The 2015 Comparative Statistics show another dramatic decrease in the Presbyterian Church (USA)’s membership.
In 2015, the PCUSA lost 95,107 members, bringing total membership down to 1,572,660. That’s a 5.70 decrease from the 2014 membership number — 1,667,767. The denomination lost 92,433 members that year.
The PCUSA’s membership has been in continuous decline since the denomination was formed in 1983, by the reunion of the Presbyterian Church in the U.S. (PCUS) and the United Presbyterian Church in the U.S.A. (UPCUSA). The last recorded membership increase for the PCUSA’s two combined predecessor denominations was in 1965. (Click here for chart showing PCUSA membership and losses 1960-2015.)
Blogger Mateen Elass highlighted that trend in his recent blog “Every Cloud Has a Silver Lining – Thanks be to Mammom!” He wrote
The numbers paint a bleak picture (once again) of the denomination’s health, but especially in the area of membership loss. This is no surprise given the unbiblical trend of the national organization (ordination of practicing homosexuals and redefinition of marriage to include same-sex unions being two of the more egregious decisions of the General Assembly in the last four years), but in 2015 the flood gates of departure opened even wider. After many years of net losses averaging around 2% of total membership, in 2007 those percentages began rising even as the denominational base was shrinking (percentage loss in 2007 was 2.5; each year after that has lost, respectively, 3.1, 2.9, 2.9, 3.2, 5.3, 4.8, and in 2014 5.3%). 2015, however, has broken all past records with a net membership loss of 5.7%. In real numbers that’s a net loss of 95,107 active members. Another way of saying this is that at the end of 2015, the PCUSA was 6.0% smaller than at the end of 2014.
In 2015, there were 4,296 fewer professions of faith — 33,566 — than in 2014. For the 17 and under age group the number was 11,904 and for the 18 and over, it totaled 21,662.
The total joining by certificate was 14,969 — 1,668 less than 2014; and the “other” category was 10,557 — 359 less than 2014.
Baptisms of children dropped by a little more than 2,000 — from 17,027 in 2014 to 14,943 in 2015. There were 4,634 adult baptisms in 2014, while there were 4,169 in 2015.
According to the statistics, the PCUSA dismissed 104 churches to other denominations in 2015, while dissolving 91 congregations. Fourteen churches were organized during the year and no churches were received from other denominations.
In the good news category, the PCUSA saw an increase of more than $9-million in contributions in 2015. Contributions for the year totaled $1,748,516,736 — $9.6 million more than the denomination received in 2014. Also, local mission gifts from congregations increased by more than $7.6-million in 2015 to total $132,737,066.
In the OGA’s news release, Stated Clerk Gradye Parsons said that “Presbyterians, regardless of how large or small they are in number, are recommitting themselves to be the hands and feet of Christ in community.”
He continued that “The PCUSA clearly isn’t going away, even though some congregations have discerned another denominational path for themselves. Mission and ministry remain alive and vibrant in the body.”
Referring to that quote, Elass said “Parsons is impressed that in spite of the loss of members and churches, overall contributions to the denomination are up $9.6 million. Capital and building funds of local churches increased. Most to be highlighted, however, is the fact that local mission giving by congregations increased $7.7 million over 2014. So while the PCUSA is hemorrhaging members and congregations at record rates, nevertheless giving in certain areas is up. Indeed, every cloud does apparently have a silver lining! Where in all this is the concern for souls, for the eternal welfare of the lost, for the glory of God displayed in the salvation of sinners??? Instead we have talk of denominational life and vitality in the form of overflowing coffers.”
The Comparative Statistics were released on May 16 by the PCUSA’s Office of the General Assembly.