Christianity in Houston

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Texas Annual Conference of the United Methodist Church

Christianity is the most prevalently practiced religion in the city of Houston, Texas. In 2012 Kate Shellnutt of the Houston Chronicle described Houston as a "heavily Christian city".[1] Multiple Christian denominations originating from various countries are practiced in the city.

Lakewood Church in Houston is the largest church in the United States. In 2010 it had 44,800 weekly attendees, while in 2000 it had 11,000 weekly attendees. In September 2010, Outreach Magazine published a list of the 100 largest Christian churches in the United States, and inside the list were the following Houston-area churches: Lakewood, Second Baptist Church Houston, Woodlands Church, Church Without Walls and First Baptist Church. According to the list, Houston and Dallas were tied as the second most popular city for megachurches.[2]


Roman Catholicism[edit]

The city's Roman Catholic diocese is the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Galveston-Houston. The chancery of the archdiocese is located in Downtown Houston.[3] The archdiocese's original cathedral church is St. Mary Cathedral Basilica in Galveston[4] with a co-cathedral, the Co-Cathedral of the Sacred Heart, located in Downtown Houston.

History of Roman Catholicism[edit]

The first Catholic church in Houston, St. Vincent's Church, opened in 1839.[5]

The city's first black Catholic church was St. Nicholas, located in the Third Ward.[6]

In 1910 there were no Mexican Catholic churches in Houston. Some Mexicans were excluded from attending English-speaking Catholic churches. Mexicans who did attend found themselves discriminated against.[7] In 1911 the Roman Catholic Diocese of Galveston brought the Oblates of Mary Immaculate, a series of priests intended to minister to the Mexican population of Houston.[8] In 1912 Our Lady of Guadalupe Catholic Church, the first Mexican Catholic church, opened.[7] Due to an increase in demand in Catholic services, oblates established missions in various Mexican-American neighborhoods.[9] The Roman Catholic church established Our Lady of Guadalupe so that white people accustomed to segregation of races would not be offended by the presence of Mexican people in their churches.[10] The second Mexican Catholic church, Immaculate Heart of Mary Catholic Church, opened in the 1920s.[11] It originated as an oblate mission in Magnolia Park, on the second floor of the residence of Emilio Aranda. A permanent two-story building, funded by the community, opened in 1926.[9]

In the 1920s a group of Louisiana Creole people attended the Hispanic Our Lady of Guadalupe Church because OLG was the closest church to the Frenchtown area of the Fifth Ward.[6] Because the OLG church treated the Creole people in a discriminatory manner, by forcing them to confess and take communion after people of other races did so and after forcing them to take the back pews,[12] the Creoles opted to build their own church.[13] The Our Mother of Mercy Catholic Church in the Fifth Ward, Houston's second black Catholic church, was officially founded in June 1929.[14]

The number of African-American Catholics in Houston increased after the Great Mississippi Flood of 1927 affected rural areas in the Southern United States.[15] Most of them moved to the Fifth Ward.[16] Due to a perception of the Catholic church being more favorable to African-Americans than Protestant churches, the Catholic church in Houston increased in popularity with African-Americans in the 1930s.[17]

In 1972 the Catholic church leaders and lay Hispanics in Houston participated in the Encuentro Hispano de Pastoral ("Pastoral Congress for the Spanish-speaking"). Robert R. Treviño, author of The Church in the Barrio: Mexican American Ethno-Catholicism in Houston, said that the event "stands as a watershed in the religious history of Mexican American Catholics in Houston".[8] Treviño also said that Mexican-American Catholics "competed for cultural space not only with the Anglo majority, which included various groups of white Catholics, but also with a large black population and a Mexican protestant presence as well."[18]

The first wave of Vietnamese immigrants to Houston, occurring after the end of the Vietnam War, was mostly Catholic.[19] Vietnamese Catholic churches in the Houston area today include Christ Incarnate Word Parish, Holy Rosary Parish, Our Lady of Lavang, Our Lady of Lourdes, and Vietnamese Martyr.[20]

On August 8, 2008, a bus with Vietnamese Catholics from the Houston area was traveling to a Missouri festival to honor the Virgin Mary and crashed near Sherman in North Texas. 17 people died.[20]


