Skip to comments.Protestant Churches Disappearing; More Catholics Than Total of All 19 Prot. Denominations Listed
Posted on 03/30/2006 9:45:17 PM PST by dangus
The National Council of Churches' have just reported church membership for the 2006 yearbook. It's quite an interesting picture:
The Catholic Church is the largest and numerically fastest growing church in America, with 67.8 million members, a growth of about 563,000 members.
Many non-denominational churches, not listed in the report, have been growing rapidly in the recent past.
Proportionally, the fastest growing church in America is the Assemblies of God, (10th largest) growing at a 1.81% rate, by adding 50,000 members. That's over twice the growth rate of the Catholic church, but 1/10th of the increase in members of the Catholic Church, because the Assemblies of God is only 4% of the size of the Catholic Church, having 2.78 million members
The Church of Jesus Christ and Latter Day Saints, (4th largest) with nearly twice (6.0 million) members of the Assemblies of God had nearly the same growth rate, 1.74%.
Looking quickly, one might mistakenly think the Orthodox Church in America (24th largest) is growing amazingly quickly. The Council reports 6.4% more members than it reported last year, but this is the first update in many years. Previously, the Orthodox Church in America had reported simply the same rough estimate year after year: 1 million.
Meanwhile, the Council reported the Greek Orthodox Church (17th largest) as having 1.5 million members; the church doesn't report annually, but just a few years ago, it had nearly 2 million members. Of course, that report itself was quite old, so the decline isn't that amazingly fast. Still, unless there is rapid, unforeseen growth in the smaller Orthodox congregations, it means that overall, the Orthodox Church is likely declining, and what few Orthodox are remaining are switching to the more generic Orthodox church.
Many of the Protestant churches in decline are probably no surprise: United Methodist, 3rd largest, down 0.79% to 8.186 million; Evangelical Lutheran, 7th largest, down 1.09% to 4.93 million; Presbyterian Church (USA), 9th largest, down 1.6% to 3.19 million; Lutheran Church Missouri Synod, 14th, down 1.01% to 2.464 million; Episcopal, 15th, down 1.55% to 2.28 million*; American Baptist, down 0.57% to 1.433 million; and, with the fastest collapse of them all, the United Church of Christ, which has made a strong push to present itself as gay-friendly, dropped 2.48% to only 1.266 million.
What may be surprisin are some of the other denominations in decline. Southern Baptists (2nd) are down again, 1.05% to 16.3 million; and Jehovah's Witnesses, (25th) which were growing just last year, dropped a significant 1.07% to 1.03 million.
Five Baptist conventions, mostly black, (ranked 6th, 12th, 13th, 20th, and 22nd) report very old, and very suspect numbers. Totalled, they would be well over 16 million, but they are believed to actually have far, far fewer members, clinging for political purposes to very old, very rough estimates.
Amazingly, not one of the 25 largest denominations in America was a growing Protestant denomination, except for the Assemblies of God which are not always counted as Protestant.
Combined, the 13 reporting churches had a total membership of 118.7 million. The memberships claimed most recently by the 12 churches that did not issue new reports a combined membership of about 30 million, but is probably closer to 20 million. Even with the very possibly significantly exaggerated estimates of these churches included, however, there are now more members in America of the Catholic Church than in all of the 19 Protestant denominations in the top 25 denominations combined!
[*The National Council of Churches reports 2,463,747 members of the Episcopal Church. This is, however, exactly the same number of members reported by the Lutheran Church Missouri Synod, the next largest church, and it creates a data conflict with last years' numbers. The number used last years' numbers as a baseline, and subtracted this years' reported decline. Also, the Episcopal church is not counted among the 17 Protestant denominations, following the practice of the National Council of Churches, the Encyclopedia Britannica, the World Almanac, and many other references.]
I think that is part of the reason Catholicism is looking strong, that's why I mentioned it. People coming back to God generally are looking for clear guidance, not the "I'm OK You're OK" philosophy that too many allegedly religious institutions have adopted.
My mistake, I thought you wanted to talk about another subject. Please forgive me.
"Actually, as a percentage of the population your growing the fastest.
Yeah, but the non-religious don't make up any sort of voting bloc. They're all over the map, politically, so there's no way to manipulate them as a bloc.
