Next Up: Methodists

This just in:

The “2004 Yearbook” reports on 215 U.S. church bodies with a record high total membership exceeding 161 million. Leading any other single U.S. church is the Catholic Church, reporting 66,407,105 adherents, followed by the Southern Baptist Convention (16,247,736) and the United Methodist Church (8,251,042). The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints ranks 5th (5,410,544).

… From 2001-2002, major U.S. churches that grew included the Catholic Church, Southern Baptist Convention, Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, Assemblies of God, American Baptist Churches in the U.S.A., Jehovah’s Witnesses and Church of God (Cleveland, TN).

Recording membership losses were The United Methodist Church, Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), Lutheran Church (Missouri Synod), African Methodist Episcopal Zion Church and United Church of Christ….

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints (Mormons), an American-born church, continues to grow remarkably, remaining the fifth largest church in the nation. Among the 15 largest churches, the LDS also reports the highest rate of growth at 1.88 percent in the last year, virtually the same as its previous growth rate.

9 comments for “Next Up: Methodists

  1. March 18, 2004 at 1:35 am

    As others have noted though the growth rate doesn’t include losses. For the past few years when you include people leaving our growth has been flat. I don’t know if that has changed the last year or not. (I suspect not)

    There was a survey of religious affiliation where they questions what religion people considered themselves belonging to. You can see from that our growth has been flat whereas Assemblies of God actually is one of the faster growing ones. (In other countries as well)

  2. March 18, 2004 at 2:13 am

    Clark, what do you mean by “doesn’t include losses”? Are the losses based on excommunication? Church attendance? Disfellowship? Members drinking Coke? Just curious.

  3. March 18, 2004 at 2:16 am

    One more “just curious”… Does the Church publicly say how many of its members have temple recommends? Or does that statistic stay silent to the public because people like me have no good reason for asking, but rather, just want to know out of curiosity?

  4. March 18, 2004 at 2:45 am

    Losses when someone no longer consider themselves Mormon for whatever reason. The paper I linked to discussed this along with possible solutions.

  5. March 18, 2004 at 3:29 am

    So all the excommunicated-fundamentalist-wanna-be-Mormons-that-still-come-to-Church count?

  6. March 18, 2004 at 10:06 am

    Clark, If that is the standard, then surely every church has grossly inflated numbers.

    The more interesting issue, for me, is whether explosive growth is an essential part of our group self-identity. In seminary this morning, we studied Isaiah 24, where the prophet compares the righteous people at the Second Coming to gleanings after the grape harvest. As far as I know, numerical success is not the right way to measure the success of the Church. So why do we have such an attachment to growth numbers?

  7. Adam Greenwood
    March 18, 2004 at 11:04 am

    I’ve seen some interesting stuff on the crisis of identity Muslims suffered when their expansion halted. I wonder what would happen to us. I prefer not to find out.

  8. March 18, 2004 at 3:20 pm

    I think our growth was always going to come to an end. Exponential growth simply couldn’t continue forever. Ignoring losses, I think it was for about 120 years between 3 – 4% growth which is a *huge* amount. Even if losses dropped that a bit it was still quite a bit of growth.

    As to our identity with growth, I actually think that there are plenty of prophecies which suggest the growth will end. Will this change our identity? Certainly. However I think one common feature of our church is the ability to change our notion of identity fairly regularly. We moved from polygamy and united orders into the “super-Americans.” We adopted WoW as our defining characteristic. I’m sure we’d survive the end of growth.

    The bigger issue to me is whether we *ought* to have flat growth. I think this is more a problem with how we are approaching missionary work. So I think there may be a significant change ahead. There’ve been a few minor ones since the flat growth statistics reached the brethren. New discussions and formats were introduced, for instance. But I’ll predict a change that’ll be as significant as the all 19 year old men on missions and the move away from no purse and script.

  9. Erik
    March 21, 2004 at 10:27 pm

    I would hesitate to conclude that growth will come to an end before THE END. In America, and elsewhere, there is an ever faster slide away from fundamental principles of the gospel. The fact that many major christian churches have to debate homosexuality or what to do with leaders that have sexually abused children is evidence of that. Thus the differences between our church and others will grow and grow and people will percieve our church as one of very few options that are consistent with a literal belief in the Bible. I think this alone will spur growth – not to mention the fact that members will always have lots of kids. Outside of the USA, there are still several countries that have yet to be fully stocked with missionaries. The dynamics of the membership base and leadership base in those countries will evolve and I can’t imagine not seeing sustained, extraordinary growth in countries like the Philippines – especially as the leadership matures.

    In summary, I feel like predictions of flat growth rates are premature in the forseeable future, both here and abroad.

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