Losing Faith: Why South Carolina is abandoning its churches

South Carolina churches are shedding thousands of members a year, even as the state’s population grows by tens of thousands.

In the place we call the Bible Belt, where generations have hung their hats on their church-going nature and faithful traditions, an increasing trend of shrinking church attendance — and increasing church closings — signals a fundamental culture shift in South Carolina.

At least 97 Protestant churches across South Carolina have closed since 2011, according to data from the Lutheran, Presbyterian, United Methodist and Southern Baptist denominations. An untold number of other closings, certainly, are not captured by these statistics.

Many churches are dying slow deaths, stuck in stagnation if not decline. And if they don’t do something, anything, in their near future, they’ll share the fate of Cedar Creek United Methodist, a 274-year-old Richland County congregation that dissolved last year; Resurrection Lutheran, a church near downtown Columbia that will hold its last service on Sept. 2; and the dozens of churches that sit shuttered and empty around the state.

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