The Disappearing PCUSA, 2014 Data (Part 4)

Annual Membership Gain/Loss/Net and Number of Churches

  • The number of membership gains has declined each year from at least 1998
  • We hear the constant refrain from our denominational leadership that the radical changes made to our theology and policies are intended to make the church “more relevant.” However, note that the PCUSA has delivered increasing irrelevance to both those inside and outside of the denomination. This raises the question: To whom exactly is the PCUSA leadership trying to make the denomination “more relevant?”
PCUSA Membership Gain, Loss and Net: 1998-2014

PCUSA Membership Gain, Loss and Net: 1998-2014

PCUSA Church Gain & Loss: 2011-2014

PCUSA Church Gain & Loss: 2011-2014

 

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The Disappearing PCUSA, 2014 Data (Part 1)

The 2014 PCUSA data is in and I’m sorry to report it’s pretty bad.  I’ve updated last year’s plots with the 2014 results and expanded the scope to cover additional areas of concern.  These results confirm that the PCUSA is in a state of chronic, and recently calamitous decline.
The following data will be conveyed in future posts:
  • Total Membership (per year, % of 1984 baseline, % of U.S. population, cumulative since 1983)
  • Annual Membership Change (Gain / Loss / Net; absolute # and %; Loss-to-Gain ratio)
  • Number of PCUSA candidates for ministry
  • Number of Church changes (organized, dissolved, received, dismissed)
  • Participation in Christian Education
  • Comparison to changes in the United States (2007-2014; Pew Research)

Giving Thanks on Memorial Day…

…for all soldiers of the U.S. military who have protected our freedoms.

World War II Memorial, Washington D.C.

World War II Memorial, Washington D.C.

Korean War Memorial, Washington, D.C.

Korean War Memorial, Washington, D.C.

Vietnam War Memorial, Washington D.C.

Vietnam War Memorial, Washington D.C.

Iraq and Afghanistan Wars

Iraq and Afghanistan Wars

Psalm 18:30-36

30 As for God, his way is perfect:
    The Lord’s word is flawless;
    he shields all who take refuge in him.
31 For who is God besides the Lord?
    And who is the Rock except our God?
32 It is God who arms me with strength
    and keeps my way secure.
33 He makes my feet like the feet of a deer;
    he causes me to stand on the heights.
34 He trains my hands for battle;
    my arms can bend a bow of bronze.
35 You make your saving help my shield,
    and your right hand sustains me;
    your help has made me great.
36 You provide a broad path for my feet,
    so that my ankles do not give way.

 

What’s Going On in the PCUSA (Conclusion)

The unfortunate fact is that there is an almost unlimited number of issues on which I am in disagreement with the current PCUSA elite.  I have discussed many of these issues at length throughout this blog’s posts.  I will likely have more to say in the future.  However, at this point it may be best to simply state what I have come to believe about “what’s going on in the PCUSA.”

Firstly, there are many pastors, elders, deacons and members in the PCUSA who are living out their Christian faith in wonderful ways.  There are still many churches in the PCUSA that are faithfully proclaiming Christ’s Gospel in their ministries, both locally and globally.

However, a clear majority of the current PCUSA elite appear to have traded their responsibility to proclaim Christ’s Gospel for a putrid red pottage of secular ideologies.  They have converted the PCUSA at the Presbytery (with exceptions) and General Assembly (without exception) level into a wholly owned subsidiary of the radical Progressive political movement.

I cannot and will not reconcile myself to this appalling project.  The only way to remain in the PCUSA without violating my Christian conscience is to do so in open opposition.

What’s Going On in the PCUSA (Part 4)

At the last Chicago Presbytery Assembly meeting a pastor said during the Belhar debate that it is insulting to be forced to vote over and over on the same issue.  He elaborated that apparently Presbytery votes don’t mean anything until they come out the right way.

We see this attitude in practice on same-gender marriage in a Rational paragraph from the Presbytery of Chicago (Amending Marriage).

Overtures directly addressing marriage equality in the United States and the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) have come before the last two General Assemblies. The 219th Assembly (2010) completely failed to substantively address the marriage-related overtures that were before it. The 220th General Assembly (2012) failed to substantively address overtures related to authoritative interpretation of the marriage provisions at issue in this overture and, by a narrow margin, failed to approve changes to W-4.9000.

Note how failure to approve same-gender marriage is viewed as failure to do the “right thing,” thus requiring continual debate, ending only when the “right thing” has been done.

We see this issue again in the concurrence rationale from the Presbytery of Santa Barbara for “On Supporting Middle East Peacemaking”.

The overture also calls on the General Assembly to make clear that the PC(USA) is not a part of the international Boycott, Divest, and Sanction (BDS) movement. … Official committees of the PC(USA), like the Mission Responsibility Through Investment (MRTI) and the Advisory Committee on Social Witness Policy (ACSWP), have failed to recognize the spirit and intent of prior General Assembly actions and have continued to promote the very kind of negative approach to peacemaking that prior General Assemblies have rejected. This is wrong and must end.

These are all examples of the same strategy, whereby the PCUSA elite refuse to accept a negative outcome.  Rather than showing respect for the views of the majority, they have made it clear that there will be no peace until the denomination has submitted to their demands.  Once they have won, we are all supposed to respect the decision of a majority that has been created by driving out of those in opposition.  Should those of us in opposition who remain accede to this demand, or, should we continue to fight?

What’s Going On in the PCUSA (Part 3)

Postmodernism and Truth

Let’s conduct the following thought experiment.

