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Armenian Apostolic Church (Catholicosate of Etchmiadzin) (1898 - Present) - Religious Group

Religious Family: Eastern Liturgical (Orthodox)
Religious Tradition: Orthodox
Description: The Armenian Apostolic Church is one of the so-called Oriental Orthodox Churches (the others being Coptic, Ethiopian, Eritrean, Malankara-Indian, and Syrian) which, unlike Eastern Orthodox Churches, recognize the validity of theological decisions of only the first three Ecumenical Councils. Armenia adopted Christianity as its state religion and became the world’s first Christian nation in 301 AD. The Armenian Church also sponsored the development of the unique Armenian alphabet. The center of the worldwide Armenian Church is in Etchmiadzin, an ancient city near Armenia’s capital, Yerevan. Large groups of Armenian immigrants began to arrive to America in the 1880s–90s. Their influx peaked in the aftermath of the 1915 Armenian Genocide by the Turkish Ottoman Empire. The first Armenian church in the USA was built in 1891 in Worcester, MA: the Church of Our Saviour (Sourp Prgich). In 1898, the Diocese of the Armenian Church for the New World was established by the Catholicos of Etchmiadzin, Mgrdich Khrimian. A growing controversy over relations with Communist Armenia (which had been incorporated into the Soviet Union in 1920) and the credibility of the historic center of the Armenian Church, the Holy Etchmiadzin, split the American Armenian community and the American Armenian Church into political factions. The final break occurred in 1933 after the assassination of the head of the Armenian Church of America, Archbishop Ghevont Tourian, during a worship service in New York City. This division between the two factions of the Armenian Church in United States continues to the present day. A majority of the Armenian churches in America remain under the authority of the Catholicosate of Holy Etchmiadzin, situated in the Republic of Armenia. A smaller group of parishes left this Catholicosate to join the Armenian Catholicasate of Cilicia, with headquarters in Lebanon. In 1968, the group under Catholicosate of Etchmiadzin built the St. Vartan Armenian Cathedral in New York. Designed in classic Armenian style, the cathedral became a hub of social and civic activity in lower Manhattan. The Armenian Church was vocal in America’s political culture, advocating for the official recognition of the 1915 Armenian Genocide by the US government. The late 1980s and 1990s brought a new wave of Armenian Orthodox immigrants from the former Soviet Union, a mixed result of the expulsion of ethnic Armenians from Azerbaijan, the earthquake in Armenia in 1988, and the fall of the Soviet Union in 1991. Despite the fact that the majority of Armenian families have lived in America for many generations, the sense of a heritage in which religion and ethnic identity are deeply intertwined is surprisingly robust. The Divine Liturgy (the main worship service) is celebrated in the classical Armenian language and is richly melodic, reflecting strong attachments to Armenian culture. Non-Armenian converts are rare in Armenian parishes in America, except in the case of spouses from mixed families.
Official Site:

Maps: Armenian Apostolic Church (Catholicosate of Etchmiadzin)1

Adherence Rate per 1,000 (2020)

Congregations (2020)

Top 5 Armenian Apostolic Church (Catholicosate of Etchmiadzin) States (2020)1 [View all States]

Rank State Congregations Adherents Adherence Rate
1 District Of Columbia 1 3,000 4.35
2 Massachusetts 8 9,630 1.37
3 Rhode Island 1 1,500 1.37
4 California 27 50,250 1.27
5 New York 9 8,485 0.42

Top 5 Armenian Apostolic Church (Catholicosate of Etchmiadzin) Counties (2020)1 [View all Counties]

Rank County Congregations Adherents Adherence Rate
1 Carson City, NV 1 400 6.82
2 Fresno County, CA 3 5,000 4.96
3 Middlesex County, MA 4 7,750 4.75
4 District of Columbia, DC 1 3,000 4.35
5 New York County, NY 2 5,660 3.34

Top 5 Armenian Apostolic Church (Catholicosate of Etchmiadzin) Metro Areas (2020)1 [View all Metro Areas]

Rank Metro Congregations Adherents Adherence Rate
1 Carson City, NV Metro Area 1 400 6.82
2 Fresno, CA Metro Area 3 5,000 4.96
3 Los Angeles-Long Beach-Anaheim, CA Metro Area 12 33,100 2.51
4 Racine, WI Metro Area 1 450 2.28
5 Boston-Cambridge-Newton, MA-NH Metro Area 5 8,150 1.65

Armenian Apostolic Church (Catholicosate of Etchmiadzin), Members (1925 - 2010)2

Armenian Apostolic Church (Catholicosate of Etchmiadzin), Ministers & Churches (1925 - 2010)2

Armenian Apostolic Church (Catholicosate of Etchmiadzin), Trends (1925 - 2010)2

1925 86,000 28 78
1929 92,000 35 74
1937 108,000 52
1965 125,000 34 32
1968 125,000 34 32
1969 125,000 25 33
1970 125,000 37 34
1972 125,000 34 29
1984 225,000 23 27
1985 225,000 23 27
1986 19 18
1990 180,000 29 30
1991 150,000 29 28
1992 150,000 27 32
1995 180,000 58 28
1997 200,000 28 28
1998 200,000 31 28
2000 360,000 46 36
2002 360,000 44 34
2003 360,000 44 34
2004 360,000 47 33
2005 360,000 48 35
2006 360,000 46 38
2007 360,000 47 36
2008 350,000 45 36
2009 350,000 43 38
2010 350,000 41 38


1 The 2020 data were collected by the Association of Statisticians of American Religious Bodies (ASARB) and include data for 372 religious bodies or groups. Of these, the ASARB was able to gather data on congregations and adherents for 217 and on congregations only for 155. [More information on the data sources]

2 All data on clergy, members, and churches are taken from the National Council of Churches’ Historic Archive CD and recent print editions of the Council’s Yearbook of American and Canadian Churches. The CD archives all 68 editions of the Yearbook (formerly called Yearbook of the Churches and Yearbook of American Churches) from 1916 to 2000. Read more information on the Historic Archive CD and the Yearbook.

Membership figures are "inclusive." According to the Yearbook, this includes "those who are full communicant or confirmed members plus other members baptized, non-confirmed or non-communicant." Each denomination has its own criteria for membership.

When a denomination listed on the Historic Archive CD was difficult to identify, particularly in early editions of the Yearbook, the ARDA staff consulted numerous sources, including Melton’s Encyclopedia of American Religions and the Handbook of Denominations in the United States. In some cases, ARDA staff consulted the denomination’s website or contacted its offices by phone. When a denomination could not be positively identified, its data were omitted.

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