Presbyterian Church Membership Losses

The Presbyterian Church USA has lost over 2 million members since 1967. They project to lose another 85,000 members this year, accelerating the loss from 65,000 last year.

Why? Albert Mohler suggests it is because of the embrace of theological liberalism.

As these researchers demonstrated, the embrace of what they called “lay liberalism” led massive numbers of persons to depart from the denomination and its churches. Why? Because the “vanishing boundaries” between belief and unbelief made church membership unnecessary and uninteresting. If the church has no distinctive doctrines, why belong? The coffee is better at Starbucks.

Hoge, Johnson, and Luidens pointed to one single doctrinal compromise as the best indicator of lay liberalism — the embrace of pluralism, inclusivism, or universalism in salvation. Lay liberalism is established in “a rejection of the orthodox teaching that Christianity is the only true religion,” they argued.

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7 thoughts on “Presbyterian Church Membership Losses

  1. It helps to have a magisterium to prevent this.

    Here are the stats I found:

    Religious Bodies
    Major Faith 2000 Adherents
    Percent of Population
    1990 Adherents
    Percent Change

    American Baptist
    1,767,462
    0.6%
    1,873,731
    -5.7%

    Assemblies of God
    2,561,998
    0.9
    2,161,610
    18.5

    Catholic
    62,034,042
    22
    53,385,998
    16.2

    Mormon
    4,224,026
    1.5
    3,540,820
    19.3

    Episcopal
    2,314,756
    0.8
    2,445,286
    -5.3

    ELCA
    5,113,418
    1.8
    5,226,798
    -2.2

    Jewish
    6,141,325
    2.2
    5,982,529
    2.7

    Lutheran
    2,521,062
    0.9
    2,603,725
    -3.2

    Muslim
    1,559,294
    0.6
    N/A
    N/A

    Presbyterian
    3,141,566
    1.1
    3,553,335
    -11.6

    Southern Baptist
    19,881,467
    7.1
    18,940,682
    5.0

    United Methodist
    10,350,629
    3.7
    11,091,032
    -6.7

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  2. Legibility formatting ON:

    Darn, I posted too soon, and messed up the table. Basically this information shows American Stats with
    Changes in memberships from 1990 – 2000 (last year I could find) being:

    Presbyterian (-11.6) change – loss
    Methodist (-6.7)
    American Baptist (-5.7)
    Episcopal (-5.3)
    Lutheran (-3.2)

    And Gainers:
    Mormon (+19.3)
    Assemblies of God (+18.5)
    Catholic (+16.2)
    Southern Baptist (+5.0)

    I would say that the more conservative churches (and more fringe) are both gaining members. This would tend to reflect the polarization in the society. While Catholics probably receive the majority of converts by far, the effects of secular pressure on it’s members is felt by a reduction in the numbers of priests. I believe that this trend within the Diocese of Galveston – Houston has been reversed, this year with more seminary students enrolling locally. I may not be correct about this. With the numbers of Catholics listed – 62,034,042 and the change listed, that translates to 8,648,044 new members nationally – and I would probably find statistics showing that it is not all increase in births responsible, but rather conversions. In any event, this is an extreme pressure on our priests, and we are all praying for more vocations to the priesthood.

    My current parish has (so they say) 7,200 members registered, all served by three priests – although not all member attend mass, of course. That is still a lot of people to serve.

    Cheers.

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  3. I took the liberty of formatting your table.

    We’re in agreement – the conservative churches strike a difference, stick to a prescribed and stated morality, and are growing. The liberal churches over time become indistinguishable from no religion at all. If you’re not going to church for the morals, why go?

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  4. Here are a couple of additional points:
    1. The mainline protestant churches (PCUSA, ECUSA, UCC, ELCA, & UMC have been losing members for 40 years due to their embrace of liberalism.

    2. One would think the leadership in these denominations would realize after 40 years of membership losses that liberalism/progressive secularism does not work.

    I suspect the answer is that the leadership of these mainline churches are such hard core leftists, that rational analysis of the situation is beyond their capability to see through their biased eyes.

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  5. I agree, Larry. I believe they think they’re promoting a moral lifestyle generally based on the word of God, but being accepting of alternative lifestyles at the same time. In other words, they accept the sinner *and* the sin.

    Conservative chuches that are growing accept the sinner but condemn the sin.

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