For all the talk of the growing political clout of the religious right, it was the mainline churches that scored the greatest gains in the biennial Denominational Pride (Congressional Division) Sweepstakes last fall.
The 99th Congress, which began work here this week, has six more Episcopalians (total 67) than the 98th; three more United Methodists (76), three more Baptists (49) and one more member of the United Church of Christ (14).
The Presbyterians are holding their own at 56. The Disciples of Christ members are reduced from four to three, and the 23 Lutherans are two fewer than last term.
Roman Catholics, the largest single religious body in the nation, have the largest number of legislators -- an increase of one over last year for a total of 142. The number of Jewish members remained constant, at 38.
The number of faith groups represented in the 99th Congress -- 21 -- is down from the 25 of the previous session, according to Americans United, the Silver Spring-based group that compiles the statistics every two years.
Three members of the 99th Congress professed no religious affiliation, although 22 gave "Protestant" as their only designation.
Some relatively small denominations have congressional contingents out of all proportion to their size within the population. There are nine Unitarian Universalists in Congress, for instance, and 12 members from the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
And while Episcopalians comprise a little over 1 percent of the population, their members account for 22 percent of the Senate, including one who is a priest in good standing, Sen. John C. Danforth (R-Mo.).
Albert J. Menendez, research directer for Americans United for Separation of Church and State, which is responsible for the following compilation, warns that religious affiliation, per se, is an unreliable predicter of how a member may vote on most issues.
But for many of their co-religionists, it remains a source of pride to know how many of their own occupy the seats of power.