The Disappearing PCUSA: 2018 Data (4)

Blog Photo- Church Attendance

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.

Screen Shot 2019-01-13 at 7.54.28 AM

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.”

PCUSA-Debacle-Ashes

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)

leavingfeb052016

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.

Screen Shot 2019-05-20 at 2.44.02 PM

“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.

Title-Image

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

500posts

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.

Decoding Progressivism (11)

child-sacrifice

Stop pretending that this is an ancient evil.

Child Sacrifice Edition

The Progressive-Left is on the move to incorporate abortion up to and including delivery and even infanticide into state law (emphasis added).

Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam, who just made deeply troubling comments on abortion, and New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, who just signed the country’s most radical abortion law, have been the subject of intense ire in recent days. The outrage is coming not just coming from “radical” pro-lifers, but people from across the political spectrum.

Why? Because virtually no one but the far left believes it is morally acceptable to allow infants to be murdered seconds before birth, or to be left to die after delivery at the behest of the mother.

Yet the nation has been shocked by radical left’s boldness in their mission to define preborn human beings as disposable non-persons.

And make no mistake, Illinois is well on its way to joining this radical abortion movement.

Here are a couple of questions.

  1. Has anyone reading this post experienced a Progressive individual or organization recoiling in horror at the Democrat Party’s embrace of abortion up to birth and what can only be called infanticide?
  2. Have they said they had no idea that abortion policy would go to this extreme and that they therefore repudiate their support of both abortion and the Democrat Party?

Me neither.

Perhaps it’s because this was always the unspoken but true nature the abortion regime.  Or as one commentator concludes (emphasis added):

Leftists like Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam, the Vermont state representatives who just passed the nation’s most permissive abortion law, or Sen. Patty Murray and the other Democrats who voted against protecting aborted infants born alive, are simply carrying on a millennia-long tradition of depriving children of their rights as human beings and image bearers of God.

Here’s your answer, … : In the womb or out, the far left believes it’s the mother’s decision whether to allow her own child, her helpless and dependent flesh-and-blood offspring, to live. Expect to see more obstruction of protections for live infants, because Democrats don’t believe in their own propaganda. They believe something far, far more terrible.



By the way, PCUSA members, the “saints” attending the General Assembly in 2014 were way ahead of the Progressive curve with regard to infanticide (emphasis added).

The Presbyterian Church USA General Assembly made a lot of headlines when they voted to bless same-sex marriages. But Wesley J. Smith brings up a far more disturbing vote at the convention that isn’t getting as many headlines: voting no to protect babies born alive after a failed abortion. …

The Presbytery of South Alabama overtures the 221st General Assembly (2014) of the Presbyterian Church (USA) to do the following:

1. Call for the Presbyterian Mission Agency and member congregations to enter a two-year season of reflection upon the plight of children unwanted by human society, both born and not-yet born, and to purposefully seek to enter the pure worship of God by offering aid, comfort, and the Gospel to those responsible for the care of our most desperate orphans (including those who survive abortion procedures): parents, siblings, church and community leaders, and the medical profession.

2. Direct the Moderator of the General Assembly and the Stated Clerk to issue statements that denounce the practice of killing babies born live following an abortion procedure, such as was revealed in the Dr. Kermit Gosnell clinic in Philadelphia. …

Evidently, denouncing infanticide and praying for children born after an abortion fails doesn’t fly in today’s Presbyterian church. The motion didn’t call for the Presbyterian church to stop supporting pro-abortion organizations, like Planned Parenthood, either — or is asking for an assessment of support given to both pro-life and pro-abortion organizations somehow too pro-life for them Presbyterian church, too? …

It should also be made clear that this wasn’t a narrow victory. The margin of defeat for this motion was 465 – 133. It was a landslide, because for PCUSA, saying that what Kermit Gosnell did is horrific and wrong, and should never happen again, is evidently too much to ask.

GOSNELL

The practitioner of mass infanticide that the “saints” of the 221st PC(USA) General Assembly couldn’t bring themselves to denounce by a 3.5-to-1 ratio.

And yet we continue to avert our eyes, hoping not to notice the moral corruption that now dominates our denomination’s General Assembly and many of our Presbyteries.



So finally, the decoder image.

Abortion-Child-Sacrifice

A Modest Overture to the 224th General Assembly (1b)

Presbytery-of Gaia

This is not as far removed from the current PCUSA situation (for example see here, here and here) that one would hope.

