2010 Census of US Orthodox Churches

Standing Conference of the Canonical Orthodox Bishops in the Americas
Standing Conference of the Canonical Orthodox Bishops in the Americas

The data is now available from the 2010 US Orthodox Christian Census which was completed as a part of the national “Religious Congregations and Membership Study 2010” (for more information on “RCMS 2010” study go to www.rcms2010.org).

Below are some highlights from the Census results. For more information, additional data and any questions regarding 2010 US Orthodox Christian Census, contact principal researcher: Alexei Krindatch at akrindatch@aol.com.

What is the US National Orthodox Census and what it tells us about?

The 2010 US Orthodox Christian Census provides information on:

  • parishes and monastic communities in American Orthodox Christian Churches including the so-called Oriental Orthodox Christian Churches (see full list of participating churches in Tab.1);
  • Church “adherents” - the most inclusive category of church membership which includes children and anyone participating even occasionally in church life;
  • Church “regular attendees” - the persons attending church on the regular basis.

Data on adherents and regular attendees are available for each local Orthodox parish (congregation), each national American Orthodox Christian Church and for each geographic area and each county of the USA.

Why is this National Orthodox Census unique?

The data in the Census was obtained directly from the local Orthodox parishes - not from the national church headquarters or regional judicatories (dioceses). Therefore the 2010 National Orthodox Census provides the most reliable and accurate information on the Orthodox Christian Churches in the United States.

What is the total membership in all American Orthodox Christian Churches combined?

There are roughly 1,044,000 adherents of the various Orthodox Christian Churches in the United States. This figure includes 227,000 members of the Oriental Orthodox Christian Churches such as Coptic, Armenian, Syriac and Malankara Indian Orthodox Churches. The American Orthodox Christians worship in 2,380 local Orthodox parishes which belong to 20 different national Orthodox Church bodies including 6 Oriental Orthodox Churches. Tab.1 provides information on full membership (“adherents”) and regular church attendees for each Church.

Are American Orthodox Churches growing?

The answer to this question is “Yes.” From 2000-2010, the total number of Orthodox parishes in America increased for 16 percent. The fastest growing groups among national Orthodox Churches in the US are: Bulgarian Orthodox Eastern Diocese (+122% increase in parishes), Romanian Orthodox Archdiocese (+121%), and Malankara Archdiocese of the Syrian Orthodox Church (+89%).

Only three Orthodox Churches declined in number of parishes during 2000-2010: Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the USA, Patriarchal Parishes of the Russian Orthodox Church and Armenian Apostolic Church of America (Catholicosate Cilicia). Tab. 3 shows changes in number of parishes during 2000-2010 for each Orthodox Christian Church in the US.

Which of American Orthodox Christian Churches are the biggest and which are the smallest ones?

In terms of membership, of all US Orthodox Christian Churches, the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America (GOA) is by far the largest one. According to 2010 US Orthodox Census, GOA has nearly 477,000 members. Put differently, 46% of all Orthodox Church members in the USA belong to GOA. In terms of number of parishes, however, Orthodox Church in America has more local congregations than GOA does: 551 and 525 respectively. The smallest of American Orthodox Churches is Albanian Orthodox Diocese of America. Although it is considered as a national Church, it has just 2 parishes with 700 members total.

Are the members of American Orthodox Christian Churches regular and frequent church goers?

There is no one general answer to this question. It depends on particular Church. See Tab.1. Nationwide, for all US Orthodox Christian Churches combined, the proportion of the regular church attendees in the total of church adherents is 27 percent. But there are huge differences in the frequency of church attendance across the various American Orthodox Churches. The regular church attendees constitute as much as 77% of all church members in the Holy Orthodox Church in North America, 53 % in Malankara Orthodox Syrian Church and 51% in Coptic Orthodox Church. Quite differently, no more than 15% of all members attend church regularly in the case of American Diocese of Macedonian Orthodox Church (11%), Vicariate for Palestinian Orthodox Communities (12%), Armenian Church of North America Catholicosate Etchmiadzin (13%) and Patriarchal Parishes of the Russian Orthodox Church (15%).

How large are American Orthodox parishes?

The size of an “average” Orthodox parish in America varies greatly from one Orthodox Church to the other. See Tab.2. The most sizeable parishes are in the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America (GOA). An “average” GOA parish has 908 persons. At the same time, the parishes of the Holy Orthodox Church in North America, Bulgarian Eastern Orthodox Diocese and American Carpatho-Russian Orthodox Diocese are relatively small: 81, 130 and 133 persons per parish on an average.

Where in America do the members of Orthodox Christian Churches live and worship?

