Thursday, March 30, 2006

2006 Yearbook of American & Canadian Churches Records Declines by All Mainline Denominations; ABCUSA Drops Smallest Percentage of the Mainlines

New York, March 30, 2006 -- According to NCC communications officer, Phil Jenks, "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,'" Jenks writes. Lindner is the NCC's Deputy General Secretary for Research and Planning.

Despite mainline losses, Linder's report records continuing growth in a number of non-mainline churches. 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).

Six of the mainline denominations, including the ABCUSA, rank in the top 25 denominations in the U.S. as follows:

#3. The United Methodist Church, 8,186,254 members, reporting a decrease of .79%.
#7. Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, 4,930,429, reporting a decrease of 1.09%.
#9. Presbyterian Church (USA), 3,189,573 members, reporting a decrease of 1.60%.
#15. Episcopal Church, 2,463,747, reporting a decrease of 1.55%.
#20. American Baptist Churches in the USA, 1,432,840, reporting a decrease of .57%.
#21. United Church of Christ, 1,265,786, reporting a decrease of 2.38%.

The ABCUSA decline of .57% was the smallest decrease of the mainline denominations. The UCC registered the steepest drop with 2.38%. Of the mainline church bodies, the ABC has the reputation as having the most conservative theological stance; the UCC with its endorsement of same-sex marriage, represents the most progressive.

Following the nearly 3.5% slide reported in a prior yearbook, such results can hardly cheer the hearts of ABC leadership. While it may be true that we are not dying as rapidly as our fellow mainline sisters, the trend line points to the same terminal end point. Or, as Glenn Layne would put it: " The ABC is the slowest sinking ship among the mainlines."

Source: "NCC News" Thu, Mar 30, 2006.

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