Report: S. Bapt. membership down
Richard Yeakley, Religion News Service
February 16, 2011

Report: S. Bapt. membership down

Report: S. Bapt. membership down
Richard Yeakley, Religion News Service
February 16, 2011

While mainline Protestant churches in the U.S. continue to experience

decades-long decline, the memberships of Pentecostal traditions are on the rise,

according to new figures compiled by the National Council of Churches (NCC).

The Roman Catholic Church (No. 1) and the Southern Baptist Convention

(No. 2) are still significantly larger than all other North American

denominations, but Catholics posted minimal growth of less than 1 percent, and

Southern Baptist membership fell for a third straight year, according to the

2011 Yearbook of American & Canadian Churches.

Produced annually by the NCC, the yearbook is considered one

of the most reliable recorders of church membership. The figures in the 2011 yearbook

were compiled by churches in 2009, reported to the NCC in 2010 and released Feb.


Mainline Protestant churches that have seen a fall in

membership since the 1970s continued their decline; the Presbyterian Church

(USA) reported the greatest membership drop (2.6 percent) of the 25 largest denominations.

Other denominations reporting declines include the United

Methodist Church, the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, the Episcopal

Church as well as the more evangelical Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod.

The membership declines in mainline churches led to a 1

percent decrease in total U.S. church membership, to 145.8 million.

Despite the national decline, some smaller denominations’ memberships

are increasing.

“Churches which have been increasing in membership in recent

years continue to grow and likewise, those churches which have been declining in

recent years continue to decline,” writes Eileen Lindner, the editor of the


Pentecostal churches make up four of the 25 largest

churches, and both the Assemblies of God and the Church of God (Cleveland,

Tenn.) increased in membership.

Only six of the 25 largest memberships increased

over the previous year.

Jehovah’s Witnesses experienced the greatest growth

percentage overall, gaining 4.37 percent according to the yearbook. Several historically

black denominations continued a years-long practice of not submitting fresh


The 10 largest Christian bodies reported in the 2011

yearbook are:

  1. The Catholic Church: 68.5 million, up 0.57 percent.
  2. Southern Baptist Convention: 16.1 million, down .42 percent.
  3. The United Methodist Church: 7.8 million, down 1 percent.
  4. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints: 6 million,

    up 1.42 percent.

  5. The Church of God in Christ: 5.5 million, no membership

    updates reported.

  6. National Baptist Convention, USA: 5 million, no membership updates


  7. Evangelical Lutheran Church in America: 4.5 million, down

    1.96 percent.

  8. National Baptist Convention of America: 3.5 million, no membership

    updates reported.

  9. Assemblies of God: 2.9 million, up .52 percent.
  10. Presbyterian Church (USA): 2.7 million, down 2.61 percent.

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