For the first time, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints (LDS) is reported within the five largest churches in the United States, according to the National Council of Churches’ 2002 Yearbook of American and Canadian Churches,off press this week.
NCC News – 13 February 2002 – “This ranking represents a very brisk increase in membership for a church with a relatively brief history,” said the Rev. Dr. Eileen W. Lindner, Yearbook editor and NCC Deputy General Secretary for Research and Planning. The LDS was organized April 6, 1830, at Fayette, N.Y., by Joseph Smith.
“The distinctive theological position of the LDS and the history of its persecution make such rapid growth all the more remarkable; however, the church’s strong emphasis on outreach through both mission personnel and electronic and print advertising makes it unique among contemporary North American churches,” she wrote.
Members believe Smith was divinely directed to restore the gospel to the earth, and hold that both the Bible and the Book of Mormon – a record of the Lord’s dealings with His people on the American continent from 600 B.C. to 421 A.D. – are scripture. The previously fifth-ranked Evangelical Lutheran Church in America now ranks sixth, trading places with the LDS, which the 2001 Yearbook ranked sixth.
Denominational Name Inclusive Membership 2002 Yearbook*
Roman Catholic Church — 63,683,030 (62,391,484)
Southern Baptist Convention — 15,960,308 (15,851,756)
United Methodist Church — 8,340,954 (8,377,662)
Church of God in Christ — 5,499,875 (5,499,875)
Church of Jesus Christ of LDS– 5,208,827 (5,113,409)
Evangelical Luth Church in America –5,125,919 (5,149,668)
*All data reported in 2000 except COGIC (1991)
**All data reported in 1999 except COGIC (1991)
Source: Yearbook of American and Canadian Churches
The 2002 “top five” account for nearly two-thirds (64.87 percent) of inclusive membership reported to the Yearbook by 66 U.S. churches. They illustrate the increasing theological, racial and social diversity of U.S. church life.
The 2002 Yearbook is the 70th published by the National Council of Churches and its predecessor Federal Council of Churches since 1916. It is widely recognized as the most accurate and complete compilation of facts and figures on U.S. and Canadian churches and organizations.
This “chronicler of record” includes the latest data on giving, membership, personnel and congregations for hundreds of church groups. The directory of religious bodies provides concise church descriptions, ecclesiology, history, leadership and contact information. Chapters list information about cooperative organizations, Web-based resources, research institutions, ecumenical bodies, seminaries and Bible colleges, periodicals and collections of church archives.
Among other findings” reported in the 2002 Yearbook:
* Local congregations continue to collect and disburse substantial monies, totaling nearly $30 billion ($29,464,889,024) in 2000, with 65 churches reporting. Benevolence giving (funds utilized for the well-being of others) as a percentage of total contributions rose markedly, from 16 percent in 1999 to 17 percent in 2000. Total dollars contributed per capita inclusive members jumped by $50.37, from $548.77 in 1999 to $599.14 in 2000. The likely explanation: the U.S. economy’s strength during the reporting period.
* In 2000, women constituted 34.91 percent of total enrollment in all member schools of the Association of Theological Schools and 30.87 percent of the head count enrollment in the M.Div. degree program. When ATS first began gathering enrollment data by gender in 1972, women constituted 10.2 percent of the enrollment. Only once in the past 25 years has the number of
women students decreased from one year to the next, that being in 1993, with a 0.65 percent decrease.
* African American, Hispanic and Pacific/Asian American student enrollment all continue their steady increase since 1977, reaching 20.75 percent of total enrollment in 2000 (up from 6.3 percent in 1977).
The 2002 Yearbook of American and Canadian Churches (416 pages, paperback) is published by Abingdon Press, Nashville, Tenn.
Source: National Council of the Churches of Christ in the USA