Carolina Church Rolls
Last week the News Letter gave to its readers a table ranking the 50 religious bodies of North Carolina in the order of their membership.
This week we present a table based the 1916 Census of Religious Bodies in the United States, ranking the counties of North Carolina from high to low according to the ratios of church membership to total populations. A North Carolina Club study, published in the Community Service Week Bulletin, gives a similar table for 1906.
Gains and Losses
Putting side by side the figures of these two tables, it appears (1) that 48 counites made decided gains in church membership during the 10 years, that the gains in Richmond, Dare, Tyrrell, Jones, Buncombe, Caswell, and Polk were tremendous, that the ratios in Ashe and Alleghany were nearly doubled; (2) that 33 counties lost ground, the greatest losses being in Guilford, Transylvania, Yancey, and Burke, that 29 of these retrograding counties were in the lead in 1906; (3) that five counties stood still and marked time during this 10-year period—Northampton, Lincoln, Catawba, Jackson, and Wilson; (4) that Bertie, which headed the list in church membership in 1906 retained its lead in 1916 with a gain of one point, that Edgecombe which footed the list in 1906 was still at the bottom in 1916, with a gain of five points, 23 against 18 per cent, and (5) that the state as a whole moved up five points during the 10-year period—from 40 to 45 per cent.
Our Home Mission Job
The 1916 figures show that 1,260,000 people in North Carolina are outside the church; within the curtilage of the church, to be sure, but not on the church rolls. They are 55 per cent or more than half of our total population.
Counting out children less than 10 years of age, our non-communicants are nearly 650,000.
In two counties—Edgecombe and Wilson—more than three-fourths of the population is outside the church!
In eight counties more—Stokes, Jackson, Haywood, Swain, Rockingham, Martin, Johnston, and Pitt—more than two-thirds of all the people belong to the big church of All-Out-Doors.
In 17 counties more—Onslow, Madison, Graham, Alleghany, Nash, Burke, Yancey, Surry, McDowell, Beaufort, Wilkes, Cherokee, Lenoir, Harnett, Guilford, Columbus, and Brunswick—three-fifths or more of all the people are outside the church, any church of any name, sect, or sort.
In 37, or more than a third of all our counties, the lost sheep are from three-fourths to three-fifths of all the people! Here’s a home mission task of gigantic proportions. The foreign fields are more picturesque; but the home mission fields are white for the harvest.
A Chance for the Church
For four years or more, devoted students in the department of Rural Economics and Sociology at the University has been puzzling at the problem of Religious Consciousness in North Caroilina—its prevailing type, its characteristics and level, its values and deficiencies, and its relationship to economic and social conditions, causes and consequences.
It is a fundamental subject of tremendous importance to our civilization, and more and more it seems to us a subject that our church authorities and church schools can afford to go at it hammer-and-tongs. The 10 weeks or so that we give each year to church and Sunday school studies in the University might profitably run into 10 months or so in the church schools of North Carolina and the church seminaries of the South. Or so it seems to us; and with exceeding deference and reverence we are saying this to our church authorities.
Lack of space forbids our doing more in the News Letter than briefly summarizing the conclusions, some of them, that come out of patient prolonged studies, at the University, of church problems in the mother state—as follows:
Church membership ratios are low:
--In sparcely settled areas afflicted by social isolation,
--In areas where illiteracy and near-illiteracy ratios are high,
--In areas of excessive tenancy farming, and
--In trade and factory centers where home ownership ratios are low. And so on and on.
Singly or in combination, here are four social conditions that are causally related to the low church ratios that challenge religious zeal in 37 counties of North Carolina, and that vitally affect the status of the church the whole state over.
Four distinct religious tasks confront us:
1. Social integration in our countryside
2. The cure of wide-spread illiteracy, black and white
3. The settling of our landless, homeless multitudes—they are more than half of our people, town and country—into homes of their own in our cities or on farms of their own in the country regions.
According to Isaiah
These are religious as well as secular problems. And what tremendous problems they are in every land and country! Unsolved they will be as certainly fatal to our civilization as they have been to every other in history. Church authorities ought to be even more active than state authorities in solving them—in sheer self-defense. The church must put an end to illiteracy and tenancy in North Carolina, or illiteracy and tenancy, town and country, will put an end to the church.
When Israel ceased to be a land of home-owning farmers and reversed the deliberate plan of Moses, when her people became homeless dwellers in fenced cities and a slender remnant of tenant farmers with no stake in the land tilled the countryside, when her people refused to consider, for lack of knowledge, then Israel went away into captivity.
So it was in Judah, so it has been in the history of other peoples, and so it will be with every heedless people on earth today.
North Carolina needs to be profoundly stirred by these fundamental causes of social ill, and in our opinion the church alone can do it.
These social problems are not likely ever to be solved, in our opinion, without the fire, the fever, the fervor of religious zeal.
Church Membership Ratios in North Carolina
Based on the 1916 Census of Religious Bodies
E. Eybers, University of Stellenboch, Union of South Africa, a graduate student of the University of North Carolina
The figures indicate the ratio of church membership to the total population in each county. The state average of church membership in 1916 was 45 per cent.
1. Bertie, 74%
2. Gates, 70%
3. Northampton, 64%
4. Tyrrell, 63%
5. Hertford, 62%
6. Chowan, 61%
7. Camden, 59%
8. Richmond, 58%
9. Rowan, 55%
10. Alexander, Caswell, Granville, Iredell, Pasquotank, 54%
11. Bladen, Dare, Lincoln, Washington, 53%
12. Vance, 52%
13. Catawba, Franklin, New Hanover, Pender, 51%
14. Forsyth, Mecklenburg, Perquimans, Wake, 50%
15. Cabarrus, Cleveland, Currituck, Davidson, Warren, 49%
16. Buncombe, Henderson, Rutherford, Scotland, 48%
17. Person, Anson, Davie, Orange, 47%
18. Jones, 46%
19. Craven, Durham, Pamlico, Stanly, 45%
20. Halifax, Macon, Montgomery, 44%
21. Alamance, Carteret, Greene, Union, Wayne, Duplin, Gaston, 43%
22. Hyde, Polk, Sampson, Yadkin, 42%
23. Ashe, Clay, Randolph, Transylvania, 41%
24. Brunswick, Columbus, Guilford, Harnett, 40%
25. Cherokee, Lenoir, Wilkes, 39%
26. Beaufort, McDowell, Surry, 38%
27. Yancy, 37%
28. Burke, Nash, 35%
29. Alleghany, Graham, Madison, Onslow, 34%
30. Pitt, 33%
31. Johnston, Martin, Rockingham, 32%
32. Swain, 31%
33. Haywood, 29%
34. Jackson, Stokes, 27%
35. Wilson, 24%
36. Edgecombe, 23%
The following counties are omitted for lack of authoritative population figures due to the formation of new counties and the changes in territory of old counties since 1910: Avery and Hoke, Caldwell, Chatham, Cumberland, Lee, Mitchell, Moore, Robeson, and Watauga.