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Christianity is the largest religion in the United States, with 76% of the population identifying themselves as Christian. This is down from 86% in 1990. About 62% of the population are members of a church.

Protestant denominations accounted for 51.3%, while Roman Catholicism, at 23.9%, was the largest individual denomination. The study categorizes white evangelicals, 26.3% of the population, as the country's largest religious cohort; another study estimates evangelicals of all races at 30–35%.

Christianity was introduced to the Americas as it was first colonized by Europeans beginning in the 16th and 17th centuries. Today most Christian churches are Mainline Protestant, Evangelical, or Roman Catholic. The Black church is often considered separate from these categories.

Major denominational families

The 2004 survey of religion and politics in the United States identified the Evangelical percentage of the population at 26.3%; while Roman Catholics are 22% and Mainline Protestants make up 16%. In the 2007 Statistical Abstract of the United States, the figures for these same groups are 28.6% (Evangelical), 24.5% (Roman Catholics), and 13.9% (Mainline Protestant.) The latter figures are based on a 2001 study of the self-described religious identification of the adult population for 1990 and 2001 from the Graduate School and University Centermarker at the City University of New York.

Type: Total: US%
Evangelical: 61,374,728 40.1%
Mainline Protestant: 18,168,073 11.9%
Orthodox: 5,504,231 3.6%
Roman Catholic: 67,820,833 44.3%

Roman Catholic Church

Catholicism arrived in what is now the United Statesmarker during the earliest days of the European colonization of the Americas. At the time the country was founded, only a small fraction of the population were Catholics; however, as a result of immigration over the country's history, the number of adherents has grown dramatically and it is now the largest profession of faith in the United States today. With over 67 million registered residents professing the faith in 2008, the United States has the fourth largest Catholic population in the world after Brazilmarker, Mexicomarker, and the Philippinesmarker, respectively.

The Church's leadership body in the United States is the U. S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, made up of the hierarchy of bishop and archbishops of the United States and the U.S.marker Virgin Islandsmarker, although each bishop is independent in his own diocese, answerable only to the Pope.

No primate for Catholics exists in the United States. The Archdiocese of Baltimore has Prerogative of Place, which confers to its archbishop a subset of the leadership responsibilities granted to primates in other countries.

Evangelicalism

Evangelicalism is a Protestant Christian movement in most adherents consider its key characteristics to be: a belief in the need for personal conversion (or being "born again"); some expression of the gospel in effort; a high regard for Biblical authority; and an emphasis on the death and resurrection of Jesus. David Bebbington has termed these four distinctive aspects conversionism, activism, biblicism, and crucicentrism, saying, "Together they form a quadrilateral of priorities that is the basis of Evangelicalism."

Note that the term "Evangelical" does not equal Fundamentalist Christianity, although the latter is sometimes regarded simply as the most theologically conservative subset of the former. The major differences largely hinge upon views of how to regard and approach scripture ("Theology of Scripture"), as well as construing its broader worldview implications. While most conservative Evangelicals believe the label has broadened too much beyond its more limiting traditional distinctives, this trend is nonetheless strong enough to create significant ambiguity in the term. As a result, the dichotomy between "evangelical" vs. "mainline" denominations is increasingly complex (particularly with such innovations as the "Emergent Church" movement).

The contemporary North American usage of the term is influenced by the evangelical/fundamentalist controversy of the early 20th century. Evangelicalism may sometimes be perceived as the middle ground between the theological liberalism of the Mainline denominations and the cultural separatism of Fundamentalist Christianity. Evangelicalism has therefore been described as "the third of the leading strands in American Protestantism, straddl[ing] the divide between fundamentalists and liberals." While the North American perception is important to understand the usage of the term, it by no means dominates a wider global view, where the fundamentalist debate was not so influential.

Evangelicals held the view that the modernist and liberal parties in the Protestant churches had surrendered their heritage as Evangelicals by accommodating the views and values of the world. At the same time, they criticized their fellow Fundamentalists for their separatism and their rejection of the Social Gospel as it had been developed by Protestant activists of the previous century. They charged the modernists with having lost their identity as Evangelicals and the Fundamentalists with having lost the Christ-like heart of Evangelicalism. They argued that the Gospel needed to be reasserted to distinguish it from the innovations of the liberals and the fundamentalists.

They sought allies in denominational churches and liturgical traditions, disregarding views of eschatology and other "non-essentials," and joined also with Trinitarian varieties of Pentecostalism. They believed that in doing so, they were simply re-acquainting Protestantism with its own recent tradition. The movement's aim at the outset was to reclaim the Evangelical heritage in their respective churches, not to begin something new; and for this reason, following their separation from Fundamentalists, the same movement has been better known merely as "Evangelicalism." By the end of the 20th century, this was the most influential development in American Protestant Christianity.

The National Association of Evangelicals is a U.S. agency which coordinates cooperative ministry for its member denominations.

Mainline vs. Evangelical

In typical usage, the term mainline is contrasted with evangelical. Theologically conservative critics accuse the mainline churches of "the substitution of leftist social action for Christian evangelizing, and the disappearance of biblical theology," and maintain that "All the Mainline churches have become essentially the same church: their histories, their theologies, and even much of their practice lost to a uniform vision of social progress."

The Association of Religion Data Archives (ARDA) counts 26,344,933 members of mainline churches versus 39,930,869 members of evangelical Protestant churches. There is evidence that there has been a shift in membership from mainline denominations to evangelical churches.

