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YEAR 2000 Yearbook Of American and Canadian Churches
A Valuable Resource For Congregations, Journalists, Scholars

Yearbook Theme is Religious Pluralism
"Religious Pluralism: America In The Year 2000"

February 18, 2000, NEW YORK CITY – Anyone who has anything to do with religion can find a treasure trove of resources in the Year 2000 Yearbook of American and Canadian Churches. Its 408 pages – and now even its inside covers – are chock full of useful and fascinating facts, figures, maps, graphics and detailed listings.

Prepared by the National Council of Churches, the Yearbook’s directories include U.S. and Canadian denominational and ecumenical bodies, cooperative organizations, seminaries and Bible colleges, religious periodicals and church archives and – for the first time this year – contacts in eight "non-Christian" faith traditions in America.

The Yearbook also is the most up-to-date, comprehensive source of membership and financial statistics from North America’s churches and regularly features essays on the ever-changing American religious landscape. No wonder church leaders, journalists, seminary and public libraries, researchers and scholars use the Yearbook extensively.

Lilly Endowment Inc. Grant Enables Further Enhancements

An indispensable resource on North America’s religious life since it was first published 68 years ago, the Yearbook’s value is surging thanks to a three-year, $635,000 redevelopment grant from Lilly Endowment Inc. Awarded just over a year ago, the grant already has enabled:

The Year 2000 Yearbook of American and Canadian Churches is published by Abingdon Press, Nashville, Tenn. It may be ordered by e-mail (; phone (888-870-3325); fax (212-870-2817); or mail (Yearbook Orders, National Council of Churches, Room 880, 475 Riverside Drive, New York, NY 10115). Cost is $40 including shipping.

Some "Findings" from the Year 2000 Yearbook

The Year 2000 Yearbook addresses two strong, persistent trends in American religious life – extremely high religious affiliation rates and an ever more pluralistic religious composition.

In the Year 2000 Yearbook’s opening essay, the Rev. Dr. Eileen W. Lindner, the Yearbook’s editor, explores the first trend. Dr. Lindner, a church historian and Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) minister, notes researchers’ increasingly more nuanced intepretation of the various growth and decline cycles of specific religious traditions during the last quarter of the twentieth century.

The number of those who name Christianity as their religious preference is declining as a percentage of the population, but affiliation remains high when all religions are taken into account. Research by Gallup, Roper and others continues to report extremely high religious affiliation rates among Americans, Dr. Lindner writes.

"The Christian component of the religious landscape is hardly more static than the experience of other faith traditions," she says. True, "For more than a decade the once reliable hegemony of ‘mainline’ Protestant churches has been recognized as an artifact belonging to an earlier age of American religious life."

But "the early, easy assertion that liberal progressive churches are declining while conservative churches are growing has been increasingly amended to provide a more nuanced interpretation," she writes. "Only a very dynamic view that takes account of multiple factors will provide a sufficient hypothesis by which to examine and understand the co-variant trends in American religious life at the close of the millennium."

Church Membership, Finance, Seminary Enrollment Trends

The Yearbook for three years has focused on some "bellwether" communions to isolate the direction and rate of change in membership. The data "may suggest broader currents in affiliation patterns," according to Dr. Lindner.


Year 2000 Yearbook of American and Canadian Churches

  1. Roman Catholic Church -- 62,018,436 (’98)
  2. Southern Baptist Convention -- 15,729,356 (’98)
  3. United Methodist Church -- 8,400,000 (’98)
  4. National Baptist Convention USA, Inc. -- 8,200,000 (’92)*
  5. Church of God in Christ -- 5,499,875 (’91)
  6. Evangelical Lutheran Church in America -- 5,178,225 (’98)
  7. Latter-Day Saints/Mormons -- 4,923,100 (’97)
  8. Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) -- 3,574,959 (’98)
  9. National Baptist Convention of America Inc. -- 3,500,000 (’87)
  10. Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod -- 2,594,404 (’98)
  11. Assemblies of God -- 2,525,812 (’98)
  12. African Methodist Episcopal Church -- 2,500,000 (’99)
  13. National Missnry Baptist Convention of America -- 2,500,000 (’92)
  14. Progressive National Baptist Convention Inc. -- 2,500,000 (’95)
  15. The Episcopal Church -- 2,364,559 (’96)
  16. Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America -- 1,954,500 (’98)
  17. American Baptist Churches U.S.A. -- 1,507,400 (‘98)
  18. Churches of Christ -- 1,500,000 (’99)
  19. United Church of Christ -- 1,421,088 (’98)
  20. African Methodist Episcopal Zion Church – 1,252,369 (’98)

Source: Year 2000 Yearbook of American and Canadian Churches

* From 1999 Yearbook

"The Roman Catholic Church reported an increase in membership that nearly doubles the rate of growth observable a year ago and returns it to a rate comparable to that reported in 1998. This change, while reflecting greater birth rates and higher retention rates, likely corrects a reporting error of a year ago.

"For the first time the Southern Baptist Convention reports a loss rather than a gain in membership," Dr. Lindner continues. "The percentage of membership loss for the Convention is virtually identical to that of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), raising increasing doubts about the adequacy of a conservative church growth as opposed to a progressive church decline scenario.

