US Religion Census finds independent congregations have surged in the last decade.
Call it the rise of the nons.
Not the “nones,” who have commanded attention for years, as the number of Americans who don’t identify with a specific religious tradition has grown from just 5 percent during the Cold War to around 30 percent today. This is the nons—nondenominational Christians, people who shake off organizational affiliations, disassociate from tradition, and free themselves from established church brands.
The number of nondenominational churches has surged by about 9,000 congregations over the course of a decade, according to new decennial data released by the US Religion Census. Little noticed, they have been quietly remaking the religious landscape.
There are now five times more nondenominational churches than there are Presbyterian Church (USA) congregations. There are six times more nondenominational churches than there are Episcopal. And there are 3.4 million more people in nondenominational churches than there are in Southern Baptist ones.
If “nondenominational” were a denomination, it would be the largest Protestant one, claiming more than 13 percent of churchgoers in America.
“The two biggest stories in American religion are the nones and the nons,” said Ryan Burge, professor of political science at Eastern Illinois University and an expert in religious demographic data. “We are in a transitional period for Protestant denominations.”
Nondenominational Christians don’t show up in the polls that sample and survey American religion, because people don’t think of “nondenominational” as an identity. They are more likely just to say “Christian,” or perhaps “Protestant.” If prompted, they might specify whether …