As shown in the table below, some denominations with similar names and historical ties to Evangelical groups are considered Mainline.
Family: Total: US% Examples: Type:
Roman Catholic 67,820,833 44.3% Roman Catholic Catholic
Baptist 38,662,005 25.3% Southern Baptist Convention Evangelical
American Baptist Churches in the U.S.A. Mainline
Pentecostal 13,673,149 8.9% Assemblies of God Evangelical
Lutheran 7,860,683 5.1% Evangelical Lutheran Church in America Mainline
Lutheran Church, Missouri Synod Evangelical
Latter Day Saint 6,300,000 4.1% Latter-day Saints Restorationist
Presbyterian/Reformed 5,844,855 3.8% Presbyterian Church Mainline
Presbyterian Church in America Evangelical
Orthodox, Old Catholic 5,717,622 3.7% Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America Orthodox/Catholic
Methodist 5,473,129 3.6% United Methodist Church Mainline
African Methodist Episcopal Zion Church Evangelical
Anglican 2,323,100 1.5% Episcopal Church Mainline
Adventist 2,203,600 1.4% Seventh-Day Adventist Church Evangelical
Holiness 2,135,602 1.4% Church of the Nazarene Evangelical
Other Groups 1,366,678 0.9% Church of the Brethren Evangelical
Friends General Conference Mainline


Mainline Protestantism

The mainline or mainline Protestant Christian denominations are those Protestant denominations that were brought to the United Statesmarker by its historic immigrant groups; for this reason they are sometimes referred to as heritage churches.The largest are the Episcopal (English), Presbyterian (Scottish), Methodist (English and Welsh), and Lutheran (German and Scandinavian) churches.

While the term mainline may seem to imply a numerical majority, it actually originated from the Pennsylvania Main Line, a wealthy suburban area near Philadelphia known for its elite White Anglo-Saxon Protestant population.

Many mainline denominations teach that the Bible is God's word in function, but tend to be open to new ideas and societal changes. This places them to the ideological left of the evangelical churches. They have been increasingly open to the ordination of women.Mainline churches tend to belong to organizations such as the National Council of Churches and World Council of Churchesmarker.

Mainline denominations

Baptists

Today, with 16.3 million adherents (5.3% of the total population), the Southern Baptist Convention is the largest Protestant denomination.

Baptists have been present in the part of North America that is now the United Statesmarker since the early seventeenth century. Both Roger Williams and Dr. John Clarke, his compatriot in working for religious freedom, are credited with founding the Baptist faith in North America. In 1639, Williams established a Baptist church in Providence, Rhode Islandmarker and Clarke began a Baptist church in Newport, Rhode Islandmarker. According to a Baptist historian who has researched the matter extensively, "There is much debate over the centuries as to whether the Providence or Newport church deserved the place of 'first' Baptist congregation in America. Exact records for both congregations are lacking." Baptist churches exist in each of the United States today. It is estimated that more than 70% of all Baptists worldwide reside in the United States.

Though each Baptist church is autonomous, Baptists have traditionally organized into associations of like-minded churches for mutual edification, consultation, and ministerial support. The constituency of these associations is based on geographical and doctrinal criteria. Many such associations of Baptist churches have developed in the United States since Baptists first came to the continent.

Until the early 1800s these Baptist associations tended to center around a local or regional area where the constituent churches could conveniently meet. However, beginning with the spread of the Philadelphia Baptist Association beyond its original bounds and the rise of the modern missions movement, Baptists began to move towards developing national associations. The first national association was the Triennial Convention, founded in the early 1800s, which met every three years. The Triennial Convention was a loose organization with the purpose of raising funds for various independent benevolent, educational and mission societies. Over the years, other nationwide Baptist associations have originated as divisions from these two major groups. There are a few smaller associations that have never identified with any of the national organizations, as well as many Independent Baptist churches that are not part of any organization, local or national.

Pentecostalism

Pentecostalism is a renewalist religious movement within Christianity, that places special emphasis on a direct personal experience of God through the baptism of the Holy Spirit. The term Pentecostal is derived from Pentecost, a Greek term describing the Jewish Feast of Weeks. For Christians, this event commemorates the descent of the Holy Spirit and Pentecostals tend to see their movement as reflecting the same kind of spiritual power, worship styles and teachings that were found in the early church.

Pentecostalism is an umbrella term that includes a wide range of different theological and organizational perspectives. As a result, there is no single central organization or church that directs the movement. Most Pentecostals consider themselves to be part of broader Christian groups; for example, most Pentecostals identify as Protestants. Many embrace the term Evangelical, while others prefer Restorationist. Pentecostalism is theologically and historically close to the Charismatic Movement, as it significantly influenced that movement; some Pentecostals use the two terms interchangeably.

Within classical Pentecostalism there are three major orientations: Wesleyan-Holiness, Higher Life, and Oneness. Examples of Wesleyan-Holiness denominations include the Church of God in Christ (COGIC) and the International Pentecostal Holiness Church (IPHC). The International Church of the Foursquare Gospel is an example of the Higher Life branch, while the Assemblies of God (AG) was influenced by both groups. Some Oneness Pentecostal (Nontrinitarian) churches include the United Pentecostal Church International (UPCI) and Pentecostal Assemblies of the World (PAW). Many Pentecostal sects are affiliated with the Pentecostal World Conference.

Black church

The term "black church" or "African-American church" refers to Christian churches that minister to predominantly African-American congregations in the United States. While some black churches, such as African Methodist Episcopal Churches, belong to predominantly African-American denomination, many black churches are members of predominantly white denominations, such as the United Church of Christ (which developed from the Congregational Church of New England.)

The first black congregations and churches were formed before 1800 by free blacks - for example, in Philadelphia, Pennsylvaniamarker; Petersburg, Virginiamarker; and Savannah, Georgiamarker. An industrial city which had attracted workers, Petersburg had the largest concentration of free blacks in the South by 1860.

After slavery was abolished, freed blacks continued to establish separate congregations and church facilities, creating communities and worship in culturally distinct ways. They had already created a unique and empowering form of Christianity that creolized African spiritual traditions. In addition, segregationist attitudes in both the North and the South discouraged and, especially in the South, prevented African-Americans from worshiping in the same churches as whites.

The tradition of African-Americans worshipping together continued to develop during the late 19th century and continues to this day despite the decline of segregationist attitudes and the general acceptability of integrated worship. African American churches have long been the centers of communities, serving as school sites in the early years after the Civil War, taking up social welfare functions, such as providing for the indigent, and going on to establish schools, orphanages and prison ministries. As a result, black churches have fostered built strong community organizations and provided spiritual and political leadership, especially during the civil rights movement.

