iBooks Publish Announcement: A Denomination’s Debacle

I have published my fourth eBook on iBooks.  If you have an iOS device then you can use this link to access.  If you do not use an iOS device, a PDF version can be found on my blog using this link.

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A Denomination’s Debacle

This book is an indictment of the leadership elite who have driven the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), or PCUSA, into an utter debacle.

The most visible aspect of this debacle is the unprecedented loss of membership and churches that occurred between 2011 and 2017. Over that time span the PCUSA experienced a net loss of 601,000 members and 1146 churches, which is almost 30% of its membership and almost 12% of its churches. But these numbers don’t capture the human cost in broken trust, lost faith and shattered relationships that has occurred behind the scenes.

What remains is a denomination dominated by a post-Christian elite who use their power to advance a social gospel that is virtually indistinguishable from the secular Progressive political project. To some readers this charge against the PCUSA leadership will seem to be not just extraordinary, but also unbelievable. This book contains the extraordinary evidence that justifies the charge.

Preface Excerpt

The reader may well ask why I feel compelled to tell this story. I do so for three reasons.

First, the elite denominational leadership has obtained this end under the cloak of purposeful deception. This deception is not found in their policy and theological positions. No, they have aggressively advanced their cause with general honesty. The deception is that they claim to have been doing so as a legitimate expression of orthodox Reformed Christianity. By so doing they have preyed with premeditation and malice upon the trust of the denomination’s parishioners. We will never recover from this spell unless the truth is exposed.

Second, there are still many faithful members and churches in the PCUSA. However, unless they fully understand the forces arrayed against them they will likely eventually succumb. Only if they understand that their presence in the denomination is as a light shining in the darkness can they be protected from the apostasy and heresy that surrounds them. That understanding is what sustained the Apostles and early Christians as they proclaimed the Gospel as isolated individuals and churches in the pagan Roman Empire. The challenge we face is far less extreme. Yet, if we prioritize the comfort and peace of our lives over our responsibilities as followers of Christ even the small courage required will elude us.

Finally, the forces that have corrupted the PCUSA act upon our general culture and thus are not unique to this denomination. Therefore, we can expect that other churches and denominations are struggling under the same theological onslaught as has laid the PCUSA low. Thus this book attempts to explain these forces and how a corrupt leadership can by deception and seduction smuggle false theology into an otherwise orthodox Christian fellowship.

Table of Contents

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PCUSA Proud of a Shameful Past (3)

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The public relations facade of a denomination led by a clique of hateful, violence approving Progressive radicals.

Commentary on the Contemporary Situation

This situation came to my attention through reception of promotional material associated with the PCUSA’s “Matthew 25” initiative.  As has become my custom, rather than stopping at the happy-face, virtue-signaling surface, I dug down into the details of the supporting documents and commentary.  It was here that I came across the PCUSA document (by The Presbyterian Mission Agency) titled Facing Racism: A Vision of the Intercultural Community Antiracism Study Guides  that contains the discussion of past support for Angela Davis (see the first post in this series).  Further research uncovered the unmentioned support for the Black Panthers.

Even if we limit ourselves to Angela Davis the implications are shocking.  Here’s a summary of her beliefs and actions.

Davis’s continued presence is merely another reminder that the progressive left will tolerate the most odious characters as long as they seek “justice” for a favored cause — in this case Palestinians.

Just as Davis wasn’t merely a communist sympathizer but a champion of the most reprehensible Soviet regimes, she’s not merely a supporter of boycott, divestment, sanction’s Jewish boycotts but a champion of men like Marwan Barghouti, the Al-Aqsa Martyrs’ Brigades leader who coordinated suicide bombings targeting Jewish civilians.

Yet, somehow, Davis claimed to be “stunned” when, after objections from Holocaust remembrance organizations and other Jewish groups, the Birmingham Civil Rights Institute recently rescinded their award that was meant to honor her. The incident spurred the usual suspects to say the usual things. Though most of defenses were predictably vacuous, the habit of ignoring her biography is also journalistic malpractice.

There could be an entire book written detailing Davis’s loathsome views and actions (Cathy Young has a good article here.) Still, it’s quite striking to see folks like TED talker Sally Kohn taking to Twitter to let her followers know that she stands with Davis because of her fight against the “prison industrial complex.” In the real world, Davis was an enthusiast supporter of the largest and most lethal prison system the world has ever known.

Davis was also a supporter of and involved with the Black Panthers (emphasis added).

Angela Yvonne Davis (born January 26, 1944) is an American political activist, academic scholar, and author. She emerged as a prominent counterculture activist and radical in the 1960s as a leader of the Communist Party USA, and had close relations with the Black Panther Party through her involvement in the Civil Rights Movement.

This is the woman who the PCUSA chose to hold up as an example of Christian public engagement.  In so doing they abuse the trust of their members to deliver a fraudulent narrative that pushes the unsuspecting into collaboration with an ideology that they would never choose given sufficient knowledge.