Orthodox Christians live and have their churches in all US states. At the same time, 48% - almost half – of all Orthodox Church members live in just five states: California (14.5% of all American Orthodox Church members), New York (13.5%), Illinois (7.2%), New Jersey (6.9%) and Massachusetts (5.9%). Tab. 4 provides information on state-by-state distribution of the members of American Orthodox Churches. In terms of the number of the local Orthodox parishes (rather than church members), five states with the biggest number of Orthodox congregations are: California (255 Orthodox parishes total), Pennsylvania (250), New York (240), Florida (136) and New Jersey (128). Tab. 5 shows state-by-state distribution of the parishes of American Orthodox Churches.

Which US states have the highest proportion of the Orthodox Church members in the state’s total population?

Nationwide, the proportion of adherents of the various Orthodox Christian Churches in the total country’s population is small: 0.34%. In certain states, however, this proportion is significantly higher. These states are: Alaska (1.93%), Massachusetts (0.93%), New Jersey (0.83%), New York (0.72%) and Rhode Island (0.72%). Tab. 4 shows proportion of the Orthodox Church members in the total population of each state.

Does US Orthodox Census tell us about all Orthodox Christians living in the United States?

The answer to this question is “No.” The 2010 US Orthodox Census provided information only on persons who are – at least marginally – involved in the Church life and, therefore, are known to the local Orthodox parishes. Similarly to many other Christian denominations in America, there can be significant number of persons who were once baptized in the Orthodox Church and who still consider themselves as being Orthodox Christians, but who do not participate and attend at all. In other words, the 2010 US Orthodox Census was Census of members of US Orthodox Christian Churches rather than Census of the entire Orthodox Christian population in America.

Tab.1 Orthodox Christian Churches in the USA (as of 2010):

Number of Adherents (1) and Regular Church Attendees (2)

Orthodox Christian Churches in the USA (3)

Total Adherents

Regular Church

Attendees

% of regular

attendees in the

total of adherents

1. Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America

476,900

107,400

23%

2. Orthodox Church in America

84,900

33,800

40%

3. Antiochian Orthodox Christian Archdiocese

74,600

27,300

37%

4. Serbian Orthodox Church in North America

68,800

15,400

22%

5. Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia

27,700

9,000

32%

6. Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the USA

22,400

6,900

31%

7. Patriarchal Parishes of the Moscow Patriarchate

12,400

1,900

15%

8. Romanian Orthodox Archdiocese

11,200

2,200

20%

9. American Carpatho Russian Orthodox Diocese

10,400

4,900

47%

10. Vicariate for the Palestinian / Jordanian

Orthodox Christian Communities

6,800

815

12%

11. Bulgarian Eastern Orthodox Diocese

2,600

1,200

46%

12. Albanian Orthodox Diocese of America

700

185

26%

13. Macedonian Orthodox Church: American

Diocese

15,500

1,700

11%

14. Holy Orthodox Church in North America

2,200

1,700

77%

15. Coptic Orthodox Church

92,100

46,900

51%

16. Armenian Church of North America

(Catholicosate Etchmiadzin)

64,800

8,400

13%

17. Armenian Apostolic Church of America

(Catholicosate of Cilicia)

30,500

7,700

25%

18. Malankara Orthodox Syrian Church

17,000

9,000

53%

19. Syriac Orthodox Church of Antioch

15,700

4,200

27%

20. Malankara Archdiocese of the Syrian Orthodox

Church in North America

6,400

3,400

53%

TOTAL

1,043,600

280,300

27%

(1) “Adherents” are defined as the most inclusive category of Church membership. Data on adherents were obtained directly from the local Orthodox parishes by asking parish clergy: “Approximately how many individual persons in total are associated in any way with the life of your parish: counting adults and children, regular and occasional attendees, paid stewards and persons who do not contribute financially?”

(2) Data on “regular attendees” were obtained directly from the local Orthodox parishes by asking parish clergy: “Approximately, how many persons - including adults and children - attend Liturgy in your parish on a typical Sunday?”

(3) The Churches #15-20 belong to the category of the so-called “Oriental Orthodox Churches” (also known as “pre-Chalcedonian” Churches, because of their rejection of the Christological definitions of the Council of Chalcedon in 451). They are in full communion with one another, but not with the other (# 1 -14) Churches. The Churches # 13-14 are Churches of irregular status: that is, the other Orthodox Churches consider them “uncanonical” (unlawful).

