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Monday, April 11, 2005

How the largest 25 denominations are faring.

Two weeks ago, the National Council of Churches released its annual tabulation of the largest 25 Christian denominations in the U.S. and their growth rates. (I don't know how I missed it until just now.) The numbers reflect the figures collected or reported in 2003 by the denominations themselves — which is worth remembering — but they represent the latest comparable figures. Highlights:

The Catholic Church remains the largest faith group in the U.S. with 67,259,768 members and a growth rate last year of 1.28 percent. The second largest denomination in the U.S. is still the Southern Baptist Convention with 16,439,603 members and a growth rate of 1.18 percent. The United Methodist Church is third largest with a reported membership of 8,251,175 and a growth rate of .002 percent.

The Church of Jesus of Latter-day Saints, with a reported membership of 5,503,192, rose from the fifth to the fourth largest church in the U.S. The yearbook noted that the church “continues to grow remarkably” at a rate of 1.71 percent last year. 

A reported surge in membership of the Orthodox Church in America (OCA) has placed the communion on the list of the largest American churches. The Syosset, N.Y., based church grew 11.11 percent to 1-million members, according to the yearbook. 

Other churches in the top 25 that continued to grow in 2004 are the Assemblies of God, 2,729,562 members and a growth rate of 1.57 percent; the Episcopal Church, 2,320,221 members and a growth rate of .57 percent; the African Methodist Episcopal Zion Church, 1,432,795 members and a growth rate of .14 percent; and Jehovah’s Witnesses, 1,041,030 members and a growth rate of 1.82 percent. 

Churches that declined in membership in 2004 are the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, 4,984,925 members, down 1.05 percent; the Presbyterian Church (USA), 3,241,309 members, down 4.87 percent; The Lutheran Church (Missouri Synod), 2,488,936 members, down .95 percent); American Baptist Churches in the USA, 1,433,075 members, down 3.45 percent; and the United Church of Christ, 1,296,652 members, down 2.58 percent. 

The Unitarian Universalist Association of Congregations (which is nowhere near being in the top 25 — yet!) is talking about a growth rate of 1.2 percent for 2004, which seems to compare quite favorably to these figures. I haven't yet seen a final report on the latest Unitarian Universalist membership figures — but since the UUA Board of Trustees is meeting this weekend, maybe we'll know soon.)

Copyright © 2005 by Philocrites | Posted 11 April 2005 at 9:59 PM

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Paul Wilczynski:

April 12, 2005 07:20 AM | Permalink for this comment


I was a little confused by this until I looked at the article. You referred to the list as "the largest 25 Christian denominations" and later said we're nowhere near the top 25. Of course we wouldn't be; we're not Christian.

Then I looked at the story, and it referred to the list as "the National Council of Churches’ 2005 “Yearbook of American & Canadian Churches.” . And all was well.


April 12, 2005 07:51 AM | Permalink for this comment

Some Unitarians are Christian.


April 12, 2005 08:21 AM | Permalink for this comment

Oh, bother. A bit of context: For years, UU congregational and "denominational" growth have been charted against our closest cousins in the Protestant world. Why? Because sociologically, our congregations are essentially Protestant churches gathered into a Protestant denomination. (Theologically, of course, only a handful of our congregations are churches.)

I'd be happy to post a comparison of how other religious movements that are organized into local congregations are doing, if someone can point to a source.

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