A local leader in the Presbyterian Church (USA) is concerned about a recently released report that finds nearly 1 in 5 members are disappointed with the direction of the denomination.
Titled "When We Gather at the Table: A PC(USA) Snapshot," the non-scientific survey of about 3,000 members of the denomination classified 19 percent of respondents as "disappointed and discerning," which meant they did not like the direction of the Church and were seriously considering leaving.
The Rev. David Baker, stated clerk and director of communications for the PCUSA Presbytery of Tampa Bay, told The Christian Post that he was troubled by the findings.
"Any organization is going to have dissidents, but if potentially 19 percent of members are unhappy enough to want to leave, that's a concern," said Baker.
"I'd like to see us do what we can to unify our denomination. The Church should be an example of how people relate to one another; while our country is so divided, can't our denomination be an example of unity with those whom we disagree?"
Released in advance of next month's PCUSA General Assembly, "When We Gather at the Table" sought to examine the identity of the denomination through the lenses of its members.
The report created four categories for the approximately 3,000 respondents: "Purposeful Progressives," "Disappointed and Discerning," "Family Facilitators," and "Rooted and Resolute."
Nineteen percent of respondents were "Disappointed and Discerning," which was identified as 76 percent conservative, 23 percent moderate/mixed, and 1 percent liberal.
"Though the name given to this segment might appear to be strong, it truly reflects how they feel: forsaken, abandoned, and for some, held hostage by their denomination," explained the report.
"They are the most displeased. This group includes those who either (1) do not like their PC(USA) affiliation but are stuck in the denomination for various reasons, or (2) are conflicted and thinking about leaving the denomination."
According to the report, the largest category within the PC(USA) respondents was the "Purposeful Progressives" category, comprising 35 percent of all respondents.
"Many in this group feel we need to get more involved in politics and in social action. They are less tolerant of conservative theologies within the denomination," continued the report.
"Some remain hopeful that conservatives who are upset with the 221st General Assembly (2014) decisions on marriage will see that there are different ways to interpret Scripture, and will choose to stay and accept the changes, over time. Others would simply be happy if the conservatives left the PC(USA) …"
The "Purposeful Progressives" category was 85 percent liberal, 13 percent moderate/mixed, and 2 percent conservative. Baker told CP that the report was a good description of his regional body.
"Most Presbyteries would be made up of a mix of churches and pastors from these categories. I think the Presbytery of Tampa Bay reflects the percentages in the report pretty well," said Baker.
"I strongly agree with the summary comments concerning next steps: we need to change the way ministers are educated and solve the problem of denominational decline in membership."
The report comes as the nation's largest Presbyterian denomination prepares for its biennial gathering, the 222nd General Assembly, scheduled for June 18-25 in Portland, Oregon.
"Commissioners and advisory delegates from all 171 PC(USA) presbyteries, along with other participants and observers from around the world, will converge on the Oregon Convention Center in downtown Portland for celebrations, deliberations, and inspirations," reads the PCUSA Office of the General Assembly's website.
"Hosted by the Presbytery of the Cascades and united under the theme 'The Hope in Our Calling,' from Ephesians 1:18, the General Assembly will include rich worship services, the election of the moderator and action on a plethora of overtures."