NEW YORK (AP) - Membership in the nation's two largest Christian church bodies, the Roman Catholic Church and Southern Baptist Convention, declined slightly in 2007, according to the latest edition of the Yearbook of American and Canadian Churches.
The Catholic church remains the largest body of believers in the U.S., with 67 million members, the yearbook said. But from 2006 to 2007 the church shed 398,000 members in the U.S. - a 0.59 percent drop. Southern Baptists reported 16.2 million members for a decline of 0.24 percent, or a loss of nearly 40,000 members.
Although the declines are relatively small, both churches historically have reported growth. The yearbook is published by the National Council of Churches, an ecumenical group based in New York.
Among the 25 largest churches in the U.S., four are growing, the yearbook found: the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, or the Mormon church (up 1.6 percent), the Assemblies of God (up nearly 1 percent), Jehovah's Witnesses (up 2 percent), and the Church of God of Cleveland, Tenn. (up 2 percent).
Mainline Protestant denominations lost members, but were not alone in suffering declines. Those churches in the yearbook experiencing the highest rate of membership loss include predominantly white, mainline denominations the United Church of Christ (down 6 percent), the Presbyterian Church (USA) (down nearly 3 percent) and the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (down more than 1 percent).
A more conservative Lutheran denomination, the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod, reported a decline of nearly 1.5 percent. The African Methodist Episcopal Zion Church suffered a 3 percent drop.
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