Lutheranism

With 4.7 million members, the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) is the largest American Lutheran denomination, followed by the Lutheran Church, Missouri Synod (LCMS) with 2.4 million members, and the Wisconsin Evangelical Lutheran Synod (WELS) with 410,000 members. The differences between the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) and The Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod (LCMS) largely arise from historical and cultural factors, although some are theological in character. The ELCA tends to be more involved in ecumenical endeavors than the LCMS.

When Lutherans came to North America, they started church bodies that reflected, to some degree, the churches left behind. Many maintained until the early 20th century their immigrant languages. They sought pastors from the "old country" until patterns for the education of clergy could be developed here. Eventually, seminaries and church colleges were established in many places to serve the Lutheran churches in North America and, initially, especially to prepare pastors to serve congregations.

The LCMS sprang from German immigrants fleeing the forced Prussian Union, who settled in the St. Louis area and has a continuous history since it was established in 1847. The LCMS is the second largest Lutheran church body in North America (2.7 million). It identifies itself as a church with an emphasis on biblical doctrine and faithful adherence to the historic Lutheran confessions. Insistence by some LCMS leaders on a strict reading of all passages of Scripture led to a rupture in the mid-1970s, which in turn resulted in the formation of the Association of Evangelical Lutheran Churches, now part of the ELCA.

Although its strongly conservative views on theology and ethics might seem to make the LCMS politically compatible with other Evangelicals in the U.S., the LCMS largely eschews political activity, partly out of its strict understanding of the Lutheran distinction between the Two Kingdoms.

The earliest predecessor synod of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America was constituted on August 25, 1748, in Philadelphia. It was known as the Ministerium of Pennsylvania and Adjacent States. The ELCA is the product of a series of mergers and represents the largest (5 million member) Lutheran church body in North America. The ELCA was created in 1988 by the uniting of the 2.85 million member Lutheran Church in America, 2.25 million member American Lutheran Church, and the 100,000 member Association of Evangelical Lutheran Churches. The ALC and LCA had come into being in the early 1960s, as a result of mergers of eight smaller ethnically-based Lutheran bodies.

The ELCA, through predecessor church bodies, is a founding member of the Lutheran World Federation, World Council of Churchesmarker and the National Council of Churches USA. The LCMS, maintaining its position as a confessional church body emphasizing the importance of full agreement in the teachings of the Bible, does not belong to any of these. However, it is a member of the International Lutheran Council, made up of over 30 Lutheran Churches worldwide that support the confessional doctrines of the Bible and the Book of Concord.

Presbyterianism



Restorationist

Restorationism, sometimes called Christian primitivism, refers to the belief held by various religious movements that pristine or original Christianity should be restored, while usually claiming to be the source of that restoration. Such groups teach that this is necessary because Catholic, Eastern Orthodox and Protestant Christians introduced defects into Christian faith and practice, or have lost a vital element of genuine Christianity. Many of them are Nontrinitarian, that is they reject the Trinity. For some of these groups, especially among other Christians, there is no consensus on whether they should be considered Christian or not.

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS) or Mormons is Restorationist and the fourth largest church in the USA. The LDS Church teaches that it is a restoration of the only true and authorized Christian church. Significant differences relate to the church's acceptance of additional doctrine, practices, and scripture (such as the Book of Mormon) beyond what is found in the Old and New Testaments of the Bible. The LDS Church rejects the Nicene Creed and the predominant Christian view of the God as a Trinity of three separate persons with one substance. LDS theology recognizes a Godhead composed of three separate persons who share unity of purpose, but they are viewed as three distinct beings making one Godhead.

Another major Restorationist religion is that of the Jehovah's Witnesses. It is estimated that in the US, 1.9 million adults identify themselves as Jehovah's Witnesses. The Jehovah's Witnesses also reject the Nicene Creed and predominant Christian views on the divinity of Jesus and God as a Trinity.

Restorationism can be contrasted and compared with the Restoration Movement, that also originated and grew rapidly in the 19th century in the wake of the Second Great Awakening, but that is made up now of Evangelical and Mainline demominations.

History

The National Cathedral in Washington, D.C.


Christianity was introduced during the period of European colonization. The Spanish, French, and British brought Roman Catholicism to the colonies of New Spain, New France and Marylandmarker respectively, while Northern European peoples introduced Protestantism. Among Protestants, adherents to Anglicanism, the Baptist Church, Congregationalism, Presbyterianism, Lutheranism, Quakerism, Mennonite and Moravian Church were the first to settle to the US spreading their faith in the new country.

Early Colonial period

French Huguenots settled Fort Carolinemarker in what is now Jacksonville, Floridamarker on June 22, 1564 as a refuge from the religious persecution they faced in Europe. This colony was later destroyed the next year by Pedro Menéndez de Avilés and the settlers of the Spanish colony of St. Augustinemarker to the south (see below).

The Dutchmarker founded their colony of New Netherland in 1514; they established the Dutch Reformed Church as the colony's official religion.

Spanish colonies

The earliest Christians in the United States were Spanish Roman Catholic settlers in Puerto Rico. Christopher Columbus and his men were the first Europeans to come to Puerto Rico when they landed there in 1493 during Columbus' second voyage; Juan Ponce de León founded the first European settlement on the island in Caparra in 1508.

The first Christian worship service held in what is now the continental United States was a Roman Catholic mass celebrated in the colony founded by Tristán de Luna y Arellano at what is now Pensacolamarker, Floridamarker. Roman Catholic services were also held in longer-lasting colony of St. Augustinemarker, also in Florida, from its founding. Later, the Spanish spread Roman Catholicism through Spanish Florida by way of its mission system; these missions extended into Georgia and the Carolinas. Eventually, Spain established missions in what are now Texas, New Mexico, Arizona, and California.

