Church attendance increased, and Church in America growing

Mississippians were more likely to attend a religious service on a weekly or almost weekly basis than the people of any other state, according to the second annual Gallup poll on religious service attendance.

Overall, religious service attendance in 2009 increased, with 41.6 percent saying that they attended frequently compared to the 40.9 percent in 2008. The states that witnessed the highest percentage gains were Louisiana, with a five percent increase; North Dakota, with a four percent increase; and Alaska, Montana, and Mississippi, each with a three percent increase.

Those states with the biggest percentage decreases were South Dakota, Wyoming, and Rhode Island – all with three-point drops.

The state with the lowest percentage of people who reported attending religious services frequently last year was Vermont, where only 23 percent said they attended “at least once a week” or “almost every week.”

Gallup also considered the effects of ethnic, racial, and cultural differences across the state.

Top 10 States, Church Attendance:
State (% Attend weekly or almost every week)
Mississippi (63%)
Alabama (58%)
South Carolina (56%)
Louisiana (56%)
Utah (56%)
Tennessee (54%)
Arkansas (53%)
North Carolina (53%)
Georgia (51%)
Texas (50%)

Bottom 10 States, Church Attendance
State (% Attend weekly or almost every week)
Vermont (23%)
New Hampshire (26%)
Maine (27%)
Massachusetts (29%)
Nevada (30%)
Hawaii (31%)
Oregon (31%)
Alaska (31%)
Washington (32%)
Rhode Island (32%)
Connecticut (32%)

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The nation’s largest Protestant denomination reported a decline in membership for the second year in a row, according to the National Council of Churches’ 2010 yearbook of churches.

The Catholic Church, meanwhile, rebounded from last year’s reported membership loss with a 1.49 percent growth, joining church bodies including the Assemblies of God and the Church of God in Christ as the few large U.S. denominations with reported growth.

Also reporting growth in NCC’s 78th annual Yearbook of American & Canadian Churches were the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and Jehovah’s Witnesses – though a significant number of the two organizations’ core beliefs are considered by conservative Bible scholars as contradictory to historic orthodox Christianity.

Notably, the NCC reported in its announcement of the 2010 yearbook’s release Friday that eleven of the 25 largest churches did not report updated figures.

Despite the delay and lack in new stats, the yearbook continues to provide a unique look at the nearly 230 national church bodies as well as information on nearly 240 U.S. local and regional ecumenical bodies.

This year, church bodies reporting the highest membership losses were the Presbyterian Church (USA), down 3.28 percent to 2,941,412; American Baptist Churches in the USA, down 2 percent to 1,358,351; and the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, down 1.92 percent to 4,709,956 members.

She also said statistics in the yearbook actually reflect “continued high overall church participation, and account for the religious affiliation of over 163 million Americans.”

Lindner also noted that the largest plurality of immigrants to the United States in the last 50 years have been Christian in their religious affiliation.

“In an era in which we have come to expect the inevitable advance of secularism in the U.S., the influx of robust Christian communities among new immigrants once again amends the topographical map,” she reported.

So while a number of denominations have reported losses, overall, the Church in the America is growing.

Total church membership reported in the 2010 Yearbook was 147,384,631 members, up 0.49 percent over 2009.

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