PC(USA) Population Study Reveals Little Demographic Change

The Research Services office of the Presbyterian Church (USA) released its profile of the denomination’s “members, elders, pastors and specialized clergy,” entitled, “Background Survey for the 2003-2005 Presbyterian Panel.” Generally, the Nov. survey of the randomly selected panelists showed that the denomination’s demographics have not changed from past surveys taken since 2003.

The Research Services gathered a pool of some 5,000 Presbyterian members at 2002 end, and began mailing them questionnaires four times a year to which the members responded. According to the PC(USA), the “panel provides a way to listen to and collect information about the practices, beliefs, and opinions from both clergy and laity.”

As seen in surveys of the past, the Nov. study revealed that of the 3,700 who responded, women are in the majority: 61% of members are female, as are 50% of elders, 23% of pastors, and 34% of specialized clergy. Most Presbyterians are republicans. However, ministers and specialized clergy have a higher proportion of Democrats than the rest. The study also revealed that the denomination has a disproportionately higher percentage of the population in age groups 45 and older, compared to the national average. Similarly, the PC(USA) has a disproportionately lower percentage in the 14-44 age group than the general US population. Specifically, the medium age is 55 years for members and for elders, 51 years for pastors, and 54 years for specialized clergy.

In terms of general beliefs, Elders and pastors are likely to hold more conservative and orthodox beliefs, while specialized clergy are more liberal.

Beliefs” were measured according to the answer they gave to specific issues. For example, in terms of the literal belief in the creation, 54% of the members, 64% of the elders, 59% of the pastors, and 42% of the specialized clergy agreed that "the account of Creation presented in Genesis is a true account of how God created the world," but only 8%, 7%, 2%, and 1%, respectively, believe that that account "is literally true, exactly as we find it in the Bible."

In terms of belief that “the only absolute Truth for humankind is in Jesus Christ,” 70% of members, 75% of elders, 71% of pastors, and 55% of specialized clergy strongly agreed or agreed. Similarly, 43% of members, 50% of elders, 39% of pastors, and 24% of other clergy strongly agree or agree that "only followers of Jesus Christ can be saved." Two-thirds of members (66%) and specialized clergy (66%), and eight in ten elders (78%) and pastors (80%) strongly agree or agree that "Jesus will return to earth some day."

When asked directly of their belief systems, about 47% of specialized clergy, 27% of ministers, 17% of elders and 18% of members described themselves as liberal to very liberal, while about 43% of elders, 37% of members, 33% of pastors and 18% of specialized clergy described themselves as conservative to moderately conservative.

The PC(USA) members are also overwhelmingly white: 97% of members, 96% of elders, 93% of pastors, and 91% of specialized clergy list their race-ethnicity as white.

Median annual family income is $72,000 for members, $72,600 for elders, $65,200 for pastors, and $75,800 for specialized clergy.