Last week, the Presbyterian Church (USA) released its annual statistical report (hey, for all its faults, the PCUSA still keeps impeccable figures!). And the numbers were not good: Total active membership was down a net of 61,047 for a total of 2,016,091. In fact, everything was down–financial giving, baptisms, new church plants, ordinations, etc.
Under the membership losses category, there are three labels: certificate, death, and the mysterious “other.” Death is understandable; “certificate” means that someone requested to transfer to another denomination and to no longer be a Presbyterian (this is no small worry itself); but I am wondering about those “others.” What was the motivation of 88,731 people for exiting the PCUSA? (And note that the numbers were actually higher the year before: 100,253.) Is this the open back door where people just wander away?
My question is, at what point does a denomination whose membership makes up a mere .65% of the total U.S. population become labeled a sect? (And that’s not even actual worship participation, which is surely lower than 2 million.) My other question is, what is the national leadership doing to turn the ship? From my perch, I see an entrenched bureaucracy in Louisville that is allergic to change, that is working to protect its own interests, and that is trying to build their utopia upon a crumbling foundation. And the vision that I see them promoting is of a smaller, theologically homogeneous, denominationally insular, sectarian body.
Not good at all.