An Overview of Religion in Los Angeles during the 1990s

Compiled by Clifton L. Holland



During 1990-1997, missionary researcher Clifton L. Holland (Executive Director of IDEA Ministries) and his associates conducted a comprehensive study of Ethnic and Religious Diversity that focused on all ethnic and religious groups in the Greater Los Angeles Metro Area - GLAMA (Los Angeles and Orange counties); additional data was gathered on other counties as well: Ventura, San Bernardino and Riverside.  This larger area was defined as the Los Angeles 5-County Region.

The general purpose of this study was to further the Great Commission by helping Protestant denominations and mission agencies define and evaluate the status of the "harvest force" and the "harvest field" in a diverse urban context:  Los Angeles is now the major port of entry for new immigrants to the USA, and a place where non-Anglos (including Hispanics) are now the majority and Anglos are a minority population.

The research team created a massive computer database that included (1) all known religious groups (both Christian and non-Christian), with over 12,500 listings, that were identified by ethnic, denominational and religious classification codes (based on a typology adapted from Dr. J. Gordon Melton's Encyclopedia of American Religions, Fourth Edition, Detroit, MI: Gale Research, 1993); (2) all known ethnic groups (based on race, language, national origin and ancestry of the population, using information from the 1990 Census of Population); and (3) five levels of geographical definition (from "county" to "census tract") that were correlated to census data for 1980 and 1990.  This database is now available on-line at:   The religious Classification Codes (CLASCODE) are explained in A Classification System of Religious Groups in the Americas by Major Traditions and Family Types (created by Clifton L. Holland of IDEA-PROLADES Ministries, latest version May 2007). 

The original "Resource Center for Urban Ministry" that Holland created at IDEA's Pasadena office in January 1992, located on the campus of the U.S. Center for World Mission/William Carey International University, was moved to the Bresee Institute for Urban Training at the First Church of the Nazarene in Los Angeles in December 1992.   This project was developed under the sponsorship of the Consortium for Urban Leadership Development (COULD), and the "COULD Resource Center" was administered for several years by the Bresee Institute for Urban Training, under the supervision of Michael Mata and, later, of Jolly Beyioku.  Since 1995, the Paraclete Mission Group in Altadena, directed by Mr. Phil Elkins, has been the main depository of the research archives, databases and mapping resources for the IDEA-GLAMA Urban Resource Center.

Mr. Ben Capps of YWAM worked with Holland in the development of the GLAMA database and became the principal trainer using ATLAS GIS software, while Holland finalized the production of IDEA's Church Directory Software (ICDS) and the ICDS User's Manual, with technical assistance from Mr. Alan Young using Clarion Professional Developer.  Holland and Young provided technical support for users of the ICDS software program, while Holland also provided training in the use of Atlas GIS software, from 1992-1997.  During this time, IDEA's Strategic Mapping and Information Services provided its partnership agencies and the general public with copies of the computer maps and transparencies that were created for this study, as well as customized maps for specific geographical areas and ethnic communities, using color deskjet (letter size) and HP plotter (large wall maps) printers.


The IDEA-GLAMA RESEARCH PROJECT created the following products between 1990-1997:

The Los Angeles A.D. 2000 Project:  Targeting the Greater Los Angeles Metro Area (GLAMA) - January 1990
A Resource Directory on Ethnic and Religious Diversity in the Los Angeles Metro Area (GLAMA): A Working Document (1991)
A Resource Directory on Ethnic and Religious Diversity in the Los Angeles Metro Area (GLAMA): General Overview (1992)

The Greater Los Angeles Metro Area (GLAMA): A Demographical Overview by Regions, Sub-regions and Major and Minor Statistical Areas, Based on the 1990 Census of Population (1993) - Map

