NEW YORK — Most of the United States’ 25 largest church bodies either lost members or experienced no growth in the past year, according to a 2008 yearbook produced by the National Council of Churches.
The Episcopal Church, locked in a conflict over interpretations of the Bible and homosexuality, suffered the steepest decline, reporting a more than 4 percent drop to slightly fewer than 2.2 million members. Another mainline Protestant group, the 3 million-member Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), facing similar divisions, suffered a 2.4 percent membership decrease.
The figures are outlined in the 2008 Yearbook of American and Canadian Churches, which tracks membership and other trends from 224 national church bodies.
The yearbook’s editor, the Rev. Eileen Lindner, said many churches reported that people in their 20s and 30s attend and support local congregations but resist becoming members.
Of the churches that reported growth, the Jehovah’s Witnesses said their group had a 2.25 percent increase to 1 million members, while the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints said it grew 1.56 percent to 5.8 million members in the United States.
The Roman Catholic Church, Southern Baptist Convention, Assemblies of God and African Methodist Episcopal Zion Church reported membership gains of less than 1 percent each.
A dozen churches said membership remained steady, while seven reported declines.
The yearbook also reported a 4 percent increase in per capita giving from the 65 churches that reported contribution trends.
Feb. 23, 2008