Churches continue to feel the effects of a struggling economy as giving declined by $1.2 billion to $29 billion in 2010, the most recent year for which figures are available across 228 U.S church bodies.
The $1.2 billion drop was nearly triple the $431 million decline reported in 2009, and "provides clear evidence of the impact of the deepening crises in the reporting period," said Eileen Lindner, editor of the 2012 Yearbook of American & Canadian Churches. Produced annually by the National Council of Churches, the yearbook is considered one of the most authoritative sources of church membership.
According to the yearbook, there was a $17 decrease to $763 contributed per member, a decline that "took place in the context of ongoing high unemployment and a protracted economic downturn," Lindner said.
Church membership was fairly stable, she wrote, although in the top 25 largest denominations it decreased by 1.15 percent, to 145.7 million.
The ELCA — the seventh largest church — had the sharpest decline (5.9 percent) to 4.3 million members. That loss occurred the year following the ELCA's 2009 vote to ordain gay and lesbian people in committed same-sex relationships.
Both the Roman Catholic Church and the Southern Baptist Convention had a decrease of less than 1 percent.
Only six of the top 25 churches grew in membership, including the National Baptist Convention, USA (up 3.95 percent), Jehovah's Witnesses (up 1.85 percent) and Seventh-day Adventist Church (up 1.61 percent).
Nine of the 25 largest churches didn't offer any updates for membership figures.
© 2013 Augsburg Fortress, Publishers