February 15, 2019

What Happened When Other Denominations Passed Their Own “One Church Plan”?

As United Methodists look ahead toward next week’s special General Conference on human sexuality, there is a great deal of knowledge and wisdom to be gained by looking at the recent histories of other mainline Protestant denominations that have walked this road.

The Episcopal Church, Presbyterian Church USA, Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, The Christian Church (Disciples of Christ), and United Church of Christ have all in their own ways debated how to handle human sexuality and chose to liberalize their official stances and teachings. The sad reality is that after bending to progressive social pressures, these churches have only continued to shrink, not experiencing growth or renewal through an influx of young believers, LGBT-affirming people who had left the church, or any other means.

The so-called “One Church Plan,” which promises unity while changing the church’s definition of marriage and rolling back current bans on partnered gay clergy and same-sex union ceremonies, firmly sets the United Methodist Church (UMC) on a liberalizing path that very much mirrors what these other denominations have done. If recent history is any indicator, such a plan will cement the UMC’s decline by codifying unbiblical standards and practices that are surely only the first step toward requiring full affirmation of LGBTQ practice in all forms. So-called inclusion and openness in this way will not make the UMC a thriving church in the twenty first century, a beacon of hope for the lost and rejected.

There is one especially key way in which none of the liberalizing proposals adopted by these other denominations went as far as the United Methodist “One Church Plan” would go. When all of these other denominations liberalized their sexuality standards, remaining conservative congregations could still insist on only having pastors who personally lived by traditional moral standards and who never performed same-sex weddings. But because of the UMC’s somewhat unique system of bishops appointing pastors, if the “One Church Plan” is adopted, then any theologically orthodox congregations who remain in the UMC could beg and plead, but they would have no firm right to prevent their bishop from imposing on them a liberal pastor who was in a same-sex partnership or who was known to perform same-sex union ceremonies. Given the numerical imbalances of there being many more liberal United Methodist clergy than there are liberal congregations to go around, the One Church Plan would ensure that we would see many such mismatches between pastors and congregations.

While various particular data measurements were more readily available for some denominations than for others, the overall trend is rather consistent when denominations move in this direction.  Here are the stories and statistics from each denomination.

Again, with each, keep in mind that these were the results seen when these denominations adopted liberalizing policies that in some ways were notably more moderate than the “One Church Plan.”

 

Presbyterian Church USA (PCUSA)

In 2006, a vote by the church’s General Assembly gave local ordaining bodies leeway in how they applied standards of their constitution. This freedom allowed governing bodies within the church to decide whether standards on marriage and sexual purity are essential or not, and to apply them to ordination candidates as they saw fit. In response to that denomination’s internal tensions, this new policy to effectively allow many liberal clergy to no longer be bound by traditional standards was sold as a compromise that would advance the “peace” and “unity” of that denomination. Sound familiar?

In 2010, the General Assembly passed an amendment to the church’s Book of Order that removed standards for clergy’s sexual behavior. Ministers, deacons, and elders no longer had to live in “fidelity within the covenant of marriage between a man and a woman or chastity in singleness.” The PCUSA’s official website described the new ordination standards and procedures like a local option, saying the change reaffirms the “right and responsibility” of local bodies to approve candidates for ordination, and clearly stated that persons in same-gender relationships could be ordained.

Rev. Jim Rizer, an ex-PCUSA pastor in Ohio described to me what a “local option” meant for him and the congregation he led: “There is not an opportunity for the local church to avoid these conversations,” he said, “the reality is if you participate in the connectionalism of the larger church, if you participate in larger church mission, if you participate in larger church funding, you have to have that conversation.”

Rev. Rizer and a portion of his PCUSA congregation left to form a new church in the Evangelical Presbyterian Church after a very financially costly and intensive period, in which the PCUSA resisted their departure and accused the leadership of mismanagement, forcing Rev. Rizer and the new congregation to leave their building and financial resources behind. Despite the institutional desperation and lack of amicable treatment they faced, the new congregation, Living Hope Evangelical Church, is thriving.

