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. They decided that the governing bodies, which ordain church offices, could have a new approach when considering candidates for office. “No longer would a candidate be required, according to this new guidance, to practice fidelity in marriage or chastity in singleness.” In 2011, the PCUSA responded to the shifting sands saying “many talk about this era as being like a wilderness experience for the church, from which we can learn the lessons of being the vibrant people God leads from exile into life.” The full message issued by the denomination was filled with humility, graciousness and kindness. Yet, it cannot be ignored that the PCUSA is simply not upholding the authority of scripture. Scripture (1 Timothy 3:1-7 in particular) is especially clear about who can be considered an appropriate, capable and effective leader in the church.
Today, the PCUSA is widely known for their evolving attitude on gay marriage. Like most things, the change started gradually. A series of small decisions lead to a much larger impact on their attitude towards scripture. The truth is – the gospel offends. It is not easy to uphold. And it is not a message that bends to our shifting cultural attitudes. The gospel is truth and authoritative over Christian’s lives. Let’s hope the PCUSA will take note and there will be transformation to fight and uphold scripture in its entirety.