Stated Clerk comments on PC(USA) 2008 statistics

Presbyterians can be evangelists!

December 13, 2008

Louisville

The Office of the General Assembly has released the 2008 statistics of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.). The statistical material released includes a comparative summary of the membership, a 2005–2008 summary of receipts and expenditures, and additional miscellaneous information.

The newest statistics report the total membership of the PC(USA) at 2,140,165 members.

It is the responsibility of the Stated Clerk of the General Assembly to report the annual statistics for the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.). In releasing the figures Gradye Parsons, Stated Clerk of the General Assembly, made the following statement:

The total membership of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) in 2008 was 2,140,165 members. The statistics contain the good news that 103,528 people joined the PC(USA) in 2008. The sad news is that 34,340 joined other denominations. An almost equal number of our sisters and brothers in Christ joined the church triumphant.

The very sad news is that more than 100,000 people were removed from the membership rolls by their sessions. This number includes some of our family who became members of another Reformed body as a result of their congregation being dismissed to that body.

We are all diminished by the loss of these congregations. The PC(USA) needs to include people and congregations of every theological voice so that we can be faithful to where God is leading us in this world.

The largest part of the 100,000, however, is the number of those who were removed from the membership rolls after they gradually drifted away from our congregations. It is a trend supported by a recent survey on religious affiliation by the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life. The survey reports that 7 in 10 former Protestants gradually drifted away from their childhood religion. Initially, they are in worship every Sunday, then every other Sunday, and then gone.

These are sisters and brothers with whom we break bread and sing the doxology. We should not let them drift.

Chapter 3 of the Book of Order contains a powerful section on being Christ’s faithful evangelist (G–3.0300c.) In it are three main aspects. The first is to go into the world, making disciples of all nations. The second is to demonstrate the new reality in Christ by the love we have for one another in the church. The third is to participate in God’s activity of bringing justice and mercy to God’s world.

Presbyterians can be evangelists! But we often stumble over the words. Can we not challenge one another to be able to answer these basic questions — Why do I believe in God? Why do I go to church? Why do I go to that particular church?

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