Meanwhile, the PCUSA continued to liberalize further. Its 2014 General Assembly voted overwhelmingly to redefine marriage as a union between “two people” and to allow pastors to conduct same-sex marriages where legal.

In contrast to Living Hope, since 2006 PCUSA membership has declined 38 percent, from over 2.2 million members to 1.4 million as of 2017. Attendance is down a bit more, dropping 39 percent since 2010.

From the demographic data that is available, it is clear that the PCUSA body is getting older and young people are not being drawn in by the church’s more progressive teachings. From 2013 to 2017, membership of those 25 and under dropped 23 percent, and the age group of 26 to 45 which comprises the core of parents raising children fell 25 percent. Both of these numbers are greater than the overall decline of 19 percent in the past four years – progressive teaching once again failing to deliver on promises of gaining support from younger generations. Members between the ages of 46 and 55 fell the most, proportionally speaking, at 28 percent. The two oldest age groupings the PCUSA uses, from 56 to 65 and 65 and older, fell the least, at 21 and 11 percent, respectively.

Baptisms for both children and adults fell even more precipitously than membership . Across the PCUSA, child baptisms from 2006 to 2017 dropped by 51 percent, while over the same period, adult baptisms dropped by 54 percent.

In total, 706 congregations were dismissed from the PCUSA to other denominations between 2006 and 2017. In contrast, only three joined from other denominations during that same period.

Ecumenical and global church relations globally have also worsened. A prime example was the severance of ties by the National Presbyterian Church of Mexico, which has over 2 million members, after the PCUSA’s 2011 decision to remove the fidelity and chastity language in its Book of Order. In 2015, The Independent Presbyterian Church of Brazil and the Evangelical Presbyterian and Reformed Church of Peru also ended partnerships over the PCUSA’s decisions on sexuality. The National Black Church Initiative, a coalition of 34,000 African-American churches from 15 denominations and made up of 15.7 million members, decided to end its relationship with the PCUSA in 2015, describing its redefinition of marriage as “a universal sin against the entire church and its members,” and called for repentance.

Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA)

The ELCA’s key liberalizing decision came in 2009, when its Churchwide Assembly approved a resolution that allowed the ordination of non-celibate men and women in same-sex relationships and also recognized same-sex unions. The new language adopted allowed “people in such publicly accountable, lifelong, monogamous, same-gender relationships to serve as rostered leaders of this church.”

The ELCA included provisions that recognized “the conviction of members” who disagreed with the new ordination policy and allowed congregations or individual pastors to hold to a traditional Christian understanding of marriage and sexuality. In its social statement following the decision, the ELCA described four different general convictions that varied in their response to homosexuality (see page 20 of this linked resolution). The church called for “mutual respect” amidst the lack of consensus, for the church “to live together faithfully in the midst of disagreements.”

Traditionalists were told that these new policies would not directly infringe on them, but that they would merely allow liberal congregations to have partnered gay clergy or same-sex weddings if they wanted them, while traditionalist members and their values would still be respected within the denomination. Again, sound familiar?

However, respect was never truly offered to traditionalists. Dr. Amy Schifrin, President of North American Lutheran Seminary (the new seminary of the North American Lutheran Church formed by former ELCA-ers), described the situation to me: “I think there was a lot of dishonesty. The ELCA had this four positions thing, that any of the four would be acceptable, and it appeared to me obviously a ruse. And it’s obvious now that the church doesn’t want people to hold these four positions.”

Many ELCA churches concerned about their denomination’s work diverted their giving. Rev. Donna Smith, who was pastoring an ELCA congregation in 2009, stated that her church gave people options, such as an assurance that “all gifts would go to the local congregation and local benevolent causes.” She said she knew of some congregations that directed all of their benevolence away from their synod and ELCA.

The ELCA’s numbers show a denomination that did not find unity and is now struggling greatly. A slew of congregations left the ELCA between 2009 and 2013, the first five years after the liberalizing change, with the vast majority of these departures coming in 2010 and 2011. In all, 675 congregations disaffiliated from the church, about two-thirds of the 954 that took a congregational vote to decide whether to leave.

The ECLA’s decline has continued far beyond the first two years when the exodus was greatest. The ELCA lost three percent of its congregations from 2016 to 2017, the most recent year for which data is available.