In the English colonies, Roman Catholicism was introduced with the settling of Marylandmarker.

Conversion of Native Americans into Roman Catholicism was sometimes met with hostilities by tribesmen of the converts. For example, in 1700 Hopi Indians destroyed Awatovimarker pueblo inhabited by converts, killed all the men and scattered the women and children among the other villages.

British colonies

Many of the British North American colonies that eventually formed the United States of America were settled in the 17th century by men and women, who, in the face of European religious persecution, refused to compromise passionately-held religious convictions and fled Europe.

New England
A group which later became known as the Pilgrims settled the Plymouth Colony in Plymouthmarker, Massachusettsmarker in 1620, seeking refuge from persecution in Europe.

The Puritans, a much larger group than the Pilgrims, established the Massachusetts Bay Colony in 1629 with 400 settlers. Puritans were English Protestants who wished to reform and purify the Church of England in the New World of what they considered to be unacceptable residues of Roman Catholicism. Within two years, an additional 2,000 settlers arrived. Beginning in 1630, as many as 20,000 Puritans emigrated to America from England to gain the liberty to worship as they chose. Most settled in New England, but some went as far as the West Indiesmarker. Theologically, the Puritans were "non-separating Congregationalist." The Puritans created a deeply religious, socially tight-knit and politically innovative culture that is still present in the modern United States. They hoped this new land would serve as a "redeemer nation."

Virginia
Virginia was settled by businessmen operating through a joint-stock company, the Virginia Company of London, who wanted to get rich. They also wanted the Church to flourish in their colony and kept it well supplied with ministers. Some early governors sent by the Virginia Company acted in the spirit of crusaders. During governor Thomas Dale's tenure, religion was spread at the point of the sword. Everyone was required to attend church and be catechized by a minister. Those who refused could be executed or sent to the galleys.

When a popular assembly, the House of Burgesses, was established in 1619, it enacted religious laws that "were a match for anything to be found in the Puritan societies." Unlike the colonies to the north, where the Church of England was regarded with suspicion throughout the colonial period, Virginia was a bastion of Anglicanism.

The church in Virginia faced problems unlike those confronted in other colonies—such as enormous parishes, some sixty miles long, and the inability to ordain ministers locally—but it continued to command the loyalty and affection of the colonists.

Tolerance in Rhode Island and Pennsylvania
Roger Williams, who preached religious tolerance, separation of church and state, and a complete break with the Church of England, was banished and founded Rhode Island Colony, which became a haven for other religious refugees from the Puritan community. Some migrants who came to Colonial America were in search of the freedom to practice forms of Christianity which were prohibited and persecuted in Europe. Since there was no state religion, and since Protestantism had no central authority, religious practice in the colonies became diverse.

The Religious Society of Friends formed in England in 1652 around leader George Fox. Quakers were severely persecuted in England for daring to deviate so far from orthodox Christianity. This reign of terror impelled Friends to seek refuge in New Jersey in the 1670s, where they soon became well entrenched. In 1681, when Quaker leader William Penn parlayed a debt owed by Charles II to his father into a charter for the province of Pennsylvaniamarker, many more Quakers were prepared to grasp the opportunity to live in a land where they might worship freely. By 1685, as many as 8,000 Quakers had come to Pennsylvania. Although the Quakers may have resembled the Puritans in some religious beliefs and practices, they differed with them over the necessity of compelling religious uniformity in society.

The efforts of the founding fathers to find a proper role for their support of religion—and the degree to which religion can be supported by public officials without being inconsistent with the revolutionary imperative of freedom of religion for all citizens—is a question that is still debated in the country today.

Maryland
Roman Catholic fortunes fluctuated in Maryland during the rest of the seventeenth century, as they became an increasingly smaller minority of the population. After the Glorious Revolution of 1689 in England, penal laws deprived Roman Catholics of the right to vote, hold office, educate their children or worship publicly. Until the American Revolution, Roman Catholics in Maryland, like Charles Carroll of Carrollton, were dissenters in their own country, but keeping loyal to their convictions. At the time of the Revolution, Roman Catholics formed less than 1% of the population of the thirteen colonies, in 2007, Roman Catholics comprised 24% of US population.

18th century

Scholars now identify a high level of religious energy in colonies after 1700. According to one expert, religion was in the "ascension rather than the declension"; another sees a "rising vitality in religious life" from 1700 onward; a third finds religion in many parts of the colonies in a state of "feverish growth." Figures on church attendance and church formation support these opinions. Between 1700 and 1740, an estimated 75-80% of the population attended churches, which were being built at a headlong pace.

By 1780 the percentage of adult colonists who adhered to a church was between 10-30%, not counting slaves or Native Americans. North Carolina had the lowest percentage at about 4%, while New Hampshire and South Carolina were tied for the highest, at about 16%.

Great Awakening

Evangelicalism is difficult to date and to define. Scholars have argued that, as a self-conscious movement, evangelicalism did not arise until the mid-seventeenth century, perhaps not until the Great Awakening itself. The fundamental premise of evangelicalism is the conversion of individuals from a state of sin to a "new birth" through preaching of the Word. The Great Awakening refers to a northeastern Protestant revival movement that took place in the 1730s and 1740s.

The first generation of New England Puritans required that church members undergo a conversion experience that they could describe publicly. Their successors were not as successful in reaping harvests of redeemed souls. The movement began with Jonathan Edwards, a Massachusetts preacher who sought to return to the Pilgrims' strict Calvinist roots. British preacher George Whitefield and other itinerant preachers continued the movement, traveling across the colonies and preaching in a dramatic and emotional style. Followers of Edwards and other preachers of similar religiosity called themselves the "New Lights," as contrasted with the "Old Lights," who disapproved of their movement. To promote their viewpoints, the two sides established academies and colleges, including Princetonmarker and Williams College. The Great Awakening has been called the first truly American event.

