Survey Tracks Religious Growth in U.S.

Evangelical Protestants Comprise 58% of New Congregations

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NEW YORK, MAR. 15, 2001 ( New church development among Catholic and Eastern Orthodox populations in the United States are being outpaced by other faiths, including Islam and Bahai, a new survey says.

The interfaith survey, «Faith Communities in the United States Today,» involved 14,301 congregations in 41 denominations or faith groups. It was conducted by researchers at Hartford Seminary in Connecticut and released at Holy Trinity Cathedral Center in New York, according to the Washington Post.

Newly organized Catholic parishes at midcentury represented about 10% of all new churches, said Carl S. Dudley, who oversaw the research project with David A. Roozen.

That portion has dropped to 5%, while the combined percentage of new Bahai, Muslim, Jewish and Mormon congregations has increased from about 3% to more than 20%, Dudley told the Post.

The survey confirms that the growth of less hierarchical, more charismatic congregations and smaller U.S. faiths such as Islam and the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is «rapidly putting a new face on American religion» and diminishing the dominance of traditional churches, Dudley said.

Evangelical Protestant congregations make up the largest portion, 58%, of new congregations.

It also concluded that religious history is especially important to ethnic groups, with 64% of Latino congregations and half of black congregations responding that their churches are a primary means of preserving cultural heritage, the Post said.

Fewer than one-third of white congregations emphasize religious history in the same way.

The two-year study also found that half of the congregations in the United States were founded before 1945. Half of all congregations have fewer than 100 regularly participating adults, and one-fourth have fewer than 50. One in 10 have more than 1,000 adult participants.

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