PCUSA Closed More Than 100 Congregations, Lost About 56K Members In 2020, Report Reveals

Presbyterian Church (USA)
Presbyterian Church (USA) |

The Presbyterian Church (USA) has announced the closure of more than 100 congregations and the loss of 56,000 members in 2020 as revealed by a 434-paged annual report presented on the occasion of their 224th General Assembly on Monday.

According to The Christian Post (CP), the report that contained denominational statistics on PCUSA revealed that their 1.302 million active members in 2019 declined by 56,689 in 2020 to 1.245 million active members. The data was said to be a result of the reporting of 82% of PCUSA churches that make up 90% of their total membership. PCUSA's largest denomination reported a drop in 2020 congregations at 8,925 from its 9,041 last 2019.

The PCUSA's drop in membership, as per CP, has actually been happening for several years. In 2019, PCUSA reported a loss of 50,000 members that included the closure of 120 congregations.

It was reported in September last year that one one Presbyterian church--the First Presbyterian Church of Niles--gathered for one last service after being in operation since 1958. The church had to close due to declining membership that led to a decrease in funding needed for its operation.

The decrease in funding is also the reason why the PCUSA annual report had to be released in digital format for the first time.

"Annual book of statistics is provided online only in order to reduce cost and keep the book from becoming outdated," PCUSA tweeted on Tuesday.

As per data collected, the decline in PCUSA membership and congregations is attributable to two main reasons: the country-wide phenomenon of Americans declaring themselves having no religious affiliations, as well as the theological changes in PCUSA direction that included congregations led by gay clergy. The latter reason pushed members to leave PCUSA.

The Human Rights Campaign narrated that it was in their 2010 General Assembly that allowed the ordination of LGBTQ+ ministers. This was followed four years later with the amendment of their Book of Order's definition of marriage to allow same sex unions decided during their 2014 General Assembly. It was in the 223rd General Assembly of PCUSA held in 2018 that the LGBTQ+ were welcomed into the "full life of the church" such that it removes any discrimination of them.

PCUSA explained that the overtures made during their 223rd General Assembly held in St. Louis last June 2018 was an acknowledgment of the "misuse of the term 'religious freedom' in denying basic human rights" that shouldn't be used to "discriminate against anyone," that it was "unwelcoming" to members of the LGBTQ+ in the past, and that it was "unwelcoming" in its stance against "LGBTQ parishioners."

The lockdowns due to the pandemic were not shown as a factor in the decrease in membership. In fact, last year in April PCUSA even announced that there were many benefits to having online services since it is more intimate and provides a better appreciation of the members of the community whose faces now are seen as against to in-person worship where the back of the head is mostly seen.

There was, however, one Presbyterian Church--the Redeemer Presbyterian Church--that was reported to expand its operation last year despite the pandemic. The Redeemer Presbyterian Church was able to acquire in cash for $30 million a multi-family building in New York's Upper East Side. The new property is said to be projected as a means to better serve congregants and contribute to the "flourishing" of the neighborhood.

In similar news, the Southern Baptist Convention reported the highest decline in membership for 2020 by 435,632. This was almost double to the decline in membership in 2018-2019 at 287,655 and is said to be a continuation to a downward trend that has been happening for 14 years.