Women helping swell seminary enrollments

By , Special to The Christian Science Monitor

Enrollment in theological schools in the United States and Canada is growing rapidly, and enrollment of women even more rapidly, according to the recently published 1980 "Yearbook of American and Canadian Churches."

Total enrollment in member institutions of the Association of Theological Schools, the principal accrediting agency, grew from 36,830 students at 191 schools in 1974 to 48,433 students at 193 schools last fall.

During the same period, women students increased from 5,255 to 10,208, which made them 21 percent of the total.

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The current yearbook includes reports on 222 US religious groups with 133,748 ,776 members, up slightly from the 132,812,470 members in 222 groups (not in all cases the same) reported last year.

It reports 78 Canadian religious groups with 15,308,481 members, also up slightly from the 15,204,613 members of 74 groups reported in 1979.

Yearbook editor Constant Jacquet warns that religious statistics must be interpreted with caution. But he said the new yearbook's figures, dating from 1978 or earlier, show that the mainline Prostestant bodies -- United Methodist Church, United Presbyterian Church, United Church of Christ, Episcopal Church, Lutheran Church in America, and some others -- are continuing a membership decline that began in the 1960s. However, more conservative and aggressively evangelistic groups more than offset the loss.

Among Protestants, the largest group remains the Southern Baptist Convention; its 1978 membership was 13.2 million, up about 1 percent over 1977.

The largest US religious body, the Roman Catholic Church, reported a drop from 49.8 million to 49.6 million in 1978. But this was more than accounted for by one archdiocese, Detroit, which revised its estimate downward by 400,000.

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