Germany’s two main churches have lost more than 600,000 members combined in the last year alone, as Catholic and Protestant leaders struggle to reverse a nearly two-decade trend.
The Evangelical Church in Germany reported Friday that the number of Protestants had decreased by 390,000 in 2017, to 21.5 million.
The German Bishops’ Conference shared similar figures, losing 270,000 Catholics to bring the total number of members to 23.3 million. However, the churches did report a positive development: The number of baptisms and new applicants remained stable.
The number of those withdrawing their memberships grew slightly for both churches.
About 200,000 Protestants left the church in 2017, compared to 190,000 the year before, and 167,000 Catholics withdrew last year, compared with 162,000 in 2016.
The churches blame the fading numbers on Germany’s changing demographics, in 2017, 350,000 Protestants died. Church expert Andreas Puettmann criticized that explanation as too simple, however, telling dpa that the change has less to do with the churches not offering the right services, but rather on societal changes that they have no control over, including increases in individualization, prosperity, urbanization and leisure activities.