PC(USA) Continue on Downward Membership Trend

The nation’s largest Presbyterian denomination lost nearly two percent of its followers in the last year, according to statistics released by its office.

The Presbyterian Church (U.S.A) lost 43,175 members in 2004, marking the third straight year where over 40,000 people left the 2.6-million-member denomination.

The PC(USA) is among the several mainline protestant churches that blossomed in the mid 20th century. Membership in these moderate and liberal denominations began shrinking in the late 1960s, and have since continued on an overall downward trend.

The PC(USA) formed in 1983 with the merger of mainline Presbyterian churches. At their peak, these churches had a total membership of 4,254,597 in 1965. The current-day PC(USA) has only 2.6 million members – a loss of 44.5 percent in only 40 years.

Other denominations that have continually lost membership include the Church of Christ, the Disciples of Christ, the United Methodist Church, and the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America.

The figures for the PC(USA) were released by the church’s Office for the General Assembly, through an online publication titled “Perspectives.”

As part of the report, Clifton Kirkpatrick, the stated clerk and top ecclesiastical member of the denomination, called on the denomination to “wake-up” and renew its commitment to “make disciples.”

In an article titled “A Wake-Up Call to the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.),” Kirkpatrick listed six points of action for the church members.

The points are: to have important evangelistic outreach begins at home; make diligent efforts to discover the cause of nonmembers’ nonparticipations; have more baptisms; imitate the growing churches within the denomination; become multicultural; and start new churches.

“While evangelism and church growth are not the only measures of Christian faithfulness, they are important ones,” Kirkpatrick wrote. “We live in a time of deep spiritual hunger, which can only be truly met by the gospel of Jesus Christ. I am convinced that God intends for the Presbyterian Church to be a growing church. I believe strongly that we are being called as a church to a fresh commitment to be “Christ’s faithful evangelists.”