(ABP story by Robert Marus, Washington)
Baptists, they say, multiply by dividing. And the various Baptist churches and denominational groups represented in the incoming 111th Congress
are emblematic of America’s broad array of Baptists -- and of religious life in general.
While precise figures and specific answers on some lawmakers’ church membership are hard to come by, there are 66 self-identified Baptists
in the new Congress, according to a study
by the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life.
Baptists make up a slightly smaller percentage of the new Congress (12.4 percent) than they do of the United States’ adult population at large (17.2 percent), according to the Pew study. It was based on biographical data that Congress members’ offices provided to Congressional Quarterly
. The nation-at-large statistics come from the results of a massive survey that Pew released last year.
An analysis of the new Baptist Congress members by Baptist blogger Aaron Weaver reveals that congressional Baptists are a broadly diverse lot in terms of denomination, race and political party.
For instance, congressional Baptists belong to churches affiliated with the Southern Baptist Convention, the three major African-American Baptist denominational groups, the American Baptist Churches USA and the Baptist General Conference.
There are also several members of Congress whose churches’ primary affiliation is with para-denominational groups that resulted from the division between moderates, progressives and fundamentalists in the Southern Baptist Convention during the 1980s -- the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship and the Alliance of Baptists.
In the House, self-identified Baptists are evenly divided between Democrats and Republicans, with each party claiming 29 Baptist representatives. African-Americans make up 33 percent of House Baptists.
Baptists are the second-largest religious group in Congress after Catholics, who make up 30 percent of lawmakers. The next four largest groups -- Methodists, Jews, Presbyterians and Episcopalians -- are represented in Congress in greater percentages than they are in the population at large.
The “religious group” most underrepresented relative to its share of the overall population is the religiously unaffiliated. Only five members of the 111th Congress failed to list any religious affiliation, according to Congressional Quarterly. But the Pew survey found that the religiously unaffiliated make up just over 16 percent of the U.S. adult population.
The 111th Congress is also home to Lutherans, Eastern Orthodox Christians, Pentecostals, Mormons, Seventh-Day Adventists, Muslims, Buddhists, Unitarians, Christian Scientists and a Quaker.
For the complete story, go to Associated Baptist Press