Church and synagogue membership in America reached a record high of 114,449,217 in 1960, but barely kept pace with the population increase.
The increase as shown in the 1962 Yearbook of American Churches, published this month, amounted to 2,222,312 members or 1.9 per cent over the 1959 figures. The overall U. S. population increase for that period was 1.8 per cent.
The Yearbook figures are based on reports from 259 religious bodies in 50 states and the District of Columbia. The book is edited by Benson Y. Landis and published by the National Council of Churches.
In 1959 the membership increase was 2.4 per cent, and the 1958 gain was 5 per cent while the population increases for both years was about 1.8 per cent.
Last year, 63.6 per cent of an estimated national population of about 180,000,000 belonged to a church or synagogue.
Of the major religious groups, both Protestant and Roman Catholics reported gains in membership while Jewish and Eastern Orthodox membership fell off.
Total Protestant membership in 227 bodies was 63,668,835 or a gain of 1.8 per cent over the 1959 membership. Roman Catholic membership increased 3.2 per cent for a total of 42,104,900. (The figures do not represent an accurate comparison of relative strength, however, because the Roman Catholic statistics include baptized children while most Protestant bodies do not bestow church membership until persons reach their teens.)
Jewish membership fell off 133,000 for a 1960 total of 5,367,000. Eastern Orthodox churches reported 2,698,663 members, a decrease of 108,949 from 1959.
The Yearbook measures the growth of U.S. Protestantism in a table which shows that Protestants made up 27 per cent of the total population in 1926; 33.8 per cent in 1950; and 35.4 per cent ...1
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