Nationwide Census Includes Megachurches for First Time


Counted together, independent evangelical congregations comprise one of the largest religious groups in the nation, after Roman Catholics and their evangelical counterparts in the Southern Baptist Convention.

That’s according to the census of American religious congregations unveiled Tuesday.
This year, for the first time, a nationwide aggregation of religious traditions counted nondenominational evangelical congregations, ranging from storefront sanctuaries to megachurches.
The 2010 U.S. Religion Census revealed that evangelicals affiliated with independent churches make up the third-largest religious group in the nation. In fact, in 48 out of 50 states, “sovereign” evangelicals occupy a top five spot. Meanwhile, Mormons rank as the fastest-growing group in the nation, followed by Muslims.
The 2010 U.S. Religion Census also improved upon past years by mapping Buddhists, Hindus, four branches of the Jewish community and practitioners of the primarily Japanese Shinto tradition.
Pennsylvania ranked as the most diverse state in the union with 184 religious bodies.
Religious leaders and sociologists welcomed the overview of America’s religious landscape as a helpful tool for determining where to evangelize and understanding where certain religious traditions thrive. But some caution that the numbers and rankings could be skewed in some cases because religious groups apply different standards for counting adherents.
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SOURCE: Green Bay Press-Gazette
Manya A. Brachear, Chicago Tribune