In a few years, Zerephath Christian Church in New Jersey has transformed from the dwindling base of a little-known denomination to a large megachurch. The New York Times reported on this transition, turning to CRCC’s Senior Director of Research Evaluation Richard Flory to understand the peculiarity of Zerephath’s method of reform.
The church was founded in 1901 by a female preacher, Alma Bridwell White. White could be a symbol of feminism in that she was the first female bishop of any denomination in American history, but her legacy is tainted by her embrace of the Klu Klux Klan and her anti-Semitic, anti-Black and anti-Catholic preaching. The church declined in membership in the later half of the twentieth century, until new leaders saw potential for the reformation of the church. Today, despite maintaining its affiliation with the Pillars of Fire denomination, Zerephath resembles a nondenominational church, attracting thousands of Christians from diverse backgrounds.
Flory says in the piece:
“What they look like now is totally common across what you could think of as the megachurch type of model,” said Richard Flory, senior director of research and evaluation at the University of Southern California Center for Religion and Civic Culture. “A destination worship service, lots of programming, small groups, popular music. What’s interesting is that in an effort to grow and become more attractive, they are sort of jettisoning their history in favor of looking like essentially everybody else.”
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