While the numbers of Presbyterian Church (USA) members leaving the denomination are slowly declining, the percentage of the decline continues to grow. In 2016, active members leaving the PCUSA totaled 89,893 – a 5.71% decrease in membership from 2015, when 95,107 members left.
The 2016 Comparative Statistics, released yesterday (5/24/17) by the PCUSA, show that this year’s decline of 89,893, which included 52,295 women, was the smallest decline since 2013, when 89,296 members left.
The PCUSA’s membership has been in continuous decline since the denomination was formed in 1983, by the reunion of the Presbyterian Church in the U.S. (PCUS) and the United Presbyterian Church in the U.S.A. (UPCUSA). The last recorded membership increase for the PCUSA’s two combined predecessor denominations was in 1965. (Click here for chart showing PCUSA membership and losses 1960-2016.)
In other bad news, the PCUSA saw a dramatic decrease in contributions for the year. The 2016 contributions totaled $1,573,042,766, a decrease of $175,473,970 from 2015’s total of $1,748,516,736.
The PCUSA had celebrated an increase of contributions in 2015 when it received $9.6 million more than it had in 2014. Local mission giving also fell by $13,982,941 from $132,737,066 given in 2015 to $118,754,125 given in 2016.
The statistics show that in 2016, 99 churches and 122 ministers were dismissed from the denomination. According to an article released by the Office of the General Assembly, the 99 dismissed churches “accounted for 29,970 dismissed members.”
Carmen Fowler LaBerge, president of the Presbyterian Lay Committee and host of The Reconnect with Carmen LaBerge pointed out that “From 2013-2016 the PCUSA has organized (planted) 70 congregations. It has dissolved 372 and dismissed 452. Notably, in those four years, no churches have sought to join from the PCUSA from other denominations.”
Also commenting on the number of church dissolved in the denomination was blogger Mateen Elass who said:
“It’s crucial to look not just at churches dismissed … The other critical category is churches dissolved (usually because they are no longer viable). In 2015, the number of dissolutions was 91. Last year it was 97. In the years from 2001-2005, the average per year was in the upper 50s. One doesn’t need a Ph.D. in prophecy to project that numbers in this dissolution category will begin to skyrocket in the next decade as the PCUSA ages out and its members “graduate” in larger numbers. The majority of PCUSA congregations are small and elderly, and in a desperate holding pattern. The average size of a PCUSA congregation today is 157. I don’t have access to data for determination of the median size (the midpoint size where half of all PCUSA congregations are larger and the other half smaller), but I’m guessing it’s somewhere in the high 70s. This would indicate that thousands of churches are a small step from closure.”
Continuing her analysis of the statistics, LaBerge drew attention to the information it contained dealing with the clergy. She said that “the PCUSA only ordained 215 new ministers in 2016. That in no way keeps pace with ministers who died (376 in 2016) not to mention those who are retiring. From 2013-2016 the denomination dismissed 537 ministers to other denominations and removed 358 from office.”
PCUSA Stated Clerk the Rev. J. Herbert Nelson II, responded to the PCUSA’s 2016 statistics in his article “We Are Not Dying. We Are Reforming.” He wrote, in part:
“We are moving towards a new future as a denomination. Membership loss, which was experienced since the 1970s, is slowing down. Congregations are refocusing on their mission. Mid councils are experimenting with ways to provide meaningful leadership in challenging times. Congregations are celebrating both anniversaries and new beginnings. Young adults are asserting their desires to serve in both domestic and international mission. Despite cries proclaiming the death of the Presbyterian Church (USA), we remain a viable interfaith and ecumenical partner in many local communities while proclaiming a prophetic witness throughout the world. Our eulogy as a denomination has been written too soon, because God’s Kingdom has not yet come. We are engaged both in the United States and around the globe. We are well-respected for our priestly and prophetic voice within Christendom. Our challenge is to see the powerful opportunities that are before us while declaring with Holy Spirit boldness that God is doing amazing work within us right now. …”
Adult baptisms rose in 2016 by 606 – 4,775 adults were baptized in 2016 compared to 4,169 in 2015. Child baptisms, however, continued to decline. In 2016, the PCUSA baptized 13,427children, which is 1,516 less children than it baptized in 2015.
The racial composition of PCUSA in 2016 is still overwhelmingly white. With 80 percent of congregations reporting, 90.93 percent of the PCUSA identifies as white; 2.94% as Asian; 2.35% as African American; 1.40% as Hispanic; 1.11 percent as Black; .57% as African; .30% as Other; .26 percent as Native American; and .15% as Middle Eastern.
The top ten presbyteries in the PCUSA are Greater Atlanta, 35,360; Grace, 31,754; Charlotte, 31,505; National Capitol, 29,814; Chicago, 28,949; Philadelphia, 28,514; Pittsburgh, 27,673; New Hope, 27,235; Salem, 23,778; and Coastal Carolina, 23,601. All ten presbyteries showed decreases in membership from 2015-2016. Of the denomination’s 170 presbyteries, 151 of them have less than 15,000 members.
2016 Comparative Statistics report
2016 Miscellaneous Information
PCUSA membership decline continues but slows (Presbyterian News Service)
“We are not dying. We are Reforming.” Stated Clerk’s response
Watching a Remake of The Titanic — Presbyterian Church (USA) 2017
As Losses Mount, Presbyterian Official Declares: “We are not dying. We are Reforming” (Juicy Ecumenism)
What is the Christian Education category? The loss there was over 25% in the last 3 years.