I have to keep in mind that this data is from a fairly large poll, not from any actual membership stats. It's a large sample, though, so I suspect that its numbers are fairly close.
What I do? What I do? :^D
I neither posted, endorsed, or criticized that comment!
No forgiveness necessary, reviewing my original comment I can see how it can be misconstrued in good faith.
pun intended =)
The numbers of non-religious are exploding, but you'd have to really hate religion to be a happy conservative about that... We're not talking about people finding a system for maintaining and fulfilling a non-religion-dependent system of ethics. Mostly, we're talking about people who couldn't be bothered to think about right and wrong, and resent the people who do. I'd think for a non-religious conservative to cheer that would be like the religious right being happy about an explosion of goddess-worshiping, gay-friendly, Democrat-fundraising churches.
This can't be right.
I'm not sure. Have you registered with your absence-of-a-church? :^D Just teasing.
Dear John 6.66=Mark of the Beast?,
I don't think that the Charismatic Renewal, as it occurred within the Catholic Church, led to much defection of Catholics from the Church. What I saw during ten years of active participation (going back 30 years, now) was that it revitalized many parishes, and revitalized the personal Christianity (although not always the personal Catholicism) of many individuals.
By the early 1980s, a lot of the excesses of the movement had worked themselves out, and in many cases, Charismatic groups sought ever more orthodox expressions of Catholicism. The Holy Spirit used the Renewal to take many lukewarm Catholics, many Catholics with little knowledge or understanding of their faith, to draw them back to the Church as their Teacher and Guide.
Certainly, some Catholics left the Church via the Renewal, but this often happened for reasons unrelated to the Renewal itself (divorce and remarriage, and mixed marriages being two principal reasons).
As well, there were certainly some Charismatic communities where the wheels just about flew off the wagon. There was one community in the Washington, DC area that turned into quite a mess.
However, because the Catholic Church officially embraced the Renewal (tentatively, at first, and then more enthusiastically under Pope John Paul II), the Church was able to exert a little disciplinary pressure that helped guide the main part of the movement in an orthodox direction. As well, that embrace helped minimize defection from the Church because of participation in the Renewal. The Church did not ever take the position that one could be a good Charismatic, or a good Catholic, but not both. Just the opposite.
>> The fastest growing group I'm told. <<
I'm not so sure of that at all... Other than being infinitely more effective at reaching out to non-religious immigrants, I can't think of why "nondoms" would do particularly well.
I mean, the thought of rejecting a church hierarchy is hardly anything new. But the Baptist churches seem to have really, really, really taken a bad hit. SBC isn't doing so bad, but some of the other Baptist conventions are rapidly disappearing.
More conservative branches of long-standing groups haven't done particularly well (Missouri Synod, Southern Baptist, Southern Methodist). And while "megachurches" continues to be a growing format for worship, it's not so much that existing megachurches are growing, as that new ones are popping up. Is that growth? Or just consolidation? What really may give some insight into the success of non-doms are smaller churches that aren't non-doms, but have rejected their denomination's hierarchy, like the Presbyterian Church of America. (And groups currently experiencing a crisis in the parent church, like the Anglicans' AIC, probably aren't too reliable of a measure either, although I would be thrilled to hear that the total membership of the AIC is throuugh the roof!)
That you for this enlightening history lesson.
"We're not talking about people finding a system for maintaining and fulfilling a non-religion-dependent system of ethics. Mostly, we're talking about people who couldn't be bothered to think about right and wrong, and resent the people who do. I'd think for a non-religious conservative to cheer that would be like the religious right being happy about an explosion of goddess-worshiping, gay-friendly, Democrat-fundraising churches.
You make two mistakes here, I think. First, I'm not particularly cheering the growth of the non-religious population. It doesn't really matter all that much to me, since I'm not part of any non-religious groups.
Second, it's really impossible to characterize the non-religious, since they don't fit any particular model. As you can see here on FR, there are non-religious conservatives. In fact, in my lifetime, I've met non-religious folks of pretty much every political stance.
Non-religious merely means that the persons doesn't profess any particular religious beliefs. Even people who are simple deists might self-identify as non-religious.