From 2009 to 2017, membership has decreased from 4,542,868 to 3,455,573, a drop of 24 percent. In that same period, the number of congregations also dropped significantly, from 10,348 to 9,039, a loss of 1,309 congregations or over 12 percent of them in a mere eight years. These number indicate that apart from entire congregations leaving, churches that stayed lost many people. Baptisms of children and adults combined have dropped 37 percent since 2009. While the ELCA does not publicly provide data on the age diversity of their members, past ELCA leaders I spoke to agree that the average member is getting older and older.

Progressive policies have not made the church more diverse, either. Active participation for African Americans/African Nationals is down 29 percent since 2009, Latino participation is down 36 percent, and for Asian Americans that number is 30 percent. In other words, the ELCA is losing people from each group faster than its overall membership decline.

The ELCA’s softened stances on sexuality have also worsened their ties to other Lutheran churches around the world. The Ethiopian Evangelical Church Mekane Yesus, the largest Lutheran denomination in the world with around 7.9 million members, cut all ties with the ELCA in early 2013 because of the American denomination’s shift on human sexuality.

 

The Episcopal Church

In 2003, the Episcopal Church’s General Convention affirmed Gene Robinson’s elevation to the office of bishop, thus effectively indicating, as the denomination’s highest governing assembly, that being openly in a gay partnership was no barrier to elevation to the highest ranks of clergy leadership. The controversy that followed led to many congregations and even entire dioceses (the Episcopalian equivalent of annual conferences) leaving and forming the Anglican Church in North American (ACNA). Four dioceses eventually left in 2008 – Pittsburgh, Forth Worth, Quincy (IL), and San Joaquin (CA). In 2012 the South Carolina diocese, one of the nine original ones that formed the Episcopal Church in 1785, also left.

Then in 2009, the church’s General Convention resolved that “God’s call is open to all,” formally opening ordination gays and lesbians, including to election as bishop. That same year, General Convention also approved blessings to be used in same-sex marriages. In 2012, the governing body authorized a provisional rite of blessing for same-gender relationships  opened ordination to transgender people. Most recently, in 2015, the General Convention changed the changed the canons of the church to “make the rite of marriage available to all people, regardless of gender.”

The Episcopal Church could count 2.32 million members on its rolls in 2002, but in 2017 that number only equaled 1.71 million, a 26 percent decrease. That is over a quarter of their members in 15 years. Average Sunday worship attendance, a statistic that more effectively measures the size of the church by counting those who are still actively engaged, has fallen even more precipitously, dropping 34 percent to an average of 556,744 last year.

As Jeff Walton has reported, baptisms and confirmations in the church have also dropped rapidly: “Child baptisms dropped 55 percent from 44,995 to 20,069 since 2002, while adult baptisms dropped 53 percent from 6,299 to 2,927.” Parallel to this, confirmations for children have sunk 53 percent and adult confirmations have dropped 51 percent in the past 16 years. This does not bode well for the Episcopal Church’s future.

The Episcopal Church’s repeated response has been to sue congregations that want to leave for their property and any other assets. Many of these lawsuits have seemed simply mean-spirited, such as the case of Church of the Good Shepherd in Binghamton, NY, which offered to pay for its church building when it attempted to leave in 2011. In response, “the Episcopal Church sued to seize the building, then sold it for a fraction of the price” to someone who turned it into a center devoted to promoting Islam. A.S. Haley, an attorney who specializes in church property law and represented the departed Diocese of San Joaquin in central California, estimated after much personal research that combined litigation costs between the Episcopal Church and its departing churches would easily exceed $60 million by the end of 2018.

 

United Church of Christ (UCC)

Long known for its liberal stances, in 2005 the UCC became “the first denomination to affirm marriage equality for all people, regardless of gender” through a vote by its General Synod. This resolution called upon Officers of the UCC to urge legislators to support “marriage equality,” as well as the church filing a lawsuit in 2014 against the state of North Carolina, arguing that the state’s marriage laws (which then only recognized marriages between one man and one woman) violated the First Amendment.