As of 2008 Our Lady of the Cedars Maronite Catholic Church is Houston's only Maronite Church. That year, Christine Dow, a spokesperson for the church, stated that there were about 500 families who were members, and that the community, since the 1990s, had increased.[21] Richard Vara of the Houston Chronicle wrote that in 1991 there had "only a handful of registered families" in the Houston Maronite church.[22]


By 2008 some Protestant churches in Houston began celebrating Ash Wednesday in order to increase spirituality in their followers and prepare them for Easter.[23]


The Baptist conventions in the State of Texas are the Baptist General Convention of Texas and the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention.

As of 2012 Second Baptist Church Houston, led by Homer Edwin "Ed" Young, is the largest Baptist church in the U.S.[24]

The oldest Black Baptist church in Houston is the Antioch Missionary Baptist Church, historically a part of the Fourth Ward and now in Downtown Houston.[25] Jack Yates once served as the pastor of this church.[26]


The Episcopal Diocese of Texas of the Episcopal Church serves Houston.


The Texas-Louisiana Gulf Coast Synod of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America serves Houston. The Rev. Michael Rinehart is the current bishop.

Houston is within the Texas District of the Lutheran Church–Missouri Synod. In 2001 Reverend Gerald B. Kieschnick, a native of Houston, began his role as the leader of the Missouri Synod Lutherans in the United States. In 2008 he lost his reelection bid. The 2008 pastor election took place in Downtown Houston, at the triennial convention.[27]


As of 2001 Windsor Village United Methodist Church is the largest Methodist church in the U.S.[28]


The Synod of the Sun of the Presbyterian Church USA serves Houston. The denomination's flagship First Presbyterian Church is a conservative congregation that came close to disaffiliating from the larger body. The Presbyterian Church in America also has a robust presence, including congregations at Christ the King Presbyterian Church and the newly planted City Church, which meets at the House of Blues. Other Presbyterian denominations in Houston include the EPC, OPC, and, more recently, the ECO.


LDS church in northwest Houston

In 2011 Kate Shellnut of the Houston Chronicle stated that the LDS Church was increasing in size in the Houston area.[29] On Saturday April 30, 2011 a new meeting house located on a 7-acre (2.8 ha) in Sienna Plantation, was scheduled to open. The facility was scheduled to serve a 200-member English-speaking ward and a 200-member Spanish-speaking ward. Prior to the church's opening, Sienna Plantation-area Mormons went to Mormon congregations in the Sharpstown area of Houston and in Sugar Land.[29]

There are twenty LDS Stakes that serve the Houston, Texas area. One Temple, the Houston, Texas Temple lies outside the area in unincorporated Harris (with a Spring address), and serves the twenty stakes in the area. It is the second temple built in Texas after the Dallas, Texas Temple, and one of the four currently operating in Texas today. It was dedicated on August 26, 2000, by President Gordon B. Hinckley.[30]


Annunciation Orthodox Church in Montrose, Houston

As of 2011 Eastern Orthodox churches in Houston are having growing memberships. Immigrants from Eastern Europe, the Middle East, and other countries have added to Houston's Orthodox population. As of 2011 in the entire State of Texas there were 32,000 people who actively attend Orthodox churches.[31] In 2013 Father John Whiteford, the pastor of St. Jonah Orthodox Church near Spring, stated that there were about 6,000-9,000 Eastern Orthodox Christians in Houston.[32]

As of 2013, the largest Orthodox congregations are Annunciation Cathedral Greek and St. George Antiochian. Orthodox parishes hold festivals such as the Greek Festival. District Attorney of Harris County Pat Lykos and the members of the Pappas family, operating Pappas Restaurants, are Greek Orthodox.[32]

In 1861 the first Orthodox church in the Houston area, named after Saints Constantine and Helen. The laymen of the church were in Galveston. The priest, Father Theoclitos Triantafilides, was sent by Tsar Nicholas II of Russia. Nicholas II also sent funds to the church. Whiteford stated that those in Houston took the train to Galveston to attend services. Immigrants founded Orthodox congregations in Southeast Texas from 1908 to the turn of the 20th century. Immigrants came from the Arab world, Greece, Romania, Russia, Syria, and Antakya in Turkey.[32]


St. Kevork Armenian Church

St. Kevork Armenian Church, which was established around 1982, serves as the Armenian Apostolic Church facility in Houston. As of 2007 about 10% of the estimated 4,000-5,000 ethnic Armenians in Houston are active in this church.[33]


St. Mark Coptic Orthodox Church, Bellaire

Houston is within the Coptic Orthodox Diocese of the Southern United States.