It's a mistake to assume that non-religious people do not have a highly-developed ethical and moral foundation. You'd probably not be able to detect any difference in the ethics and morals of non-religious people in general from the population which espouses some religious belief.
>> I don't think membership numbers are an accurate portrayal of actual Catholics. In my experience with people I am not related to, most people are baptized Catholics for cultural or practical reasons, not religious ones. <<
Yes, but while Gallup might consider such people Catholics, the dioceses do not.
>> the self proclaimed Catholic people I've worked with, or live among in my neighborhood, will have their children baptized so they can get into the parish school, or because their parents are Catholic and it is just something one does when one has a baby. <<
The good news, supposedly from the 1980s, was that such Catholics do come back to truly living the faith. But I've seen data that sharply refutes the notion that that is currently happening.
>> I think Jewish people also have a cultural component to their self proclaimed religious affiliation, but you rarely hear that one is a Methodist or Lutheran for cultural reasons. <<
You picked at least one poor group for an example. Lutherans and Anglicans are even more culturally-affiliated than Catholicism.
>> I think Jewish people also have a cultural component to their self proclaimed religious affiliation <<
I've often tried to use the Jews (when the context allowed me to without risking promoting anti-semitism, or the appearance that I may be anti-semitic) as an example of merely cultural religious affiliation, to explain that these so-called Catholics like Pelosi and Kennedy are anything but. (Nothing helps them Saturdays pass like a good ol' pork roast*, huh, Sen. Schumer!)
(* No, that's a purposely ouotrageous example. For Schumer to do that would be like for Kennedy to pee in the communion wine: it would come off as purposely offensive to his constituents whom he is trying to snowjob. Then again, Kennedy does get drunk alot...)
The ones I'm talking about are those you refer to as mega churches. They merely offer a brand of Christianity that is harder to find elsewhere. Some are good, some are not. But clearly, people want something different that still stands for something.
This is particularly true for Souther Baptists. About a quarter of all nondoms are affiliated with the Southern Baptist Convention, yet claim no denomination so are not counted as SB.
Recently there has been a rush to remove Baptist from the names of churches in an effort to attract more people. Especially in areas outside of the South where the words Baptist or Southern Baptist carries negative connotations. About half of these churches not only remove the name but change the affiliation to nondenominational while in essence remaining SB.
Notice that the Churches that are disappearing are the ones which have bowed to secular culture and done everything to be seen as a part of it. Those Churches Catholic and Protestant that do not compromise the Gospel and are willing to stand against secular culture are growing.
According to Barna, 4% of the US pop is nondenominational or independent. Or about 12 million people.
because they are transients, and many are not even practicing Catholics.
I can only speak from personal experience, here in the Midwest (Kansas) the people whom I met in the NonDoms were of various backgrounds that came out of the traditional denominations because of the attitude of the leadership towards being spirit filled. I remember going to a precious church all black called Mount Zion Baptist Church, the first lament out of the pastors mouth was that they were Baptist and they were spirit filled and that they were staying spirit filled no matter what the head office had to say. I knew Catholics, Methodist, Nazarenes, and many more who had left the denominations because of their stance on the in filling of the Holy Spirit. I do not know what the attitude is today with the denominations concerning the infilling so I can not speak for or against that fact.
Most are either former mainline Christians that gave up on them (like myself) because of liberalism. A few may also be Evangelical Catholics that swung over, and immigration also plays a role.
The UCC is not just "gay-friendly", but puts on obnoxious TV ads criticizing other religions for having different beliefs on the morality of homosexual activity.
Thanks... but Barna has some bizarre definitional issues. For instance, no Catholic believes in the bible according to him (/it?). For international figures, especially the third world, there's not much better than Barna, but I stay away from him on domestic stuff... waaaaayyy to strong of an agenda (that being that we're all going to hell in a hadnbasket).
In the town where I live, there are roughly 6,000 people. There are 55 churches.
The churches in Boston (loads of scandals) are so empty that a fly buzzing across the church can be distracting.
The churches in Virginia (biggest scandal was with an adult woman), the churches have over 1000 seats, six masses per weekend, and people piled up out the door.
It all depends where you are.
" Yeah, but the non-religious don't make up any sort of voting bloc. They're all over the map, politically, so there's no way to manipulate them as a bloc. "
No they're not. They are overwhelmingly Democratic, and form the heart and soul of the Democratic party and funding in many regions of America.