The supporters of the Awakening and its evangelical thrust—Presbyterians, Baptists and Methodists—became the largest American Protestant denominations by the first decades of the nineteenth century. By the 1770s, the Baptists were growing rapidly both in the north (where they founded Brown Universitymarker), and in the South. Opponents of the Awakening or those split by it—Anglicans, Quakers, and Congregationalists—were left behind.

American Revolution

The Revolution split some denominations, notably the Church of England, whose ministers were bound by oath to support the king, and the Quakers, who were traditionally pacifist. Religious practice suffered in certain places because of the absence of ministers and the destruction of churches, but in other areas, religion flourished.

The American Revolution inflicted deeper wounds on the Church of England in America than on any other denomination because the King of England was the head of the church. The Book of Common Prayer offered prayers for the monarch, beseeching God "to be his defender and keeper, giving him victory over all his enemies," who in 1776 were American soldiers as well as friends and neighbors of American Anglicans. Loyalty to the church and to its head could be construed as treason to the American cause. Patriotic American Anglicans, loathing to discard so fundamental a component of their faith as The Book of Common Prayer, revised it to conform to the political realities.

Another result of this was that the first constitution of an independent Anglican Church in the country bent over backwards to distance itself from England by calling itself the Protestant Episcopal Church.

During this time, the Russians had been missionizing the native peoples in Alaska. In 1794, the Orthodox Saint, St. Herman of Alaska and missionaries arrived on Kodiak island and began significantly evangelizing the native peoples. The period between this and the purchase of Alaska by the United States included successful missionizing of Alaskan natives to the Orthodox faith, including ordaining them & changing services to the native languages. Orthodoxy also was present in the mainland United States prior to the purchase of Alaska. However, here it was present in the form of immigrants coming to America from Europe, Africa, the Middle East. Here it was mostly kept within cultural boundaries with some conversions/evangelizing, though most growth came through immigration.

Church and State Debate

After independence the American states were obliged to write constitutions establishing how each would be governed. For three years, from 1778 to 1780, the political energies of Massachusetts were absorbed in drafting a charter of government that the voters would accept. One of the most contentious issues was whether the state would support the church financially. Advocating such a policy were the ministers and most members of the Congregational Church, which received public financial support, during the colonial period. The Baptists tenaciously adhered to their ancient conviction that churches should receive no support from the state. The Constitutional Convention chose to support the church and Article Three authorized a general religious tax to be directed to the church of a taxpayers' choice.

Such tax laws also took effect in Connecticutmarker and New Hampshiremarker.

The 19th century



Separation

In October 1801, members of the Danbury Baptists Associations wrote a letter to the new president-elect Thomas Jefferson. Baptists, being a minority in Connecticut, were still required to pay fees to support the Congregationalist majority. The Baptists found this intolerable. The Baptists, well aware of Jefferson's own unorthodox beliefs, sought him as an ally in making all religious expression a fundamental human right and not a matter of government largesse.

In his January 1, 1802 reply to the Danbury Baptist Association Jefferson summed up the First Amendment's original intent, and used for the first time anywhere a now-familiar phrase in today's political and judicial circles: the amendment established a "wall of separation between church and state." Largely unknown in its day, this phrase has since become a major Constitutional issue. The first time the U.S. Supreme Court cited that phrase from Jefferson was in 1878, 76 years later.

Revivalism

During the Second Great Awakening Christianity grew and took root in new areas, along with new Protestant denominations such as Adventism, Restorationism, and groups such as Jehovah's Witnesses and Mormonism. While the First Great Awakening was centered on reviving the spirituality of established congregations, the Second Great Awakening (1800–1830s), unlike the first, focused on the unchurched and sought to instill in them a deep sense of personal salvation as experienced in revival meetings.

In the late 18th century and early 19th century, Bishop Francis Asbury led the American Methodist movement as one of the most prominent religious leaders of the young republic. Traveling throughout the eastern seaboard, Methodism grew quickly under Asbury's leadership into one of the nation's largest and most influential denominations.

The principal innovation produced by the revivals was the camp meeting. The revivals were organized by Presbyterian ministers who modeled them after the extended outdoor "communion seasons," used by the Presbyterian Church in Scotland, which frequently produced emotional, demonstrative displays of religious conviction. In Kentucky, the pioneers loaded their families and provisions into their wagons and drove to the Presbyterian meetings, where they pitched tents and settled in for several days.

When assembled in a field or at the edge of a forest for a prolonged religious meeting, the participants transformed the site into a camp meeting. The religious revivals that swept the Kentucky camp meetings were so intense and created such gusts of emotion that their original sponsors, the Presbyterians, soon repudiated them. The Methodists, however, adopted and eventually domesticated camp meetings and introduced them into the eastern United States, where for decades they were one of the evangelical signatures of the denomination.

African American Churches

The Christianity of the black population was grounded in evangelicalism. The Second Great Awakening has been called the "central and defining event in the development of Afro-Christianity." During these revivals Baptists and Methodists converted large numbers of blacks. However, many were disappointed at the treatment they received from their fellow believers and at the backsliding in the commitment to abolish slavery that many white Baptists and Methodists had advocated immediately after the American Revolution.

When their discontent could not be contained, forceful black leaders followed what was becoming an American habit—they formed new denominations. In 1787, Richard Allen and his colleagues in Philadelphia broke away from the Methodist Church and in 1815 founded the African Methodist Episcopal Church, which, along with independent black Baptist congregations, flourished as the century progressed.

Liberal Christianity



The "secularization of society" is attributed to the time of the Enlightenment. In the United States, religious observance is much higher than in Europe, and the United States' culture leans conservative in comparison to other western nations, in part due to the Christian element.

Liberal Christianity, exemplified by some theologians, sought to bring to churches new critical approaches to the Bible. Sometimes called liberal theology, liberal Christianity is an umbrella term covering movements and ideas within 19th and 20th century Christianity. New attitudes became evident, and the practice of questioning the nearly universally accepted Christian orthodoxy began to come to the forefront.

