The Roman Catholic Church, Southern Baptist Convention (SBC), and United Methodist Church remain the nation's largest church bodies, according to the latest edition of the Yearbook of American and Canadian Churches, prepared by the National Council of Churches.For the first time in more than 70 years, Southern Baptists reported a loss in membership in 1998. But the SBC's Annual Church Profile for 1999 shows an increase of 0.78 percent, or 122,400, in membership. The new total of 15,851,756 remains slightly below an all-time high of 15,891,514 in 1997. The 1998 dip may have been caused by data collection issues, says Cliff Tharp, constituent information coordinator for the SBC's LifeWay Christian Resources. With churches involved in multiple affiliations, "we have found greater challenges in seeing that everyone is counted and counted only once," Tharp told Baptist Press. The 1998 membership totals for the Roman Catholic Church and United Methodist Church are 62,018,436 and 8,400,000, respectively. The yearbook says that the remaining top ten U.S. church bodies are, in order: National Baptist Convention, USA; Church of God in Christ; Evangelical Lutheran Church in America; Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints; Presbyterian Church (USA); National Baptist Convention of America; and Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod.1
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