Interfaith Worship and Interfaith Cooperation Among Congregations Has Increased Significantly

For Immediate Release
HARTFORD, CT (May 4, 2006) – Interfaith activity among faith communities has more than tripled since 2000, according to the latest national survey of U.S. faith communities.

The survey, sponsored by the Cooperative Congregational Studies Partnership, found that slightly more than 2 in 10 (22.3%) congregations reported participating in an interfaith worship service in the past year. Nearly 4 in 10 (37.5%) congregations reported joining in interfaith community service activities. 


interfaith chart These figures are from the just released Faith Communities Today 2005 (FACT2005) survey of 884 randomly sampled congregations of all faith traditions in the United States. The survey updates results from a survey taken in 2000, before .the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks.

The 2000 figures are from the groundbreaking, baseline setting, FACT2000 survey of 14,301 randomly sampled congregations.  FACT2000 found that only 7% of congregations reported participating in interfaith worship in the previous 12 months, while only 8% reported joining in interfaith community service activities.

David A. Roozen, Director of the Cooperative Congregational Studies Partnership and Professor of Religion and Society at Hartford Seminary, said that “immediately after September 11 there was a surge of interfaith activity, but that by the following year many social commentators were talking about a return to the general interfaith indifference of pre-2001. There was no hard data to support or refute such claims.  Now we know, four years later. The increased attention being given by communities of faith to interfaith engagements continues to be dramatic.”

Perhaps even more significantly, Roozen said, “The Sept 11 upturn in interfaith awareness has been accompanied by a fundamental change in the United States’ perception of the American religious mosaic. Our public consciousness has had to acknowledge in the most powerful way in our history that the religious liberty-in-diversity that Americans cherish has moved from ecumenical Christian to interfaith, and that this American, interfaith consciousness will forevermore include Islam.

“As I noted almost five years ago, The Democratic presidency of Jimmy Carter will long be associated with our country’s rediscovery of evangelical, "born again" Protestantism. With equal irony, it will likely be that the Republican presidency of George W. Bush is long remembered as marking the official acknowledgement and affirmation of Islam’s addition to America’s interfaith reality,” Roozen said.

The FACT2005 survey also shows that interfaith worship is significantly higher for interfaith worship chartmainline Protestant congregations (30%) than for other Protestantism (17%), and slightly higher among mainline Protestants than for the Catholic and Orthodox faith family (28%).  [“Other Protestant” includes both evangelical and historically black Protestant groups.]

But it is highest among congregations in faith traditions other than Christian (40%).  The latter makes sense, according to Roozen, “Because as minority faith traditions in the U.S. context, they arguably have most to gain from increased understanding and tolerance; and also because of demographics, they tend to be concentrated in cosmopolitan areas where there are larger numbers of Christian congregations seeking to partner with relatively small numbers of other than Christian communities.” 

interfaith community service chartIn terms of interfaith community service activities the faith family pattern runs from “other than Christian” as the highest (64%) followed by Catholic and Orthodox (56%), mainline Protestant (46%) and other Protestant (30%).  That the relative ranking of Catholic and Orthodox interfaith involvement in community service is higher than for interfaith worship makes sense, Roozen said, because of the unique sacramental practice and theology that defines worship in this tradition.

Levels of interfaith worship do not vary greatly by region of the country, according to the survey, although and not surprisingly it is slightly lower in regions of evangelical strength (the South and West – both at 21% of congregations) and higher in regions with higher concentrations of mainline Protestant congregations (the Northeast --26%; and the Midwest – 23%).

A complete report on the FACT2005 survey is projected for August, 2006. To request future press releases about FACT2005, please email [email protected]. An electronic copy of the FACT2000 report is available on this website

Roozen also is Director of the Hartford Institute for Religion Research at Hartford Seminary. He is available for interviews at:  [email protected]  or 860/509-9546.

The FACT2000 and FACT2005 surveys were conducted by Faith Communities Today (FACT), a collaboration of American faith communities known as the Cooperative interfaith worship chartCongregational Studies Partnership (CCSP) and hosted by Hartford Seminary’s Hartford Institute for Religion Research.

FACT/CCSP has two primary goals. One is to offer research based resources for congregational development that are useful across faith traditions, believing that communities of faith encounter common issues and can benefit from one another’s experiences.  The second is to inform the public about the contributions of congregations to American society and about the changes affecting and emanating from one of America’s major sources of voluntary association – local congregations.

FACT2000 and FACT2005 are the first two of an ongoing series of national surveys designed to track changes in U.S. congregations and plumb the dynamics of selected congregational practices and challenges.  Researchers, consultants and program staff from a broadly ecumenical and interfaith association of thirty-three religious groups and organizations are involved in the Partnership. Visit the FACT/CCSP website for a complete list and further information.

The random sample of congregations surveyed in FACT2005 was originally generated by American Church Lists, then reviewed and cleaned by CCSP denominations and faith groups.  Random replacements for non-responding congregations were drawn from an American Church Lists shadow sample and from denominational yearbook samples.  Responses were weighted to known population parameters for region, faith family, size of congregation and rural/city/suburban location to enhance national representation. Sampling error for such a survey can only be estimated. We estimate it to be +/- 4% at the 95% confidence level.

About Hartford Seminary and the Hartford Institute for Religion Research: Hartford Seminary is a special kind of seminary, focused on interfaith relations, congregational studies and faith in practice. The Hartford Institute for Religion Research has a 30-year record of rigorous, policy-relevant research, anticipation of emerging issues and commitment to the creative dissemination of learning.  This record has earned the Institute an international reputation as an important bridge between the scholarly community and the practice of faith. For more on the Seminary and the Institute, see www.hartsem.edu or hirr.hartsem.edu or contact David Barrett at 860.509.9519 or [email protected].