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Evangelicals Help Pace U.S. Growth in Church Attendance

By David Cho

Evangelical and charismatic churches drew larger numbers of believers during the 1990s, locally as well as nationally, while mainline Protestant denominations struggled to stem an exodus from their pews, according to a new census compiled by a broad association of religious bodies.  complete article >>>>>>>>

For more about the survey and census report see http://www.glenmary.org/grc/RCMS_2000/release.htm

"This study reports that 140 million Americans are associated with one of the 149 religious bodies participating in the study," said Dale E. Jones, chair of the committee that directed this study for its sponsoring organization, the Association of Statisticians of American Religious Bodies (ASARB). "That's half (50.2%) of all Americans." Jones is the director of the Nazarene Research Center (Kansas City, Mo.) which managed and processed the 2000 data.

Key Findings

The three largest religious bodies in the United States, according to RCMS, are Catholics (62 million), Southern Baptists (20 million), and United Methodists (10 million). (Rankings available.)

The West tends to have the smallest percentage of persons claimed overall, and the four metro areas with the lowest percentage of claimed are all along I-5 from Corvallis, Ore. to Redding, Calif. 

United Methodists are actually the most widespread religious group in the study. They are present in 3,003 (96%) of the nation's 3,141 counties or county equivalents. Catholics (95%), Southern Baptists (85%), Assemblies of God (83%), Churches of Christ (77%). (List available.)

There is no significant difference between metro and non-metro areas when it comes to religious adherents. In metro areas, 50% of the population is claimed by RCMS participants and in non-metro areas 51%.

Below is a comparison of church growth of adherents and the ratio of attendance to adherents. Note that the majority of growing churches have a high ratio of attendance, and the majority of churches with negative growth have a low ratio of attendance.

Size change from 1990 to 2000 in the United States. Of those churches/denominations with over 100,000 nationwide adherents, those with growth are (growth in parentheses and ratio of attendance in brackets):

Assemblies of God (18%) [63%]
Baptist General Conference (42%) [84%]
Baptist Missionary Association of America (2%) [31%]
Roman Catholic Church (16%) [no data]
Christian and Missionary Alliance, The (22%) [no data]
Christian Churches and Churches of Christ (19%) [no data]
Christian Reformed Church in North America (10%) [60%]
Church of God - Anderson, Indiana (2%) [100%]
Church of God - Cleveland, Tennesee (40%) [49%]
Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, The (19%) [no data]
Church of the Nazarene (2%) [55%]
Evangelical Free Church of America, The (57%) [99%]
Independent, Charismatic Churches (18%) [64%]
International Church of the Foursquare Gospel (36%) [94%]
International Pentecostal Holiness Church (53%) [61%]
Pentecostal Church of God (12%) [no data]
Presbyterian Church in America (42%) [70%]
Salvation Army, The (225%) [23%]
Seventh-day Adventist Church (2%) [no data]
Southern Baptist Convention (5%) [28%]
Wesleyan Church, The (47%) [44%]

Size change from 1990 to 2000 in the United States: Of those churches/denominations with over 150,000 nationwide adherents, those with negative growth are (growth in parentheses and ratio of attendance in brackets):

American Baptist Churches in the USA (-6%) [37%]
Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) (-2%) [26%]
Church of the Brethren (-8%) [42%]
Churches of Christ (-2%) [76%]
Episcopal Church (-5%) [36%]
Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (-2%) [30%]
Independent, Non-Charismatic Churches (-7%) [76%]
Lutheran Church -- Missouri Synod (-3%) [38%]
Mennonite Church USA (-20%) [68%]
National Association of Free Will Baptists (-13%) [no data]
Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) (-12%) [41%]
Reformed Church in America (-7%) [49%]
Unitarian Universalist Association of Congregations (-4%) [no data]
United Church of Christ (-15%) [33%]
United Methodist Church (-7%) [34%]
Wisconsin Evangelical Lutheran Synod (-3%) [44%]

Source for size change:

Source for attendance data:


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