Southern Baptist membership declines for 7th year

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NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — An annual report says the nation's largest Protestant denomination saw membership decline for the seventh straight year in 2013.

The report released by the Southern Baptist Convention's Lifeway Christian Resources puts total membership in the Nashville-based SBC at 15.7 million. That's down from 15.9 million in 2012, a decrease of a little less than 1 percent.

Weekly church attendance decreased more than 2 percent last year.

The report also notes a 1.5 percent decrease in the number of baptisms, falling to 310,368. Baptisms are an important measure for the denomination because of its strong commitment to evangelism.

The total number of SBC-affiliated churches increased slightly in 2013 to 46,125.

The report was released on Wednesday, just ahead of the convention's annual meeting June 10-11 in Baltimore.

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