At the national level, the UCC had already for many years taken a number of strongly leftist stances on a range of theological and moral issues, including support for LGBTQ liberationist causes.  This climate had already resulted in significant numbers of people leaving the denomination, but the adoption of this 2005 resolution was seen as a particular turning point.

Since this decision, 14 percent of UCC congregations have left or closed, and overall membership has fallen from 1,271,785 to 853,778, a decrease of 33 percent. Again, the greater losses of membership indicates that not only did many congregations leave, but there were major losses of individuals suffered among congregations who stayed. Leading the pack on church liberalization is good for losing a third of your people, not church vitality.

 

Christian Church (Disciples of Christ)

The Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) denomination made their key liberalizing decision in July 2013, when their General Assembly voted to open ordination and all leadership roles to gay and transgender individuals, with no expectation of abstaining from homosexual relations. The resolution called the church to affirm all Christians, “regardless of their sexual orientation or gender identity.”

Despite the defense made of this new policy that it would not compel conservative congregations to change their local approaches to ordination or same-gender marriage, the church has faced the same decline that the other denominations have.

Though data on this denomination is limited, the Disciples are another clear example of how a church’s official teaching matters at the local level, in some way influencing every pastor and congregant. Already significantly smaller than the other mainline denominations discussed, Disciples membership shrank to 411,140 in 2017 from 497,423 in 2014, a 17 percent drop. Worship attendance dropped to 139,936 from 177,141, a difference of 21 percent, in the same period.

 

Conclusion

Recent history is abundantly clear – liberalizing church teaching and practice on human sexuality brings division and not unity, it limits ecumenical work on global missions, it creates a smaller, older, and less diverse membership, and promises of respecting traditional biblical perspectives and members are almost never kept.

Not one mainline Protestant denomination has experienced the renewal and vitality that was promised by those selling the liberalizing plans, some of which were rather similar to the “One Church Plan,” although none went nearly as far.

The sheer size of the exodus of people from these denominations, within just a relatively short number of years, after they adopted such policies is rather remarkable. The PCUSA lost nearly 40 percent of its people, the Episcopal Church lost 26 percent, the ELCA lost 24 percent, the UCC lost 33 percent, and the Disciples of Christ (with less time for the full fallout of their more recent decision to become clear) has already lost 17 percent. Behind these numbers are very deep human and missional costs.

United Methodists could expect the same kind of bait-and-switch, division, and continued pushes for further liberalization that these other churches experienced with less radical plans. History’s lesson is unambiguously consistent – the “One Church Plan” would be disastrous for the UMC.


19 Responses to What Happened When Other Denominations Passed Their Own “One Church Plan”?

  1. Greg says:

    To attribute all of these losses to a liberalizing of sexual ethics is not a clear picture. They all had declining membership (and aging memberships) prior to these things so this can only be part of the decline, and without clear numbers it may be that only 1/2 of the decline is due to liberalizing of sexual ethics. Nuance and data matter.

    • Donald says:

      Hmmm! So it must be all of those WWII / Korean War / Greatest Generation deaths that are causing such precipitous declines!?!
      How’s that Legacy Church Kool-Aid tasting for you?

  2. Dr. Bonner says:

    This article has NOT said one word that I have NOT already said..and yet the 325ers, the UMC Bishops and those that will gain from the destruction of the UMC AND ALL Churches that Follow Jesus and God; continue with their Damnation of the believers. READ 2 Timothy 4

  3. Kerry Bowers says:

    Marriage cannot be created, altered or dissolved by man, being an institution reserved wholly to God. Man can only create instruments of contract which serve to man’s purposes but not God’s. It is the responsibility of the Church to welcome all, for all have sinned and fall short of the Glory of God, but it is not the role of the Church to create, alter or dissolve the Word of God.

