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LDS Church, 4 others report growth

Only five of America's 25 largest religious denominations reported growth in the past year and that included the Roman Catholic Church and The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

Eight of the 25 top denominations reported membership decreases in the past year, while the remaining 13 did not record membership updates during the period.

Overall, U.S. church membership rose 0.49 percent from 2009 to 2010.

The data was published in the latest Yearbook of American & Canadian Churches, released this month by the National Council of Churches, based in New York.

Membership in the Catholic Church rose nearly 1.5 percent to more than 68 million, the largest denomination by far in the country. The church rebounded from a slight drop last year.

The LDS Church saw a 1.7 percent increase in its U.S. membership to just under 6 million, while the Assemblies of God, a Pentecostal faith group, recorded a nearly 1.3 percent jump, to 2.9 million members.

The Jehovah's Witnesses reported the largest single increase — 2.0 percent. That faith moved from 23rd to become the 22nd largest denomination this year, with more than 1.1 million members.

The Church of God was the only other denomination to report growth. As the 24th largest U.S. faith, it had a 1.76 percent growth rate during the past year.

"The past five years has seen steady growth among Catholics in the Diocese of Salt Lake City," said Colleen E. Gudreau, director of diocese communications. "From 2005 to 2009, a new parish, Saint Andrew, was formed; seven new churches and two new schools were constructed; and several other expansion programs were completed. This year, two churches are being built and another church renovated to accommodate increasing attendance."

She continued: "Although people may become Catholic for a variety of reasons, they stay because they encounter the risen Christ in a personal, intimate way in the church through the sacraments and in the community of believers to which they belong. Through this encounter, they are transformed into a people of hope, sustained by the love of God."

"The last year has been a very good one for Jehovah's Witnesses," said Richard Wolf, an elder with the Jehovah's Witnesses in Davis County. Many people are distressed and are seeking faith.

He said world-wide, the Jehovah's Witnesses grew even more at 3.2 percent.

The two churches reporting the greatest losses during the past year were the Presbyterian Church U.S.A., down 3.38 percent, and the Episcopal Church, which is down 2.81 percent.

The Southern Baptist Convention, the nation's largest Protestant group, reported a slight drop for the second consecutive year by 0.24 percent to about 16.3 million.

The U.S. membership of the United Methodist Church dropped by nearly 1 percent last year to 7.9 million members, but the denomination remains the third largest in the country.

Several major denominations, including the Church of God in Christ and the National Baptist Convention, USA, Inc., did not report updated figures.

For a complete look at the new data, go to:

Contributing: Associated Press

2009-10 membership for top 10 U.S. churches

The top 10 U.S. churches and their change from 20-2010:

1. The Catholic Church, 68,115,001 members, up 1.49 percent.

2. Southern Baptist Convention, 16,228,438 members, down 0.24percent.

3. The United Methodist Church, 7,853,987 members, down 0.98 percent.

4. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 5,974,041 members, up 1.71 percent.

5. The Church of God in Christ, 5,499,875 members, no membership updates reported.

6. National Baptist Convention, U.S.A., Inc, 5,000,000 members, no membership updates reported.

7. Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, 4,633,887 members, down 1.62 percent.

8. National Baptist Convention of America, Inc., 3,500,000 members, no membership updates reported.

9. Assemblies of God, 2,899,702 members, up 1.27 percent.

10. Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), 2,844,952 members, down 3.28 percent.

Source: The National Council of Churches' 2010 Yearbook of American & Canadian Churches