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Yearbook of Churches reflects
'robust immigrant history in U.S.
examines blogs and the emergent church
New York, March 30, 2006 -- The National Council of Churches' 2006 Yearbook of American and Canadian Churches, one of the nation's oldest and most reliable sources of church membership and growth trends, is reporting this month on a record 219 national church bodies.
The Rev. Dr. Eileen W. Lindner, editor of the 89-year-old annual since 1998, said the number of national church bodies "is reflective of a remarkably robust immigration history and the cultural and constitutional freedom of religion so characteristic of the United States." Lindner is the NCC's Deputy General Secretary for Research and Planning.
In the U.S., all except Native American churches have significant numbers of immigrants. Some churches were born outside the U.S. and established missions for their congregants who traveled to America. The Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America (ranked 16) and the Orthodox Church in America (ranked 24) were largely established by their European patriarchates for Greek and Russian immigrants to the U.S.
Other churches listed in the 2006 Yearbook include several Asian, European and Middle Eastern Orthodox churches or Protestant churches, such as the Korean Presbyterian Church, that serve a largely immigrant membership in the U.S.
The statistics in the 2006 Yearbook, collected by the churches in 2004 and reported in 2005, "reflect the continued overall vitality of church participation, and account for the religious affiliation of over 163 million Americans," Lindner said.
The Yearbook also records the continuing growth of Pentecostal, historic African American and other non-mainline churches in the U.S. Among the largest 25 churches in the U.S., the fastest growing are the Assemblies of God (increasing 1.81 percent to 2,779,095), the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (increasing 1.74 percent to 5,999,177) and the Roman Catholic Church (increasing .83 percent to 67,820,833).
Only three mainline Protestant churches are among the ten largest churches: the United Methodist Church (ranked 3 with a membership of 8,186,254), the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ranked 7 with a membership of 4,930,429), and the Presbyterian Church, USA (ranked 9 with a membership of 3,189,573). All three churches declined in membership since the 2005 Yearbook was released.
The 2006 Yearbook provides an analysis of financial data from 63 churches representing 50 million members and more than $33 billion.
In addition, an introductory essay by Lindner examines the increasing use of blogs by the Emergent Church (EC).
Blogs (online journals), often with links to scores of Web pages, are increasingly popular with EC proponents hoping to spark an energetic dialogue on theology, doctrine, mission or styles of worship. Examples of EC pioneers are Brian McLaren, founder of Cedar Ridge Community Church near Washington, and Spencer Burke, founder of The Ooze (http://theooze.com), "dedicated to the emerging Church culture."
"Blogs are particularly well-suited to communicating a nuanced religious viewpoint and fostering thoughtful conversation," Lindner says, calling for further research of the phenomenon.
U.S. Membership Denominational Ranking: Largest 25 Denominations/Communions
2006 Yearbook of American and Canadian Churches.
1. The Catholic Church, 67,820,833 members, reporting an increase of .83 percent.
2. The Southern Baptist Convention, 16,267,494 members, reporting a decrease of 1.05 percent. (See clarification, below.)
3. The United Methodist Church, 8,186,254 members, reporting a decrease of .79 percent.
4. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 5,999,177 members, reporting an increase of 1.74 percent.
5. The Church of God in Christ, 5,499,875 members, no increase or decrease reported.
6. National Baptist Convention, USA, Inc., 5,000,000 members, no increase or decrease reported.
7. Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, 4,930,429, reporting a decrease of 1.09 percent.
8. National Baptist Convention of America, 3,500,000, no increase or decrease reported.
9. Presbyterian Church (USA), 3,189,573 members, reporting a decrease of 1.60 percent.
10. Assemblies of God, 2,779,095 members, reporting an increase of 1.81 percent.
11. African Methodist Episcopal Church, 2,500,000 members, no increase or decrease reported.
12. National Missionary Baptist Convention of America, 2,500,000 members, no increase or decrease reported.
13. Progressive National Baptist Convention, Inc., 2,500,000 members, no increase or decrease reported.
14. The Lutheran Church – Missouri Synod (LCMS), 2,463,747, reporting a decrease or 1.01 percent.
15. Episcopal Church, 2,284,233, reporting a decrease of 1.55 percent.
16. Churches of Christ, 1,500,000 members, no increase or decrease reported.
17. Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America, 1,500,000 members, no increase or decrease reported.
18. Pentecostal Assemblies of the World, Inc., 1,500,000 members, no increase or decrease reported.
19. The African Methodist Episcopal Zion Church, 1,432,795 members, no increase or decrease reported.
20. American Baptist Churches in the USA, 1,424,840, reporting a decrease of .57 percent.
21. United Church of Christ, 1,265,786, reporting a decrease of 2.38 percent.
22. Baptist Bible Fellowship International, 1,200,000, no increase or decrease reported.
23. Christian Churches and Churches of Christ, 1,071,615 members, no increase or decrease reported.
24. The Orthodox Church in America, 1,064,000 members, reporting an increase of 6.40 percent.
25. Jehovah's Witnesses, 1,029,902 members, reporting a decrease of 1.07 members.
The total members reported in the largest 25 communions is 148,009,649.
The 2006 Yearbook of American and Canadian Churches costs $45 and may be ordered at www.electronicchurch.org
The Yearbook places an asterisk on this reference to add the following clarification:
"In preparation for this 2006 edition, the Southern Baptist Convention reported errors in their membership figures previously submitted for the 2005 and 2004 editions of the Yearbook. As a result, membership growth rates reported in 2004 and 2005 editions of 1.21% and 1.18%, respectively, would be revised downward to 0.53% and 0.42% based on the new figures. With these corrections, the overall membership growth between December 31, 2001 and December 31, 2004 is unchanged at 1.3%, a considerably slower rate of growth than previously reported."
The 2006 Yearbook accurately reports an increase of membership from 2001 to 2004 for the SBC of 1.3 percent. The 1.05 percent decrease is based on the previously reported data that the SBC corrected and the Yearbook reported in its analysis indicated by the asterisk. News reports that separate the data from the analysis have created an erroneous picture of SBC membership trends.
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