  4. Loren Golden says:

    In January 2010, my then-home church, Colonial Presbyterian in Kansas City, entered into a season of discernment with Heartland Presbytery, to discern whether the Lord was calling Colonial to remain in the PC(USA) or to seek dismissal to another Reformed denomination.  After four town hall meetings, the congregation was polled, and approximately 91% of the respondents (slightly more than half the active members of the congregation responded) said that they wanted Colonial to seek dismissal.  Taking this as a sign that the Lord wanted us to seek dismissal, the Colonial Session (church elder board) asked Heartland Presbytery to appoint an Administrative Commission to negotiate with the Session for terms of dismissal.  Heartland balked at this, ostensibly wanting to seek “reconciliation” (i.e., representatives from Heartland trying to convince Colonial to stay, despite the membership having effectively stated that Colonial’s differences with Heartland and the PC(USA) were irreconcilable), but the Session believed that the Holy Spirit had made His will made known through the sense of the Session and the congregational poll that it was the Lord’s will that Colonial separate from Heartland and the PC(USA), to seek affiliation with another Reformed denomination, so that she would be more free to engage in the work of ministry to the greater Kansas City area, freed from the distractions of constant political wranglings with a denomination that had in essence abandoned the central tenets of the Christian faith.  And so, the Session set a called congregational meeting in mid-August, to vote on whether to remain affiliated with the PC(USA) or to disaffiliate therefrom and affiliate instead with the Evangelical Presbyterian Church.  A few days before the called congregational meeting, the Presbytery summoned our Lead Pastor and our Clerk of Session to grill them and threaten that unless the Session called off the called congregational meeting, the Presbytery would dissolve the Session and appoint an Administrative Commission to govern Colonial.  The next day, the Session filed for quiet title in both Missouri and Kansas (Colonial has a campus in both states), the called congregational meeting proceeded as scheduled, with 97% of those in attendance voting to disaffiliate from the PC(USA) and affiliate instead with the EPC, and Heartland promptly sued Colonial for her property in both states.  The legal battle lasted for nearly two years, but the Missouri District Court ruled in favor of Colonial, dismissing the Heartland suit with prejudice; the Kansas District Court ruled that because both Heartland and Colonial are Missouri NPOs, the Missouri courts were the proper venue for the suit (and Heartland did not appeal the Kansas ruling); the Missouri Circuit Court upheld the District Court ruling; and the Missouri Supreme Court declined to hear the case, letting the Circuit Court ruling stand, leaving Colonial in possession of her property.
     
    The following year, my home church prior to Colonial, Eastminster in Wichita, went through its own season of discernment with the Presbytery of Southern Kansas.  Unlike the situation with Colonial and Heartland, however, after Eastminster had built its current facility in northeast Wichita, it donated its previous, smaller facility to PSK, to establish a new congregation there.  Thus, PSK negotiated in good faith with Eastminster, reaching an amicable settlement, dismissing Eastminster to the EPC.  Today, Colonial and Eastminster are large, thriving congregations in the EPC’s Great Plains Presbytery.  (For reference, my wife and I are communicant members of Denton Presbyterian, a small, growing congregation in Denton, TX, which was established as a PCA congregation in 2007 and has never been affiliated with the PC(USA).)
     
    Similarly, the Nebraska ELCA congregation which the husband of a cousin of mine pastored left for the more theologically orthodox Lutheran Congregations in Mission for Christ, after the ELCA adopted liberalized standards for the sexual conduct of its ministers in 2009, and the Iowa congregation he pastors today is also affiliated with the LCMC.
     
    By contrast, the ELCA congregation in which my wife grew up, and which is still my in-laws’ home church, has remained affiliated with the ELCA.  Despite a building campaign a few years ago to erect a new, modern sanctuary, the membership has continued to dwindle.  The Bible is not believed, the Gospel is not preached, most of the members are over the age of 60, it lost members over the sexuality debates, there are precious few children, and after their pastor left last year, the bishop overseeing this congregation told them that in all likelihood they would have to share a pastor with another congregation in the area.
     
    Similarly, a PC(USA) congregation here in Denton, with whose members the sexual liberalization of ordination standards and the change in marriage definition did not sit, and with which Denton Presbyterian (which does not have property) has partnered the past two years to hold a VBS, has not had the financial resources to seek dismissal from the PC(USA)’s Grace Presbytery (which infamously sued Highland Park Presbyterian in Dallas a few years ago, when that congregation switched denominational affiliation to the ECO).  Its membership is also mostly over the age of 60, some of its former members are now members of Denton Presbyterian, it also has precious few children, and its pastor is pulpit supply from Grace Presbytery.
     