On Bringing our Book of Confessions into the Post-Christian PC(USA) Era — from the Presbytery of Gaia

Rationale

For the fifty years after acceptance of the Confession of 1967 the PC(USA) has dragged all of the Confessions that preceded it along like anchors.  Until 2011 this ruse may have been necessary to maintain quiescence of the denomination’s majority of orthodox-minded members.  However, with the Progressive victories on gay ordination and marriage we have successfully driven most of these orthodox-minded members either out of the denomination or into a state of fearful submission to our victorious ideology.

Glorious-Exit

This is actual PCUSA data.

Between 2011 and 2017 the PC(USA) 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.  The majority of these losses were the orthodox Reformed members and churches that had held us back and that continued to value the pre-1967 Confessions.  Thus this glorious exit of irredeemable members and churches has freed the PC(USA) from the dead hand of orthodox Reformed Christianity!

Glorious-Exit2

This is actual PCUSA data.

In 2013 the PC(USA) had 1086 Ministry Candidates.  The very next year, 2014, this number fell by almost 50% to 562.  Can there be any doubt that this sudden flight to the exits was by candidates who had orthodox Christian beliefs that were supported by our outdated and destructive historic Confessions?  Thus, in a single year, we “Purposeful Progressives” (see below) gloriously emptied our denomination’s seminaries of virtually all orthodox Christians!

These results are a great victory for our self-described strategy of exclusion and submission, which we acknowledged in “When We Gather at the Table: A PC(USA) Snapshot” as the “Purposeful Progressives” (emphasis added, note that this is a true quote from an official PCUSA document, not made-up satirical quote).

They are less tolerant of conservative theologies within the denomination. 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), and a few offered suggestions for helping dissenting congregations to leave the denomination with grace and dignity.

Now that, through our fierce commitment to inclusiveness, we have successfully driven out most of the irredeemable theological members, churches and ministry candidates there is no longer a need to maintain the pretense that the pre-1967 Confessions (and the Brief Statement of Faith) have the slightest relevance to our wondrous post-Christian denominational future.  In order to more efficiently and effectively pursue this goal we must cast off these fraudulent documents.  Eventually the Confession of 1967 itself may need go be deleted, as its problematical tangental relationship to past Christian orthodoxy becomes an impediment achieving our ultimate goals.

As itemized in the Overture, this result has already happened in effect.  In order to grasp our glorious future as co-comrades with the gods we must have the courage to cut loose these worse than useless monument-anchors.  Then we can openly proclaim our post-Christian message without confusion or constraint.

We have demonstrated the will to power necessary to drive out or subdue the morally and spiritually inferior (i.e., those who lack our blessed gnosis) among us.  Let’s now, together, take the next and necessary step to cement our future in post-Christianity!

A Modest Overture to the 224th General Assembly (1a)

Presbytery-of GaiaOn Bringing our Book of Confessions into the Post-Christian PC(USA) Era — from the Presbytery of Gaia

Overture

The Presbytery of Gaia respectfully overtures the 224th General Assembly (2020) to make the following statement:

Because

  • The Confession of 1967 was, by the admission of its primary authors, intended to directly contradict the Westminster Confession on numerous central doctrinal points and generally demotes the historic Confessions to “monuments.” See that in The Proposal to Revise the Confessional Position of the United Presbyterian Church in the U.S.A., Edward A. Dowey, Jr., chairman of the committee that composed The Confession of 1967, writes: “A statement that is appropriate and powerful in its own day may fail to guide the church after some decades or centuries have gone by. It comes to resemble a monument marking the past more than a tool for present work.” (pp. 20, 21).
  • The PC(USA) has redefined the meaning of “Christian Marriage” in the Book of Order without changing the definition of marriage in any of the historic Confessions from the PC(USA)’s Book of Confessions.  As one example see the Westminster Confession, Chapter XXIV: “Of Marriage and Divorce 1. Christian marriage is an institution ordained of God, blessed by our Lord Jesus Christ, established and sanctified for the happiness and welfare of mankind, into which spiritual and physical union one man and one woman enter, cherishing a mutual esteem and love, bearing with each other’s infirmities and weaknesses, comforting each other in trouble, providing in honesty and industry for each other and for their household, praying for each other, and living together the length of their days as heirs of the grace of life.”  This decision officially confirms the irrelevance of all the historic Confessions for Biblical interpretation or theological guidance.
  • The Senior Pastor of the Fourth Presbyterian Church of Chicago, one of the largest and most influential churches in the PC(USA), in a 2018 interview denied the nature of God as defined in all of the historic Confessions, from the Nicene Creed to The Theological Declaration of Barmen by declaring that “God’s not a Christian . . . We are.”
  • The Ordination Vows for Officers have become impossible to uphold in clear conscience given that at least two distinct and contradictory sets of doctrine are contained in the Book of Confessions.