However, when we add in the unmentioned but real and continuing support for the murderous, raping, racist Black Panther Party the situation becomes even more horrific. Look at the signs being held by the unsuspecting children placed at the front of the above pictured march.  I challenge you to explain how the PCUSA’s support for the Black Panthers and Angela Davis can be rationalized with the messages on these signs.  It can’t.

But this is how the radicals in control of our denomination paint a thin veneer of Christian respectability over the vile evil that underlies their initiatives.  These are “Christians” who fellow-travel with, if not outright support, murderous totalitarian ideologies and those in the secular sphere who promote them.

It is far past time that the remaining members in this denomination cease trusting these

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Our national leadership’s Chrisrian Potemkin village facade

leaders.  They are little more than minor political players who do the bidding of the secular radical Progressive movement.  By giving them our allegiance we are signing onto an agenda that, were its true purposes and beliefs known, would shock our Christian consciences.

By the way, you do now know much more about these purposes and beliefs.  However, as will be demonstrated in my forthcoming book (A Denomination’s Debacle), even this is only a small fraction of the theological corruption and ideological evil that exists behind the PCUSA national leadership’s Christian Potemkin village facade.

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Over 300 pages detailing the theological corruption and ideological evil of the PCUSA leadership.

PCUSA Proud of a Shameful Past (2)

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The Black Panthers: Murderers and rapists, supported and glorified by the PCUSA elite

The PCUSA’s Presbyterian Mission Agency has recently chosen to proclaim their pride in one of the most shameful acts of political action conducted by a Presbyterian denomination.  I’m here (and in the previous post) excerpting the section of my under development book, A Denomination’s Debacle, that discusses this appalling episode.

Supporting the Black Panthers and Angela Davis (Part 2)

Discussion

It’s difficult to convey the depths of depravity and outright evil associated with this support, but the following discussion at least scratches the surface.

The following excerpt summarizes Angela Davis’ career.

A Communist true believer, Davis became a Soviet propaganda icon as an American “political prisoner” in 1970, when she was charged with murder for her alleged role in a deadly courthouse attack intended to free three members of the Black Panthers. … After her acquittal, she made a triumphant tour of Communist countries, received honors and prizes, and pointedly refused to speak up for Eastern-bloc political prisoners, even those who were Communist reformers. She did not leave the slavishly pro-Soviet Communist Party USA until 1991 when the USSR was about to collapse.

Although her acquittal may have at the time appeared to justify the UPUSA’s support, their support of the Black Panthers remains a vile stain on thats denomination’s leadership.

A good summary of the Black Panther’s ideology and violence can be found at the History News Network.

The American Black Panthers were probably the most violently racist of all the black groups in the United States. It was founded in 1966 and its leaders promoted their organisation as one which advocated self-help and keeping drugs out of black communities across the United States. The original philosophy behind the Panthers combined militant black nationalism with Marxism-Leninism (later Mao Zedong and Ho Chi Minh would inspire them) and advocated black empowerment and self – defense, often through confrontation. During its heyday, members of the Black Panthers murdered more than a dozen law-enforcement officers. Today, former Panthers Eddie Conway, Mumia Abu-Jamal, H. Rap Brown, Ed Poindexter and David Rice are serving life sentences.

Lest you come to the false conclusion that the Black Panthers only murdered police, the following excerpt from a review of The Black Panthers: Vanguard of the Revolution contains a partial description of other crimes.

Further, the movie makes no mention of his [Huey Newton] other murders. These include his involvement in the slaying of Panther Party secretary Betty Van Patter and of teenager Kathleen Smith. Newton also confessed to committing the Smith murder and was indicted, though he then fled to Cuba to avoid prosecution. Nonetheless, prior to running off, Newton sent henchmen to kill witness Crystal Gray. When his lieutenants failed in that plot, Newton decided to cover his tracks by arranging for Panther member Nelson Malloy to be fired upon, then buried alive. When Malloy managed to survive, he identified Newton for his role as the planner and organizer of his attempted murder.

If you have the stomach for it, here in his own words is an excerpt from Soul on Ice (published in 1968) by Black Panther leader Eldridge Cleaver.

‘I became a rapist. To refine my technique and modus operandi, I started out by practicing on black girls in the ghetto — in the black ghetto where dark and vicious deeds appear not as aberrations or deviations from the norm, but as part of the sufficiency of the Evil of the day — and when I considered myself smooth enough, I crossed the tracks and sought out white prey. I did this consciously, deliberately, willfully, methodically — though looking back I see that I was in a frantic, wild and completely abandoned frame of mind.

Rape was an insurrectionary act. It delighted me that I was defying and trampling upon the white man’s law, upon his system of values, and that I was defiling his women — and this point, I believe, was the most satisfying to me because I was very resentful over the historical fact of how the white man has used the black woman. I felt I was getting revenge.

