A decline in the number of mainline Protestant and Evangelical church goers was again the verdict in this year's report by the National Council of Churches (NCC), while non-Orthodox groups such as the Mormon church and the Jehova's Witnesses continue to grow.
This 2011 Yearbook of American & Canadian Churches showed stable yet slowing trends of growth and decline for the 25 largest churches in the two countries. The figures were collected by the churches in 2009 and reported to the Yearbook in 2010.
The Catholic Church remained at the top of the list with 68.5 million members and a growth of 0.57 percent, while the second largest group, the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC), dropped 0.42 percent to 16,160,088 members.
Along with the SBC, nine other churches, nearly all mainline Protestant groups, reported declines this year, including the United Methodist Church, the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), The Episcopal Church, and the American Baptist Churches in the U.S.A. One evangelical church, the Lutheran Church--Missouri Synod, also reported a loss, dropping 1.08 percent drop to 2,312,111 members.
The largest decline in membership among mainline Protestant groups was in the United Church of Christ, who reported a 2.83 percent drop to a total of 1,080,199 members, while the biggest overall drop was in the historically black Progressive National Baptist Convention, Inc., which fell 14 spots to 25th place this year following a 59.60 percent decrease in membership, which the church says is due in part to a new methodology of counting members.
Meanwhile, several groups that some Christians consider cults grew substantially in 2009, including the Jehova's Witnesses, which experienced the largest increase, growing 4.37 percent to 1,162,686 members.
The Seventh-Day Adventist Church, which celebrates the Sabbath on Saturday rather than Sunday, also grew, rising 4.31 percent to 1,043,606 members. The group, which didn't make the list for the last two years, replaced Baptist Bible Fellowship International (BBFI) on this year's ranking. The Evangelical BBFI was ranked at number 21 last year with 1,200,000 members but was omitted from this year's list.
The country's largest non-Orthodox group, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, rose 1.42 percent to 6,058,907 members and maintained its position as the fourth largest religious group in the nation.
Pentecostals also continued to show a strong vitality, with the Assemblies of God and the Church of God (Cleveland, Tennessee) reporting increases, although the two other charismatic groups on the list, Churches of Christ and the Pentecostal Assemblies of the World, Inc., did not report any membership updates.
Overall, total church membership reported in the 2011 Yearbook is 145,838,339 members, down 1.05 percent over 2010. Notably, nearly half of the churches on the list did not file reports.
The top 25 churches reported in the 2010 Yearbook in order of size are:
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 membership 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 1.55 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 59.60 percent (due in part to a new methodology of counting members).