A Database of All Known Religious Groups in GLAMA (1992) - Final Version, 1994:  8,499 Listings
A Resource Directory on Ethnic and Religious Diversity in the Los Angeles Metro Area (GLAMA): RG-I, Central City (1993)
A Resource Directory on Ethnic and Religious Diversity in the Los Angeles Metro Area (GLAMA): RG-II, San Fernando Valley (1992)
A Resource Directory on Ethnic and Religious Diversity in the Los Angeles Metro Area (GLAMA): RG-III, West LA-Malibu (1992)
A Resource Directory on Ethnic and Religious Diversity in the Los Angeles Metro Area (GLAMA): RG-IV, South Bay (1992)
A Resource Directory on Ethnic and Religious Diversity in the Los Angeles Metro Area (GLAMA): RG-V, Norwalk-Whitter (1993)
A Resource Directory on Ethnic and Religious Diversity in the Los Angeles Metro Area (GLAMA): RG-VI, San Gabriel Valley (1992)
A Resource Directory on Ethnic and Religious Diversity in the Los Angeles Metro Area (GLAMA): RG-VII, Orange County (1992)
A Report on the Status of Unreached Peoples in GLAMA:   by National Origin Population, Race-Ethnic Categories, and Number and Ratio of Protestant Churches per Group (1994) - See Report  (includes Los Angeles and Orange Counties)
A Resource Manual for Community Analysis and Strategic Planning (1994) - See Questionnaire
A Database of All Known Religious Groups in the Los Angeles 5-County Region: 12,433 Listings (1997) - See Overview
The Geographical Distribution of Protestant Churches in GLAMA:  June 1997 - See Report

To view the project description, go to:
The Los Angeles A.D. 2000 Project.

To view the results of this study, go to:
An Overview

To view the Acknowledgements, go to:

Love L.A.

The city's reputation was severely tarnished by a civil rebellion that broke out in April 1992 following the acquittal of four white police officers accused of beating an African-American motorist—a beating that was captured on videotape by a bystander and broadcast worldwide.  The ensuing melee left more than 50 people dead and resulted in an estimated 1 billion dollars in damage.

After these disasterous riots, several leading Protestant pastors organized a monthly prayer rally for a wide cross-section of Protestant pastors and lay leaders representing many race-ethnic groups; these monthly meetings, usually held at Hollywood Presbyterian Church (HPC), were promoted under the name, "Love L.A." The two founding pastors of this prayer movement were the Rev. Floyd Oglesby of HPC (who later served as Chaplain of the U.S. Senate) and Dr. Jack Hayford of The Church on the Way (Foursquare) in Van Nuys.  "Love L.A." was discontinued about 2002, following the retirement of Hayford.

In 1992, the Los Angeles Times conducted a public opinion poll on religious affiliation in the City of Los Angeles that showed the following:



Religion in Los Angeles, 1997

Contextualize this section for the mid-1990s using the RC Directory.
  Los Angeles is home to adherents of many religions, with Roman Catholicism being the largest due to the high numbers of Hispanic, Filipino, and Irish Americans.  The Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Los Angeles comprises the City of Los Angeles as well as the counties of Los Angeles, Santa Barbara and Ventura.  The archdiocese is considered the largest Roman Catholic diocese in the USA in terms of congregant population.  It covers 8,762 square miles (22,430 square kilometers) of territory.  The total Roman Catholic population, as of 2005, stands at 4,349,267 people living among a total population of 11,258,600.

Today (2006), there are 288 RCC parishes located in 120 cities throughout the Archdiocese in the three counties.  There are seven missions and chapels and nine Eastern Catholic parishesArmenian, Assyrian Chaldean, Byzantine-Ruthenian, Coptic, Maronite, Melkite Greek, Russian Greek, Syriac and Ukrainian-Byzantine.  In all, there are a total of 225 Catholic elementary schools serving some 65,000 students, while there are 53 Catholic high schools with about 30,000 students enrolled.   Together they comprise one of the three largest school systems in California in either the public or private sector.  Ethnic services in a very culturally mixed environment are offered to 72 different groups.  These services include clergy, liturgy, social services, publications, counseling, and cultural affairs.

