Institute on Religion & Democracy Press Release
June 5, 2018
Contact: Chelsen Vicari, Cell: 540-239-2170, E-mail: cvicari@TheIRD.org
Washington, DC—The Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), whose General Assembly convenes June 16-23 in St. Louis, is struggling with steep, undeterred membership decline. The latest membership statistics show a net loss of nearly five percent (67,714) in 2017, following declines of 5.7 percent each of the two previous years. While deaths accounted for a decline of 25,565 and 20,162 members departed via certificate last year, 74,129 simply vanished and are listed as “other.”
Nearly two out of five Presbyterians have disappeared in the past decade. Membership is now down to 1,415,053 from 2,313,662 active members in 2005, signifying a problematic doctrinal path. In 2010, the PCUSA voted to remove a clause requiring pastors to practice fidelity to traditional marriage and chastity in singleness, provoking a mass exodus of traditional Presbyterians from the denomination.
At this year’s upcoming General Assembly, Presbyterians will consider overtures skeptical of religious liberty claims, among other left-leaning policy proposals. The PCUSA Advisory Committee on Social Witness Policy will ask the General Assembly to oppose state religious freedom legislation and consider filing amicus curiae or “friend of the court” briefs against cases citing the First Amendment as a supposed pretext for discrimination.
Jeffrey Walton, IRD’s Communications Director, commented:
“For all the talk of inclusion and ‘drawing the welcome circle wider’ in the PCUSA, the denomination includes fewer worshipers each year and is relegating itself to status as a niche boutique church catering to older white liberals.
“Presbyterians are struggling to broaden their niche footprint of older, white congregants. The denomination is 91 percent white, not reflective of a diversifying U.S. population. In 2012, the PCUSA reported that it was 89.9 percent white, indicating that the denomination has somehow become both numerically smaller and less diverse in the same period of time that the U.S. population grew in size and became more diverse.
“While there are several causes contributing to PCUSA membership decline, one major factor is the denomination’s decision to redefine Christian marriage as between any two persons. PCUSA membership was in a state of gradual decline in the early 2000s, then accelerated downhill with disputes about scriptural authority and sexuality, with no interruption in attendance and membership drops descent since.
“Overtures under consideration at General Assembly are decidedly left-leaning, uniquely critical of Israel, tout statist government solutions and demanding disarmament of the U.S. and its allies.”