The number of Americans who identify as Christians has declined in recent years, from 78.4 percent in 2007 to 70.6 percent in 2014. That drop-off is most pronounced among young Americans, but it cuts across gender, race, and educational background. The number of self-proclaimed atheists, agnostics, or “nones” has been steadily rising, increasing from 16 percent to nearly 23 percent in the last seven years. And yet, America has the largest population of Christians in the world, with some 70 percent of adults saying they ascribe to some branch of the Christian faith.
A study from the Pew Research Center connects these patterns to the overall declines among mainline Protestant and Catholic churches, which some feel is a result of the inability of religious institutions to adapt to a population that has become more diverse and slightly more progressive. Women, for example, are still prohibited from being ordained in some religious groups, including Mormons, Roman Catholics, and Southern Baptists. In 2012, only 11 percent of U.S. congregations were woman-led, up from nearly 8 percent in 2007.
For The Atlantic’s series of interviews with American workers, I spoke with Jodi Houge, the pastor of Humble Walk Lutheran Church in Saint Paul, Minnesota, about what it is like being a female clergy member, how American churches are adjusting to the decline in religious participation, and how she’s connected with her community by holding services at a coffee shop. The interview that follows has been lightly edited for length and clarity.