The 224th General Assembly (2020) therefore decrees that all Confessions in the Book of Confessions are null and void “as authentic and reliable expositions of what Scripture leads us to believe and do” except for the Confession of 1967 and the Confession of Belhar. An updated Book of Confessions that includes only the Confession of 1967 and the Confession of Belhar will therefore be generated and distributed.  All current and future Officers will be instructed to use only the Confession of 1967 and the Confession of Belhar until such time as a new Confession is added to this new Book of Confessions or the Confession of 1967, having served its historic purpose, is also eventually removed.

Erasing the Old Testament (3)

wolf-among-sheep

The flock isn’t protected by pretending they aren’t there.

Yes, “Ignorance or Worse”

In the last post in this series I pointed out that the Gospel of Jesus Christ was primarily preached  from the Old Testament for at least the first century of Christianity’s existence.  I characterized failure to understand this by “New Testament Christians” as “ignorance or worse.”  Perhaps some readers were discomforted by this language.  But, since the New Testament testifies so unmistakability to this point it can be only by utter ignorance of the New Testament that “New Testament Christians” can hold their position.  The “and worse” refers to the Christian heresy of Marcionism, which is summarized as follows (emphasis added).

… a Gnostic sect that flourished in the 2nd century AD. The name derives from Marcion of Asia Minor who, sometime after his arrival in Rome, fell under the influence of Cerdo, a Gnostic Christian, whose stormy relations with the Church of Rome were the consequence of his belief that the God of the Old Testament could be distinguished from the God of the New Testament—the one embodying justice, the other goodness. For accepting, developing, and propagating such ideas, Marcion was expelled from the church in 144 as a heretic, but the movement he headed became both widespread and powerful.

Marcion applied these ideas by constructing a “canon of Scripture” that consisted of Luke and Paul’s Epistles edited to remove all references to the Old Testament.  In summary:

He rejected the Old Testament as the document of an alien religion; and he taught that Jesus had come to save humankind from the control of the evil Creator to whom the Old Testament witnesses.

Thus the “New Testament Christians” attitude towards the Old Testament sometimes comes uncomfortably close the Marcion heresy, and occasionally clearly crosses the line.  Should people in the Church who seek to diminish or erase the Old Testament be meekly accommodated or vigorously opposed?

Perhaps pointing out that I write within context of my experience as a member in the PCUSA will help to explain my position.  What I have witnessed in this denomination is orthodox Reformed members and pastors giving, over decades, every benefit of the doubt to those expressing apostate and even heretical views.  Thus, rather than confronting what was actually happening they too often pretended that this was just another legitimate theological debate.  Yes, the orthodox Christians imagined that they would surely prevail against such obvious error.  They didn’t.

If anyone reading this doubts that the PCUSA has become a comfortable home for open, aggressive heresy, apostasy and atheism then please click on the “Heresy” and “Gnosticism” Categories of this blog.  There you will find posts on a past Moderator of the General Assembly openly embracing Gnosticism and a current pastor of one of our most influential churches denying the Christian God.  You will also find an ordained and installed PCUSA pastor who is an aggressive atheist.  What you will not find is the slightest evidence of effective resistance to these supposed Christian leaders.  What you will find is denominational affirmation.  The information in these posts shows how utterly ineffective has been the strategy of accommodation by our orthodox-minded members.

Does my position mean that anyone who voices what could be characterized as a non-orthodox view be labeled a heretic, apostate or atheist? Of course not!  But, I am saying that we must clearly identify and then confront those ideas among us that lead to great theological error.  In the vast majority of cases these ideas are being expressed out of ignorance.  But, as the above set of posts on “Heresy” and “Gnosticism” clearly show, there are wolves in the PCUSA running freely throughout Christ’s flock who must be confronted.

Charles Péguy (1873-1914) has said it well.

He who does not bellow the truth when he knows the truth makes himself the accomplice of liars and forgers.” Charles Péguy

Obviously the application of this belief must be guided by prudence and proportion.  No one should “bellow the truth” over trivial issues or minor infractions.  But here in the PCUSA we have lost not just the influence of our historic Confessions but also the very authority of Scripture.  It is not just by the craftiness and persistence of post-Christians in our midst that this debacle has occurred.  No, it also has occurred because we orthodox Christians have failed to engage in debate with sufficient clarity of purpose and honesty about the stakes.