Note well, this book was published two years before the UPUSA decided to contribute $25,000 to the Black Panthers.  I simply ask, how was it that members of a murderous domestic terrorist organization could be supported by a Christian denomination?  This support occurred both in 1970 by the UPUSA and in 2011 by the PCUSA.  In 1970 there was easily available information about the Panther’s evil, and in 2011 that information had been on the public record for over 40 years.  In both cases not only was their violence and cruelty overlooked, but they were actually celebrated as making positive contributions to society.

In his essay, “Black Murder Inc.” David Horowitz (who collaborated with the Black Panthers before breaking with them over the murder of Betty Van Patter) explains why Progressive organizations, most definitely including some Christian denominations behaved in this manner.

The existence of a Murder Incorporated in the heart of the American left is something the left really doesn’t want to know or think about. Such knowledge would refute its most cherished self-understandings and beliefs. It would undermine the sense of righteous indignation that is the crucial starting point of a progressive attitude. It would explode the myths on which the attitude depends.

It is this radical environment within which the PCUSA continues to operate as a small appendage to the secular, radical Progressive political movement.  Although most (but not all) of their actions don’t rise to the murderous level of supporting the Black Panthers, they are unified by a hatred of the United States and a determination to undermine its civilizational confidence.  They are also united by the unmerited sanctimony of a self-identified elite class who never need repent of or even acknowledge their moral faults, or take responsibility for the disastrous failure of their supported policies.

PCUSA Proud of a Shameful Past (1)

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The PCUSA gives thanks to God for The Black Panther Party (“self-defense” = murder)

The PCUSA’s Presbyterian Mission Agency has recently chosen to proclaim their pride in one of the most shameful acts of political action conducted by a Presbyterian denomination.  I’m here (and in the next post) excerpting the section of my under development book, A Denomination’s Debacle, that discusses this appalling episode.

Supporting the Black Panthers and Angela Davis (Part 1)

Background

The Presbyterian Church has been a hotbed of radical Progressive political action from well before the PCUSA was created in 1983.  Perhaps the most notorious example is the decision by the United Presbyterian Church (UPUSA) to financially and morally support the Black Panthers and Angela Davis.  A brief summary of this pre-PCUSA scandal follows (emphasis added).

In 1970 and 1971 the UPUSA gave $25,000 to defend the Black Panthers and $10,000 to the Angela Davis Defense Fund. These and other similar gifts brought a storm of protest from thousands of church members but the 1971 UPUSA General Assembly defended the gifts and refused to criticize the agency which made them.

In 2011 the PCUSA, in a Presbyterian Peacemaking Program liturgy, gave thanks to God for the Black Panthers, mentioning two of their most notorious members by name.

For Huey Newton, Bobby Seale, and the youth and young adults of the Black Panther Party, who emphasized the need for self-defense, and instituted community programs to address poverty and to provide health care in communities of need; 

The UPUSA support resurfaced in a 2019 PCUSA document (by The Presbyterian Mission Agency) titled Facing Racism: A Vision of the Intercultural Community Antiracism Study Guides.  In this document the PCUSA brags about this event, claiming it as an inspirational example of Christian political activism (emphasis added).

The strength of this commitment to diversity and fairness was soon tested. In 1970 the Council on Church and Race approved a $10,000 grant to the Angela Davis Defense Fund. Angela Davis, Ph.D. was a black faculty member at the University of California Los Angeles (UCLA). She was also a political activist, leader of the Communist Party USA, and affiliated with the Black Panther Party, a highly controversial black activist group in the 1960s and 70s. Dr. Davis was arrested for conspiracy relating to the armed takeover of a California county courtroom by the Black Panther Party that resulted in four deaths. The Angela Davis case was a vortex of social dissent for the denomination. Many saw Angela Davis as the antithesis of traditional American values and they were enraged that the church would be sympathetic to her and supportive of her defense. They petitioned the General Assembly to reverse the Council’s decision. 

In its response the Council stated, “The General Assembly, by establishment of a Council on Church and Race, has challenged Presbyterians to a more radical posture in the struggle for social justice and world peace than many American citizens care to assume. The call to Presbyterians to support those who conscientiously practice civil disobedience under extreme injustice, the call to bear witness for peace in international relations, ‘and, in its own life, to practice the forgiveness of enemies,’ (Book of Confessions, 9.45) all break with the conventional righteousness and mark our Church as a voice crying in the wilderness of moral complacency and chauvinism, ‘Prepare ye the way of the Lord!’” (Minutes, 24 May 1972, p. 994). 

Note that while the Presbyterian Mission Agency highlights their support of Angela Davis, they fail to mention their larger financial support of the Black Panthers.  The reason behind this omission will become clear from the following discussion of the Black Panther’s history, particularly as related to the timeframe in which the UPUSA provided their moral and financial support.

