Shifting the Demographics of the South

When the SEC was organized in 1966, the Southeast Conference was made up of 128 churches. Over time, the number of churches has been reduced to the fifty congregations, which comprise its membership today. This change was due to a number of factors, including the shifting demographics of the South as populations left rural areas for the cities, the impact of a consistent witness to social justice and inclusivity by the national church that was at odds with Southern social and political traditions. In addition, the decline of congregations is also an effect of the decline of mainline denominationalism across the United States. It should be noted at the same time though that the number of members of the Southeast Conference has increased by over 60% in the last decade and denominational support has increased by over 70%. General Synod XXV in 2005, hosted by the Southeast Conference in Atlanta, voted to pass a resolution in support of marriage equality for all. On the heels of this action, eight churches left the East Alabama-West Georgia Association reducing its numbers to three active churches.

These trends signal the growth of the urban and suburban South, the search on the part of many for a church, which values Christian unity, celebrates diversity, and proclaims a Gospel of justice and welcome to all. There is truly a need for an alternative Christian voice among the churches of the South, and the Southeast Conference is addressing that need. In addition to the dramatic growth in the Conference due to well-developed strategies of new church development, hospitality to churches seeking affiliation with the United Church of Christ, and the vitality and growth of existing churches, well over half of the members of our churches have become members of the UCC in the last decade.