NEW YORK (ABP) — Catholic, Mormon and Assembly of God churches all posted membership gains in 2009, while mainline denominations and the Southern Baptist Convention lost members, according to an annual report by the National Council of Churches. The SBC — the nation’s second-largest faith group — saw its membership decline for the second consecutive year.
The NCC’s 2010 Yearbook of American & Canadian Churches reported membership of the Roman Catholic Church in the United States — the largest of 227 national church bodies included in the report — at 68 million. That represents growth of 1.49 percent, after a slight membership loss in 2009.
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (No. 4) grew 1.71 percent to 5,873,408 members. The Assemblies of God grew 1.27 percent to 2,863,265 members, passing the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) to become America’s ninth-largest religious body.
This year’s edition of the yearbook, the 78th, reports information collected by churches in 2008 and reported to the National Council of Churches in 2009. Some faith groups, such as several historically African-American Baptist denominations, report their membership estimates based on population formulas instead of actual headcounts.
American Baptist Churches posted one of the largest losses, 2 percent, dropping its membership to 1,331,127.
Membership in the SBC, the second-largest denomination behind Catholics, dropped 0.24 percent to 16,228,438 members. That follows a similar loss of 0.24 percent reported in the yearbook last year.
Eileen Lindner, editor of the annual yearbook since 1998, said some observers attributed decline in church membership to increasing secularization of American society but pointed out that some groups — especially of the Pentecostal variety — continue to report gains.
Another factor, she said, is that large percentages of immigrants into the United States in the
last 40 years are Christians. Lindner said statistics in the yearbook reflect “continued high overall church participation, and account for the religious affiliation of over 163 million Americans.”
The 10 largest church groups reported in the 2010 yearbook are:
1. The Catholic Church, 68,115,001 members, up 1.49 percent.
2. Southern Baptist Convention, 16,228,438 members, down 0.24 percent.
3. The United Methodist Church, 7,853,987 members, down 0.98 percent.
4. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 5,974,041 members, up 1.71 percent.
5. The Church of God in Christ, 5,499,875 members, no membership updates reported.
6. National Baptist Convention, U.S.A., Inc, 5 million members, no membership updates reported.
7. Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, 4,633,887 members, down 1.62 percent.
8. National Baptist Convention of America, Inc., 3.5 million members, no membership updates reported.
9. Assemblies of God (ranked 10 last year), 2,899,702 members, up 1.27 percent.
10. Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) (ranked 9 last year), 2,844,952 members, down 3.28 percent.