The Disappearing PCUSA: 2018 Data (5)

Explaining How Existing Members and Churches were Driven Out of the PCUSA

Note: This is an unusually long post, but by necessity to explain this root cause of the PCUSA’s debacle.

It appears that a few years of surface quiet were experienced between 2002 and 2006.  However, behind the scenes the PCUSA national leadership must have been preparing for the coup that occurred at the 2006 General Assembly.  An informative report by David and Tim Bayly on this event follows.

Even more troubling to us is the approval of the so-called Peace, Unity, and Purity (PUP) Report, which, for the first time in our denomination’s history, allows local congregations and regional governing bodies to ordain as ministers, elders, and deacons people who refuse to accept or obey requirements for ordination established by the denomination’s constitution, if they convince the ordaining body that they can nonetheless serve. While this refusal to comply may apply to any requirement, the issue has been primarily focused on and driven by the question of ordaining practicing and unrepentant homosexual candidates…

A number of years ago our denomination’s constitution was amended to limit ordination to those who are faithful in marriage, which is between one man and one woman, or chaste in singleness. This wording was approved by a majority of the regional bodies, and re-approved twice by larger majorities each time. At the time it was added it was not a new limitation, but made explicit an understanding that had historically been practiced within the denomination (and for that matter in nearly all Christian denominations).

What made the PUP Report unconscionable was that it amends the denominational constitution by an unconstitutional process. It by-passed the regional bodies whose approval is required by the constitution itself. It is as though the U. S. Constitution were to be amended by a simple majority vote of Congress, by-passing the states. Advocates of the ordination of ineligible people, unable to change the constitution, proposed to “interpret” it by altering the meaning of the phrase “shall not” so that it from now on it means “may.” A prohibition was changed by interpretation into permission, because the advocates of change could not muster the votes to pass an amendment.

Lest you assume that this is a biased report, here is a contemporaneous report on the same General Assembly by NBC News. 

Like other mainline Protestant groups, Presbyterians have been debating for decades how they should interpret Scripture on salvation, truth, sexuality and other issues.

But tensions erupted after a June 2006 meeting, when delegates granted new leeway in some cases for congregations and regional presbyteries to sidestep a church requirement that clergy and lay officers limit sex to man-woman marriage.

The “delegates” in this quote are those to the General Assembly.  Thus, it is the General Assembly, acting alone, that granted the “new leeway” to local congregations and Presbyteries.

The General Assembly continued down the path of democratic nullification in 2008, where numerous additional steps were taken.  This article lays out what occurred.

… the denomination then turned to the issue of standards for ordination. The language to be replaced requires that all ministers of the church must live in “fidelity within the covenant of marriage between a man and a woman or chastity in singleness.” That language, consistent with Scripture and Christian tradition, is to be replaced with a new standard that would require nothing at all with reference to sexual integrity.  The new wording would read:

“Those who are called to ordained service in the church, by their assent to the constitutional questions for ordination and installation, pledge themselves to live lives obedient to Jesus Christ the Head of the Church, striving to follow where he leads through the witness of the Scriptures, and to understand the Scriptures through the instruction of the Confessions. In so doing, they declare their fidelity to the standards of the Church. Each governing body charged with examination for ordination and/or installation and establishes the candidate’s sincere efforts to adhere to these standards.”

The proposed amendment to the standards now moves to the denomination’s 173 regional units (presbyteries) where it must receive sufficient support. Similar efforts have failed in the past, but many believe that this proposal will be difficult to defeat. The defection of many conservatives from the denomination (and some churches as well) may weaken the opposition.

Nevertheless, even without the change in the standard, local presbyteries may well move to ordain active homosexuals anyway. The Associated Press explains how:

“Of equal importance to advocates on both side of the debate, the assembly also voted to allow gay and lesbian candidates for ordination to conscientiously object to the existing standard. Local presbyteries and church councils that approve ordinations would consider such requests on a case-by-case basis.

That vote was an “an authoritative interpretation” of the church constitution rather than a change to it, so it goes into effect immediately. The interpretation supersedes a ruling from the church’s high court, issued in February, that said there were no exceptions to the so-called “fidelity and chastity” requirement.”

The “standards for ordination” change would require further action by the next General Assembly to be fully accepted.  The “authoritative interpretation” did not requite Presbytery approval to go into effect.  Thus, “consent of the governed” had been in effect nullified.  That is, regardless of how the Presbyteries voted, the PCUSA had enabled ordination of practicing homosexuals.

By these General Assembly actions the PCUSA was flipped from a denomination that rejected demands to align theology and policy with contemporary sexual liberation ideology to one that had lost it’s will to resist.  This result was obtained by two distinct but related mechanisms, those being:

  1. by making it absolutely clear that the demanded policies would be implemented by illegitimate means, it encouraged those members and churches who formed the core of the resistance to leave the denomination
  2. those in opposition who still remained were so demoralized that many gave up and retreated into passivity.