You are a professing Christian who lives in an environment saturated with postmodern philosophical assumptions.  Over time, you are influenced by these assumptions, and, eventually begin to accept them as your own.  The following are the postmodern assumptions about truth and language that you have accepted.

Postmodern Understanding of Truth:

  • The rejection of an objective natural reality—is sometimes expressed by saying that there is no such thing as Truth. Encyclopedia Britannica
  • Postmodernists deny that there are aspects of reality that are objective; that there are statements about reality that are objectively true or false; that it is possible to have knowledge of such statements (objective knowledge); that it is possible for human beings to know some things with certainty; and that there are objective, or absolute, moral values. Encyclopedia Britannica

Postmodern Understanding of Language:

  • Postmodernists claim that language is semantically self-contained, or self-referential: the meaning of a word is not a static thing in the world or even an idea in the mind but rather a range of contrasts and differences with the meanings of other words. Encyclopedia Britannica

Now, ask your self this: If there is no such thing as Truth, and, language is only able to convey a range of contrasts and differences, then is there any such thing as a “lie”?  My answer is: The extent to which a person integrates postmodern philosophy into their life is the extent to which they are at risk of not believing there is something called a “lie”.

We have previously observed that, even with the full power of God’s barrier against untruthfulness at our disposal, Christians still struggle with the issue of Truth.  If, in addition to, or as a replacement of, orthodox Christian morality a person embraces postmodernism, the barrier to untruthfulness can only be significantly lowered.

Am I here saying that postmodern Christians are liars?  Absolutely not!  The fact is, I know Christians who fully embrace orthodoxy, but who are regularly untruthful.  I also know Christians who have clearly embraced postmodernism who are refreshingly honest about their goals and means.

My first point is that, over two general populations with similar innate characteristics,  we should expect a higher level of average truthfulness from the population that believes Truth exists and that language is capable of conveying it.

My second point is that, if in an organization two camps form with significantly differing understandings of a fundamental concept such as Truth, the level of distrust and acrimony will inexorably increase.  I believe that this is an important component of what’s “going on” in the PCUSA, and is a significant contributor to the current catastrophic loss in membership (The PCUSA’s Continuous Decline).

What is Going On in the PCUSA (Part 2)

The Issue of Truth

I’d like to begin by revisiting the J. I. Packer quote from the introductory essay to John Owen’s 1959 book, The Death of Death in the Death of Christ (see The Theological Crisis (1 of 5)),

However this may be (and we shall say more about it later), the result of these omissions is that part of the biblical gospel is now preached as if it were the whole of that gospel; and a half-truth masquerading as the whole truth becomes a complete untruth.

At the time I specifically emphasized that Packer was here accusing the Evangelical church of, in effect, preaching an untrue gospel by the the artifice of selective omission.  It’s difficult to imagine a more serious charge that could be brought against Christian pastors than this.  So, let no one suggest that my concern for truthfulness is partisan with regard to the PCUSA leadership.

Packer placed his finger exactly on the primary method that has been used in recent generations to teach untruth about the Christian faith.  That is, the untruth does not consist of outright false statements, but rather by statements that while “true” in a narrow, legalistic sense, are actually false due to careful, selective omission.

I have addressed this situation at numerous points, but most directly in Jesus Christ Avatar, where I discussed the falsification of the Person and Purpose of Jesus Christ by this very means.

What we find instead is passage after passage that either nakedly claims that they are following Jesus Christ, or, telling us what they believe Jesus taught, often in the most general and/or selective terms, without the slightest attempt at demonstration. And, what do these authors tell us that Jesus teaches and believes? He teaches and believes exactly as they already believe! This stunning development has been commented upon in numerous posts,  including an in-depth treatment in Presbytery of the Cascades: Amending Marriage (1 of 2).

I contend that through the incessant repetition of these misleading statements postmodern Christians have emptied Jesus Christ of who He is and refilled him with who they would like him to be. They have turned him into an avatar whose purpose is to act as an embodiment of their philosophy. He has been turned into “that guy who surely agrees with whatever I decide is good and true” as opposed to the objectively real incarnation of God who said and did specific things that are authoritative in defining our Christian understanding of faith and it’s playing out in our lives.

We know that the lack of truthfulness is as old as sin itself.  We are all always in danger of being untruthful, be it the “little white lies” of social lubrication or self protecting whoppers.  Even with the highest barriers placed in our path by God (e.g., the Ninth Commandment), we still stumble and fall.  The question that will be taken up in the next post is this: What if a Christian falls into the orbit of a philosophy that significantly lowers the barriers that protect us against lying?

What is Going On in the PCUSA? (Part 1)

I have, in one way or another, asked the title’s question numerous times along the way.  There comes a point when either the question is addressed, or, you must admit that it has been rhetorical all along.  I do believe that something significant is “going on” in the PCUSA, and, that it is both purposeful and connected to larger social movements.

To date I have focused primarily on postmodernism to understand the means and ends being pursued.  Although I consider it to be an essential (even foundational) component, it isn’t sufficient to address the entirety of what’s “going on.”  Therefore I’ll start with a few more observations on postmodernism, but will expand the discussion’s scope as necessary to address other components of the whole.

What follows should be interpreted as one man’s working hypothesis for the PCUSA leadership’s world view.  Thus, I’m attempting to understand the motivations and actions of a group.  What results need not apply to a given individual group member. However, what’s “going on” can only be occurring because a cohesive, like-minded, powerful group within the PCUSA is willing and acting in unison.

I believe that there is major overlap between the PCUSA, other mainline denominations and secular organizations/movements.  However, since my specific focus has been on the PCUSA, I will draw primarily from this source.