As of 2004, there were three Coptic Orthodox churches in Houston: St. Mark Coptic Orthodox Church in Bellaire, the St. Mary and Archangel Michael Church in northwest Harris County, and the Archangel Raphael Coptic Orthodox Church in Clear Lake City. The St. Mary and Archangel Michael church began church services on July 25, 2004, had 200 families in August of that year, and had a cost of $2.5 million.[34] The St. Mary and Archangel Michael church is the largest Copt church in the Houston area.[35]

In the late 1960s there were far fewer Coptic families. Every month, a priest from Los Angeles flew to Houston and started a mass in a borrowed Orthodox church or in a private house.[34] From 1968 to 2006 over 600 Copt families moved to Houston. Due to sectarian strife against Copts within Egypt, by 2006 the membership of Copt churches in Houston was growing.[35]

In 2006 Gregory Katz of the Houston Chronicle stated that partly because many Copt church leaders are accustomed to anti-Copt attitudes in Egypt, those who come to Houston are not accustomed to speaking freely about their religious beliefs and therefore "do not mingle easily with the rest of the large Christian community in the Houston area".[35]

After the 2011 Alexandria bombing, Houston Coptic churches cancelled their Coptic Christmas services.[36]


Debre Selam Medhanealem Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahdo Church (ደብረ ሰላም መድኃኔዓለም የኢትዮጵያ ኦርቶዶክስ ተዋሕዶ ቤተ ክርስቲያን) in Fondren Southwest

Houston's Ethiopian Orthodox church is the Debre Selam Medhanealem Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahdo Church (Amharic: ደብረ ሰላም መድኃኔዓለም የኢትዮጵያ ኦርቶዶክስ ተዋሕዶ ቤተ ክርስቲያን? Debre Selam MedhaneAlem YeItyopphya Ortodoks Tewahedo Bete Kristiyan; the name approximately means "Sanctuary of Peace and the Savior") in Fondren Southwest.[37]

Prior to the construction of the church, those of the Ethiopian Orthodox faith worshiped at Coptic Orthodox churches. Mesfin Genanaw, a Houston Community College teacher who was one of the individuals who assisted with the building of the church, stated that in 1992 20 Ethiopian women who were attending a Coptic church planned the establishment of an Ethiopian church. In 1993 the group purchased a 2.5-acre (1.0 ha) site and a tent, and conducted church services in a tent. After fundraisers were held, in 1995 construction of the permanent church started, and the church later obtained an additional 5 acres (2.0 ha) of land. Genanaw stated in a 2003 Houston Chronicle article that there are an estimated 5,000 Ethiopians in Greater Houston.[37]


As of 2010 St. Jonah Orthodox Church, located in an unincorporated area in Harris County with a Spring address, is the sole Anglophone Russian Orthodox church in the Houston area. The church began holding services in 1998. John Whiteford was the deacon and provided lay services. In 2001 Whiteford was ordained as an Orthodox priest and he became a reverend. Whiteford estimated that the church purchased its current property in 2006 and he stated that in order to purchase the construction of the new building, the church paid in cash. The ceremony to celebrate the completion of its current building was scheduled for Saturday and Sunday October 23–24, 2010. As of 2010 about 90 people attend this church.[38]

Another church, St. Vladimir's Russian Orthodox Church, holds services in Slavonic.[38]

LGBT population[edit]

The LGBT flag at the First Unitarian Universalist Church in Houston indicates that the church welcomes LGBT-identifying persons

Some Christian churches accept members of the LGBT community.[39] In 2008 Reverend Dwayne Johnson, the pastor of the Resurrection Metropolitan Community Church,[40] a church in the Houston Heights,[39] stated that there were about 15-20 openly gay Christian clergy members in Houston.[40]

