LOUISVILLE — Membership in the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) declined by more than 2 percent in 2005, but total giving to the church increased by more than 5 percent, topping $3 billion for the first time.
According to figures released June 2 by the Office of the General Assembly, PC(USA) “communicant” membership at the end of last year totaled 2,313,662 — a decline of 48,474 or 2.05 percent from 2004. Including 318,291 baptized but not confirmed members and 466,889 inactive members, total PC(USA) membership stands at 3.1 million.
But Presbyterians are giving to the church at record levels. “Giving to the church is up substantially in every category and at every level of the church’s life,” noted General Assembly Stated Clerk Clifton Kirkpatrick in a prepared statement released with the statistical report.
Total giving to the church rose $146.9 million last year to $3,073,684,927. Adjusted for the membership loss, the average Presbyterian gave 7 percent more to the church last year than the year before.
Of that $3 billion, more than 71 percent was spent on local mission and program. Another 16.5 percent was spent on capital expenditures. Per capita contributions to presbyteries, synods and the General Assembly totaled just under 1.5 percent. Contributions to validated PC(USA) mission were 4.7 percent and contributions to mission causes outside the denomination totaled 3.3 percent.
The percentage membership loss is the highest since 1975, according to the denomination’s Research Services office.
“The first year of losses was 1966 and the decline has never been less than 1 percent since 1969,” Jack Marcum, associate for survey research told the Presbyterian News Service. “There was an acceleration in the early 1970s but since 1975, the losses have been somewhere between 1 and 2 percent.”
The losses occurred in virtually every statistical category. Almost 125,000 people joined the PC(USA) last year, but 28,680 transferred to other churches, 36,191 Presbyterians died and more than 108,000 of the losses were “other” — persons who either dropped out of the church altogether or who moved to churches “not in correspondence” with the PC(USA).
Of the 48,474 lost members, almost 35,000 were women. The number of elders, male and female, declined by almost 1,600 to just more than 97,000. The number of female deacons increased by 74, to 47,121, while the number of male deacons declined by 424 to just under 20,000.
Adult baptisms declined by 1,216 to 9,243. Child baptisms declined by 2,889 to 30,727. Church school attendance declined by more than 36,000 to 1,081,084.
The PC(USA) is currently 92.95 percent white. Asians comprise 2.33 percent of the church’s members; Blacks are 3.09 percent; Hispanics are 1.17 percent and Native Americans are .20 percent. Every group declined in 2005.
“I give thanks to God for the growing faithfulness in stewardship and mission concern that these figures represent among Presbyterians,” Kirkpatrick said. “At the same time, I am convinced that God is calling us to repentance for our failures in evangelism and church growth at a time when there is a hunger for the gospel.”
Kirkpatrick noted that a year ago when the 2004 statistics were released he issued “A Wake-Up Call to the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.)” that included six “imperatives” for Presbyterians to reverse the membership decline.
“I believe they are even more relevant in 2006,” he said, “and I commend to the church these callings to prayer and repentance, to reaching out to our inactive members, to giving priority to adult baptisms, to learning from our growing churches (40 percent of our churches in 2005), to transforming our congregations into multicultural churches, and to having a new passion for starting new churches and Christian fellowships.”