The major mainline denominations have been in membership and attendance free-fall since 1965, but the last few years have seen an acceleration of that decline. Two that have been especially hard hit are the Presbyterian Church (USA) and Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, both of which have approved the ordination of sexually active gays since 2009. According to the Presbyterian News Service:
The Office of the General Assembly has released the 2012 statistics of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.). The statistical materials include comparative summaries of the PC(USA)’s membership, a summary of receipts and expenditures from 2009–2012, and additional miscellaneous information.
The total membership of the PC(USA) at the end of 2012 was 1,849,496, compared to 1,952,287 in 2011, which is a decline of 102,791 members.
The number of PC(USA) congregations at the end of 2012 stood at 10,262, or 204 fewer than the previous year. New church developments, new immigrant fellowships, or other worshiping communities within the denomination are not included in this figure, which is limited to congregations that have been officially organized.
Thirteen new churches were organized in 2012. Eighty-six churches were dissolved, compared to 75 in 2011. One hundred ten congregations were dismissed to other denominations, 89 more than the previous year.
The numbers of those fleeing the PCUSA are sure to go up as the denomination moves inexorably to the left on sexuality and theological issues, especially as the new Evangelical Covenant Order of Presbyterians builds a better foundation. But the Presbyterians are pikers when it comes to hemorrhaging members and churches compared to the ELCA. According to First Things:
Following the 2009 vote, the ELCA lost nearly half a million members in 2010 and 2011. Granted, some of that is simply the steady decline which many mainline denominations (including the ELCA) have been going through for years. But that can’t account for most of it. In 2009, the ELCA lost 90,850 members (14,781 more than the year previous). Keep in mind that Churchwide Assembly happened late in 2009. By 2010, the membership losses were more dramatic, with the ELCA losing 270,349 people that year (5.9% of the entire church at that time). In 2011, they lost another 212,903 (4.98% of the entire church at that time). Statistics on 2012 are not yet reported online.
And keep in mind that the ELCA just saw the election of its first gay bishop. I’d say that the North American Lutheran Church and Lutheran Congregations in Mission for Christ (both breakaways from the ELCA, they have together gained almost 850 congregations in the last four years) are looking at some more significant growth in the next few years.
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