The Presbyterian Sect

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.

(UPDATE: Thank you to Mateen Elass for his vivid analysis of the statistical report, as well as his critique of Gradye Parsons’ response.)

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2 thoughts on “The Presbyterian Sect

  1. You seek what can no longer be found in the PCUSA, or any mainline denomination. The only unity found there is one based in humanism.

    Unite around obedience to the Scriptures, and as Presbyterians the Westminster Confession. I think that means seeking membership in a different more conservative Presbyterian denomination (lots to choose from!)

  2. To sharpen your initial statement a bit, I don’t believe that biblical orthodoxy *functionally* exists in the PC(USA) anymore. It exists officially, on the books, in the Book of Confessions (or at least in *some* of the confessions). And if Jack Haberer is right in his assessment that congregationalism is winning the day in the PC(USA) [see http://www.pres-outlook.com/opinion/editorials/11645-memo-to-the-middle-.html%5D, then biblical orthodoxy exists in discrete congregations (mine included!) throughout the larger body…so far, at least. I’m still not convinced that denomination hopping is the answer (at least for me), especially since I am convinced that our local congregation has vitality irrespective of its denominational affiliation.

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