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Southern Baptists say membership tops 16 million

Posted: Friday, April 26, 2002

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) -- The Southern Baptist Convention, the nation's largest Protestant denomination, says it grew even bigger last year, adding 92,612 followers for a total membership of 16,052,920.

Still, the gain was lower than the increase in 2000, when the convention added about 109,000 people. And baptisms last year declined by 18,727, to about 396,000.

The statistics were collected from local Baptist associations and state conventions for the annual church profile.

In several states, moderate Southern Baptists have broken away from their state conventions, taking members and churches with them, to protest the conservative beliefs of the church's national leaders.

It remains unclear how many members have been lost to the breakaway groups, since some churches maintain ties with both the state conventions and the new moderate organizations.

The next two largest Protestant denominations in terms of membership are the United Methodists, with 8,340,954, and the Church of God in Christ with a total of 5,499,875 followers.

Roman Catholicism remains the largest religious body in the United States, with more than 63 million members.

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