    For you folks in the UMC considering the different Plans for how to deal with the ordination of sexually immoral persons and the redefinition of marriage, this is how your future would look if you fail to adopt the Traditional Plan.  The theologically liberal bishops, et al, behind the so-called “One Church Plan” really do not intend to live in community with Evangelical Methodists.  They are convinced that liberalizing the Church’s sexual standards for ordination and marriage is justice to ”LGBT (etc.) persons”, and that Biblical standards that limit sexual intercourse to married heterosexual couples are unjust and must be overturned.  Candidates for ordination who believe the Bible’s teachings on human sexuality will not receive a fair hearing, for they will be deathly afraid that such individuals, if ordained and installed, will seek to lead the congregations they pastor out of the UMC.  Those Evangelical congregations with resources will disaffiliate, and without a gracious dismissal policy in place, they and their annual conferences will fight over property in court.  Those Evangelical congregations without resources will lose members to Evangelical congregations outside the UMC, especially as liberal bishops seek to impose pastors who are at odds with the Evangelical membership of those congregations.
     
    Make no mistake: When a liberal church official (e.g., bishop or executive presbyter) says that traditional congregations will be allowed to continue worshiping and believing as they have, despite the changes in the denomination around them, what he or she really means, is that traditional congregations will be given a limited time to violate their own consciences and accept liberalized sexual standards.  In the end, the “One Church Plan” and others like it in other so-called “Mainline” Protestant denominations are a Zero-Sum Game, in which the liberal bureaucracy wins at the expense of Biblical sexual ethics.

    • Jim says:

      Great comments Loren.

      Dan’s article, I note that the stats for the folks who stay in these man-made systems of religions are the highest among those over 55. My fellow senior citizens disappoint me with their go along to get along mentality. It leads me to conclude that this population is A) cultural Christians and not true disciples of the Lord or B) they are too tired to fight. Either way, this spells disaster. The commitment to follow Jesus Christ is lifelong, stand on the truth as the long line of witnesses that have come before us have. This is our time, our season.

      • td says:

        It is no surprise that those who are over 65 are the least likely to leave a church over a doctrinal change. The reason they keep connected with their church is because that is where their friends and relationships are. I have discussed this current situation with my parents; they adamantly do not agree with changing our beliefs about homosexual and premarital acts. But, they will not leave their friends, support system, and church that they have helped build up with their lives for the last 60 years.

        The most likely people to leave over this proposed doctrinal change are the families with children. They have other options and the time to invest elsewhere.

  5. William says:

    Note: I emailed this excellent article to all of my General Conference delegates today.

    Now, this “one church plan” is a vehicle on a dark road at night driving right through a flashing yellow light over a sign – BRIDGE OUT AHEAD – TURN BACK – while accelerating on to the river ahead that’s already full of vehicles. It’s little more than suicide. As for the liberals pushing this plan, they can be trusted about as much as the devil, reminding one of that old Methodist saying – if you see the devil hitchhiking, don’t give him a ride because he will soon want to be driving.

    • Richard says:

      William, as this weekends conference has approached, it seems to me that the Bishops wanting the OCP might have started to regret their actions. In that regard, it may just be they are hoping no plan will pass, giving them more time to work on church members. And, if there is no plan passed, this will not buy them extra time, but in my opinion have the effect of members giving up and simply changing denominations. Some definitive decision needs to be made now, not put off. Delegates need to see that the Traditional Plan is the best chance towards renewed vitality in the UMC.

  6. Skipper says:

    Following your own desires when you know how God wants you to live is so dangerous. To push aside Christ, who died for you and approve sexual perversion as in the OC Plan is unbelievable! The Traditional Plan with enhancements will return us to the Methodist / Christian way of living. Pray and please, please, please.

  7. Alan Baglien says:

    Most of the “mainline” denominations lured into “inclusivity” have become exclusively LGBTQ, and if you don’t like it, you quit giving, leave, or suffer in silence.

