Free Republic
Browse · Search
Religion
Topics · Post Article

Skip to comments.

Mainline church membership decline continues - but more slowly
Worldwide Faith News ^ | 2/14/11 | Philip Jenks

Posted on 02/14/2011 5:54:53 PM PST by SmithL

Trends continue in church membership growth or decline, reports 2011 Yearbook of American & Canadian Churches

New York, February 14, 2011 -- Growing churches continue to grow and declining churches continue to decline, according to the National Council of Churches' 2011 Yearbook of American & Canadian Churches.

"The direction of membership (growth or decline) remains very stable," writ es the Yearbook's editor, the Rev. Dr. Eileen Lindner, in the newest edition released this week. "That is, 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."

However, Lindner points out, "the rates of both growth and decline have generally slowed in comparison to recent years." Copies of the 2011 Yearbook may be ordered for $55 each at www.yearbookofchurches.org.

The 79th annual edition of the Yearbook reports a continuing decline in membership of virtually all mainline denominations. And the Southern Baptist Convention, the nation's second largest denomination and long a reliable generator of church growth, reported a decline in membership for the third year in a row, down .42 percent to 16,160,088 members.

The Catholic Church, the nation's largest at 68.5 million members, reported a membership growth of .57 percent.

Membership figures reported in the 2011 Yearbook were collected by the churches in 2009 and reported to the Yearbook in 2010.

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints grew 1.42 percent to 6,058, 907 members and the Assemblies of God grew .52 percent to 2,914,669 members , according to figures reported in the 2011 Yearbook.

Other churches that continued to post membership gains in 2010 are Jehovah' s Witnesses, up 4.37 percent to 1,162,686 members, and Church of God (Cleve land, Tenn.), up .38 percent to 1,076,254 members.

Four of the nation's 25 largest churches are Pentecostal in belief and practice, Lindner reported. "Strong figures from the Assemblies of God and t he Church of God (Cleveland, Tenn.) suggest an increase in the number of adherents to Pentecostal groups, though it is impossible to state unequivocally from this table since the other two charismatic churches in the ranking have not reported in some years."

The four largest Pentecostal churches are the Church of God in Christ, Assemblies of God, the Pentecostal Assemblies of the World, Inc. and the Church of God (Cleveland, Tenn.)

Mainline churches reporting declines in membership are United Church of Christ, down 2.83 percent to 1,080,199 members; the Presbyterian Church (USA), down 2.61 percent to 2,770,730 members; the Episcopal Church, down 2.48 percent to 2,006,343 members; the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America. down 1.96 percent to 4,542,868 members; the American Baptist Churches USA, down 1.55 percent to 1,310,505; the Lutheran Church (Missouri Synod), down 1.0 8 percent to 2,312,111 members; and the United Methodist Church, down 1.01 percent to 7,774,931 members.

However, ten of the 25 largest churches did not report updated figures: the Church of God in Christ; the National Baptist Convention, USA, Inc.; the National Baptist Convention of America, Inc.; the African Methodist Episcopal Church; the National Missionary Baptist Convention of America; Churches of Christ; Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America; Pentecostal Assemblies of the World, Inc.; the African Methodist Episcopal Zion Church; and Christian Churches and Churches of Christ.

The 2011 Yearbook includes part two of Lindner's 2010 essay on "The New Immigrant Church," this year focusing on policy and mission.

Church financial trends are also reported in the Yearbook. The financial re porting in the 2010 Yearbook is based on the financial income reports of the 64 churches reporting. The almost 45 million members of these churches contributed almost $36 billion, showing a decrease in the total income to the churches of $26 million.

The 2011 Yearbook of American and Canadian Churches reports on 227 national church bodies. Statistics in the yearbook reflect "continued high overall church participation, and account for the religious affiliation of over 163 million Americans," the editor reports.

The Yearbook also includes a directory of 235 U.S. local and regional ecumenical bodies with program and contact information and provides listings of theological seminaries and bible schools, religious periodicals and guides to religious research including church archive listings.

Information in the Yearbook is kept up to date in two regular electronic up dates each year. Access to this Internet data is provided through a unique pass code printed inside the back cover.

Total church membership reported in the 2011 Yearbook is 145,838,339 members, down 1.05 percent over 2010.

