By Mark Tooley, Juicy Ecumenism.
There was a sad, revealing story in The Washington Post about a century old Presbyterian church near where I grew up selling its property. The church under the current pastor has lost half its membership, and online statistics reveal average attendance is fewer than 30. I’ve passed the handsome stone sanctuary hundreds of times over the decades, and it probably seats several hundred inside.
The Presbyterian Church (USA) congregation is selling its property for $8.5 million (under value) to a non-profit entity that will, with county funding, develop the lot into a high rise apartment building offering 173 affordable housing units. Possibly the small congregation will rent worship space in that new structure when completed in a few years, if the congregation still survives.
Arlington County, just across the Potomac from Washington, DC is fast growing and super expensive. These affordable housing units are much needed. But how sad this dwindling congregation is abandoning its prominent location because it could not as a Christian church appeal to the surrounding community.
This congregation’s website offers a timeline about its one hundred year history. Among the few items it briefly lists are its 1990s dissent from its denomination’s then official policy affirming celibacy in singleness and monogamy in male-female marriage. Of course, since then, the PCUSA has abandoned this policy, which led to schism and accelerated nationwide membership loss.
Arlington is a very liberal and diverse community, so you might think a liberal congregation would have broad appeal. But evidently not. Similar to national trends, few of the Mainline congregations in Arlington are staying above water.
Related article: ‘The church is not the building. It is our faith and our people.’