For the remainder of this series I will focus on addressing the “ignorance” issue.  However, make no mistake, this ignorance is sourced, encouraged and supported  by the theological wolves at loose in our denomination.

A New Reformation (4)

New-Reformation-ComponentsSeven Components of a New Reformation (Part 3)

This post completes the summaries.

7. Transformed church governance

It appears that every form of church governance, from highly hierarchical (e.g., Catholic) to highly democratic (e.g., Congregational) and everything in-between has been corrupted by secular ideology.  Nor does it seem likely that any established denomination will agree to change their existing form of governance.

Obviously I’m in no position to comment on denominations beyond the PCUSA.  However, significant light can be shed by this experience to suggest some general conclusions.

The fundamental point about the demise of the PCUSA is that it was an act of “murder” as opposed to “suicide.”  By these (shocking I expect) metaphors I mean that the rank and file members resisted the apostasy of the leadership for decades.  In fact, it appears that it was only by subversion of the governance process that the leadership was able to gain the upper hand.  The “fingerprint” of this betrayal can be seen in the following figure.

Church-Membership-Loss

The 2006 Subversion

Note that from 1999 through 2006 the number of churches “dismissed” (i.e., exited the denomination) was negligible. Over this same time period we see a general increase in the number of members lost. However, in 2008 the number of dismissed churches and lost members became significantly worse than the general trend would lead one to expect.  Did anything happen in the PCUSA to cause this or was it simply random variation?  It was the former.

Here is the report of a pastor on the 2006 General Assembly that tells the tale (emphasis added).

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.

If you think that this description is a partisan distortion, note that it was confirmed by a national news source.

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.

Note that this subversion of church governance occurred after the “wording [on sexual requirements for leadership] was approved by a majority of the regional bodies, and re-approved twice by larger majorities each time.”  The conclusion is unavoidable, that being the elite leadership chose to use corrupt means to get their way in direct contradiction of the denomination’s clear and legitimate will.

Illegitimate Victory

The loss of membership that followed the 2006 coup eventually allowed the Progressives to gain the upper hand.  Here’s how I have previously described this process.

But because they had jettisoned the Bible and Confessions, other means of achieving their ends had to be found.  Those means were abuse of the PCUSA’s rules, turning their democratic assumptions into cudgels by which to beat any opposition into submission.  This was accomplished by making life miserable for any majority that opposed their radical ends, and eventually, to drive them out of the church.

The result has been a PCUSA transformed from a Christian denomination to something completely foreign.

The elite Progressive strategic goal was always to deceive, discredit, demoralize and ultimately destroy any and all opposition from orthodox-minded Christians.

In this cruel goal they have succeeded.  Now they undisputedly control the PCUSA.  To accomplish this end they have made it into a theological laughing stock and a pathetic little appendage to the secular Progressive political machine.  And, having illegitimately achieved this position they now demand that those of us in opposition shut up or leave.

Lessons Learned

What lessons in church governance can we take from the appalling experience?  I suggest the following as a starting point for reform, once again with a focus on the PCUSA.

  1. A semi-permeant denominational bureaucracy, centered in our Presbyteries and General Assembly, was allowed to grow too powerful over the past fifty years or so.  They became the core, unstoppable force that sustained unwanted movements over the decades of theological/political warfare necessary to grind down opposition.  This class of nomenklatura has virtually no allegiance to Christianity as a lived faith and total allegiance to the diktats  of secular Progressive ideology.  Therefore, any reformed form of denominational governance must dissolve this power base and prevent its regrowth.
  2. As much as I love our historic (i.e., pre-1968) Confessions it must be admitted that they have proved ineffective as defensible boundaries for orthodox theology.  One obvious issue is their age, thus rendering their language almost incomprehensible to contemporary minds.  But a second major issue is their scope, comprehensiveness and number.  That is, they are so all-encompassing and complex, so many in number, that the core doctrines of Christianity become difficult to discern.  Thus, though they must not be lost, we need a simpler, clearer definition of orthodox Christian doctrine upon which to build a reformed church.
  3. Financial accountability must be reestablished between our governing and educational institutions and the laity.  Therefore, financial support must move from the current “Per-Capita” involuntary tax to a voluntary system of local church support.  By this means our institutions would have to “earn their keep” by demonstrating their effectiveness and efficiency.

Clearly the above ideas are short on implementation detail.  However, unless we identify the top-level goals of reformed governance the whole process can be easily derailed.