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.