When the news broke of the mass shooting at a church in Charleston, South Carolina, on June 17, 2015, many Christian leaders were quick to point out that the perpetrator was a Christian.
And the outpouring of support for the church and its members was overwhelming, with some estimates stating that the church was the third-largest church in the United States and the largest congregation in the world.
But now, the number of churches in America that are in serious trouble seems to be shrinking, as the Pew Research Center reported on Wednesday that more than one-third of the Christian denominations that were surveyed in 2015 have been either on the decline or on the verge of disappearing.
Among those declining denominations is the Christian Association of America, which is a non-profit group that represents about 40 million members.
The group has been a vocal critic of same-sex marriage, the civil rights movement, and gay rights in general.
According to Pew, the association’s membership fell from 1.1 million in 2010 to 1.3 million in 2015.
The organization has been hit by multiple church shootings in the past few years, including one in 2016 when a gunman killed three people at a Bible study in Charleston.
The group’s president, Mike W. Miller, said in a statement to the Associated Press that he was “deeply saddened” by the shooting.
“We are the leaders of one of the oldest, most respected Christian churches in the country, and we have seen this year’s shooting of churchgoers in Charleston as a tragedy,” he added.
“It is with deep sadness that we must share that the Christian community is deeply divided by this tragedy.
The association remains committed to promoting the biblical gospel, but we must do so with compassion, not with hatred.”
While the association is no longer an official church, it does have a large membership.
In 2015, the group had about 1.5 million members, according to its website.
The Southern Baptist Convention has also seen declining membership over the past several years, according the AP.
The Southern Baptist Church, which represents about 5 million members in the U.S., saw its membership decline from 1 million in 2008 to about 1 million by 2015, according AP data.
“The Southern Baptists have always been a strong voice in our nation’s debate on marriage and family,” the statement said.
“But they are increasingly being sidelined by the liberal agenda.”