The top 25 churches reported in the 2010 Yearbook are in order of size:

1. The Catholic Church, 68,503,456 members, up .57 percent.

2. Southern Baptist Convention,16,160,088 members, down.42 percent.

3. The United Methodist Church, 7,774,931 members, down1.01 percent.

4. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 6,058,907 members, up 1 .42 percent.

5. The Church of God in Christ, 5,499,875 members, no membership updates reported.

6. National Baptist Convention, U.S.A., Inc, 5,000,000 members, no membership updates reported.

7. Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, 4,542,868 members, down1.96 percent.

8. National Baptist Convention of America, Inc., 3,500,000 members, no membership updates reported.

9. Assemblies of God, 2,914,669 members, up .52 percent.

10. Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), 2,770,730 members, down 2.61 percent.

11. African Methodist Episcopal Church, 2,500,000 members, no membership updates reported.

11. National Missionary Baptist Convention of America, 2,500,000 members, no membership updates reported.

13. The Lutheran Church-- Missouri Synod (LCMS), 2,312,111 members, down 1. 08 percent.

14. The Episcopal Church, 2,006,343 members, down 2.48 percent.

15. Churches of Christ, 1,639,495 members, no membership updates reported.

16. Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America, 1,500,000 members, no membership updates reported.

17. Pentecostal Assemblies of the World, Inc., 1,500,000 members, no member ship updates reported.

18. The African Methodist Episcopal Zion Church, 1,400,000 members, members, no membership updates reported.

19. American Baptist Churches in the U.S.A., 1,310,505 members, down 1.5 5 percent.

20. Jehovah's Witnesses, 1,162,686 members, up 4.37 percent.

21. United Church of Christ, 1,080,199 members, down 2.83 percent.

22. Church of God (Cleveland, Tennessee), 1,076,254 members, up .38 percent.

23. Christian Churches and Churches of Christ, 1,071,616 members, no membership updates reported.

24. Seventh-Day Adventist Church. 1,043,606 members, up 4.31 percent.

25. Progressive National Baptist Convention, Inc. 1,010,000 members, down 5 9.60 percent (due in part to a new methodology of counting members).

For more information, or to purchase a copy of the 2011 Yearbook, see www.yearbookofchurches.org. Yearbooks from earlier years may be available at a discounted price at 888-870-3325.

Since its founding in 1950, the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the USA has been the leading force for shared ecumenical witness among Christians in the United States. The NCC's 37 member communions -- from a wide spectrum of Protestant, Anglican, Orthodox, Evangelical, historic African American and Living Peace churches -- include 45 million persons in more than 100,000 local congregations in communities across the nation.


TOPICS: Current Events; Religion & Culture
KEYWORDS: mainlineprotestant; ncc; wcc

1 posted on 02/14/2011 5:54:55 PM PST by SmithL
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | View Replies]

To: lightman; rhema
Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, 4,542,868 members, down 1.96 percent.
Yeah, sure, whatever. I think they're lowballing their losses.
2 posted on 02/14/2011 5:58:25 PM PST by SmithL
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 1 | View Replies]

To: SmithL
the Presbyterian Church (USA), down 2.61 percent to 2,770,730 members

I finally left the pro-choice Presbyterian Church USA over 10 years ago.

They even give abortion coverage to pastors and their families in their medical plan.

I'm now a member of the conservative Wesleyan denomination.

3 posted on 02/14/2011 6:02:13 PM PST by Dr. Scarpetta
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 1 | View Replies]

To: SmithL

agreed.

I am surprised to see the Southern Baptists and LCMS down. The more recent trend has shown conservative (read Gospel preaching) do much better than liberal churches (read social justice types)


4 posted on 02/14/2011 6:03:18 PM PST by Gamecock (The resurrection of Jesus Christ is both historically credible and existentially satisfying. T.K.)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 2 | View Replies]

To: Dr. Scarpetta

“Abortion for any reason, at any time during pregnancy, is a covered service of the Presbyterian USA denomination’s plan. The coverage includes partial birth abortion; it includes abortion by means of chemicals, such as RU-486; it includes abortions for minor dependent daughters with no requirement for parental notification.”

http://www.ppl.org/MedBenPlan_2002.html


5 posted on 02/14/2011 6:09:48 PM PST by Dr. Scarpetta
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 3 | View Replies]

To: SmithL
Whatever else the ELCA is and does, they keep pretty accurate records. Of course, the aggregate numbers are only as good as the sum of the reports of the individual churches. Some of them I wouldn't throw a stick at.

