NEW YORK -- Membership in United States churches continues at a steady pace, with neither gains nor losses overall, according to statistics in the newly published 1987 Yearbook of American Churches.
Constant H. Jacquet, Yearbook editor and a staff associate of the National Council of Churches, which annually publishes the most extensive compilation of church statistics available, said church statistics for 1985, the most recent year available, show that "mainline church losses have slowed, and growth in even the fastest-growing church bodies has tended to slow down a bit."
The new yearbook, based on 1985 reports from 218 U.S. religious bodies, showed collective net membership increased by 0.53 percent to a total of 142,926,363. The total was an increase of 754,225 over 1984.
Significant percentage increases in 1985 were reported by the Presbyterian Church in America (5.75 percent, to 177,917), Jehovah's Witnesses (4.70 percent, to 730,441), Assemblies of God (2.28 percent, to 2,082,878) and Seventh-day Adventists (2.04 percent, to 651,954).
The Southern Baptist Convention, the largest Protestant body, increased 0.95 percent to a total of 14,477,364. Roman Catholic membership went up 0.71 percent, to 52,654,908.
Membership figures supplied by the United Methodist Church for 1984, the latest year available, showed a net loss of 0.48 percent, to 9,266,853. The drop occurred despite the fact that the denomination added its 37,483 clergy into the membership total for the first time in 1984.
Denominations showing losses in U.S. membership for 1985 included the Christian and Missionary Alliance (2.27 percent, to 227,846), Christian Reformed Church (2.12 percent, to 219,988), Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) (1.42 percent, to 3,048,235), and Episcopal Church (1.3 percent, to 2,739,422).
Per capita giving by U.S. church members averaged $321.77 in 1985, an increase from the 1984 average of $300.40. The value of new church construction rose from $2.132 billion in 1984 to $2.409 billion in 1985.