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Q: Christian Churches Financial Standings ( Answered 4 out of 5 stars,   2 Comments )
Subject: Christian Churches Financial Standings
Category: Relationships and Society > Religion
Asked by: stacey-ga
List Price: $10.00
Posted: 23 Dec 2002 17:24 PST
Expires: 22 Jan 2003 17:24 PST
Question ID: 132904
Where can I find a list of Christian church financial standings among
the different denominations? (For example, I've heard that
Episcopalians are ranked #1 in terms of wealth, Presbyterians are #2,
etc.) I once saw a list of the top 10 wealthiest denominations but I
can't seem to pull it up anywhere on the internet.

Request for Question Clarification by digsalot-ga on 23 Dec 2002 20:57 PST
Are you looking for denominational wealth as per capita income for
members or are you looking for denominational wealth as in ownership
of church property by the denomination?   There would be two different
answers depending on your clarification.

For example, the denomination with the highest average personal income
and educational levels among individual members is United Church of
Christ,  a liberal protestant denomination (not to be confused with
Church of Christ).  However, the denomination is not overly large so
total church property owned would rank fairly low.

Conversely, many fundamentalist and pentecostal denominations have
quite low individual personal incomes in the membership roles, along
with low levels of education.  Many of these denominations claim a
number of college degrees among the membership, but many of these
degrees are from unaccredited "Bible Colleges" or other church related
institutions which have no real standing outside their own
denomination.  However, because of their large size, the church itself
owns enormous amounts of property.

That is why we need to know just exactly what it is you are looking

Clarification of Question by stacey-ga on 23 Dec 2002 21:56 PST
Thank you both for your attempts to try and answer my question. The
reason I asked the question is that I was talking to a friend who told
me that the 3 wealthiest denominations are 1.Episcopalians 2.
Presbyterian 3. Lutherans   She is Presby and I am Lutheran. I had
kind of a hard time believing that the Presbyterians were 2nd in
wealth. She did mention something about the tithing (10% ideally,
according to the Old Testament) so I think the answer to my question
would be more along the lines of the total amount of money donated to
the church from individuals within the denominations. I hadn't really
thought too much about church property ownership. I hope that maybe
this clarifies the question a little bit. Thanks and please let me
know if you need any further clarification!
Subject: Re: Christian Churches Financial Standings
Answered By: mvguy-ga on 23 Dec 2002 23:18 PST
Rated:4 out of 5 stars

That's a very interesting question.  One problem with coming up with a
definitive answer is that different churches count their members
differently (some churches require only a profession of faith, in some
churches you're born a member and remain so even if you don't attend,
and others have a formal membership process).  Also, not all churches
publicly reveal their total donations.  I have found various figures
that aren't in full agreement, although they generally rank the
denominations similarly; in general, Mormons donate the most, followed
by some smaller conservative denominations, followed by Presbyterians
and Episcopalians, followed by Catholics and other mainline Protestant

In any case, I hope the following resources will be sufficient to
satisfy your curiosity.

First of all, a broad range of data is available in the Yearbook of
American and Canadian Churches, which is released annually. That book
is available in hard copy; the most recent figures I was able to find
online were from the 1998 yearbook.  You can find the figures on this

1998 Yearbook of American and Canadian Churches

From that page, I made a list of churches that were listed both my
membership and contributions, and came up with the following:

  Denomination    Contributions  Members       Per Capita
Presbyterian USA    2.3 billion   3.6 million   $639
UCC                  .7           1.5            467
Southern Baptist   $6.9          15.7            439
United Methodist    3.7           8.5            435
Ev. Lutheran        1.8           5.2            346
Lutheran (Mo.)      1.0           2.6            385

Note, however, that donations for Roman Catholic and the Church of
Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (Mormons) aren't public information
and therefore not listed. Episcopal donations also aren't listed.  My
guess would be that the Catholics have the largest total contributions
because they're by far the largest church; on a per capita basis, the
Mormons almost certainly give the most among the major denominations.

A brief summary from the 2002 edition can be found on this page:

News from the National Council of Churches

That news release shows that the Episcopal Church and the Presbyterian
Church (USA) were tops in the most recent survey with donations of
$1,155 per full or confirmed member.

Although figures aren't broken down by denominations, the following
analysis details donations by different groups.

Evangelicals Are the Most Generous Givers

The following 1995 study also provides further information:

Religious Resources and Church Growth
"Until quite recently, cross-denominational survey data on religious
giving was largely unavailable, However, in 1987 the General Social
Survey began asking respondents “About how much do you contribute to
your religion every year (not including school tuition)?” Though this
question is not without problems (most notably, in failing to
distinguish individual and household contributions), it provides
considerable insight into denominational differences.
Figure 2 graphs the average number of dollars contributed per
(self-identified) member across various denominations. Once again, the
mainline denominations place well below their sectarian counterparts.
The contrast becomes even more striking when we measure percentages of
income contributed to one’s church. The Episcopalians, Disciples,
Lutherans, Methodists, Presbyterians, UCC members, and Catholics all
contribute less than 2% of their income. Southern Baptists,
Adventists, fundamentalist/evangelicals, and pentecostal/charismatics
contribute between 2% and 4%. And Mormons contribute more than 5%,
nearly three times the mainline average."

A chart in that report shows Mormons and evangelical fundamentalists
as giving around $900 per capita per year, followed in general by
various theologically conservative churches.

More recent and through figures are available through offline sources.
You might, for example, be interested in purchasing the following

The State of Church Giving

That same source has general information available on this page,
although what's available online isn't broken down by denomination.

Giving Research

Best wishes,


Most successful Google search terms used: church contributions "per
Other search terms used: donations, giving, denominations
stacey-ga rated this answer:4 out of 5 stars
Overall, very good answer to a tough question!

Subject: Re: Christian Churches Financial Standings
From: tisme-ga on 23 Dec 2002 20:51 PST
I was unable to find a concrete answer to your question. Hopefully
another researcher will be able to better help you. Here is one link
that I found that you can might be worth something to you.

Church Valuations in 1926
Baptist ................ $469,835,000
Congregational ......... 164,212,000
Jewish ................. 100,890,000
Methodist .............. 654,736,000
Presbyterian ........... 443,572,000
Protestant Episcopal ... 314,596,000
Source: Church Valuations in 1926

Google Answers Researcher
Subject: Re: Christian Churches Financial Standings
From: neilzero-ga on 24 Dec 2002 07:04 PST
It appears Presbeterians and Epicoples do some tricky book keeping by
giving average contributions of the confimed or full members. I
believe several denominatios would exceed them with similar book
keeping. My guess is Mormons = The Church of Jesus Christ of
Latter-day Saints are number one in per capita giving with or without
tricky book keeping, and Mormons are also high on the list of property
owned and other assets, as Mormons rarely pay salaries, which are a
big drain on cash flow for most religions. Clearly the Catholics own
more valuable property and likely are number one in other assets, both
world wide and in The USA.  Neil

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