On Monday, The Presbyterian Church (USA) reported a decline of 53,105 members in 2022, dropping the mainline Protestant denomination down to 1,140,665 active members. The loss reflects a 4.5% rate of decline, one that has remained consistent across recent years as the PC(USA) ages out.
Membership dropped below 1.5 million for the first time in 2016, down to 1,482,767 that year.
Among the U.S.-based denominations, the PC(USA) is disproportionately white, elderly and female compared to the overall U.S. population. In 2022 the denomination’s membership was 89.08 percent white, while only 25 percent of members were age 40 or younger.
Women account for 61.48 percent of members, while a newly-tracked statistic reports that .15 percent of members (1,317 persons) identify as either Non-Binary or Genderqueer. The denomination ordained it’s first Non-Binary Minister of the Word and Sacrament in June of 2019.
Annual release of denominational statistics comes one week after PC(USA) Stated Clerk the Rev. Dr. J. Herbert Nelson, II announced that he will step down from the post in June, more than a year before his term in office was set to conclude. Nelson has served as the denomination’s top official between biannual General Assemblies for the past seven years.
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“This was not an easy decision, but I feel it is the right one to make for my family and the church in this time of change,” Nelson said in an April 25 statement released by the Office of the General Assembly. “From my first day on this job, I have said that the PC(USA) is not dying but is reforming. In the next few years, the national church will undergo major reform to better meet the needs of our presbyteries and churches.”
An Acting Stated Clerk will assume Nelson’s duties until the General Assembly elects a replacement for him in July 2024.
While only nine churches were dismissed to other denominations in 2022, 104 were dissolved outright. The denomination lists a total of 8,705 churches.
The annual statistics report provided this week by the Office of the General Assembly shows a loss of 1,521 more members than the previous year.
Positively, the denomination saw a year-over-year uptick in baptisms, professions of faith and reaffirmations, including among youth, but none of those figures have come close to returning to pre-pandemic levels.
“We are not surprised by the numbers we are seeing. While the pandemic may be over, the impact on church membership is still being felt,” Nelson disclosed. “The challenge for the PC(USA) remains the same: Look for new ways to engage and welcome young people into the fold. These are dramatic and fast-changing times,” Nelson interpreted of the declining membership, calling for “finding new, innovative ways to be church.”
This article originally appeared at Juicy Ecumenism.
Jeff Walton is Communications Manager and Anglican Program Director for the Institute on Religion & Democracy.