Table 2: U.S. Membership Changes


1997 Edition Membership Change

% Change

1998 Edition Membership Change

% Change

1999 Edition Membership Change

% Change

2000 Edition Membership Change

% Change
































































A of God


















Source: Year 2000 Yearbook of American and Canadian Churches

On the other hand, a solid and consistent growth pattern continues to be reported by the Assemblies of God, a Pentecostal denomination often identified as a growing conservative communion."

Diversification of the student body in U.S. and Canadian theological education continues, with women now constituting an all-time high of 34 percent, reports The Association of Theological Schools in the United States and Canada. And the growing diversity is not limited to gender. Nearly a third of all persons enrolled in theological schools today identify themselves as "African American," "Hispanic," "Pacific/Asian" or some other category. A decade ago, 80 percent of all students identified themselves as "White."

"The pastors, priests and Christian educators of the future will comprise a more diverse group than their predecessors if seminary enrollment figures offer a basis for forecast," Dr. Lindner observes.

An upward trend in giving now appears to be emerging among the 62 churches that reported financial statistics to the Year 2000 Yearbook. While counseling caution at these preliminary data, Dr. Lindner notes that both local and benevolence giving continue what is now a four-year upward trend, with congregational figures topping $22 billion and benevolences breaking the $4 billion mark.

"Over the four-year period, benevolent giving (that is, funds spent for the well-being of others – whether around the world or across the street) has been increasing a bit more slowly than has congregational giving," she says. "Moreover, this year benevolences account for a slightly lower percentage of the total contributions than they did last year. This observation bears careful watching over the next several years to see if a trend can be identified."

In any event, faith groups constitute an important feature of the American economy and of American philanthropy. Giving USA, an annual report by the American Association of Fund-Raising Counsel Trust for Philanthropy, reported that in 1998, 44 percent of all gifts – from foundations, corporations and individuals – went to religious groups."

Table 3: U.S. Financial Summaries 1992-1998


Total Contributions

Year # Rept’g Full or Confirmed Members Inclusive Members Total Contributions Per Capita Full or Confirmed Members Per Capita Inclusive Members
1992 44 39,521,497 43,191,444 $16,647,464,955 $421.23 $385.43
1993 52 41,842,642 46,667,687 $19,631,560,798 $469.18 $420.67
1994 47 40,997,058 44,886,207 $15,308,625,032 $373.41 $341.05
1995 55 43,104,555 48,115,704 $21,433,517,908 $497.24 $445.46
1996 55 43,321,039 50,047,599 $24,970,133,464 $576.40 $498.93
1997 58 44,804,383 49,936,836 $25,181,416,276 $562.03 $504.27
1998 62 44,574,101 49,679,497 $26,242,626,313 $588.74 $528.24




Congregational Finances


Year Total Congregational Contributions Per Capita Full or Confirmed Per Capita Inclusive Members Total Benevolences Per Capita Full or Confirmed Members Per Capita Inclusive Members Benevolences as a Percentage of Total Contributions
1992 $13,565,854,125 $343.25 $314.09 $3,081,610,830 $77.97 $71.35 19%
1993 $16,152,245,431 $386.02 $346.11 $3,481,455,047 $83.20 $74.60 18%
1994 $15,308,625,032 $373.41 $341.05 $3,259,090,326 $79.50 $72.61 21%
1995 $17,743,597,668 $411.64 $368.77 $3,689,920,239 $85.60 $76.69 17%
1996 $20,422,403,297 $471.42 $408.06 $3,739,584,874 $86.32 $74.72 15%
1997 $21,212,711,615 $473.45 $424.79 $3,968,704,661 $88.58 $79.47 16%
1998 $22,202,379,038 $498.10 $446.91 $4,040,247,275 $90.64 $81.33 15%

Source: Year 2000 Yearbook of American and Canadian Churches

America’s Growing Religious Pluralism

In her essay, "Religious Pluralism: America in the Year 2000," Dr. Diana L. Eck of Harvard University and Director of the Pluralism Project illustrates the richness and complexity of a phenomenon that is welcomed by some, feared or resisted by others.

A directory of eight "non-Christian" faith traditions – a Yearbook "first" – includes a brief history and description of each along with contacts within each religious community (Baha’ism, Buddhism, Hinduism, Islam, Jainism, Judaism, Native American Traditional Spirituality, Sikhism).

Other interfaith contacts are interspersed throughout listings of "National U.S. and Canadian Cooperative Organizations," "The Emerging Electronic Church," "Sources of Religion-Related Research" and "U.S. and Canadian Regional and Local Ecumenical Bodies."

Maps of Islamic mosques and centers and of Buddhist temples and churches in the United States are drawn from the forthcoming The New Historical Atlas of Religion in America by Edwin Scott Gaustad and Philip L. Barlow, due out in July from Oxford University Press. The Yearbook’s "Year 2000-2003" includes holy days of several faiths.

And the Year 2000 Yearbook’s "Index of Select Programs for U.S. Regional and Local Ecumenical Bodies" includes a list of agencies that programmatically address issues of interfaith relations. Comments Dr. Lindner, "The evidence of the persistence of religious pluralism can be measured in part by the increasing numbers of ecumenical agencies that are engaged in active programs of interfaith dialogue and relationships."


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