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Investigating the Sect-Church-Sect Cycle: Cohort-Specific Attendance Differences Across African-American Denominations

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Varying religious commitment across generations plays a key role in explaining transitions from sect to church, and the formation of sectarian movements. Within a sect, elite members of younger generations are seen to spur internal secularization that transforms otherworldly sects into world-affirming churches. In this paper I examine how cohort differences in religious commitment across denominations evidence the sect-church transformation process, and point to sources of sect formation among African-Americans. Using data from the 1972–1998 General Social Surveys, I analyze denomination-specific cohort differences in religious participation among African-Americans. Cohort-specific shifts in religious participation across denominations demonstrate the secularization of African-American mainline Methodist and Baptist groups, the continued vitality of sectarian denominations, and the nascent ascendance of “nondenominational” churches on the fringes of the religious marketplace.
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Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: Department of Sociology, Southern Illinois University, Carbondale, Illinois

Publication date: 2001-06-01

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