Thus, between 2008 and 2011 the Progressive camp was able to achieve their demanded ends in a denomination that had effectively resisted them for decades.

As explicit standards on blocking homosexual ordination [are] starting to disappear, the General Assembly finally voted to approve of the ordination of … gays and lesbians on July 8, 2010 by a vote of 373 to 323. This new amendment was ratified on May 10, 2011. Approximately 19 presbyteries that voted against the issue in 2008-2009 switched to “yes” votes, including conservative areas, like northern Alabama. Some that resisted the issue in the past felt that gay/lesbian ordination was “inevitable” in any case. 

The approval of gay/lesbian ordination upset conservative members, with some leaving to join more conservative denominations, like the Evangelical Covenant Order of Presbyterians, which formed less than year after the new amendment was ratified.

This is political nullification posing as a legitimate process.  Once this coup became successful it was virtually certain that Progressives would achieve dominance as orthodox members and churches fled what had become an overtly corrupt denomination.

Note in the following figure that it is after 2006 that the number of members and churches exiting the denomination began to significantly increase.  Were our leadership not corrupt (or utterly incompetent, a perhaps more charitable but unlikely explanation) they would have easily recognized that the denomination was nearing a debacle between 2006 and 2011.

However, they likely viewed this situation as positive since it guaranteed eventual Progressive political dominance.  What we know for certain is that they used the diminishing presence of orthodox Christians to obtain approval of gay ordination in 2010, thus driving the denomination from danger into outright debacle.

Debacle-Data-Print

Stages of the Debacle:  In the General Decline period membership loss was increasing but few if any churches were dismissed.  In the Danger Warning period membership continued to decrease but now churches were being dismissed at a much higher rate.  In the Debacle period both membership and dismissed churches went off a cliff and remained at unprecedented levels.

The current Progressive leadership doesn’t want us to know about these dirty dealings.  While they may avoid accountability they shouldn’t be allowed to avoid the shame of their conduct.

The Disappearing PCUSA: 2018 Data (4)

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For at least twenty-one consecutive years fewer people joined the PCUSA than in the previous year.  Not a single church has joined the PCUSA since 2010.  And yet our leadership prattles on about “improvement” and “welcoming” and “inclusion.”  Can this be explained? 

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.

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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.

Gay-Marriage-US-Denom

All U.S. denomination membership (left) compared to membership of denominations that support gay marriage (right).  Also note that membership of the denominations allowing gay marriage are declining relative to many of those which don’t.

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.

The Disappearing PCUSA: 2018 Data (3)

Selected Updated Charts

Although I have in previous years published a large number of charts, this year I will be more selective.  The goal is to prevent data overload while supporting my primary message from the previous two posts. Recall that the PCUSA has been in existence since 1983, so this is the farthest back in time that data can go.

While total membership change is useful, percentage change is a more accurate metric.  This is true because as a group shrinks in membership the same absolute loss becomes a higher percentage loss.  For example, a loss of 10 from a group of 100 is 10%.  But that same loss of 10 from a group of 50 is 20%.  Since the PCUSA is a quickly shrinking denomination we need to account for this effect by calculating annual membership loss as a percentage of the previous year’s total membership.  This metric is shown in the following figure.

PCUSA-Percent-Mbr-2018

Note that in 2011 this metric fell below the 3% annual loss level and hasn’t yet recovered.  In fact, for the past seven consecutive years percentage membership loss has been well below 4%.  So, the fact that in 2018 there was a small improvement doesn’t support the conclusion that things are getting better.  Quite the opposite, as we remain in a state of historically unprecedented membership loss.

I have come to call the following figure a “fingerprint” because it combines both key metrics (i.e., membership loss and dismissed churches) of the debacle.  Note that this is a dual axis plot.  Membership change is plotted by a solid red line with associated axis on the left.  Dismissed churches is plotted by a dashed blue line with associated axis on the right. 

Membership-Churches-2018

Note that net annual membership loss has been below 60,000 since 2008.  Although the number of dismissed churches is falling, this is because most of the churches that wish to exit have already done so.  Also, for any year prior to 2012 a total of 35 dismissed churches would have been considered a catastrophe.  Thus the 2018 “improvement” in dismissed churches cannot plausibly be credited to a healing denomination.

The following plot shows the four components of church gain/loss discussed in a previous post.

Church-2018

The dashed black curve shows the annual net change in PCUSA churches (by combining the four components).  Note that prior to 2011 net loss was less than 100 (and less than 50 prior to 2006).  Since 2011 the annual net church loss has always been greater than 120.  Note also that:

  • The number of dissolved churches has been increasing each year since 2016;
  • No church has joined the PCUSA from outside the denomination (i.e., received) since 2010;
  • Less than 25 new churches (i.e., organized) have been added each year between 2009 and 2018.

Previous charts focused on net membership, which obviously is the difference between membership gain and loss.  While net information is informative and useful, the detail provided by annual membership gain and loss enables additional insight.

