It goes without saying that Scott County’s faithful overwhelmingly adhere to the Baptist denomination. Past Focus On: Religion features have explored the history of the Baptist faith in general, and how that particular denomination spread to and within Appalachia.
But what percentage, exactly, does each of the various denominations and faiths make up within Scott County? And how is that percentage changing over time?
There isn’t much available in the way of official data, of course. But one such set of data that offers some insight into the trends of Christianity in Scott County is the Association of Religion Data Archives, founded by the Department of Sociology at Penn State University in an effort to provide research on religion in America.
Not surprisingly, the ARDA finds that Scott County is overwhelmingly made up of Southern Baptists, with other denominations of evangelical protestants collectively running second, followed by mainline protestant groups.
Interestingly, however, the ARDA’s most recently study — published in 2010; the 2020 report is not yet available — finds the number of Southern Baptists shrinking in Scott County, and the number of unaffiliated residents rising.
The 2010 report finds that a total of 6,419 Scott Countians adhere to some religious body, or 28.9% of the total population. For the ARDA’s research purposes, adherents include all those who regularly attend worship services, including full members, their children, and others.
In 1990, the ARDA documented 11,555 adherents in Scott County, representing 62.9% of the total population.
However, it should be noted that the 2010 report lists just 29 congregations in Scott County. In actuality, there are just over 100 active churches in Scott County. The highest the ARDA’s reports have documented was 51 congregations, in 1990.
That year, the ARDA estimated that there were 5,697 Scott Countians who adhered to Southern Baptist Convention churches, and 4,630 who adhered to United Baptist churches.
For reasons that are unclear, the ARDA stopped including United Baptist churches in its membership data in 2010. Beginning with that year’s church and church membership census, the ARDA lists only Southern Baptist Convention churches in Scott County.
Nevertheless, the ARDA reported 4,401 Southern Baptist adherents in Scott County in 2010, down from 7,677 in 1980.
The ARDA listed 987 non-denominational Christians in Scott County in 2010, making up the second-largest group behind Southern Baptists. The report also listed 238 adherents of the United Methodist Church, which has congregations in Oneida (First United Methodist Church) and Elgin (Rugby Road Methodist Church).
Trailing the Methodists were National Missionary Baptist Convention churches. The ARDA listed two congregations in Scott County, totaling 217 adherents.
The report listed two Church of Christ congregations — which are in Oneida and Elgin, though the ARDA does not list them by name — totaling 183 adherents. It listed one Presbyterian congregation, which is located in Huntsville, totaling 125 adherents. And it listed one Church of God congregation, totaling 103 adherents.
There were 97 Pentecostal adherents in Scott County in 2010, according to the ARDA, 36 Church of God of Prophecy adherents, and 32 Catholic adherents.
The number of Catholics in Scott County have seen an especially sharp decline, if the ARDA’s data is to be believed, dropping from 158 in 1990 to 65 in 2000 and then to 32 in 2010.
Other changes through the years: The ARDA reported two Separate Baptist congregations in Scott County in 1980, totaling 197 adherents. By 2000, that number had shrank to just nine adherents, and was not reported at all in 2010.
The ARDA also reported three congregations of the United Church of Christ, an offshoot of the Presbyterian denomination, in 1980. By 2010, that report had also been eliminated.
Finally, the ARDA reported a congregation of the Church of God Mountain Assembly — the Holiness Pentecostal church founded in 1906 — in Scott County in 1990, but has since eliminated it, as well.
For comparison’s sake, the ARDA found that the adherence rate of Southern Baptists in Scott County in 2010 was nearly 200, meaning that almost 200 out of 1,000 (1 in 5) Scott Countians belonged to — or regularly attended services at — a Southern Baptist church. By comparison, the Southern Baptist adherence rate in Fentress County was 150, and the Southern Baptist rate in Morgan County was over 330.