By Rachel Williams, Juicy Ecumenism.
Back in March of this year, the Presbyterian Church (USA) voted to change the definition of marriage from “one man and one woman” to “two people, traditionally a man and a woman.” This allows clergy to now perform same-sex marriages and also states those clergy who are personally opposed to refrain from performing gay marriages.
This decision has been a long time coming for the PCUSA. In 2011, the largest Presbyterian denomination voted to allow gay clergy. Unsurprisingly, an exodus ensured as 60 congregations left the PCUSA and joined the Evangelical Presbyterian Church and ECO: A Covenant Order of Evangelical Presbyterians. After the initial vote, the following year 110 congregations joined different denominations. The year before the vote only 21 congregations left the PCUSA. By 2012, the PCUSA lost over 102,000 members. To put this loss into perspective, the PCUSA reportedly enjoyed 4.25 million in 1965 at its peak membership. In 2011, they maintained 1.95 million members. In 2014, the membership fell to 1.67 million. In fact, during 2014 the PCUSA dismissed more than 100 congregations to other denominations. Over the last several years, a total of 428 congregations have opted to leave the denomination. And furthermore, over the last 50 years, the PCUSA has steadfastly lost a large percentage of their members; the denomination is effectively on the decline despite enjoying large membership numbers.
A more in-depth analysis shows that from 2012 to 2014, the membership has declined by more than 15% . This simply cannot bode well for the future of the PCUSA. Also noteworthy, the donations by members also declined from $1,848,807,540 in 2013 to $1,738,915,711 just one year later.
It all started back in 2006, after the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church USA, there was a surprising change in their attitude toward human sexuality.
I really don’t think louisville gives a rip that people are leaving, as long as they leave the door keys and bank account numbers!
Who knows what they’re thinking. Maybe you’re right. Maybe they think that the losses will stop, and they’ll be fine. Maybe they think that unchurched millions will rush to join them, once they liberalize. Maybe they just think that they’re right and conservatives are wrong, and nothing else matters but their liberalism. While I don’t foretell the future very well, I’ve got to think that this denomination will soon enough disappear. Churches and individuals continue to leave, it doesn’t seem that new churches or members are appearing, the membership is aging, and the median size of the remaining churches shrinks. They started with millions of members. I’m still a member, so far. They won’t disappear overnight. But I think they will disappear.
I strongly suspect that the “reported” membership numbers are not even close to realistic by at least 1/3 too high. Is there a source to average weekly attendance? If so that’s probably a truer number of membership than any other number would indicate. Most congregations have fewer than 100 members and most of those folks are over 65. There really is no question that the denomination is dying. The only question is how long until the end.
My local congregation is attempting to leave the denomination by a route other than so-called “gracious” separation. It’s interesting to see how portions of the liberal faction in our church preach “unity” yet personally attack those who desire to leave the PCUSA. Clearly they play by a different set of rules. I suppose it’s their right, if they prevail, to go down with the ship. My family is poised to leave if it becomes apparent that our church cannot get out.
Your experience mirrors ours in our PCUSA church. The left has been very vocal and unkind to those of us who wish to leave the denomination. So much for unity.
I can’t wait to move to another denomination.
It seems like the “roosters” have come home to roost.
The author commits a common math error: the membership decline from 2012 to 2014 is not “more than 15%”, but slightly less than 10%. Of course that doesn’t affect the validity of her argument.
Yes…normal consideration is membership vs. participation runs at 2/3rds. Though a person who attends worship 1 every 3 weeks is considered a “regular” church attender in our post-Christendom world.
For example, I am proud that one of my parting tasks (as the Evangelism pastor) was to reduce a church’s membership from 2200 to 1700, with a generous 200-300 people left on the roles for political appeasement. Our average attendance, however, was 681. Still running at a 1/3 ratio.
BTW, another thing is to be suspicious of any church that reports a round number (125, 200, 400) for the average worship attendance.
Now that Trump has called himself a Presbyterian USA, it is time to put a fork in this denomination. It’s done (as are all mainline denominations in our culture).
PresbyterianTexan, I believe the author is looking at losses from 2011 through 2014. The membership figure for the end of 2011 is also the membership number for the start of 2012. With that in mind, the three year membership loss percentage is 11.7% (from 1.95 million to 1.67 million). While not north of 15%, it’s still not something to break out the champagne over.
The PCUSA is not so much a religious organization, as it is a clearing house of various special interest groups, tribal theologies of identity, political causes under a PCUSA masthead. In that sense it is not a religious denomination in the classic functional sense, as it is now a “boutique” religious sect of whatever you want it to be. The organization that most closely resembles in the PCUSA in contemporary culture is the Progressive Democratic Caucus in Congress, which the PCUSA are merely religious lap-dogs for its agenda.
It already has died in the aspects of being an effective or functional denomination some time ago. Oh sure it has the external forms of the GA/OGA/Louisville/Presbyteries/Synods, but it has no form or substance or reason for existence, save the drive to survive. As the entity continues to bleed out people and money, the hollow shell will collapse upon itself and the survivors will limp off to the Unitarians, UCC, or the nothingness of their own making.
What would the board of directors do to any corporate leadership that closed 15% of its franchise outlets in a two year period? Yet the PCUSA “board” and “leadership” still has the audacity to lecture corporate America on how to run their businesses.
Same. Backbiting, character assassination, political buddy system, directed at the conservatives.
In 1960 the combined membership of the two predecessors to the PCUSA equaled 2.30% of the entire US population.
Assuming that the membership reported for year end 2014 is correct the PCUSA now represents 0.5% of the US population.
There is no logical reason to believe this pattern will change. I would bet 10-15 years max until oblivion. I foresee some kind of “Union” denomination being formed with the vestiges of other hierarchical “mainline” groups.