I don't know much about the Assemblies of God church but why wouldn't they be considered Protestant???
I don't know either. I know why LDS aren't... but Assemblies of God is a wierd one. Maybe they simply reject the label?
That about 100 per church that is the average of a non dom church.
"It all depends where you are."
In Virginia as well. Most Roman Catholic churches in Virginia are pretty big and filled up these days. However, the eastern Catholic churches are tiny.
I was in a Chicago north side Catholic Church and School that changed to Spanish (along with the neighborhood)in the 1970s.
Both the neighborhood and the Church and School went to heck in about 10 years. Now, the Church closed, the neighborhood is yuppified.
The countries? No.
My point is more that the immigrants aren't much for living according to the moral teachings of the Catholic Church. That's one of the things, as well as the oppressive political structures, that they come here to escape. Unmarried couples shacked up, changing partners when things get difficult, children with different fathers, typical sort of thing you see when sexual license is part of the life they choose. Not all, but many. Just like Americans. Escaping the structure of family and church is among the motivations for some.
I would question these figures. The lack of nondems leaves a gigantic whole in the number series, and I am not sure that the SBC has lost members.
I don't see any entry for Pentecostals either, who are growing rapidly, particularly among Hispanics.
I would suggest that this study is incomplete.
My bad, the Pentecostals were mentioned as a fast growing church.
I'm still not comfortable with this methodology.
Barna is very strict evangelical and even a lot of evangelical Christians would not pass the Barna criteria of "what is a Christian?". I would imagine Catholic and mainline Protestant churches (especially Anglican/Episcopal and Lutheran) would have issues with Barna at the definitional level.
The poroblem wioth this study is that it tests for church membership. Apparently many churhces now do not have formal membership. If you come you are a member, but possibly no formal rolls are kept. IIRC, Joel Osteens church is one of those that doesn't keep a mambership list.
A more accurate methodoligy would be to test average attendance. It would give you a much better feel for the size of the congregations.
No, that's not correct for us Catholics. It is - from my admitted limited understanding - the case with LDS, the Witnesses and other "new" churches.
The Catholic parishes I attended in Minnesota and Wisconsin were dying...as were the schools. In North Carolina (where I lived six years ago) and here in San Antonio, we have booming standing-room-only Mass attendance and rapidly expanding Catholic schools.
"...what few Orthodox are remaining are switching to the more generic Orthodox church..." "Generic" Orthodox Church?? Exactly what Church does this refer to?
""...what few Orthodox are remaining are switching to the more generic Orthodox church..." "Generic" Orthodox Church?? Exactly what Church does this refer to?"
I can't imagine what this is supposed to mean. Orthodoxy is growing fast, not with new imigrants but with converts, mostly from ECUSA and fundamentalist and evangelical Protestants.
"Meanwhile, the Council reported the Greek Orthodox Church (17th largest) as having 1.5 million members; the church doesn't report annually, but just a few years ago, it had nearly 2 million members. Of course, that report itself was quite old, so the decline isn't that amazingly fast. Still, unless there is rapid, unforeseen growth in the smaller Orthodox congregations, it means that overall, the Orthodox Church is likely declining, and what few Orthodox are remaining are switching to the more generic Orthodox church."
Back in the Spyridon era the Archdiocese put out that there were 3,000,000 Orthodox in the GOA. It was bunk designed to make the numbers of insurgents look small and create an aura of great authority in the hands of that very failed Archbishop. There have been about 1,500,000 GOA communicants for some years now, with, as I have said, some good growth the past 6 years or so. The other Orthodox jurisdictions here, especially the Antiochians, are growing too, again with converts from Protestantism.
Dear John 6.66=Mark of the Beast?,
"I knew Catholics, Methodist, Nazarenes, and many more who had left the denominations because of their stance on the in filling of the Holy Spirit."
The Catholic Church officially recognizes and accepts the Charismatic Renewal within the Church. The Church as so recognized and accepted the Renewal for at least 30 years or more.
Although some Catholics with issues may use the Renewal as an excuse to leave the Catholic Church, they do not, in honesty, leave the Catholic Church because of her stance vis-a-vis the Renewal.