Therefore the following figure shows membership gain and loss data so that these constituent elements of net change (also plotted) can be observed.  This data is plotted over the past twenty-one years.

Mbr-Gain-Loss-2018

This data results in a couple of rather shocking observations:

  1. The number of members gained has fallen for each consecutive year since at least 1998.
  2. The number of members lost has increased and decreased with a maximum of 184,000 in the year 2000 and a minimum of 109,000 in 2018 and a twenty-one year average of 163,000.

The unavoidable conclusion is that the primary reason for net membership loss over the past twenty-one years is falling membership gains as opposed to rising membership losses.  For example, 2012 was not the worst net loss year ever because of unprecedented loss, but rather because loss returned to the 1998 – 2004 level while gains had fallen by almost 51% from the 1998 value.  Comparing 1998 and 2018 membership gains shows over a 70% reduction.

One can hardly imagine a result more damning of the PCUSA leadership.  For, it is over this period that they proclaimed their motivation for radical theological and organizational change to be increased inclusion for a changing population.  Thus, while this gut-wrenching change was being foisted upon an unwilling rank and file, the exact opposite of their stated goal was occurring.

The above data clearly contradicts the “happy talk” used by our denominational leadership.  The fact that things appear to be getting “better” is only because the denomination is exiting an unprecedented period of debacle.

However, we are not approaching health.  Rather we are entering a new period of general decline that is far worse than the previous period of general decline.  So, our denominational leadership continues its gaslighting (“What debacle, can’t you see that things are just getting better and better?”) of the membership. Would any self-respecting organization accept this performance by its leadership?  It’s far past time that we demanded accountability for the debacle that our leadership has created.



Perhaps some readers are unconvinced that the preceding PCUSA data indicates that a debacle has indeed occurred.  One final data set should settle this issue.  In 2015 the Pew Research Center published data on America’s Changing Religious Landscape.  This data covered the change in United States membership of Catholic, Evangelical, Mainline and All Christians between 2007 and 2014.  This time span includes the first three of the PCUSA’s six-year debacle period.  The following figure shows the Pew membership change data along with the PCUSA change over the same time span.

Denom-Change

Note that the PCUSA’s percentage membership decline is twice the rate of Mainline churches, four-times the rate of the Catholic church and eight-times the rate of all Christian churches in the United States.  Evangelical church membership increased by 4%, thus falsifying the canard that all denominations are experiencing membership decline.  These results would have been worse were the time span 2010 through 2017, as all the massive PCUSA losses would then be included.

I rest my case. 

The Disappearing PCUSA: 2018 Data (2)

PCUSA-Debacle-Fire

Step One of the bureaucratic gaslighting two-step: Minimize and obscure what is happening while the debacle is actively occurring.

The Bureaucratic Gaslighting Two-Step

Bureaucratic organizations intent of self-preservation often use what I’m calling the “gaslighting two-step” to hide their failures, those being:

  1. Minimize and obscure what is happening while the debacle is actively occurring;
  2. As the debacle dissipates claim that things are getting better while obfuscating the true nature of the disaster.

The goal is to so confuse the people whom the bureaucracy is supposedly serving about what has happened that they don’t believe anything like a debacle has even occurred.  And thus anyone who claims that a debacle has occurred is considered to be uninformed or overreacting.

I know this strategy has been effective because I have observed the utter bewilderment by many engaged PCUSA members when confronted by the actual membership and church loss data in context.

Step One

The reality of this debacle is that between 2011 and 2017 the PCUSA experienced a net loss of 601,000 members and 1146 churches. Thus, over this period the denomination lost a net of almost 30% of its membership and almost 12% of its churches.  But while this was occurring the PCUSA leadership was peddling happy talk and cherry-picked good news.

For example, in 2014 the Reverend Gradye Parsons, Stated Clerk of the General Assembly made these comments about the massive loss of members and churches.

Yes, the numbers reflect a decrease in active members in the denomination, but the numbers also illustrate fewer losses than the previous year. The membership declined by 89,296 in 2013, compared to 102,791 in 2012. We are meeting the challenges that we have had and it’s showing, and, our decline in total congregations is holding fairly steady.

As we will see, 2012 was by far the worst year for net membership loss in the denomination’s history.  Therefore, the fact that 2013 was a bit better isn’t credibly encouraging. 

His comment on church loss is downright deceptive.  In 2012 the PCUSA dismissed (i.e., allowed to exit) 110 churches and in 2013 dismissed 148.  In 2013 there was a reduction in dissolved churches that partially counteracted the increase in dismissed churches.  Thus it is technically true that “our decline in total congregations is holding fairly steady” (i.e., -183 churches in 2012 versus -198 in 2013).  However, characterizing a substantial increase in dismissed churches as “holding fairly steady” on church loss (with 2013 being the worst year ever for the denomination) simply fails the red-face test.  Finally, “holding steady” at the worst levels of church loss in PCUSA history isn’t a positive development.

