the idea.

Research conducted since then has demonstrated that while charitable choice
has not lived up to the expectations of its supporters, it has not been a
disaster, either. "The jury is still out on faith-based initiatives," said
Lindner, who also is the NCC's executive for research and planning.

Study has shown that:
·	Large congregations, and especially predominantly African-American
congregations, are most likely to seek public funding for social programs.
·	Only a small percentage of congregations actually conduct social
service ministries that would meet the requirements for public funding.
·	More than three-fourths of church pastors surveyed did not even know
then that the charitable choice provision existed.

"While most churches take pride in their commitment to serve the indigent at
their doorstep they lack the capacity for sustained work with large numbers
of persons on an indeterminate basis," Lindner wrote in the yearbook. "The
present research points up the need for government planners to take
cognizance of these congregational realities when projecting the ultimate
capacity of FBOs (faith-based organizations) to provide services." 

The 2001 yearbook also took a glimpse at membership patterns during the four
years at the century's end. The book concluded that the decline of
membership appears to have slowed in some mainline denominations, such as
the United Methodist and Presbyterian churches, while previous growth in
churches such as the Assemblies of God and Southern Baptist Convention has

Overall benevolence giving increased by about $20 per person.

Ranking for the top 25 denominations or communions in the United States and
Canada, based on 1999 data, places the Roman Catholic Church at the top,
with 62.4 million members or 41 percent of the total, followed by the
Southern Baptist Convention, with 15.9 million or 10.5 percent, and the
United Methodists with 8.4 million or 5.5 percent.

Rounding out the top 10, are the Church of God in Christ, 5.5 million;
Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, 5.1 million; Church of Jesus Christ
of Latter-day Saints, 5.1 million; Presbyterian Church (USA), 3.6 million;
National Baptist Convention of America, 3.5 million; Lutheran Church --
Missouri Synod, 2.6 million; and Assemblies of God, 2.6 million.

The newest innovation for the yearbook, which contains all sorts of other
statistical information and listings, is a CD-ROM holding information from
all 68 editions from 1916 to 2000. The CD-Rom was developed through a
three-year $635,000 grant from Lilly Endowment Inc.   

The 416-page yearbook is published by Abingdon Press in Nashville, Tenn. It
may be ordered by e-mail at or by phone, toll free, at
(888) 870-2031. Regular mail orders can be sent to Yearbook orders, National
Council of Churches, 475 Riverside Dr., Room 880, New York, NY 10115. The
$39.50 cost includes shipping.

The historic archive CD, available for $29.50 postage paid, can be ordered
by regular mail or e-mail at the same addresses or by calling (888)

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United Methodist News Service
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