— The Southern Baptist Convention lost more than 200,000 members in 2014 and saw the lowest number of baptisms since 1947.

Total membership in the nation’s largest Protestant denomination was just under 15.5 million last year, according to an annual report by Lifeway Christian Resources, the denomination’s publishing arm.

That’s down from 15.7 million in 2013. It also marks the eighth straight year of declining membership.

The number of baptisms has declined in eight of the past 10 years, according to the denomination. In 2014, baptisms declined by more than 5,000 to just over 305,000.

Baptisms are an important measure for the denomination because of its strong commitment to evangelism.

The statistics were released Wednesday just ahead of the group’s annual meeting next week in Columbus, Ohio.

JERUSALEM — Workers widening the main high- way between Jerusalem and Tel Aviv have stumbled upon the remnants of a 1,500-year-old Byzantine church.

The site’s excavation director, Annette Nagar, said this week that the church outside Jerusalem served as way station for travelers en route from the Mediterranean coast. Mosaics, ceramic lamps and a Baptism site were uncovered.

Israel’s antiquities authority says the site will be preserved in consultation with the highway company.

Associated Press