While the decline wasn’t as big as 2012, the Presbyterian Church (USA)’s reported membership loss in 2013 is still alarming.
According to the 2013 statistics for the PCUSA, the denomination lost 89,296 members in 2013 bringing the total membership to 1,760,200. That’s down 4.83 percent from 2012’s total membership of 1,849,496.
The 2012 decline was the largest since 1973 when the PCUSA lost 139,882 members. The 2013 decline, though less than 2012, is still the second largest decline since 1974. The denomination lost 100,762 members that year. (Click here for chart showing PCUSA membership and losses 1960-2013)
In a news release from the Office of the General Assembly, PCUSA Stated Clerk Gradye Parsons said “Yes, the numbers reflect a decrease in active members in the denomination, but the numbers also illustrate fewer losses than the previous year. The membership declined by 89,296 in 2013, compared to 102,791 in 2012.
“We are meeting the challenges we have had and it’s showing,” he said. “And, our decline in total congregations is holding fairly steady.”
Many of the members who have left did so when their congregation was dismissed from the denomination. A total of 148 churches and 165 ministers were dismissed from the PCUSA in 2013. (See list below of 300-plus members churches that left the denomination in 2013)
That’s 38 more churches and 39 more ministers dismissed in 2013 than in 2012.
Carmen Fowler LaBerge, executive editor of The Layman, points out that “those numbers do not account for churches that disaffiliated nor those situations where the presbytery sided with a minority of the membership and declared it the true church. There are several more congregations that left the PCUSA in 2013 that are not accounted for in these statistics. But the PCUSA does not acknowledge that those churches are gone.”
The official statistics released by the Office of the General Assembly show 10,038 PCUSA churches in 2013, down from 10,262 in 2012.
LaBerge says, “It is important to remember that more than half of those 10,262 churches have fewer than 89 members and no installed pastor. We won’t know the full story until the PCUSA Research Services finishes crunching the numbers. But we can confirm that the trend continues in a long-term negative direction. Revival is needed.”
Parsons did note that the number of churches does not reflect any new church developments, new immigrant fellowships or other worshiping communities.
The statistics also show there were fewer gains by professions of faith and baptisms in 2013 than in 2012. In the 17 and under category, 14,905 joined the church through profession of faith, reaffirmation and restoration, while in the 18 and over category, the number was 27,601. That’s down 1,488 and 3,844 respectively.
Children’s baptisms were down 1,933 to total 17,929 in 2013, while adult baptisms totaled 4,583, down 1,546 from 2012.
LaBerge finds those numbers “troubling.” She said, “28,734 PCUSA Presbyterians died in 2013. But PCUSA churches only baptized 17,929 children and 4,583 adults. That alone is net loss of 6,222 members. That is simply not sustainable. The PCUSA cannot rely on so-called natural evangelism to refill its pews. She must re-engage the first Great End of the Church which is the proclamation of the gospel for the salvation of humankind.”
It’s not just the pews that are lighter, it’s also the offering plates.
Both contributions and expenses showed a decline from 2012 figures. Contributions decreased by $61,988,095 in 2013. Total contributions in 2013 were $1,848,807,540 and in 2012, $1,910.795,635.
Expenditures also showed declines –except in three areas: Local mission saw an increase of $1,855,462, other mission an increase of $5,642,335, and investment expenditures, $391,772.
Large churches (300-plus members churches) that have been dismissed or voted to disaffiliate from the PCUSA in 2013 include: (details come from The Layman Online’s chart of churches leaving the PCUSA.)
- Chapel by the Lake in Juneau, Alaska, 491 members, dismissed by Alaska Presbytery on 4/6/13
- First, Walla Walla, Wash., 325 members, dismissed by Central Washington Presbytery effective 11/30/13
- First, Yakima, Wash. 1,228 members, dismissed by Central Washington Presbytery effective 12/1/13
- Moses Lake, Moses Lake, Wash., 613 members, dismissed by Central Washington Presbytery 2/23/13
- Huntersville, Huntersville, N.C., 656 members, dismissed by Charlotte Presbytery on 2/16/13
- Eastminster, Marietta, Ga., 577 members, dismissed by Cherokee Presbytery on 5/28/13
- College Hill, Cincinnati, Ohio, 455 members, dismissed by Cincinnati Presbytery on 9/10/13
- Bethany Korean, Carrollton, Texas, 344 members, dismissed by Grace Presbytery on 4/20/13
- Highland Park, Dallas, Texas, 4,896 members, voted to disaffiliate from the PCUSA on 10/27/13
- Northminster, Peoria, Ill., 636 members, dismissed from Great Rivers Presbytery on 10/8/13
- Church of the Redeemer, Snellville, Ga., 573 members, dismissed from Greater Atlanta Presbytery on 5/2/13
- Brookdale, St. Joseph, Mo., 319 members, voted to disaffiliate from PCUSA on 8/25/13
- First, Edmond, Okla., 1,760 members, dismissed by Indian Nations Presbytery on 1/28/13
- St. Giles, Richmond, Va., 375 members, dismissed from James Presbytery on 6/18/13
- First, Kingwood, Texas, 1,611 members, dismissed by New Covenant Presbytery on 6/8/13
- Darlington, Darlington, S.C., 407 members, New Harmony Presbytery recognized congregation’s 2012 disaffiliation on 5/14/13
- First, Florence, S.C., 800 members, dismissal by New Harmony Presbytery became effective 1/1/13
- First, Amarillo, Texas, 1,043 members, voted to disaffiliate from PCUSA on 10/23/13
- Mt. Lebanon United, Mt. Lebanon, Pa., 700 members, dismissed by Pittsburgh Presbytery on 12/7/13
- First, Sibley, Iowa, 420 members, dismissed by Prospect Hill Presbytery on 2/23/13
- Church of the Valley, Apple Valley, Calif., 400 members, dismissed by Riverside Presbytery on 11/16/13
- Centerville, Fremont, Calif, 375 members, dismissed by San Francisco Presbytery on 6/25/13
- Sierra Vista, Oakhurst, Calif., 342 members, dismissed by San Joaquin Presbytery on 5/18/13
- Adventure of the Faith, Port Orchard, Wash., 444 members, dismissed by Seattle Presbytery on 9/17/13
- Maple Valley, Maple Valley, Wash., 564 members, dismissed by Seattle Presbytery on 9/17/13
- East Main, Grove City, Pa., 694 members, dismissed by Shenango Presbytery on 2/26/13
- Saxe Gotha, Lexington, S.C., 1,336 members, dismissed by Trinity Presbytery on 10/8/13