I'm reflecting on the UCC. I grew up in the UCC during the fifties and sixties, in a small village in Ohio of about a thousand people. Probably a good hundred and fifty were UCC church members. Maybe more. Now, The UCC members are nationally, 1 in 300. That means my old church on average would now have three members in it.

What a statement about the viability of political indoctination replacing the Gospel.

6 posted on 02/14/2011 6:15:40 PM PST by hinckley buzzard
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 2 | View Replies]

To: Gamecock
I am surprised to see the Southern Baptists and LCMS down

Percentage wise their losses are modest compared to say the Prebys, Elcans, UCCers, and Piskies.

7 posted on 02/14/2011 6:21:40 PM PST by hinckley buzzard
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 4 | View Replies]

To: Gamecock

My guess — based partly on what I see around where I live, anectodally, is that Southern Baptist youth are going nondenominational.... A lot of the nondenom movement that I see — and again, I’m going only anecdotally, so I could totally be wrong — is rebranded Baptist.


8 posted on 02/14/2011 6:36:28 PM PST by dangus ("The floor of Hell is paved with the skulls of bishops" -- St. John Crysostom ("the Golden-Mouthed"))
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 4 | View Replies]

To: hinckley buzzard

In my neck of the woods five UCC congregations have departed from the denomination: two to the Evangelical Covenant Church, one each to the Reforemd Church in America and Reformed Presbyterian; and one strictly independent. There is at least one other “in the pipeline”.


9 posted on 02/14/2011 6:39:48 PM PST by lightman (Adjutorium nostrum (+) in nomine Domini)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 6 | View Replies]

To: Gamecock; SmithL
I am surprised to see the Southern Baptists and LCMS down.

They have several different Baptist groups in the list and they are not accounting for the Non-denominational churches.

10 posted on 02/14/2011 6:43:13 PM PST by wmfights (If you want change support SenateConservatives.com)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 4 | View Replies]

To: dangus; Gamecock
A lot of the nondenom movement that I see — and again, I’m going only anecdotally, so I could totally be wrong — is rebranded Baptist.

I am a member of a large Non-denom church that is led by a former Baptist pastor. If you looked at the practices of this church you would say it's Baptist.

11 posted on 02/14/2011 6:47:56 PM PST by wmfights (If you want change support SenateConservatives.com)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 8 | View Replies]

To: hinckley buzzard
Of course, the aggregate numbers are only as good as the sum of the reports of the individual churches. Some of them I wouldn't throw a stick at.
Many congregations never take anyone off of their roles unless they get a letter saying someone has left.

Some congregations have figured out that the time to evaluate their roster is before they schedule an important vote. This comes after several congregation passed a first vote to leave the ELCA and then were totally caught off-guard by all the people who showed up to vote "no" at the second vote.

12 posted on 02/14/2011 6:54:54 PM PST by SmithL
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 6 | View Replies]

To: dangus
Southern Baptist youth are going nondenominational.

That's my guess as well.

Isn't there some self-satisfied video about not being "Christian" but rather a "Christ-follower"? Perhaps there's a quirky movement to not identify oneself as Christian, but still believe in the Bible and prayer:

Even among the unaffiliated (~25% of Americans), it turns out many of them are religious.

Thought they rarely attend religious services, more than half (56 percent) of them believe in God and another 22 percent believe in a higher power. Fifty-five percent believe that the Bible is either the literal or inspired Word of God and 49 percent pray daily or weekly.

Some of these respondents are just saying what the pollster wants to hear, but I'd wager a lot are into DIY Christianity - which can be spiritually perilous, but probably better than nothing.

This phenomenon also slightly skews the poll numbers towards secularism and a post-Christian America, giving ammo to the wrong people.

13 posted on 02/14/2011 8:33:44 PM PST by Dumb_Ox
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 8 | View Replies]

To: Gamecock
I am surprised to see the Southern Baptists and LCMS down. The more recent trend has shown conservative (read Gospel preaching) do much better than liberal churches (read social justice types)

SBC internal critics such as Tom Ascol say the published numbers are grossly over what they should be. There's a lot more on the roles than show up on a Sunday. Still, even if they were a quarter their advertised size, they're pretty big.

