Report from the Religion News Service
(RNS) While mainline Protestant churches in the U.S. continue to experience decades-long decline, the memberships of Pentecostal traditions are on the rise, according to new figures compiled by the National Council of Churches.
Mainline Protestant churches that have seen a fall in membership since the 1970s continued their decline; the Presbyterian Church (USA) reported the greatest membership drop (2.6 percent) of the 25 largest denominations.
The membership declines in mainline churches led to a 1 percent decrease in total U.S. church membership, to 145.8 million.
Pentecostal churches make up four of the 25 largest churches, and both the Assemblies of God and the Church of God (Cleveland, Tenn.) increased in membership. Only six of the 25 largest memberships increased over the previous year.
Jehovah’s Witnesses experienced the greatest growth percentage overall, gaining 4.37 percent according to the yearbook. Several historically black denominations continued a years-long practice of not submitting fresh figures.
The 10 largest Christian bodies reported in the 2011 yearbook are:
1. The Catholic Church: 68.5 million, up 0.57 percent.
2. Southern Baptist Convention: 16.1 million, down .42 percent.
3. The United Methodist Church: 7.8 million, down 1 percent.
4. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints: 6 million, up 1.42 percent.
5. The Church of God in Christ: 5.5 million, no membership updates reported.
6. National Baptist Convention, USA: 5 million, no membership updates reported.
7. Evangelical Lutheran Church in America: 4.5 million, down 1.96 percent.
8. National Baptist Convention of America, 3.5 million, no membership updates reported.
9. Assemblies of God: 2.9 million, up .52 percent.
10. Presbyterian Church (USA): 2.7 million, down 2.61 percent.