In the post–World War I era, liberalism was the faster growing sector of the American church. Liberal wings of denominations were on the rise, and a considerable number of seminaries held and taught from a liberal perspective as well. In the post–World war II era, the trend began to swing back towards the conservative camp in America's seminaries and church structures.

Roman Catholicism



By 1850 Roman Catholics had become the country's largest single denomination. Between 1860 and 1890 the population of Roman Catholics in the United States tripled through immigration; by the end of the decade it would reach seven million. These huge numbers of immigrant Catholics came from Irelandmarker, Southern Germany, Italy, Poland and Eastern Europe. This influx would eventually bring increased political power for the Roman Catholic Church and a greater cultural presence, led at the same time to a growing fear of the Catholic "menace." As the nineteenth century wore on animosity waned, Protestant Americans realized that Roman Catholics were not trying to seize control of the government.

Fundamentalism

Christian fundamentalism began as a movement in the late 19th and early 20th centuries to reject influences of secular humanism and source criticism in modern Christianity. In reaction to liberal Protestant groups that denied doctrines considered fundamental to these conservative groups, they sought to establish tenets necessary to maintaining a Christian identity, the "fundamentals," hence the term fundamentalist.

Especially targeting critical approaches to the interpretation of the Bible, and trying to blockade the inroads made into their churches by secular scientific assumptions, the fundamentalists grew in various denominations as independent movements of resistance to the drift away from historic Christianity.

Over time, the movement divided, with the label Fundamentalist being retained by the smaller and more hard-line group(s). Evangelical has become the main identifier of the groups holding to the movement's moderate and earliest ideas.

The 20th Century

Evangelicalism



In the U.S. and elsewhere in the world, there has been a marked rise in the evangelical wing of Protestant denominations, especially those that are more exclusively evangelical, and a corresponding decline in the mainstream liberal churches.

The 1950s saw a boom in the Evangelical church in America. The post–World War II prosperity experienced in the U.S. also had its effects on the church. Church buildings were erected in large numbers, and the Evangelical church's activities grew along with this expansive physical growth. In the southern U.S., the Evangelicals, represented by leaders such as Billy Graham, have experienced a notable surge displacing the caricature of the pulpit pounding country preachers of fundamentalism. The stereotypes have gradually shifted.

Although the Evangelical community worldwide is diverse, the ties that bind all Evangelicals are still apparent: a "high view" of Scripture, belief in the Deity of Christ, the Trinity, salvation by grace through faith, and the bodily resurrection of Christ.

National Associations

The Federal Council of Churches, founded in 1908, marked the first major expression of a growing modern ecumenical movement among Christians in the United States. It was active in pressing for reform of public and private policies, particularly as they impacted the lives of those living in poverty, and developed a comprehensive and widely debated Social Creed which served as a humanitarian "bill of rights" for those seeking improvements in American life.

In 1950, the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the USA (usually identified as National Council of Churches, or NCC) represented a dramatic expansion in the development of ecumenical cooperation. It was a merger of the Federal Council of Churches, the International Council of Religious Education, and several other interchurch ministries. Today, the NCC is a joint venture of 35 Christian denominations in the United States with 100,000 local congregations and 45,000,000 adherents. Its member communions include Mainline Protestant, Orthodox, African-American, Evangelical and historic Peace churches. The NCC took a prominent role in the Civil Rights movement, and fostered the publication of the widely-used Revised Standard Version of the Bible, followed by an updated New Revised Standard Version, the first translation to benefit from the discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls. The organization is headquartered in New York City, with a public policy office in Washington, DC. The NCC is related fraternally to hundreds of local and regional councils of churches, to other national councils across the globe, and to the World Council of Churchesmarker. All of these bodies are independently governed.

Carl McIntire led in organizing the American Council of Christian Churches (ACCC), now with 7 member bodies, in September 1941. It was a more militant and fundamentalist organization set up in opposition to what became the National Council of Churches.

The National Association of Evangelicals for United Action was formed in St. Louis, Missouri on April 7-9, 1942. It soon shortened its name to the National Association of Evangelicals (NEA). There are currently 60 denominations with about 45,000 churches in the organization. The NEA is related fraternally the World Evangelical Fellowship.

Pentecostalism

Another noteworthy development in 20th-century Christianity was the rise of the modern Pentecostal movement. Pentecostalism, which had its roots in the Pietism and the Holiness movement, arose out of the meetings in 1906 at an urban mission on Azusa Street in Los Angeles. From there it spread by those who experienced what they believed to be miraculous moves of God there.

Pentecostalism would later birth the Charismatic movement within already established denominations, and it continues to be an important force in western Christianity.

Roman Catholicism

By the beginning of the 20th century, approximately one-sixth of the population of the United States was Roman Catholic. Modern Roman Catholic immigrants come to the United States from the Philippinesmarker, Poland, and Latin America, especially from Mexico. This multiculturalism and diversity has greatly impacted the flavor of Catholicism in the United States. For example, many dioceses serve in both the English language and the Spanish language.

