Renowned Presbyterian researcher Deborah Bruce dies

‘U.S. Congregational Life Survey’ project manager felled by a stroke

July 12, 2012

Deborah Bruce

Deborah Bruce —PNS file photo


Deborah Bruce, research manager for the Research Services office of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) and one of the foremost religious researchers in North America, died July 11 of complications from a stroke. She was stricken at her home here July 7 and never regained consciousness.

Bruce was project manager for the monumental U.S. Congregational Life Surveys conducted in 2001 and 2008 to measure and analyze significant changes in congregational life in this country. It was the largest congregational survey ever conducted.

She and her close friend and colleague Cynthia Woolever, who served as director of the surveys, have written three books based on the surveys, including the seminal A Field Guide to U.S. Congregations: Who’s Going Where and Why. A fourth book, Leadership That Fits Your Church: What Kind of Pastor for What Kind of Congregation, is due out this fall.

Bruce had just returned from the PC(USA)’s 220th General Assembly in Pittsburgh ― where she presented the latest findings from her research ― when she was stricken.

Deborah Bruce received her bachelor’s degree from the University of California-Santa Barbara and master’s degree in research psychology from San Diego State University. She worked in a variety of applied research settings before coming to the PC(USA) in 1993. She has served as an officer for the Religious Research Association and is a member of that organization and the Society for the Scientific Study of Religion, the Association for the Sociology of Religion and the International Society for the Sociology of Religion.

Bruce has presented numerous papers at professional meetings, and has published many articles in professional journals.

She is survived by her husband, Reg, and other family members. Memorial service arrangements are pending at Caldwell Chapel on the campus of Louisville Presbyterian Theological Seminary.

  1. I was sadden to hear of the death of Deborah. It was always a joy to talk with her as I sought her counsel on demographic information. She will be sorely missed.

    by Danny Murphy

    August 29, 2012

  2. It was a privilege to have worked with Deborah and Cynthia on the U.S. Congregational Life Survey project and it is diffucult to find words that express my sentiments better than Tammys above. "Deborah was such an intelligent, thoughtful, creative, kind person. My thoughts go out to all who knew her. She will be missed."

    by Glenn Rose

    July 26, 2012

  3. I am so sorry to read of Debbie's death. My thoughts are with Reg and all of the family.

    by Carolyn Bruce

    July 26, 2012

  4. When I stop to think about the bosses I have had in times past, Deborah stands that the top! Her caring, compassionate, and supportive nature will always be remembered by me. Deborah, I appreciate all you did to help me be a success in my college career while I worked at PC(USA)! You are missed.

    by David Prince

    July 22, 2012

  5. I will forever remember your smile and kind words. May God continue to shower the family with love and understanding forever.

    by Roxanna Farris

    July 15, 2012

  6. I am so sorry to hear the news. I appreciated working with her over the years and am shocked to hear of her passing.

    by Peter Smith

    July 15, 2012

  7. How shocking and sad! Deborah was a fantastic woman - always encouraging, thoughtful, smart and warm. It was a true pleasure to work with her on our Multicultural Church survey a few years ago and connect with her at each conference since. My prayers are with her family and closest friends. I will miss her.

    by Beverly Dempsey

    July 15, 2012

  8. Debbie was an amazing aunt! She will missed my many and forgotten by none. Much love to Aunt Debbie. Forever in our hearts.

    by Jamie Mohr

    July 14, 2012

  9. Deborah made such a valuable contribution; not only the field of religious research but also to religious researchers. I know now that she is in heaven she has all the answers, but we still need her to help us with our questions.

    by Wendy Martin

    July 14, 2012

  10. I am deeply saddened by Deborah's sudden death after her stroke. My heart goes out to Reg and other colleagues, friends, and family members. May God's hope abide with each one of you as you experience this deep loss, and let us all strive to live up to the high standard in church leadership for which Deborah was such a fine example. My sympathy, Jacquie Lyman

    by Jac;quelin Lyman

    July 13, 2012

  11. I will miss Deborah. I didnt work with her but any encourters were met with her a great smile and hello. I will miss seeing her in the building. Please accept my condolences.

    by Mary L. McAdory

    July 13, 2012

  12. Deborah was not only a great researcher, but also a lovely person. My condolences to her family, friends, and colleagues. She will truly be missed, I am sure.

    by Deborah Coe

    July 13, 2012

  13. I'm so sorry for her and the family. Two weeks ago, when I was in the Plainview Kroger's, we talk!!

    by Susan E Ellison

    July 13, 2012

  14. Deborah will be greatly missed. She was such a friend and co-worker. I'm glad I had the chance to meet her at GA after months of talking with her and working with her on the PCCMP evaluation. Our prayers and thoughts are with the whole Presbyterian Mission Agency family.

    by Don Wilson

    July 13, 2012

  15. Peace and hope in the resurrection of Christ be with all her family and friends.

    by Howard Reed

    July 13, 2012

  16. Her work is a gift to the whole church. Thank you.

    by Mike Goodwin

    July 13, 2012

  17. The light of her spirit was a blessing to all of us. She will be missed.

    by Nancy Bruce Neilson

    July 12, 2012

  18. Deborah was a bright light at the annual meetings of SSSR/RRA. A remarkable human being in so many respects -- intelligent, personable, compassionate, encouraging. I'm deeply saddened by our loss.

    by James Cavendish

    July 12, 2012

  19. Deborah was such an intelligent, thoughtful, creative, kind person. It was such a privilege to have worked with her when she and Cynthia Woolever began their dynamic work on the Survey. My thoughts go out to all who knew her. She will be missed.

    by Tammy Joslyn

    July 12, 2012

  20. So sorry to hear this news about Deborah. She was a great researcher and a great friend. She leaves behind a tremendous legacy in her research, though. We will keep her and her family in prayer.

    by Mary L. Gautier

    July 12, 2012

  21. Condolences on her death. She will be remembered.

    by Michael M Fallin

    July 12, 2012