In 2017, after six straight years of devastating loss, the Reverend J. Herbert Nelson, II, Stated Clerk of the General Assembly said the following about the 2016 data.

Membership loss, which was experienced since the 1970s, is slowing down.

In 2015 net membership loss was approximately 95,000 and in 2016 was 90,000.  However, 2016 was still the fourth worst year for membership loss in the denomination’s history.  Thus, while it is technically true that in 2016 membership loss “slowed down,” it is also a highly misleading formulation.  Thus, even as late as 2017 our denominational leadership continued to have faith in their ability to obfuscate devastating loss by deceptive happy talk.

Step Two

Finally, in 2018, the denomination admitted that “a five-year period of unprecedented losses” had occurred between 2012 and 2016.

At the same time, a five-year period of unprecedented losses neared an end as net membership losses returned to previous levels over the last 50-plus years. The larger losses between 2012 and 2016 were brought on by the dismissal of about 100 churches (and their members) each year to splinter denominations after 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.

Even while admitting that something bad had occurred, they continued to practice deception about the severity.  For, as the data will unambiguously show, it is nothing short of dishonest to claim that in 2017 “membership losses returned to previous levels over the last 50-plus years.”

Now, in 2019, the national leadership proclaims that things are getting better.  There’s no interest, they hope, to understand the full extent of the debacle, to examine their claims or to seek accountability.  Let’s all us nice people just ignore what’s happened and pretend with them that we’re moving into a bright future.

That may serve the interests of the denominational leadership, but it certainly does not the membership who have been deceived by this dishonest bureaucratic “gaslighting two-step.”

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Step Two of the bureaucratic gaslighting two-step: As the debacle dissipates claim that things are getting better while obfuscating the true nature of the disaster.

The Disappearing PCUSA: 2018 Data (1)

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By Tom Olago, February 15, 2016.

Things Are Getting Better Edition

The PCUSA released the 2018 data on denominational status in April.  The first three paragraphs stressed an improving situation.

After years of seeing hundreds of churches leave the denomination, the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) is starting to see the number of departing churches decrease. The Office of the General Assembly has wrapped up its latest review of membership statistics which indicates the decline in membership may be slowing down.

In 2015, the total number of PC(USA) members was listed at more than 1.5 million. Within a year, membership declined by nearly 90,000. Last year, the decline was just over 62,000. The number of churches leaving the denomination between 2015 and 2016 totaled 203. In 2018, it was 34.

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“While the difference is not great, we are encouraged by the slowing trend downward,” said the Rev. Dr. J. Herbert Nelson, II, Stated Clerk of the General Assembly of the PC(USA). “The church of the 21st century is changing and we still believe God is preparing us for great things in the future.”

The article included the above table that shows total number of churches and members for 2015 through 2018.  While the Active Membership data is clear, the Total Churches data is not.

The PCUSA generally reports church data in four categories.  On the gain side they can be organized (new church) or received (joins from the outside).  On the loss side they can be dissolved (church closes) or dismissed (exits the denomination).  Thus the Total Churches number includes these four gain and loss categories.

The article’s discussion of “churches leaving” only includes the dismissed component of church loss.  In fact, the number of  churches being dissolved is increasing.  It’s also confusing that the authors compare the sum of two years of dismissed churches (2015 and 2016) to the single year of 2018.  If this detail isn’t noticed then it appears that the number of dismissed churches has improved much more than it actually has.  A valid comparison would have been to compare two year values in each case (e.g., 2015 and 2016 compared to 2017 and 2018).

While the article does admit that something unfortunate has occurred, the primary focus is on how things are now getting better.  However, the true situation is obfuscated by:

  • Including only the most recent years in which there was apparent improvement because the denomination was exiting the worst of the losses;
  • Showing only total numbers without context or details that illuminate what has actually happened.

We are missing the big picture if we limit our focus to the single year of 2018.  We are now in a new phase of the campaign to obfuscate, deny and diminish the truth about our denomination’s debacle that has been in progress from 2006 to the present.

The following posts will shine much needed light on this situation.

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The PCUSA in 2005.  It is the denomination’s Progressive leadership that holds the needle (to be explained in the fifth post of this series).

Taking Stock at the 500th Post

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General Comments

So here I am writing the 500th post on this blog!  The first post is dated November 25, 2014 and titled “Opening Thoughts.”  My first paragraph is:

This blog will focus on my sense of sojourning through a foreign land as an orthodox, Reformed Christian.  This sense has been a longstanding one with regard to the popular culture here in the United States. I am by no means isolated from this country’s entertainment, political and business cultures.  In fact, I am an active participant in them all.  Though many aspects of these cultures are troubling, I am accustomed to dealing with the challenges and benefits that they provide.

Looking back 499 posts later I’m reasonably comfortable with my adherence to this framework.  That being the responses of an orthodox Reformed Christian to a wide variety of issues within the United States.