I have no idea what the Stated Clerk of the PCUSA is using (for recreational or medicinal purposes) I assume. But his comments speak to the old adage, putting lipstick on a pig. A 90K membership loss done by a 365 day calendar year, means that every day, every 24 hours close to 250 PCUSA folks simply no longer exist as to records, per capita purposes. In other words, every 24 hour day an equivalent of 2 PCUSA congregations no longer exists. In other words in the 47 total business days in 2017 the “Way Forward” and “Vision 2020” Commissions have gazed at their navels, almost 12,000 PCUSA folks no longer exists which bother to care what ever drivel they will produce. Meaning when they are scheduled to report out in 14 months, another 120,000 or so PCUSA folks will not exist as well.
The ruling liberals do indeed have much to be accountable too, but what has always struck me is how sanguine to downright dismissive Louisville and their sycophants have been to the million member loss in the last 10 years and almost 70% going back to 1982. As if numbers, math means nothing, and those folks who did leave or drop off the table, well we are better off without them. We are just “reforming” OK, here is where the numbers and math do matter.
At the end of the day organizations like the Board of Pensions needs to pay its bill and keep its promises, at the end of the day the PCUSA, its 171 Presbyteries and Synods, OGA, PMA needs to make payroll twice a month. And sooner or later you run out of money from dead people as live ones. How one assumes to pay its bills or obligations upon a death spiral of actual, paying human beings is anybody’s guess, but I await the spin and gymnastics from Louisville and Philadelphia to make this look just fine and dandy.
At this rate the pcusa will be under 1 million within 5 years if not sooner, the only hope I see if those evangelical churches that have stayed in the pcusa continue to stay strong, there’s a shot at some sort of revival providing the those presbyteries don’t try to exert undue influence over them trying to tamp down the evangelical message if favor of a liberal theology. As usual the louisville sluggers don’t care if you leave the pcusa, as long as you leave the door keys and bank account numbers.
I think Mr. Nelson’s statement is completely out of touch. The reality is, the denomination is collapsing rapidly. Now, half of denomination’s congregations have less than 70 attendees in their Sunday services. Those churches will not be survived next ten years since the majority of their members are over 64 yrs old.
Need to check the numbers in paragraph four.
Thank you. The correction has been made.
This data does not reflect churches and members that are still in negotiations for leaving with or with out their property.
Some of us are staying in the PCUSA to support our congregation through the long drawn out process until it is finished.
Then we will leave and I think there are many who are in this category. I predict that the percentage of those leaving will not diminish in the coming year as these settlements are reached. They can only put off the decisions to let churches go for so long. Then there is another GA on the horizon and the decisions and vision put forth there may be further impetus to see a further decline of this Denomination?? God is doing something among us and despite the disappointments, we can be sure God is in control of it all.
This is people enrolled in Sunday School. It is an important figure because a high percentage of Sunday School attendees in a healthy congregation will be children. When the numbers drop significantly, this usually means the congregation has few young families with children.
Am I correct in thinking that the PCUSA itself had predicted a loss of 75,000 members for 2016? If so, then it lost almost 15,000 more than expected.
Can we expect more statistics later? The median size of churches? The number of churches with fewer than, say, 50 members? The median age of members? As was said, I expect that, by the time church dismissals have wound down, mere population trends will take over to remove more members, and more churches, even faster.
Carmen Fowler LaBerge points out that “From 2013-2016 the PCUSA has organized (planted) 70 congregations. It has dissolved 372 and dismissed 452. Notably, in those four years, no churches have sought to join from the PCUSA from other denominations.” The news is even more dreary than that. It turns out that a good portion of those 70 organized churches are not “new plants” but rather congregations formed from mergers of churches that became too small to function on their own and had to join forces with others. So in some cases, a newly organized church is merely the remnant of 2 or 3 congregations which otherwise would have completely blinked out of existence. Although this is a better outcome than a total loss, it is not a formula for success in terms of denominational growth.
[…] PCUSA Loses Another 89,893 Members in 2016 (The Layman) […]
I note that when you look up individual congregations on the PCUSA website now, the statistics for that congregation are no longer there. Those numbers had not been updated since 2013, but they recently disappeared all together.
John, early in 2016, COGA (Committee on the Office of the General Assembly) predicted that from 2015-2020 the PCUSA would lose 500,000 members — 100,000 in each of 2015 and 2016, and then 75,000 in each of the four years thereafter. So, it may be that PCUSA officials are feeling fairly good about the losses to date since projections said that there should be losses of 200,000 by the end of 2016, and the actual numbers are “only” 185,000. Of course, they are hoping that the exodus of churches slows significantly in the coming years, and presbyteries seem to be doing all they can to make this a reality by instituting draconian policies toward wavering congregations.
That is not a good sign. I called four different extensions of the Research Services department of the PCUSA to ask them why this reporting tool had been removed, and they were all “out of the office” or “unavailable.” I wonder if the removal of congregational info has to do the severe cutbacks at Louisville so they are no longer able to input data coming in from churches, or if they are trying to circle the wagons by preventing observers from getting grass roots figures on local congregations, or if they are just moving operations to a different software program and so access is down until that process is complete….
Thank you. This shows the rapid aging of PCUSA if families are leaving. This number should scare the heck out of Louisville.
I liked to use that statistical tool. It was very revealing about who was shrinking (most of the churches) and who was stable or even growing (in my town, with a few PCUSA churches, the more evangelical congregation has grown very well in recent years; all others are declining). I suspect the reason for removing the statistics is to avoid accountability for the ongoing failure and shrinkage. But I’ll be glad to be proven wrong.
[…] PCUSA Loses Another 89,893 Members in 2016 (The Layman) […]