Resurrection Metropolitan's main service group is the LGBT community.[40] In 1980 the pastor was gay, and almost all of the congregation was LGBT.[41] In December 2010 Reverend Harry Knox, a pro-LGBT activist, became the leader of the Resurrection Metropolitan. In 2011 Resurrection Metropolitan had 850 members.[39]

In 1995 Grace Evangelican Lutheran Church began accepting LGBT members and became a "Reconciling in Christ" Lutheran church; it was founded in 1922. In 2008 Rene Garcia, a member of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA), stated that she estimated that 40% of the members identified themselves as LGBT, with many of them coming from other Christian denominations such as Missouri Synod Lutheranism and Roman Catholicism.[40]

In 2008 pro-LGBT activist Jay Bakker argued that Joel Osteen, pastor of Lakewood Church, should speak out in favor of the LGBT community, and invited him to join his group in a picnic.[42]

Religious leaders[edit]

Prominent adherents[edit]

This includes other individuals who openly and strongly espouse Christian beliefs:

See also[edit]



  1. ^ Shellnutt, Kate. "For Jeremy Lin: Houston church-hunting advice" (Archive). Houston Chronicle. July 19, 2012. Retrieved on May 3, 2014.
  2. ^ Shellnutt, Kate. "Megachurches getting bigger; Lakewood quadruples in size since 2000" (Archive). Houston Chronicle. March 21, 2011. Retrieved on May 3, 2014.
  3. ^ "Contact Us." Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Galveston-Houston. Retrieved on February 27, 2011. "1700 San Jacinto Houston, TX 77002."
  4. ^ Archdiocese Cathedral History Archived January 25, 2007, at the Wayback Machine.
  5. ^ Carroll, Jill. "Family, history tied to church's project" (Archive). Houston Chronicle. May 24, 2012. Retrieved on May 3, 2014.
  6. ^ a b Steptoe, Tyina Leaneice (University of Wisconsin-Madison). Dixie West: Race, Migration, and the Color Lines in Jim Crow Houston (PhD thesis for a history degree). ProQuest, 2008. ISBN 0549635874, 9780549635871. p. 195.
  7. ^ a b Treviño, p. 32.
  8. ^ a b Treviño, p. 9.
  9. ^ a b Garza, Natalie, p. 17.
  10. ^ Garza, Natalie, p. 15.
  11. ^ Esparza, p. 3.
  12. ^ Steptoe, Tyina Leaneice (University of Wisconsin-Madison). Dixie West: Race, Migration, and the Color Lines in Jim Crow Houston (PhD thesis for a history degree). ProQuest, 2008. ISBN 0549635874, 9780549635871. p. 195-196.
  13. ^ Steptoe, Tyina Leaneice (University of Wisconsin-Madison). Dixie West: Race, Migration, and the Color Lines in Jim Crow Houston (PhD thesis for a history degree). ProQuest, 2008. ISBN 0549635874, 9780549635871. p. 196.
  14. ^ Catholic Youth Organization, Diocese of Galveston. Houston District. Centennial: The Story of the Kingdom of God on Earth in that Portion of the Vineyard which for One Hundred Years Has Been the Diocese of Galveston. Catholic Youth Organization, Centennial Book Committee, 1947. p. 76. "Our Mother of Mercy Church, the second Negro parish to be established in Houston, was founded in June, 1929. Bishop Christopher E. Byrne purchased two city blocks, on Sumpter Street, and ground was[...]" ("Negro" is an outdated term for African-American).
  15. ^ Pruitt, p. 114.
  16. ^ Pruitt, p. 114-115.
  17. ^ Pruitt, p. 116.
  18. ^ Treviño, p. 10.
  19. ^ Klineberg, Stephen L. and Jie Wu. "DIVERSITY AND TRANSFORMATION AMONG ASIANS IN HOUSTON: Findings from the Kinder Institute’s Houston Area Asian Survey (1995, 2002, 2011)" (Archive). Kinder Institute for Urban Research, Rice University. February 2013. - Cited: p. 39.
