Mormons join top five in 2002 religious yearbook
The Yearbook of American and Canadian Churches 2002 has ranked the Mormon church among the nation's five largest religious bodies for the first time.
The ranking may be debated, however, because the yearbook does not take into account the nation's largest black denomination, the National Baptist Convention U.S.A. Inc., which did not report its membership.
The Mormon church reported 5.2 million U.S. members, moving past the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (5.1 members) in the new yearbook.
The National Baptist Convention last reported its membership in 1992, with 8.2 million members, and is looking into another count of its faithful.
Roman Catholicism remains the largest body, with more than 63 million members in the United States, followed by the Southern Baptist Convention (16 million), United Methodist Church (8.3 million) and Church of God in Christ (5.5 million).
Franklin Graham: AIDS crisis bigger threat than terrorism
Speaking at a conference of relief workers, Franklin Graham said the AIDS epidemic "is an even bigger threat to civilization as we know it" than terrorism.
Graham, son of evangelist Billy Graham, spoke Sunday at a conference that drew more than 800 Christian workers from throughout the world who specialize in helping HIV-positive people and AIDS patients.
The event was sponsored by Graham's Samaritan's Purse relief ministry.
The AIDS epidemic is a "plague of biblical proportions," Graham said. It needs "the same level of commitment, zeal, money and resources that we have rightly applied toward combating international terrorism."
Churches should put the problem "at the top of our agendas" rather than simply waiting for government to solve it, he said.
Graham admitted that, like most Christians, he didn't do enough early in the crisis. He also said believers should help remove the disease's social stigma.
"Regardless of how it is contracted, we should demonstrate the same love, compassion and care that Jesus Christ would if he were physically walking among us today," Graham said.
Methodists report increases in giving, new attendees
Despite the recession and falling donations for some charities, the United Methodist Church said giving to general funds last year totaled $171.3 million, up from $153.9 million for 2000.
Beyond that, the church's finance agency reported, the 8.4 million Methodists gave $17.5 million to an ongoing offering in response to terrorist attacks. It's part of $32 million for the denomination's Committee on Relief, which funds charitable work in the United States and overseas.
Church treasurer Sandra Kelley Lackore said this "remarkable demonstration" of faithfulness resulted in part from work by regional conferences and local congregations.