Demographics by state



State % Christian Evangelicals
/1000
Mainlines
/1000
Roman
Catholics
/1000

Orthodox
/1000
Top 4
Churches/Denominations
Churches/Denominations
#5 - 10
Alabamamarker 74% 431.5 98.3 33.9 0.7 Southern Baptist, United Methodist, Roman Catholic, African Methodist Episcopal Zion Church PCUSA, Episcopal, AG, Churches of Christ, CoG, FWB
Alaskamarker 38% 414.9 59.3 86.7 33.9 Roman Catholic, Southern Baptist, LDS Church, Assemblies of God UMC, PCUSA, ELCA, Episcopal, Nazarene, Moravia
Arizonamarker 43% 405.9 43.9 190.0 1.6 Roman Catholic, LDS Church, Southern Baptist, Assemblies of God UMC, PCUSA, ELCA, Episcopal, LCMS, CC&CoC
Arkansasmarker 71% 397.3 88.5 43.4 0.2 Southern Baptist, United Methodist, Baptist Missionary Association of America, Churches of Christ RCC, PCUSA, AG, LCMS, Nazarene, FWB
Californiamarker 50% 369.6 35.3 297.6 2.4 Roman Catholic, LDS Church, Southern Baptist, Assemblies of God UMC, PCUSA, ELCA, Episcopal, ABC, SDA
Coloradomarker 43% 336.8 68.9 175.0 1.4 Roman Catholic, LDS Church, Southern Baptist, United Methodist PCUSA, ELCA, Episcopal, AG, LCMS, ABC
Connecticutmarker 64% 294.0 101.3 403.0 5.6 Roman Catholic, United Church of Christ, Episcopal, United Methodist PCUSA, ELCA, AG, LCMS, ABC, UCC, AME-Zion
D.C.marker 58% 98.5 187.2 279.8 11.2 Roman Catholic, American Baptist, AME Zion, Southern Baptist UMC, PCUSA, Episcopal, UCC, SDA, Orth
Delawaremarker 50% 277.8 129.0 193.6 3.9 Roman Catholic, United Methodist, Presbyterian Church , Episcopal ELCA, SBC, ABC, LDS, PCA, Wesleyan
Floridamarker 47% 255.8 59.3 162.4 2.4 Roman Catholic, Southern Baptist, United Methodist, Assemblies of God PCUSA, ELCA, Episcopal, LCMS, Churches of Christ, CoG
Georgiamarker 61% 247.5 100.8 45.7 0.9 Southern Baptist, United Methodist, Roman Catholic, Presbyterian Church ELCA, Episcopal, LDS, Churches of Christ, CC&CoC, CoG
Hawaiimarker 41% 243.8 40.0 198.8 0.2 Roman Catholic, LDS Church, United Church of Christ, Assemblies of God SBC, UMC, ELCA, Episcopal, UCC, SDA, Foursquare
Idahomarker 53% 215.3 50.7 101.1 0.6 LDS Church, Roman Catholic, United Methodist, Assemblies of God SBC, PCUSA, ELCA, SBC, LCMS, ABC, Nazarene
Illinoismarker 65% 171.1 97.3 312.0 5.2 Roman Catholic, United Methodist, Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, Lutheran Church - Missouri Synod PCUSA, SBC, AG, ABC, UCC, CC&CoC
Indianamarker 50% 160.0 118.6 137.5 2.9 Roman Catholic, United Methodist, Christian Churches & Churches of Christ, American Baptist PCUSA, ELCA, SBC, LCMS, Nazarene, Disciples
Iowamarker 65% 156.2 266.2 190.7 1.0 Roman Catholic, Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, United Methodist, Lutheran Church - Missouri Synod PCUSA, ABC, UCC, CC&CoC, Disciples, RCA
Kansasmarker 56% 146.2 170.5 151.0 1.0 Roman Catholic, United Methodist, Southern Baptist, American Baptist PCUSA, ELCA, LCMS, CC&CoC, Nazarene, Disciples
Kentuckymarker 62% 140.4 87.7 100.5 0.5 Southern Baptist, Roman Catholic, United Methodist, Christian Churches and Churches of Christ PCUSA, AG, CoC, Disciples, CoG, UB
Louisianamarker 84% 138.1 51.9 309.4 0.5 Roman Catholic, Southern Baptist, United Methodist, Assemblies of God PCUSA, Episcopal, LCMS, LDS, CoC, MBAA
Mainemarker 39% 130.7 90.3 222.0 2.2 Roman Catholic, United Methodist, United Church of Christ, American Baptist ELCA, Episcopal, AG, LDS, Nazarene
Marylandmarker 55% 126.6 114.3 179.8 4.0 Roman Catholic, United Methodist, Southern Baptist, Evangelical Lutheran Church in America PCUSA, Episcopal, LCMS, ABC, UCC, SDA
Massachusettsmarker 68% 124.5 63.6 487.1 9.7 Roman Catholic, United Church of Christ, Episcopal, United Methodist ELCA, AG, ABC, SDA, Armenian
Michiganmarker 49% 117.0 80.2 203.2 4.1 Roman Catholic, Lutheran Church - Missouri Synod, Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, United Methodist PCUSA, Episcopal, ABC, UCC, RCA, CRC
Minnesotamarker 69% 113.7 230.9 256.3 1.9 Roman Catholic, Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, Lutheran Church - Missouri Synod, United Methodist PCUSA, Episcopal, AG, UCC, WELS, BGC
Mississippimarker 82% 113.5 101.3 40.7 0.4 Southern Baptist, United Methodist, Roman Catholic, Churches of Christ PCUSA, Episcopal, AG, CoG, Baptist Missionary Association of America, PCA
Missourimarker 60% 111.6 92.8 153.2 1.0 Roman Catholic, Southern Baptist, United Methodist, Lutheran Church - Missouri Synod PCUSA, AG, UCC, Churches of Christ, CC&CoC, Disciples
Montanamarker 49% 111.4 108.3 187.6 0.8 Roman Catholic, Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, LDS Church, United Methodist PCUSA, SBC, Episcopal, LCMS, AG, UCC
Nebraskamarker 66% 110.6 203.7 217.9 5.0 Roman Catholic, Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, Lutheran Church - Missouri Synod, United Methodist PCUSA, AG, ABC, UCC, CC&CoC, Disciples
Nevadamarker 36% 107.9 22.1 166.1 1.8 Roman Catholic, LDS Church, Southern Baptist, Assemblies of God UMC, PCUSA, ELCA, Episcopal, LCMS, ABC
New Hampshiremarker 51% 106.3 77.4 349.0 5.9 Roman Catholic, United Church of Christ, United Methodist, American Baptist ELCA, SBC, Episcopal, AG, LDS
New Jerseymarker 64% 102.8 70.2 404.4 5.6 Roman Catholic, United Methodist, Presbyterian Church , Episcopal ELCA, AG, LCMS, ABC, AME-Zion, RCA
New Mexicomarker 65% 99.5 48.8 368.6 0.6 Roman Catholic, Southern Baptist, LDS Church, United Methodist PCUSA, ELCA, Episcopal, AG, LCMS, CoC
New Yorkmarker 66% 98.3 68.8 397.9 5.6 Roman Catholic, United Methodist, Episcopal, American Baptist PCUSA, ELCA, AG, LCMS, AME-Zion, RCA
North Carolinamarker 59% 97.3 145.5 39.2 1.1 Southern Baptist, United Methodist, Presbyterian Church , African Methodist Episcopal Zion Church RCC, ELCA, Episcopal, UCC, Disciples, CoG
North Dakotamarker 81% 94.8 346.2 279.3 0.2 Roman Catholic, Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, Lutheran Church - Missouri Synod, United Methodist PCUSA, SBC, AG, UCC, NABC, AFLC
Ohiomarker 52% 89.5 128.7 196.6 4.3 Roman Catholic, United Methodist, Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, Presbyterian Church SBC, LCMS, ABC, UCC, CC&CoC, Nazarene
Oklahomamarker 71% 81.4 131.4 48.9 0.8 Southern Baptist, United Methodist, Roman Catholic, Assemblies of God PCUSA, Churches of Christ, CC&CoC, Nazarene, Disciples, FWB
Oregonmarker 34% 77.3 52.7 101.8 1.4 Roman Catholic, LDS Church, Assemblies of God, Evangelical Lutheran Church in America UMC, PCUSA, SBC, CC&CoC, SDA, Foursquare
Pennsylvaniamarker 66% 71.8 174.3 309.6 6.2 Roman Catholic, United Methodist, Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, Presbyterian Church Episcopal, AG, ABC, UCC, Mennonite, Brethren
Rhode Islandmarker 71% 57.3 75.4 517.3 4.9 Roman Catholic, Episcopal, United Church of Christ, American Baptist UMC, PCUSA, ELCA, AG, Armenian
South Carolinamarker 66% 53.9 132.5 34.1 1.1 Southern Baptist, United Methodist, Roman Catholic, Presbyterian Church ELCA, Episcopal, CoG, AME-Zion, PCA, IPHC
South Dakotamarker 75% 51.6 289.4 240.4 0.3 Roman Catholic, Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, United Methodist, Lutheran Church - Missouri Synod PCUSA, Episcopal, ABC, UCC, RCA, WELS
Tennesseemarker 63% 33.3 96.9 32.2 0.7 Southern Baptist, United Methodist, Churches of Christ, Roman Catholic PCUSA, Episcopal, CC&CoC, CoG, Cumberland, C&MA
Texasmarker 66% 29.5 80.8 209.5 1.0 Roman Catholic, Southern Baptist, United Methodist, Churches of Christ PCUSA, ELCA, Episcopal, AG, LCMS, MBAA
Utahmarker 82% 24.4 14.0 43.5 2.0 LDS Church, Roman Catholic, Southern Baptist, Assemblies of God PCUSA, UMC, ELCA, Episcopal, LCMS, ABC
Vermontmarker 42% 24.2 101.8 243.0 3.6 Roman Catholic, United Church of Christ, United Methodist, Episcopal ELCA, AG, ABC, UCC, LDS
Virginiamarker 52% 24.1 130.7 85.6 1.5 Southern Baptist, Roman Catholic, United Methodist, Presbyterian Church ELCA, Episcopal, ABC, LDS, Disciples
Washingtonmarker 36% 24.1 66.5 121.5 1.1 Roman Catholic, LDS Church, Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, Assemblies of God UMC, PCUSA, SBC, Episcopal, LCMS, SDA
West Virginiamarker 40% 23.7 180.0 58.3 2.5 Roman Catholic, Southern Baptist, United Methodist, American Baptist PCUSA, ELCA, ABC, Churches of Christ, Nazarene, CoG, FWB
Wisconsinmarker 69% 19.0 148.0 316.1 2.4 Roman Catholic, Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, Lutheran Church - Missouri Synod, Wisconsin Evangelical Lutheran Synod UMC, PCUSA, Episcopal, AG, ABC, UCC, WELS
Wyomingmarker 52% 16.2 92.7 162.9 0.2 Roman Catholic, LDS Church, Southern Baptist, United Methodist PCUSA, ELCA, Episcopal, AG, LCMS, ABC


