Largest U.S. Presbyterian denomination faces hemorrhage

Largest U.S. Presbyterian denomination faces hemorrhage

The Presbyterian Church (USA), the Liberal Presbyterian Church USA or PC(USA), is the primary denomination of American Calvinism. In two decades, it has lost more than half of its members, and its report for the year 2022 indicates that the erosion continues. According to conservative Presbyterians, this fall is also explained by liberal teachings.

The PC(USA) General Assembly Office released the denomination's annual statistics for 2022 the last weekend in April, and the document shows that the Church lost over 53 members compared to 000, about 1 more than the previous year.

In two years, the PC(USA) has lost more than 100 members and more than 000 in five years, suggesting an acceleration of the movement, even though there were fewer deaths in 200 than in previous years, according to statistics from 2005 to last year. While the denomination had about 2,5 million members in 2000, it now has only 1,1 million.

In addition, the movement lost 108 congregations, and nine joined other denominations, a figure that varies up and down from year to year. The PC(USA) has 285 fewer pastors than in 2021.

On the other hand, the organization has 267 new prayer communities compared to 247 in 2021, 206 in 2020 and 176 in 2019, before the coronavirus epidemic.

General Assembly Administrator, Reverend J. Herbert Nelson, consider this to be a consequence of Covid-19 :

“We are not surprised by the numbers we are seeing. Although the pandemic is over, the impact on church members is still being felt. The challenge for CP(USA) remains the same: to seek new ways to engage and welcome young people into the fold. We are living in dramatic and rapidly changing times. Our world is changing and the Church must respond to the growing needs of those at crossroads. We owe them remembering that Jesus Christ is always in our midst and that means finding new and innovative ways to be the Church."

A consequence of the liberal positions of the Church?

Last October, the General Assembly Office said it would add a “non-binary/genderqueer” option to its stats to be more “inclusive”:

"If we want to be inclusive, we have to start asking [who is non-binary/genderqueer, Ed] because you have to know who is in your church."

Various PC(USA) congregations have flown Black Lives Matter and LGBT flags in recent years. This is for example the case of a church in Brooklyn which displayed two huge flags in 2021 to support these movements, with verses from the Bible, including that of the apostle Paul saying:

"Now therefore these three things remain: faith, hope, charity; but the greatest of these things is charity" (1 Corinthians, chapter 13, verse 13).

According to conservative Presbyterians, the decline of the PC(USA) is explained by its diverging line from that of the Bible. Zachary Groff, a Presbyterian minister from Greenville, South Carolina, told Fox News, referring to the second chapter of the book of Revelation:

"I believe that the candlestick has been removed, that Christ has withdrawn his blessing from the PC(USA), and the end result will be its disappearance into oblivion."

Several non-liberal congregations have left the denomination, notably to join other Presbyterian movements such as the Covenant Order of Evangelical Presbyterian Church, the Evangelical Presbyterian Church or the Presbyterian Church in America which are much smaller numerically.

For comparison, in 2019, the PC(USA) counted 9 congregations while the Presbyterian Church in America, the second Calvinist denomination had only 161.

Jean Sarpedon

Image credit: Presbyterian Church (USA)

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