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BENEVOLENCES UP, MEMBERSHIP STABLE, 2001 YEARBOOK REPORTS

February 16, 2000, NEW YORK CITY – A small but significant upturn in benevolence giving, stable aggregate church membership figures and a continuing "flattening" of growth and decline in specific religious traditions are among "findings" in the 2001 Yearbook of American and Canadian Churches.

The Yearbook, prepared annually by the National Council of Churches, the Rev. Dr. Eileen W. Lindner, Editor, is widely recognized as the most accurate and complete compilation of facts and figures on U.S. and Canadian churches and religious organizations.

Besides data on church membership and finances, and seminary enrollment, it offers a uniquely comprehensive directory of faith-based organizations, including denominations and cooperative organizations, church-related agencies and their leadership, theological seminaries, and religious periodicals and archives. A directory of U.S. regional and local ecumenical bodies includes an index to their work in 25 program areas. Holy days of several faiths are listed in the "Year 2001-2004 Calendar."

According to the 2001 Yearbook, the "top 25" denominations/communions in terms of membership comprise 91.75 percent of the 151,097,906 inclusive members the 2001 Yearbook was able to count, in the 320,697 congregations of 218 religious bodies.

In Canada, the Yearbook counts 18,960,572 members (inclusive) in 26,839 congregations of 89 religious bodies.

Some general findings can be considered, albeit cautiously, from a four-year "glimpse" at century’s end of the membership patterns of selected large churches from across the theological spectrum, according to the 2001 Yearbook.

"The decline of membership of the old ‘mainline’ churches appears to have slowed in the case of the United Methodist Church and Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), while accelerating somewhat for the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America," according to the essay "Trends and Developments 2001. "These churches, often seen as theologically and socially progressive, had been declining at a faster rate a decade earlier.

"Over the same period the rate of growth of churches which are generally considered to be theologically and/or socially conservative seems generally to have slowed as can be seen in the case of the first three years’ data for the Assemblies of God and Southern Baptist Convention and the four-year cycle of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints.

U.S. Membership Denominational Ranking: Largest 25 Denominations/Communions
2001 Yearbook of American and Canadian Churches

    1. Roman Catholic Church – 62,391,484 (41.29 percent of total)
    2. Southern Baptist Convention – 15,851,756 (10.49 percent)
    3. The United Methodist Church – 8,377,662 (5.54 percent)
    4. The Church of God in Christ – 5,499,875 (3.64 percent)
    5. Evangelical Lutheran Church in America – 5,149,668 (3.41 percent)
    6. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints – 5,113,409 (3.38 percent)
    7. Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) – 3,561,184 (2.36 percent)
    8. National Baptist Convention of America, Inc. – 3,500.000 (2.32 percent)
    9. The Lutheran Church - Missouri Synod – 2,582,440 (1.71 percent)
    10. Assemblies of God – 2,574,531 (1.70 percent)
    11. Progressive National Baptist Convention, Inc. – 2,500,000 (1.65 percent)
    12. African Methodist Episcopal Church – 2,500,000 (1.65 percent)
    13. National Missionary Baptist Convention of America – 2,500,000 (1.65 percent)
    14. The Episcopal Church – 2,317,794 (1.53 percent)
    15. Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America – 1,954,500 (1.29 percent)
    16. Pentecostal Assemblies of the World, Inc., Indianapolis – 1,500,000 (0.99 percent)
    17. Churches of Christ, Corsicana, Texas – 1,500,000 (0.99 percent)
    18. American Baptist Churches in the U.S.A. – 1,454,388 (0.96 percent)
    19. United Church of Christ – 1,401,682 (0.93 percent)
    20. African Methodist Episcopal Zion Church – 1,276,662 (0.84 percent)
    21. Baptist Bible Fellowship International – 1,200,000 (0.79 percent)
    22. Christian Churches and Churches of Christ, Joplin, Mo. – 1,071,616 (0.71 percent)
    23. The Orthodox Church in America – 1,000,000 (0.66 percent)
    24. Jehovah’s Witnesses – 990,340 (0.66 percent)
    25. Church of God (Cleveland, Tenn.) – 870,039 (0.58 percent)

*Although current data from the National Baptist Convention, U.S.A., Inc., is unavailable at this time, it is thought to be one of the 25 largest churches.

