Largest churches in the U.S. see a decline in membership.

Mainline Protestant denominations in the United States continue their decades-long membership decline, while the membership in Pentecostal churches are on the rise, according to new figures compiled by the National Council of Churches.


The Roman Catholic Church (No. 1) and the Southern Baptist Convention (No. 2) are still significantly larger than all other North American denominations, but Catholics posted minimal growth of less than 1%, and Southern Baptist membership fell for a third straight year, according to the 2011 Yearbook of American & Canadian Churchespublished this week.

The figures in the 2011 yearbook, compiled by churches in 2009 and reported to the council in 2010, show that mainline Protestant churches continue the decline in memberships that began in the 1970s. The newest numbers show that the membership drop in mainline churches led to a 1% decrease in total U.S. church membership, to 145.8 million.

The Presbyterian Church (USA) led with the greatest membership drop of the 25 largest denominations, down 2.6%.

Other denominations reporting declines include the United Methodist Church, the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, the Episcopal Church as well as the more conservative Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod.

But the flip side of the membership trend is also reflected in the 2010 numbers: Churches on the growth trend in recent years “continue to grow,” writes the Rev. Eileen Lindner, the editor of the 2010 yearbook.

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 2009 numbers.

Jehovah’s Witnesses experienced the greatest growth percentage overall, gaining 4.37% according to the yearbook. Several historically black denominations continued a years-long practice of not submitting fresh figures.

The 10 largest Christian bodies

1. The Catholic Church: 68.5 million, up 0.57%

2. Southern Baptist Convention: 16.1 million, down .42%

3. The United Methodist Church: 7.8 million, down 1%

4. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (Mormon): 6 million, up 1.42%

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%

8. National Baptist Convention of America: 3.5 million, no membership updates reported

9. Assemblies of God: 2.9 million, up .52%

10. Presbyterian Church (USA): 2.7 million, down 2.61%

Via USA Today