LOUISVILLE (OGA) While total membership in the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) continued a slow but steady decline in 2016 that dates back to 1965, the losses slowed somewhat last year.
Total PC(USA) membership at the end of the year stood at 1,482,767, a net loss of 89,893 members from 2015. It was the lowest net loss since 2011. The denomination experienced an all-time low in total member losses, but also an all-time low in total member gains.
Every category of both gains (profession of faith, reaffirmation of faith, certificate of transfer, and “other”) and losses (certificate of transfer, death, and “other”) declined in 2016. And, once again, “back door” losses—members simply removed from the rolls of congregations (75,064)—were greater than transfers and deaths combined (70,095).
The number of child baptisms declined by 1,516 in 2016—to 13,427—but the number of adult baptisms increased by 606 to 4,775—the most in many years, according to Kris Valerius, Assistant Stated Clerk and manager of denominational rolls and records for the Office of the General Assembly.
The number of PC(USA) congregations declined by 191 to 9,451, but the number of congregations dismissed to other denominations declined to 99—the fewest dismissals since 2011. Those 99 churches accounted for 29,970 dismissed members.
The racial composition of PC(USA) congregations remains virtually unchanged. PC(USA) membership is 90.93 percent White; 3.46 percent Black/African American; 2.94 percent Asian; 1.4 percent Hispanic; .57 percent African; and less than one-third of one percent each Middle Eastern, Native American, and “other.” Those numbers do not reflect participation in new worshipping communities and other fellowships, which are not formal PC(USA) congregations.
A total of 151 of the 170 presbyteries in the PC(USA) contain 15,000 or fewer members. Three presbyteries reported membership growth in 2016: Atlantic Korean, Nevada, and Western Colorado.
The ten largest presbyteries at the end of the year were: Greater Atlanta (35,360), Grace (31,754), Charlotte (31,505), National Capital (29,814), Chicago (28,949), Philadelphia (28,514), Pittsburgh (27,673), New Hope (27,235), Salem (23,778), and Coastal Carolina (23,601).
The total number of ministers in the PC(USA) declined by 356 to 19,721. The total number of ordinations declined by 34 to 215. And the number of candidates for ordained ministry increased by 21 to 653.
by Jerry Van Marter, Office of the General Assembly