14 posted on 02/14/2011 8:36:46 PM PST by Lee N. Field ("And if you are Christ's, then you are Abraham's offspring, heirs according to promise" Gal 3:29)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 4 | View Replies]

To: SmithL
Many congregations never take anyone off of their roles unless they get a letter saying someone has left.

The Catholic Church doesn't take you off the roles even after you've left, unless you do something drastic like deny your own baptism or die, making their growth statistics suspect at best.

"Roman Catholics, the largest U.S. church with a reported 69 million members, start counting baptized infants as members and often don’t remove people until they die. Most membership surveys don’t actually count who’s in the pews on Sunday. To be disenrolled, Catholics must write a bishop to ask that their baptisms be revoked..."
....it is possible, for example, to be born Catholic, married Methodist, die Lutheran and still be listed as a member of the 1 billion-member Roman Catholic Church....
"...The Catholic understanding of membership is that a person becomes a member upon baptism and remains a member for life," Gautier said. "Whether you show up at church or not is not what determines whether you're a member."

-- from the thread When It Comes to Church Membership Numbers, the Devil's in the Details
Catholics are leaving the faith at four times the rate that newcomers are joining. "Religious change is not simply a function of retention; it's a function of recruitment. It's both sides of the ledger," explains the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life's Greg Smith. "In no other religious groups we looked at did we see this high a ratio people leaving versus joining."
.... from the thread Does the American Catholic Church Have a Numbers Problem?
See also Roman Catholics total 64 million in U.S. ["counting Catholics is really more art than science"]

15 posted on 02/14/2011 8:38:15 PM PST by Alex Murphy ("Posting news feeds, making eyes bleed, he's hated on seven continents")
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 12 | View Replies]

To: lightman

What I found amazing when delivering Christmas Free Dinner flyers to food banks is that

the Jason Lee Methodist Church (It’s an old landmark here.)
has two other churches in it.

Slavic Baptist
and
Mennonite Hispanic.

Figure that one out, huh?


16 posted on 02/14/2011 8:45:29 PM PST by Salvation ("With God all things are possible." Matthew 19:26)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 9 | View Replies]

To: SmithL

not trying to flame-bait, but why is the LCMS down 1.08%? I was praying and hoping that they would get more adherents escaping from the ELCA.


17 posted on 02/14/2011 8:55:57 PM PST by Cronos ("They object to tradition saying that they themselves are wiser than the apostles" - Ire.III.2.2)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 2 | View Replies]

To: Salvation

Two local churches in my area house immigrant congregations - a Russian Baptist group and a Korean Methodist congregation.


18 posted on 02/14/2011 9:11:15 PM PST by Ciexyz
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 16 | View Replies]

To: Cronos

That’s a legitimate question. Most people leaving the ELCA find close (or closed) communion and the LCMS prohibitions against women clergy to be dealbreakers.


19 posted on 02/14/2011 9:18:44 PM PST by SmithL
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 17 | View Replies]

To: SmithL

thank you, I understand the difference between the LCM S and ELCA (it’s like light (LCMS) and darkness (ELCA)!), but what is the diff between LCM C and CORE and NALC?


20 posted on 02/14/2011 9:30:48 PM PST by Cronos ("They object to tradition saying that they themselves are wiser than the apostles" - Ire.III.2.2)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 19 | View Replies]

To: Cronos

CORE is not a denomination, but it’s more like a support group for Confessional Lutherans. LCMC and NALC both practice open communion and have women pastors. Both welcome all sinners without blessing homosexual actions. Most LCMC and NALC (but not all) congregations realize the issue is about Biblical relevance and not just homosexuality.

LCMC has been around for several years and has a pretty sizable base. It is a collection of individual congregations, accountable to each other, but without much institutional structure.

NALC was created by CORE, last Summer. A lot of congregations seemed to be waiting for NALC to be created before they took their votes to leave the ELCA. It is still smaller than LCMC, but has shown a lot of growth in a very short period of time. Its beliefs are similar to LCMC, but will have Bishops and is much more structured.


21 posted on 02/14/2011 9:45:35 PM PST by SmithL
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 20 | View Replies]

To: SmithL

Thank you! God bless you all!


22 posted on 02/14/2011 10:01:10 PM PST by Cronos ("They object to tradition saying that they themselves are wiser than the apostles" - Ire.III.2.2)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 21 | View Replies]

To: Cronos

You too!


23 posted on 02/14/2011 10:06:42 PM PST by SmithL
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 22 | View Replies]

To: Salvation
It's called 'diversifying your portfolio'.

