With promotional events like "Wine and theology evenings" and "Beer and barbeque" church services, congregants of New Zealand's dying Presbyterian Church are now embracing alcohol as an evangelism tool to attract more members and increase their bottom line according to a new study coming out of that country.
Highlighting new research by religion expert, Dr. Geoff Troughton of Victoria University of Wellington, in a Medical Xpress report on Tuesday, revealed that the Presbyterian Church's anti-alcohol campaign had slacked off radically since the 1990s to shore up their bottom line and attract more people to the dying church.
"Some churches are now experimenting with using alcohol as an evangelization tool. Rather than seeing alcohol consumption as a marker of secular culture in need of change, it has become part of efforts to promote Christianity. 'Wine and theology' evenings and 'beer and barbeque' church services are among the methods being explored," said Troughton in the report.
"Many churches are keen to make Christianity seem less unusual and more hospitable to outsiders. They want to reduce the barriers between the churches and society, so in this area they are increasingly reflecting mainstream social values," he added.
Troughton explained that the serving of alcohol at church events was now "less uncommon" even in those churches seeking to attract new members.
More than half of the churches surveyed in his study allowed conditional alcohol consumption on their grounds.
"That is a significant change," explained Troughton. "It has partly occurred for financial reasons, as it means that facilities can be hired out to a wider range of people, but it also reflects changing attitudes towards alcohol within the Church."
Troughton says the shifting attitudes did not just happen overnight but changed incrementally.
New Zealand's growing wine industry and the expansion of alcohol access via New Zealand's 1989 Sale of Liquor Act also help to influence the new norm.
The Church, he said, still maintained concern over the dangers of drinking but no longer treats alcohol as a core issue when considering policy.
Troughton highlighted that only a minority of the Presbyterian Church's members abstain from alcohol.
A Gallup poll last summer noted that 66 percent of Americans say they consume alcohol with drinkers consuming an average of just over four alcoholic drinks per week. Beer remains America's preferred drink while wine comes in a close second.