'If we want to be inclusive …' – a recipe for denominational decline

'If we want to be inclusive …' – a recipe for denominational decline

'If we want to be inclusive …' – a recipe for denominational decline

The Presbyterian Church USA is adding a new category of "gender" to the attendance statistics they're gathering for the dying denomination.

Starting with next year's report, the PC(USA) will count how many men, women – and "non-binary/genderqueer" members – are in the pews. It's an important piece of information, says an official with the denomination.

"We've never asked that question so we don't know how many people will fill it out," says Kris Valerius, manager of denominational roles and statistics for the PC(USA). "If we want to be inclusive, then we have to start asking because you should be aware of who's a part of your church."

Dr. Alex McFarland isn't surprised by the changes in what used to be one of the largest mainline Protestant denominations in America. "The PC(USA) has a history, not just of leaning left, but of flat-out apostasy – [so it's] not a surprise. They've been leading people astray for decades," he laments. [Related article: The continued decline of PC(USA)]

McFarland shares the story of a PC(USA) pastor who was fighting to leave the denomination: "The pastor told me, 'The engines are underwater. The ship is sinking. The PC(USA), theologically – it's not savable.'"

McFarland, Alex (Christian apologist) McFarland

At some point, says the Christian apologist, one has to stop calling the PC(USA) a Christian church. "I would say they stopped being qualified to be called a Christian church probably around 1982, when the northern and southern presbyteries merged," he argues.

In 2021, 8,813 churches comprised the PC(USA) with an active membership of more than 1.1 million – a 51,000-member drop from 2020. Five years ago, total churches stood at 9,451; and membership at just under 1.5 million. During that same period, professions/reaffirmations of faith have dropped by 50%.

The head of PC(USA)'s General Assembly said in April: "… Even though [our statistics show] the number of active members continues to go down, we are seeing a slight slowdown in number of people leaving."

AFN also asked McFarland to define "non-binary" and "genderqueer." The former term, he responds, means someone who identifies as something other than a man or woman. As for "genderqueer," he says the definitions he's heard are all over the map. "Clearly, these are heavyset, unattractive females; or geeky, computer nerd males," he states.