"But know this, that in the last days perilous times will come: for men will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy, unloving, unforgiving, slanderers, without self-control, brutal, despisers of good, traitors, headstrong, haughty, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, having a form of godliness but denying its power. And from such people turn away, for his name is Obama."

24 posted on 02/14/2011 10:54:09 PM PST by Viking2002 (RELEASE THE KRAKEN!!!!!!)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 16 | View Replies]

To: SmithL

“20. Jehovah’s Witnesses, 1,162,686 members, up 4.37 percent.”

It looks like they posted the largest increase. It should be noted that only active members are counted.

The next largest increase was in the Seventh Day Adventist.

Very interesting.


25 posted on 02/14/2011 10:57:24 PM PST by count-your-change (You don't have be brilliant, not being stupid is enough.)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 1 | View Replies]

To: SmithL; metmom

Hey, how come they only mentioned 23 different “Protestant” denominations? Aren’t there supposed to be like 30 THOUSAND or something??? ;o)


26 posted on 02/15/2011 12:23:13 AM PST by boatbums (God is ready to assume full responsibility for the life wholly yielded to him.)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 1 | View Replies]

To: Alex Murphy
The Catholic Church doesn't take you off the roles even after you've left

The methodology of a survey like this is tricky in every case; it's not a "Catholic thing."

It's not a case of "not taking you off the roles [I think you mean "rolls"] even after you left," it's a case of "how do you know when they've left, and what is 'left,' anyway?".

(They've left if they go to the Assemblies of God fulltime, but have they left if they come to Mass on Christmas and Easter? What if they never come to Mass but still call themselves "Catholic"?)

Some Catholic parishes & dioceses take "parish censuses" regularly, specifically polling people in the pews on Sunday. They would have an accurate idea of how many people are regularly attending members. But others don't do that. A parish could also count contributing members (those who use envelopes or checks), but that wouldn't count the noncontributors who still attend.

One number that is accurate is the number of new members added in a year, because that's just the number of infant baptisms plus the number of adult conversions. So it's safe to say that the percentage increase described in this article is correct or on the low side. What's harder to know is what the baseline number is against which that percentage increase is computed.

27 posted on 02/15/2011 5:50:40 AM PST by Campion
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 15 | View Replies]

To: Campion

It is true that a loss of members who simply left the Catholic Church would not immediately show up in statistics that just measure deaths and new members (both infant baptisms and adult conversion). But it would be reflected in those statistics eventually, because people who leave will not have their children baptized.

Another point is that polls show that the percentage of Americans who identify themselves as “Catholic” has held very steady at about 25% for several decades. That would imply that the number who think of themselves as Catholic is increasing at roughly the same rate as the US population.

As far as people leaving the catholic Church at four times the rate taht they enter, that is somewhat misleading. Most of the exodus from the catholic Church in the US happened in the late 60s and 70s, when the Church was going through rapid changes and turmoil. There were also very few converts to the Catholic Church in that period. Things have stabilized a great deal since then. More people are coming in and fewer going out.

Right now it seems that the Catholic population in the US is growing slowly.


28 posted on 02/15/2011 6:53:44 AM PST by smpb (smb)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 27 | View Replies]

To: Campion

“Rolls” is correct. I got it wrong.


29 posted on 02/15/2011 7:58:01 AM PST by SmithL
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 27 | View Replies]

To: Gamecock
I am surprised to see the Southern Baptists and LCMS down. The more recent trend has shown conservative (read Gospel preaching) do much better than liberal churches (read social justice types)

We have to remember that membership is different than attendance in protestant churches..

I would guess that there may be a decline in people seeking membership but that actually attending services and bible studies etc..

Unlike Catholics that count every baptized baby as a "member" most protestant churches have membership classes and requirements for membership .

30 posted on 02/15/2011 8:23:06 AM PST by RnMomof7
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 4 | View Replies]

Disclaimer: Opinions posted on Free Republic are those of the individual posters and do not necessarily represent the opinion of Free Republic or its management. All materials posted herein are protected by copyright law and the exemption for fair use of copyrighted works.

Free Republic
Browse · Search
Religion
Topics · Post Article

FreeRepublic, LLC, PO BOX 9771, FRESNO, CA 93794
FreeRepublic.com is powered by software copyright 2000-2008 John Robinson