Tab.2 Orthodox Christian Churches in the USA

Parishes and Monastic Communities (2010)

Orthodox Christian Churches in the USA

Number of parishes

Number of Monastic Communities (4):

Male / Female

Average size of a parish: persons

(5)

1. Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America

525

9 / 10

908

2. Orthodox Church in America

551

8 / 11

154

3. Antiochian Orthodox Christian Archdiocese

249

0 / 1

300

4. Serbian Orthodox Church in North America

122

6 / 7

564

5. Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia

138

5 / 3

201

6. Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the USA

100

1 / 0

224

7. Patriarchal Parishes of the Moscow Patriarchate

30

1 / 0

413

8. Romanian Orthodox Archdiocese

31

0 / 0

361

9. American Carpatho Russian Orthodox Diocese

78

0 / 0

133

10. Vicariate for the Palestinian / Jordanian

Orthodox Christian Communities

9

0 / 0

756

11. Bulgarian Eastern Orthodox Diocese

20

2 / 0

130

12. Albanian Orthodox Diocese of America

2

0 / 0

350

13. Macedonian Orthodox Church: American

Diocese

20

1 / 0

775

14. Holy Orthodox Church in North America

27

4 / 3

81

15. Coptic Orthodox Church

170

3 / 1

542

16. Armenian Church of North America

(Catholicosate Etchmiadzin)

96

0 / 0

675

17. Armenian Apostolic Church of America

(Catholicosate of Cilicia)

37

0 / 0

824

18. Malankara Orthodox Syrian Church

92

0 / 0

185

19. Syriac Orthodox Church of Antioch

32

0 / 0

491

20. Malankara Archdiocese of the Syrian Orthodox

Church in North America

41

0 / 0

156

TOTAL

2370

40 / 36

438

(4) Male monasteries, female convents, sketes.

(5) “Average size of a parish” was calculated as total number of adherents (Tab.1) divided by the number of parishes. In reality, within each Orthodox Church, the parishes vary significantly in number of adherents

and regular attendees.

Tab.3 Orthodox Christian Churches in the USA:

Change in Number of Parishes in 2000-2010 (6)

Orthodox Christian Churches in the USA

Number of parishes in 2000

Number of parishes in 2010

Changes in number of parishes: %

1. Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America

501

525

+ 5%

2. Orthodox Church in America

456

551

+ 21%

3. Antiochian Orthodox Christian Archdiocese

206

249

+21%

4. Serbian Orthodox Church in North America

118

122

+ 3%

5. Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia

128

138

+ 8%

6. Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the USA

106

100

- 9%

7. Patriarchal Parishes of the Moscow Patriarchate

32

30

- 6%

8. Romanian Orthodox Archdiocese

14

31

+ 121%

9. American Carpatho Russian Orthodox Diocese

76

84

+ 11%

10. Vicariate for the Palestinian / Jordanian Orthodox

Christian Communities

N / A

9

N / A

11. Bulgarian Eastern Orthodox Diocese

9

20

+ 122%

12. Albanian Orthodox Diocese of America

2

2

0%

13. Macedonian Orthodox Church: American

Diocese

16

20

+ 25%

14. Holy Orthodox Church in North America

25

27

+ 8%

15. Coptic Orthodox Church

116

172

+ 48%

16. Armenian Church of North America

(Catholicosate Etchmiadzin)

89

96

+ 8%

17. Armenian Apostolic Church of America

(Catholicosate of Cilicia)

38

37

- 3%

18. Malankara Orthodox Syrian Church

59

94

+ 59%

19. Syriac Orthodox Church of Antioch

23

32

+ 39%

20. Malankara Archdiocese of the Syrian Orthodox

Church in North America

22

41

+ 86%

TOTAL (7)

2036

2370

+ 16%

(6) The 2000 data were obtained in the study Religious Congregations and Membership in the United States. 2000. Glenmary Research Center: Nashville, Tennessee (published in 2002). Both 2000 and 2010 data were gathered by the same person – Alexei Krindatch. Both 2000 and 2010 studies gathered data on church adherents and the number of parishes. It should be noted, however, that data on adherents in 2000 study were in many cases based on estimates and various statistical calculations, while 2010 figures are more accurate and precise, because they were obtained directly from the local parishes. In addition, in 2000 study, we were unable to get data on adherents for #4, 5 and 15. Therefore, changes in number of parishes (rather than in number of adherents) during 2000-2010 serves as a more reliable indicator for evaluating of growth/decline for each Church.

N / A – not applies, because “Vicariate for the Palestinian / Jordanian Orthodox Christian Communities” did not exist in 2000.

(7) Not counting # 10, because “Vicariate for the Palestinian / Jordanian Orthodox Christian Communities” did not exist in 2000.