  20. ^ a b Latson, Jennifer. "Mass honors those lost in Sherman bus crash" (Archive). Houston Chronicle. September 8, 2008. Retrieved on May 5, 2014.
  21. ^ Murphy, Bill. "Maronite cardinal tells of threat to Lebanon" (Archive). Houston Chronicle. May 20, 2008. Retrieved on May 3, 2014.
  22. ^ Vara, Richard. "Maronite cardinal visits Houston" (Archive). Houston Chronicle. May 23, 2008. Retrieved on May 3, 2014.
  23. ^ Vara, Richard. "More Protestants are turning to Ash Wednesday" (Archive). Houston Chronicle. February 6, 2008. Retrieved on May 3, 2014.
  24. ^ "Second Baptist will launch Spanish service on Easter." Houston Chronicle. April 6, 2012. Retrieved on May 3, 2014.
  25. ^ Davis, Rod. "Houston's really good idea Bus tour celebrates communities that forged a city." San Antonio Express-News. Sunday August 3, 2003. Travel 1M. Retrieved on February 11, 2012.
  26. ^ "YATES, JOHN HENRY." Handbook of Texas Online.
  27. ^ Shellnut, Kate. "New president to lead Missouri Synod Lutherans" (Archive). Houston Chronicle. July 15, 2010. Retrieved on May 3, 2014.
  28. ^ "Houston has largest Methodist church." Associated Press at The Victoria Advocate. Saturday March 10, 2001. 4D. Retrieved from Google News (25 of 27) on October 16, 2012.
  29. ^ a b Shellnut, Kate. "LDS opening new meetinghouse for growing congregation" (Archive). Houston Chronicle. April 28, 2011. Retrieved on May 3, 2014.
  30. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2007-03-22. Retrieved 2007-04-01. 
  31. ^ Kever, Jeannie. "New converts flocking to ancient church in Houston" (Archive). Houston Chronicle. January 9, 2011. Retrieved on May 3, 2014.
  32. ^ a b c "Orthodox Christians part of diverse fabric of Houston faith" (Archive). July 23, 2013. Retrieved on May 3, 2014.
  33. ^ Vara, Richard. "Head of Armenian Apostolic Church visiting Houston." Houston Chronicle. Saturday October 20, 2007. Retrieved on April 27, 2016.
  34. ^ a b Vara, Richard. "New home is 'miracle' for Coptic Christians" (Archive). Houston Chronicle. August 21, 2004. Retrieved on May 3, 2014.
  35. ^ a b c Katz, Gregory. "Egyptian Coptic Christians find bright future in Houston" (Archive). Houston Chronicle. December 6, 2006. Retrieved on May 3, 2014.
  36. ^ Shellnutt, Kate. "Coptic Christians in Houston cancel Christmas services" (Archive). Houston Chronicle. January 6, 2011. Retrieved on May 25, 2014.
  37. ^ a b Vara, Richard. "Ethiopian believers find strength in Orthodox church" (Archive). Houston Chronicle. February 15, 2003. Retrieved on May 5, 2014.
  38. ^ a b Meeks, Flori. "Russian Orthodox parish to celebrate new church" (Archive). Houston Chronicle. October 14, 2014. Retrieved on May 5, 2014.
  39. ^ a b c Shelnutt, Kate. "Gay Christian community in Houston: Diverse, kid-friendly and working for justice" (Archive). Houston Chronicle. January 28, 2011. Retrieved on May 3, 2014.
  40. ^ a b c d Karkabi, Barbara. "Grace Evangelical Lutheran welcomes gay pastor" (Archive). Houston Chronicle. August 29, 2008. Retrieved on May 3, 2014.
  41. ^ Ennis, Michael. "What do these Rugged Texas He-Men Have in Common?". Texas Monthly. June 1980. Volume 8, No. 6. ISSN 0148-7736. Start page: 107. Cited: p. 107. Retrieved from Google Books on May 9, 2014. "It was Easter morning at Houston's Metropolitan Community Church of the Resurrection. [...]"
  42. ^ Feldman, Claudia. "Gay group, Tammy Faye's son invite Joel Osteen to picnic" (Archive). Houston Chronicle. May 8, 2008. Retrieved on May 3, 2014.