See also





References

  1. American Religious Identification Survey 2008
  2. A 2007 Pew survey
  3. online at Google Books.
  4. Bebbington, p. 3.
  5. George Marsden Understanding Fundamentalism and Evangelicalism Eerdmans, 1991.
  6. The Death of Protestant America: A Political Theory of the Protestant Mainline by Joseph Bottum, First Things (August/September 2008)[ http://www.firstthings.com/article.php3?id_article=6254]
  7. Mainline protestant denominations
  8. "The U.S. Church Finance Market: 2005-2010" Non-denominational membership doubled between 1990 and 2001. (April 1, 2006 report)
  9. The Death of Protestant America: A Political Theory of the Protestant Mainline by Joseph Bottum, First Things (August/September 2008)[ http://www.firstthings.com/article.php3?id_article=6254]
  10. The Decline of Mainline Protestantism
  11. SBC Annual 2007
  12. Newport Notables
  13. Brackney, William H. (Baylor University, Texas). Baptists in North America: an historical perspective. Blackwell Publishing, 2006, p. 23. ISBN 1405118652
  14. "Gillfield Baptist Church, Petersburg, Virginia", Virginia Commonwealth University Library, 2008, accessed 22 Dec 2008
  15. "Civil War history lesson: Petersburg, Virginia, embraces and expands its past", Boston.com, 9 Mar 2005, accessed 22 Dec 2008
  16. http://www.adherents.com/rel_USA.html#bodies
  17. D&C 1:30 says the LDS Church is the "only true and living church upon the face of the whole earth."
  18. American Religious Identification Survey, 2008 Trinity College, Hartford, Connecticut. This is from and an academic study at Trinity College based on a telephone survey was conducted in 2008.
  19. History of Awatovi. This section incorporates public domain text from this US government website.



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