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Yearbook details status of churches

NEW YORK — A widely used annual report on membership in North American religious groups includes statistics for a leading black Protestant denomination for the first time in three years.

The "Yearbook of American & Canadian Churches" had omitted the National Baptist Convention, USA Inc., due to questions about the accuracy of its 1992 claim of 8.2 million members. This year, the convention updated its count and reported 5 million members.

The yearbook lists the Church of God in Christ as the largest black denomination, with 5,499,875 followers, but that figure has not been updated since 1991.

The African Methodist Episcopal Church dropped 7.5 percent from the previous year to 2,311,398, while the African Methodist Episcopal Zion Church grew 11.7 percent, to 1,447,934.

The Roman Catholic Church reported a 2.5 percent increase, to 65,270,444, remaining the largest U.S. denomination.

Also reporting increases since last year were The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (5,310,596), up 2 percent, and Assemblies of God (2,627,029), up 1.9 percent.

The Episcopal Church (2,333,327) gained 1.4 percent even though most other denominations in its "mainline" Protestant category continued long-term declines.

Of the two biggest Protestant groups, the Southern Baptist Convention (16,052,920) is now nearly twice as big as the United Methodist Church (8,298,145).

U.S. denominations in the yearbook had 158,952,292 total adherents.

The reference work is compiled by the National Council of Churches and published by Abingdon Press.