Protestantism, which has dominated religious life in Germany since the Reformation, is expected to decline in membership within the next 50 years to include only a third of the West German population and be outnumbered by Roman Catholicism.

The prediction is contained in a study just completed by the Evangelical Church in West Germany. It foresees Protestant church membership in West Germany declining from the current 25 million to about 13 million by the year 2030.

The expected loss of church members is caused by a declining birthrate and by substantial numbers taking their names off church rolls to avoid paying the government church tax.

Church tax in West Germany amounts to about 9 percent of the income tax. As church ties weaken, more and more people formally opt out of the church to use the money for other purposes, experts say.

The study predicts that the Catholic Church will be less affected by the opting out, since even nominal Catholics are more reluctant to sever ties with the church. This factor, combined with the higher birthrate among Catholics, is expected to make Catholicism the dominant religion.

The study did not include East Germany, nor did it take into account about 5 million foreign workers currently living in West Germany, most of whom are citizens of Turkey and Southern European nations.

Baptist Race Shapes Up

The Rev. Winfred Moore, 66, who is currently first vice president of the Southern Baptist Convention, has formally stated his willingness to be nominated for the presidency of the 14.4 million-member denomination.

Moore made the announcement to his congregation, First Baptist Church of Amarillo, last week. It has been assumed for some time that he would run.

He will be the moderate candidate in a race with the Rev. Adrian Rogers, 53, pastor of Bellevue Baptist Church of Memphis. Rogers is a leader of the conservative faction that has controlled the powerful presidential office for the past five years.

Moore, who promised that if elected, "I will not indulge in name-calling," was nominated last year to challenge then-President Charles F. Stanley. In the face of strong Baptist tradition for a two-term president, Stanley won 55.3 percent to Moore's 44.7 percent.

New Use for Bath House

The Episcopal Church in San Francisco is renovating a former gay bathhouse, recently closed because of the AIDS epidemic, and will operate it as a 24-hour shelter and care facility for the homeless.

Pronouncing the facility "perfect" for a shelter, the Rev. William Nern, director of the diocesan program for the homeless, said he expects to use the scores of cubicles with single beds in them to accommodate 200 homeless.

The facility's hot tub will be planked over and converted into a chapel.

General health, drug abuse and mental health programs for the homeless also will be housed in the facility.

Arrest Tactic Opposed

Roman Catholic Archbishop John L. May has told St. Louis Catholics that he considers mass arrests outside abortion clinics to be "ill-advised and counterproductive."

Writing in his diocesan newspaper, May said, "I do not believe that incurring arrest by violating the just laws of a municipality is the best strategy for influencing the thinking of our fellow-Americans toward our prolife position."

While noting that Catholics are free to follow their own judgment, he added, "Demonstrations involving arrest for infractions of antitrespassing or free access laws and the like, I would consider ill-advised and counterproductive."

The St. Louis archbishop wrote that the goal of Catholics is saving the unborn, but that illegal methods of closing down abortions clinics serve only to strengthen the cause of those who favor legalized abortion.

Shortage of Cantors

With only one student being graduated from the Cantor's Institute this year, the Cantors Assembly resolved to raise $1 million to alleviate the shortage of trained cantors and "combat Jewish illiteracy in congregational worship."

At the assembly's annual gathering this month in Kiamesha Lake, N.Y., Executive Vice President Samuel Rosenbaum said that 60 Conservative synagogues are currently seeking full-time cantors. Part of the fund the group seeks to raise would provide videotapes of high holiday services to help worshipers become familiar with Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur liturgy.

People

The Rev. Dr. William Randolph Sengel, who is retiring as pastor of the Old Presbyterian Meeting House in Alexandria where he has served for 26 years, will be honored by the congregation at the church's 11 a.m. service tomorrow. Last year the congregation honored their pastor, who has held regional and national denominational leadership posts, by establishing a $100,000 endowment to provide two scholarships annually for Third World ministerial students . . . .

Rabbi Kassel Abelson of Minneapolis was elected president of the Rabbinical Assembly, professional organization of the nation's 1,200 Conservative rabbis. He succeeds Rabbi Alexander M. Shapiro of South Orange, N.J. . . . .

Hyman Bookbinder, Washington representative for the American Jewish Committee for nearly 20 years, has been named the AJC's special representative. Bookbinder will be succeeded in the Washington office by M.J. Rosenberg, currently editor of Near East Report, a weekly newsletter covering the Middle East . . . .

The Rt. Rev. Leland William Frederick Stark, retired Episcopal Bishop of Newark, died on May 8 in Montclair, N.J., after a heart attack. The former rector of the Church of the Epiphany in Washington was 78.