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Tuesday, July 19, 2011 - 8:34am

Georgia Baptists Seek Minorities

Georgia’s Southern Baptists are trying to attract more minorities to their congregations as baptisms in the state decline.

Last year the church had about 30,000 baptisms compared to 32,000 the year before. It’s the lowest number in a decade.

Officials with the Georgia Baptists Convention say one reason for the drop is that the state’s white population has been eclipsed by a new multi-ethnic population.

Now the organization is putting more emphasis on starting new churches geared towards the state’s growing Hispanic, Asian and African American communities.

The convention’s Dr. Steve Parr says a special bilingual outreach staff is helping to diversify the church.

"Especially with first generation immigrants who maybe do not speak English…obviously they are best going to be reached by people that do speak their language."

Dr. David Key is a professor of Baptist Studies at Emory University. He says the church’s survival could depend on reaching those populations as it loses older white members through attrition.

"We’re now getting to the point that as this decade of individuals passes away it’s going to hit them financially and other things to where they’ve got to somehow renew their numbers and this is going to have to be with non-white non-Anglo folks."

A special task force will present recommendations to address the state’s cultural shift at the GBC’s annual meeting in November.

Recently the national Southern Baptist Convention adopted a resolution calling for a path to legal citizenship for undocumented immigrants living in the country.