Tab.4 Orthodox Christian Churches in the USA:

State-by-State Number of Adherents (7) and as % in the Total Population (2010)

State

Total Number of Adherents

(1000)

% of Adherents in the Total Population

State

Total Number of Adherents

(1000)

% of Adherents in the Total Population

Alabama

3.0

0.06%

Montana

0.6

0.06%

Alaska

13.5

1.93%

Nebraska

1.5

0.06%

Arizona

16.1

0.24%

Nevada

8.9

0.34%

Arkansas

1.2

0.04%

New Hampshire

4.9

0.37%

California

151.6

0.38%

New Jersey

72.3

0.83%

Colorado

10.7

0.21%

New Mexico

2.0

0.1%

Connecticut

19.6

0.56%

New York

140.4

0.72%

Delaware

1.5

0.16%

North Carolina

15.3

0.16%

District Columbia

12.9

2.15% (8)

North Dakota

0.1

0.02%

Florida

60.0

0.32%

Ohio

51.4

0.45%

Georgia

14.3

0.15%

Oklahoma

2.7

0.07%

Hawaii

0.3

0.03%

Oregon

7.1

0.19%

Idaho

0.8

0.05%

Pennsylvania

60.5

0.48%

Illinois

75.5

0.58%

Rhode Island

7.6

0.72%

Indiana

22.5

0.35%

South Carolina

5.6

0.12%

Iowa

2.2

0.07%

South Dakota

0.3

0.04%

Kansas

3.4

0.12%

Tennessee

10.4

0.17%

Kentucky

2.1

0.05%

Texas

31.5

0.13%

Louisiana

2.5

0.06%

Utah

6.0

0.22%

Maine

1.7

0.13%

Vermont

0.3

0.05%

Maryland

24.3

0.43%

Virginia

18.3

0.23%

Massachusetts

61.1

0.93%

Washington

15.6

0.23%

Michigan

47.5

0.48%

West Virginia

2.8

0.15%

Minnesota

7.6

0.14%

Wisconsin

13.2

0.23%

Missisipi

1.0

0.03%

Wyoming

0.8

0.14%

Missouri

6.7

0.11%

USA total

1043.6

0.34%

(7) “Adherents” are defined as the most inclusive category of Church membership. Data on adherents were obtained directly from the local Orthodox parishes by asking parish clergy: “Approximately how many individual persons in total are associated in any way with the life of your parish: counting adults and children, regular and occasional attendees, paid stewards and persons who do not contribute financially?”

(8) The fact that adherents of the Orthodox Churches constitute 2.15% of the population of District Columbia does not mean that all of them actually physically live in District Columbia. Rather, the figure of 12.9 thousands of Orthodox adherents in Washington DC indicates that they are affiliated with and participate in the life of the Orthodox parishes situated within administrative borders of Washington, DC.

Tab.5 Orthodox Christian Churches in the USA:

State-by-State Number of Parishes and Monastic Communities (2010)

State

Number of Orthodox Parishes

Number of Monastic Communities

State

Number of Orthodox Parishes

Number of Monastic Communities

Alabama

14


Montana

6


Alaska

92

2

Nebraska

11


Arizona

32

2

Nevada

12


Arkansas

10


New Hampshire

17


California

255

12

New Jersey

128

1

Colorado

30

1

New Mexico

8

1

Connecticut

55


New York

240

12

Delaware

7


North Carolina

34

3

District Columbia

7


North Dakota

3


Florida

136

3

Ohio

114

7

Georgia

40


Oklahoma

17


Hawaii

6


Oregon

22


Idaho

8


Pennsylvania

250

5

Illinois

111

3

Rhode Island

11


Indiana

45

2

South Carolina

20

2

Iowa

15


South Dakota

3


Kansas

18


Tennessee

27


Kentucky

8


Texas

103

4

Louisiana

15


Utah

9


Maine

8


Vermont

4


Maryland

41


Virginia

49

1

Massachusetts

99

2

Washington

37

3

Michigan

84

4

West Virginia

12

2

Minnesota

31


Wisconsin

33

1

Missisipi

6


Wyoming

7


Missouri

22

2

USA total

2370

75

(7) “Adherents” are defined as the most inclusive category of Church membership. Data on adherents were obtained directly from the local Orthodox parishes by asking parish clergy: “Approximately how many individual persons in total are associated in any way with the life of your parish: counting adults and children, regular and occasional attendees, paid stewards and persons who do not contribute financially?”

(8) The fact that adherents of the Orthodox Churches constitute 2.15% of the population of District Columbia does not mean that all of them actually physically live in District Columbia. Rather, the figure of 12.9 thousands of Orthodox adherents in Washington DC indicates that they are affiliated with and participate in the life of the Orthodox parishes situated within administrative borders of Washington, DC.

More data and studies on the Orthodox Church life in America is available at: www.orthodoxreality.org

Alexei D. Krindatch, the research consultant to the “Standing Conference of the Canonical Orthodox Bishops in the Americas” (SCOBA). He is a sociologist of religion. He was born on May 22, 1966, in Moscow, Russia, to a family of scientists. He graduated cum laude from the Moscow State University (Moscow, Russia) with a major in human and economic geography. He completed postgraduate studies at the Institute of Geography of the Russian Academy of Sciences (Moscow, Russia) and further augmented education by completing a program on “Religion, Human Rights and Religious Freedom” at Columbia University (New York, USA).

He can be reached at: Akrindatch@aol.com, 510-647-9427, 773-551-7226.

Date posted: October 5, 2010