Explaining Fewer New Members Each Year for at Least 21 Consecutive Years
Our current leadership openly admits that the reasons for the PCUSA’s devastating decline.
The larger losses between 2012 and 2016 were brought on by … the 2010 General Assembly voted to allow the ordination of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people as church officers and the 2014 Assembly voted to allow same-gender marriage.
Why haven’t gays and other Progressives flocked into the PCUSA?
To begin, Progressives (or also called Liberals) are generally less religious than are Conservatives or Moderates. The Pew Research Center has generated relevant data in support of this statement, as shown in the following figure.
Note that as we move from Conservative through Moderate to Liberal political ideology the percentage who “Believe in God, absolutely certain” falls from 78% to 59% and 45%, respectively. Note also that the group who “Don’t know” their political ideology are more religious (at 65% absolutely certain) than are Liberals and Moderates.
Thus effect is magnified by the fact that while Liberals are shown by Pew to comprise only 24% of the U.S. population, Conservatives, Moderates and Don’t Knows are 36%, 33% and 7% respectively. Thus, Conservatives, Moderates and Don’t Knows outnumber Liberals by a ratio of more than 3 to 1 (i.e., 76% to 24%). If we use the “Believe in God, absotely certain” as the group most likely to join a church and then scale this data for each ideology by their percentage of the population we find that the Conservative plus Moderate plus Don’t Know population pool is 4.8 times larger than is the Liberal pool.
Thus, the PCUSA has chosen to tailor its theology and policies to the preferences of a very small cohort in the U.S. population. The technical name for this strategy is “boutique,” or an organization that is by design small and fashionable. This is a strange strategy for a denomination that claims to be pursuing maximum inclusiveness.
But, since the PCUSA has become so “inviting” to “lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people” why haven’t they flocked into the denomination? While it may be true that this group will find a denomination like the PCUSA more inviting, it is also very likely they understand that Christianity as practiced by the vast majority in the U.S. and the world doesn’t affirm their lifestyle.
The following figure shows that only a tiny fraction of Christians in the United States belong to a denomination that allows same-gender marriage. Thus, the fact that a few small and quickly declining denominations have been taken over by radical Progressives does little to offset the position of the vast majority of Christians. Were the same analysis conducted on a worldwide basis the results would be even more lopsided.
Of course, were the PCUSA in the right on these issues then they should be pursued regardless of the impact on membership. However, my research and analysis has shown that the PCUSA leadership has utterly failed to meet even the lowest standard of Biblical and Confessional justification.
Thus we have a leadership that has driven the denomination into a debacle in pursuit of a losing strategy that has no credible justification within the context of Christianity. This situation constitutes one key ingredient of a debacle — the failure to draw in new members.