"The inclusion of the 1999 data indicates a modest return to accelerated growth for the Assemblies of God and the Southern Baptist Convention," the Yearbook continues. "While the Roman Catholic Church continues to grow in membership, over this four-year period it shows an overall downward trend in the rate of growth."

Stable aggregate church membership figures make the U.S. affiliation patterns unique, the Yearbook points out. While religious pluralism continues to grow at the close of the millenium, the Christian membership patterns continue to account for a majority of those living in the United States."

In the area of church finances, the 2001 Yearbook reports increases in total giving, per capita giving and the proportion of congregational giving for benevolences. While the total membership for the churches reporting financial data actually declined slightly in 1999, the contributions per capita increased by approximately $20 per person.

Table 2: U.S. Membership Changes

Denom.

1998 Edition Membership Change

% Change

1999 Edition Membership Change

% Change

2000 Edition Membership Change

% Change

2001 Edition Membership Change

% Change

RCC

927,460

1.54

355,855

0.58

810,522

1.30

373,048

0.60

SBC

28,668

0.18

199,550

1.25

-162,158

-1.03

122,400

0.77

UMC

-43,284

-0.51

*

*

-38,477

-0.45

-33,841

-0.40

ELCA

-9,579

-0.18

4,145

0.08

-6,830

-0.13

-28,557

-0.55

Mormon

88,500

1.88

123,100

2.50

*

*

90,358

1.78

PCUSA

-32,114

-0.88

-26,622

-0.74

-35,794

-0.99

-13,775

-0.39

LC-MS

6,589

0.25

1,892

0.07

-8,632

-0.33

-11,964

-0.46

A of God

79,606

3.33

26,986

1.08

31,238

1.25

48,719

1.90

ABCUSA

-14,133

-0.93

2,066

0.14

2,067

0.14

-53,012

-3.64

Source: Year 2001 Yearbook of American and Canadian Churches

"While this is surely a modest sum in such a booming economy, its consequence is substantial when calculated in total receipts, which grew by more than $750 million (or 2.88 percent) to reach nearly $27 billion," the Yearbook comments.

"Similarly, while benevolences (that is, those funds utilized for the well-being of others) accounted for 15 percent of the total giving in 1998, in 1999 benevolences accounted for 16 percent of the total, an increase of one percentage point or some $150 million. All this financial news is positive and encouraging."

Table 3: U.S. Financial Summaries 1993-1999

 

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 43,191,44 $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
1999 62 44,288,906 49,196,965 $26,997,610,588 $609.58 $548.77

 

 

Congregational Finances

Benevolences

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%
1999 $22,801,548,715 $514.84 $463.47 $4,197,087,981 $94.77 $85.31 16%

Source: Year 2001 Yearbook of American and Canadian Churches

In the United States, 62 number church bodies with 44,288,906 full or confirmed members / 49,196,965 inclusive members reported $26,997,610,588 total contributions.

In "Trends in Seminary Enrollment," data provided by the Association of Theological Schools in the United States and Canada shows a steady growth in enrollment. Data indicate a relatively greater increase in the number of part-time students in relation to full-time students.

When the ATS first began gathering enrollment data by gender in 1972, women represented 10.2 percent of seminary enrollment. With the exception only of 1993, the number and percentage of women students has increased every year, reaching 24,057 (or 34.16 percent) in fall 1999.

African American, Hispanic and Pacific Asian enrollments also are increasing steadily, although Pacific Asian enrollments showed a small "downtick" from 1998 to 1999.

The Year 2001 Yearbook of American and Canadian Churches (416 pages, paperback) is published by Abingdon Press, Nashville, Tenn. It may be ordered by e-mail (yearbook@ncccusa.org); 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 $39.50 including shipping. If ordered by Feb. 22, $29.50 including $4.50 shipping and handling.

-end-

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