I am shocked by the speed that this “foreign land” has expanded over these mere four and a half years.  At the start my sense of alienation was clear but not central. Now I find myself fundamentally alienated from my Christian denomination, the culture and the political environment.  Therefore this blog has transformed from one  centered on exploration to one focused on identifying and exposing the myriad of insane ideas that are driving our civilization towards destruction.

Thus what began as an exploration focused on the PCUSA has expanded into areas such as environmentalism, philosophy, economic systems, politics, heresy, literature, abortion and anti-Semitism, among many others.  I have published three eBooks, all focused on topical issues addressed through Biblical exposition and meditation.  Most recently I have added satire as a means of communicating my concerns.

I have identified the prime driver of civilizational destruction to be Progressive ideology as practiced by both secular and religious institutions.  Therefore I have focused strongly on a critique of this ideology’s foundations, strategies and results.  Some of the major themes of this critique are:

I’ve also attempted to understand and then explain the philosophical underpinnings of the Progressive project (e.g., postmodernism, nihilism, Marxism, multiculturalism, intersectionality, pacifism, Gnosticism, identity, etc.).  My goal is to enhance our ability to counter their positions and to unmask the shocking evil that hides beneath that wafer-thin veneer of moral and intellectual posturing (many people who parrot the Progressive ideology have no idea what they are actually supporting).

Although I have expanded my scope far beyond the PCUSA, I still maintain a regular focus on this my denomination. The only way that I can maintain my Christian conscience is by a posture of opposition and rejection.  Yes, there remain many faithful pastors, elders, deacons and members in the denomination.  However, the theology and behavior of the dominant Progressive leadership has been so outrageously apostate and dishonorable that to remain silent is tantamount to support.  My voice is small, yet I will not choose silence.  So, as long as I’m in this denomination I will speak out as necessary.

I’m currently working on a new eBook provisionally titled A Denomination’s Debacle.  The book pulls together much of the PCUSA information and associated commentary from this blog with the addition of new material to fill-out the story.  It’s currently over 300 pages long, which is almost twice the length of my previous longest eBook.  It troubles me that through exclusive use of publicly available information such a substantial case for the PCUSA elite’s apostasy and corruption can be made.

the-truth-about-truth-a-nietzsche-feature-darwin-festival-version-3-638The “God is Dead” Christian Elite

Throughout this blog’s existence I have occasionally paused to discuss why our elite Christian leadership believes and behaves as it does.  Along these lines I have explored postmodern Christianity, the Social Gospel, Gnosticism and raw power politics, among others.  However, identification of a single unifying principle for this phenomena has to this point eluded me.

Perhaps the foundational principle is that these “Christian” elites agree with Nietzsche that belief in “God” as a reality upon which Western Civilization can base its religious/moral world view, “is dead.”  Let’s think through the consequences of this hypothesis.

Let’s say that you are a pastor or elder who has personally lost faith in the Christian God (or any god for that matter). And, you find that there are many others in the church who hold similar views.  So, you all find yourselves in an organization (i.e., the church) whose fundamental reason for existing has, in your opinion, vanished.  Yet the church has many remaining members and wields moral power in the civilization.  What then to do?

Well, you could work to dissolve the church by openly arguing that it has become obsolete and useless.  However, given that tens of millions still (foolishly in your opinion) believe in God’s existence you would likely fail and be expelled.  Therefore you would have to create a new organization to advance your philosophy.  That’s a very heavy lift with a small likelihood of success.  Far better to remain in the church but work for its transformation into an institution that does “social good.”

Of course, if “God is dead” and the Bible is thus null and void, how to find the social good to pursue?  The answer was found in the most aggressive, organized and presumptive human ideology supposedly pursuing the “social good,” that being what we now call Progressivism (which has its roots in Marxism, as contemporary Progressives are finally admitting).  Thus the elite Christian leadership of Mainline Denominations turned their churches from the Gospel of Jesus Christ to “the gospel of social change and justice” as defined by the secular Progressive political project.

chasmFor decades this stealth-coup was hidden behind multiple complex theological smoke screens that orthodox Christians had great difficulty penetrating.  However, with the advent of gay ordination and marriage the chasm between orthodoxy and heterodoxy became so vast that no amount of smoke could obscure it.  Thus we have seen the parting of ways where so many orthodox members and churches have exited.

Yet some orthodox members and churches have so far decided to remain.  If they do so with the clear understanding that they are missionaries to a now pagan, post-Christian denomination then perhaps they can successfully maintain their orthodox Christian identity.

However, if they pretend that they remain part of a “Christian” denomination then they will almost certainly be eventually converted and then absorbed.  This will occur because they grant legitimacy to the denomination’s dominant post-Christian ideology and thus will increasingly fall prey to its influence.  If that be their end then they have no excuse, for they have been warned and their consciences will testify against them at the time of accounting.