  8. Mike says:

    Dan, thanks for an honest assessment of what will happen if the One Church Plan is passed. Unfortunately, UM News service just published a totally dishonest article about the impact of the other denominations’ decisions on their membership. They try very hard to downplay the terrible losses in those churches.

    Nice try; but we’re not buying it. Here’s a link – so you can have a good laugh!

    https://www.umnews.org/en/news/lessons-from-other-denominational-divides?mkt_tok=eyJpIjoiT1dReE5qTmtZalk1TlRjdyIsInQiOiJjR0Rra2w0RHlyZFVxekFMTFBKazJra2dpTTVJU2RiZHBFamtxdXllXC81VVNiMEg2QXJcL2YrOGlLVGlJN3dTRDIrbHNTdktkRGRVV2x0c1JFK2wyKzBNenZqYXFJYUVLMmVJdVVScUZFUlBKQ04xczdlS3RxYm9KXC9uRjgyV1Q0byJ9

    • William says:

      A train load of lipstick can’t disguise that pig. These denominations are supposed to be GROWING! People are supposed to be knocking down the doors at these places because of inclusiveness. What happened? This article confirms that the argument in those denominations was a BIG LIE. That’s confirmation enough to expose this one church plan as just another BIG LIE. And the biggest BIG LIE in all this is that the LGBT identified people are being denied “full inclusion”. Repentance is available to ALL SINNERS, excluding none. But, full inclusion WITHOUT repentance is THE PROBLEM.

    • Loren Golden says:

      The Presbyterian Church (USA) (PC(USA)), mentioned in the article to which you linked, and its predecessor denominations that merged in 1983, the United Presbyterian Church in the United States of America (UPCUSA) and the Presbyterian Church in the United States (PCUS), has lost members every single year since 1965, when the UPCUSA and the PCUS had a combined membership of 4,258,761.  At the end of 2017 (the last year for which statistics have been released), the PC(USA) had a total membership of 1,415,053—a net loss of 2,843,708, or 66.77%.  During this same time, three new Presbyterian denominations have been formed—the Presbyterian Church in America (PCA), the Evangelical Presbyterian Church (EPC), and ECO: A Covenant Order of Evangelical Presbyterians.  At the end of 2017, the PCA had 297,332 communicant members (analogous to active members in the PC(USA)) plus teaching elders (ministers) and the EPC had 147,918 members, while the ECO reports having “over 127,000 covenant partners”, for a total of 572,250 members; so about 80% of the PC(USA)’s losses are no longer Presbyterian.
       
      In 2008, the PC(USA) General Assembly nullified the Definitive Guidance of 1978 (which declared homosexuality to be sin) and the Authoritative Interpretation of 1993 (which stated that practicing homosexuals must not be ordained).  It also voted to remove the clause (§G-6.0106b, added in 1996) from the Book of Order stating that ordained officers in the PC(USA) must “live either in fidelity within the covenant of marriage between a man and a woman, or chastity in singleness,” the third attempt to do so, but it failed to achieve ratification by a majority of presbyteries, albeit by the smallest margin of the first three attempts.
       
      Then the 2010 General Assembly voted to remove §G-6.0106b, and the vote was ratified by a majority of presbyteries the following year. The same General Assembly defeated a motion to redefine marriage to be between two people of indiscriminate gender, but the motion was narrowly defeated 324-348.  However, that same motion was approved just four years later and was ratified the next year by a majority of presbyteries.
       
      At the end of 2008, the PC(USA) had 2,140,165 active members, meaning that the denomination had lost 794,493 members (37.12%; 27.94% of the net membership losses since 1965) by the end of 2017.  With that drastic drop in membership has come a corresponding loss in giving.  Although the denominational offices in Louisville, Kentucky, have made some cuts in staffing and denominational programming, the cuts have not been as proportionately deep as the loss in giving.  Consequently, the past few General Assemblies have approved increases in the per capita giving that the local congregations are expected to give.  This has caused friction between Louisville and the presbyteries, as the congregations are not required to pay any or all of the per capita, which is paid not to the denominational offices but to the local presbytery, but the presbyteries are required to send the full amount of the per capita to Louisville, regardless of whether or not their congregations have paid the full amount, and many congregations left in the denomination in the aftermath of the aforementioned decisions of the General Assemblies are struggling with their own membership losses and corresponding losses of income (see my response, above, on that subject).
       