There are many Eastern Orthodox Churches in the Los Angeles area as the result of the immigration of Eastern Europeans, Middle Easterners and Asian-Indians.  There were at least 104 Eastern Orthodox churches in the Los Angeles 5-Country Region in 1997.  For links to some of these churches, go to:    PROLADES-GLAMA Churches.htm

The varios denominations of the Protestant movement together constitute an enormously diverse theological and ethnic mosaic in the Los Angeles 5-County Region (LA5CO) was revealed by the results of the Los Angeles A.D. 2000 Project (1990-1997) sponsored by IDEA-PROLADES Ministries, which are presented below.  The total number of congregations identified for all religious groups in 1997 was 12,433, of which 10,054 (80.9%) were classified as Protestant.   The major ethnic composition for all the Protestant churches was:  White/Anglo-American 43.8%, Black/Afro-American 24.8%, Hispanic 14.2% and Asian/Pacific Islander 17.2%.  The latter designation included the following Protestant congregations:  10 Asian Indian, 218 Chinese, 8 Cambodian, 45 Filipino, 13 Indonesian, 51 Japanese, 883 Korean, 3 Laotian, 27 Pacific Islander, 3 Thai and 18 Vietnamese churches and missions.  Also, there were 11 American Indian congregations.   For links to Protestant mega-churches, go to:  PROLADES-GLAMA Churches.htm


By Clifton L. Holland, Director of PROLADES

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SOURCE: The LA5CO Database of Religious Groups, created by IDEA-PROLADES based on extensive fieldwork during 1992-1997 as part of “A Study of Ethnic and Religious Diversity in the Los Angeles 5-Country Region,” available at:

This study discovered 728 Marginal Christian groups in the Los Angeles 5-County Region in 1997.  The term "Marginal Christian" identifies those religious groups that have some affinity with Christianity but whose theology, traditions and practices are outside the mainstream of the major Christian traditions:   Eastern Orthodox, Western Roman Catholic and Protestant.  Included in the Margin Christian category are Christian Science/Religious Science, Jehovah's Witnesses/The Watchtower Bible and Tract Society, Latter-day Saints/Mormons and related groups, some of the Jesus People groups and other miscellaneous groups, including Iglesia Luz del Mundo (Light of the World Church) among Hispanics.   For links to Marginal Christian groups, go to:  PROLADES-GLAMA Churches.htm

The Los Angeles Mormon Temple, the second largest temple operated by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, is on Santa Monica Boulevard in the Westwood district of Los Angeles.  Dedicated in 1956, it was the first Mormon temple built in California.   The grounds includes a visitors' center open to the public, the Los Angeles Regional Family History Center, also open to the public, and the headquarters for the Los Angeles LDS mission. 

In 1997,  the Los Angeles 5-Country Region contained at least 179 LDS/Mormon-related local congregations; XXXX Christian Science/Religious Science congregations; XXX Jesus People groups; and XXX other groups.

Because Los Angeles has a large multi-ethnic population, there were many religious organizations in the area in 1997 that represented a wide variety of non-Christian faiths, including:

Middle-Eastern Religions

Asian Religions

Los Angeles is also home to adherents of various Animist, Ancient Wisdom, Magick and Psychic-Spiritualist-New Age religions. 

In 1997, there were at least 630 non-Christian religious groups in the Los Angeles 5-Country Region, with a large concentation of them in the West Los Angeles-Malibu subregion.   For links to non-Christian religions, go to:  PROLADES-GLAMA Churches.htm

Atheists & Agnostics. Atheists United, Los Angeles Ethnical Culture, Unitarian-Universalists, etc.

Note:  The religious Classification Codes (CLASCODE) by Major Traditions and Families of Denominations are explained in A Classification System of Religious Groups in the Americas by Major Traditions and Family Types (created by Clifton L. Holland of IDEA-PROLADES Ministries, latest version May 2007). 

Compare the parallel history of religion
among the major race/ethnic groups in Los Angeles

Ethnic /Ancestry and Religious Info & Histories

       The Hispanic American Community

The Asian American & Pacific Islander Communities (an overview of all subgroups)

    City of Los Angeles
    County of Los Angeles
    County of Orange

The African American Community

The Arab Community

The Armenian Community

The Iranian Community

The Jewish Community

The Native American Community