The mainline Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) announced this week it will change the way it reports statistical information about the denomination’s membership to now include a category for nonbinary/genderqueer adherents.
The church is the largest Presbyterian denomination in America with a claimed 1.1 million active members and 8,813 churches.
The Office of General Assembly said the new reporting will more accurately reflect the makeup of the denomination.
“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,” Kris Valerius, manager of the church’s roles and statistics said of what she called an “important change.”
She admits she is uncertain how many members will choose the nonbinary/genderqueer category because it has not been offered as an option before.
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In 2015, the Presbyterian Church amended its constitution to change the definition of marriage to read in part, “Marriage involves a unique commitment between two people, traditionally a man and a woman, to love and support each other for the rest of their lives.”
The prior year, the General Assembly had allowed pastors to conduct ceremonies that united same-sex couples. This decision prompted the 2015 constitutional change.
The denomination is also removing the definitions for racial/ethnic sections of the reports based on the instructions of the General Assembly.
“We’ll have the same categories,” Valerius said. “We’re just not defining them any longer, which may upset people. The information will be there — we’re just removing the definitions.”
The motion to remove the definitions passed unanimously through the committee at General Assembly in June.
“Because we’ve often gotten pushback on the descriptions (in the form), the recommendation is not to remove the categories, but only the definitions” of race and ethnicity, Charles Hargove told the committee.
In its statement, the church also said it did not see a large loss of membership due to the COVID-19 pandemic as predicted.
“It didn’t happen, and we were very surprised,” said Valerius. “Because people still filled out the questionnaire, we realized that we didn’t lose nearly as many people as we thought we would.”
There has been a steady decline in active membership in the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) over the last several years. In April, their latest annual statistical report showed a 4.1 percent rate of decline and total membership of just over 1.19 million members in 2021, compared to 1.48 million in 2016.
The number of denominational congregations has also dropped from 9,451 in 2016 to 8,813.
“The challenge for the PC(USA) and other Christian denominations is reaching and retaining young people, developing new leaders for tomorrow’s church,” the Rev. J. Herbert Nelson, stated clerk of the General Assembly, said in a press statement. “I am encouraged to see this turning around and it will be imperative that we find new ways of being church in the years to come.”
This article originally appeared at MinistryWatch.
Kim Roberts is a freelance writer who holds a Juris Doctor from Baylor University. She has homeschooled her three children and is happily married to her husband of 25 years.
1 thought on “Presbyterian Church (USA) Will Gather Nonbinary/Genderqueer Membership Statistics”
Sometime in the ’70’s, I read a comment that only denominations that were in decline were interested in merging with other denominations. The UPCUSA merged with the PCUSA and they are still declining, pretty different from when I was a Fuller student attending a UPCUSA church.
Some of you may remember when Chris Glasser, a self-affirming homosexual, was looking for a presbytery or whatever that would support his ordination effort. He had been turned down once and then went looking for another one. The second one didn’t know what to do, so it became a subject for the next national get-together. The General Assembly didn’t say “yes” and it didn’t say “no.” Instead, there was a sort of kumbaya moment when the delegates agreed that they didn’t agree but there shouldn’t be hard feelings.
Chris came to talk with us Presbyterian students afterward to explain how the General Assembly (?) came to the non-decision that it did. He told us that the committee to discuss his situation (he was a member!) had the choice of four or five levels of authority to assign to Scripture when collecting input from available sources. They chose the lowest level. If you don’t believe me, track down someone that remembers that meeting. This meant that what the Bible had to say about same-sex sexual behavior was not decisive. We have a lot to learn from those in the sociology and psychology worlds, you see.
So two denominations merge and that didn’t save the day for them. Now they are playing the “inclusion” card to see if that will help. Is this the 2020’s version of a failing denomination joining another one? Join the straights to those of other persuasion and see if that helps?
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