      In 2014, the PC(USA) had $1,738,915,711 in contributions and 1,667,767 active members, for a per capita of $1,042.66 per active member.  In 2017, the contributions had fallen to $1,571,833,837, for a per capita of $1,110.80.  The per capita giving had slightly increased (6.54%), but the total giving had fallen by $167 million (9.61%) across the denomination as a result of the catastrophic membership losses.  A typical PC(USA) congregation has a membership of less than 100.  At this rate of per capita, a congregation of 100 would have had an income in 2017 of $111,080 from which the pastor’s salary and the utilities and congregational expenses would have to be paid.  Needless to say, this congregation is struggling to make ends meet.  Now, the latest per capita assessment approved by the General Assembly was $10.73, meaning that this struggling congregation would be expected to pay $1,073 annually to help support the operations of the denominational headquarters and the meetings of the General Assembly, on top of per capita contributions to the local presbytery.  One percent may not sound like much, but it’s a much larger chunk of the budget, once the pastor’s salary has been taken out.  And most PC(USA) churches have memberships of LESS than 100.
       
      Now, let’s compare PC(USA) per capita giving to PCA and EPC per capita giving.  In 2017, the PCA had $844,786,891 in giving.  Divided over 292,450 communicant members, this yields a per capita giving of $2,888.65, or 2.6 times that of the average PC(USA) active member.  At the same time, the EPC had $343,121,246, divided over 147,918 members, for a per capita giving of $2,319.67, or 2.1 times that of the average PC(USA) active member.  We can conclude from this comparison that Evangelicals (the majority in the EPC and the PCA) tend to be more generous with their giving to their local church than Theological Liberals (the majority in the PC(USA)).  Thus, from a purely pragmatic standpoint, it makes sense for denominational officials not to alienate their most generous donors, as the PC(USA) has done over the past decade, because it means that the donors you have left are less able or willing to fund your denominational programs.
       
      So, I hope the UMC is really taking note of this, because failing to pass the Traditional Plan will come with a high price tag, and not just in terms of the loss of warm bodies in the UMC pews on Sunday mornings.

    • David Preston says:

      The UM News article linked strikes me as “whistling past the graveyard.” It cherry-picks statistics and omits material facts to fit an agenda.

      It is likely no coincidence that a recent article highlighted on the same web page promotes the UM “trust” arrangement for the ownership of church property. The Church is clearly anticipating such legal battles in the near future. The article credits John Wesley’s prescience in establishing the trust model, conveniently ignoring that Wesley wouldn’t recognize, or approve of, the modern Methodist Church.

  9. David A Williams says:

    The name of our town is Fort Worth, not “Forth Worth”.

  10. David A. Williams says:

    The name of our town is Fort Worth, not “Forth Worth”.

  11. Joe says:

    These leaders will shrink their denominations.

    They will also provide an organization to parasitize via salaries to activists (of their real religion). While collecting the real estate portfolio of a shrinking denomination for future strip-mining and conversion.

    The motives aren’t exactly difficult to figure out.

  12. G. Mark Caldwell says:

    I belong to what I believe was one of the very early groups to leave the Episcopal Church following its 1977 decision to begin ordaining women and to dumb down the liturgy. This group is the Anglican Province of Christ the King; we call ourselves the “continuing Church”.

    We’ve continued the use of the 1928 Book of Common Prayer and the 1940 Hymnal.

    The Province also frowns on the LGBTQ movement, and the Church rubrics specifically forbid same-sex marriage.

    Personally, I’m in the Church for its formal liturgy; my views on LGBTQ matters are left-leaning. If that is the way people choose to live their lives, then I don’t believe they should be persecuted for it; being a musician, I count many friends who are LGBTQ.

    I grew up in the Presbyterian Church (USA), and have returned to my hometown church for the memorials of both my parents, but it’s nothing like the church I knew. back then.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *