Thursday, February 16, 2006

Perplexing Presbyterian Depopulation

It’s no secret that my old haunt, the Presbyterian Church USA has been bleeding members for years. But for some reason, that decrease is accelerating, according to projections from the denomination.

I’m puzzled as to why this might be so. There hasn’t been a precipitating event to speak of as in the Episcopal Church, just the usual outrages. And there hasn’t been a major split in years.

Yes, liberalism is driving people away. But that’s been the case for decades. You’d almost expect the decline to slow at some point as there are fewer disenchanted conservatives left to leave.

Could it be demographics coming due – that older members are dying while younger members are still leaving?

More conservative Presbyterian leaders, such as the Presbyterian Lay Committee, have in recent years come to acknowledge that keeping the denomination together is untenable. (I remember years ago the PLC urging people to stay in.) Perhaps, more individuals and congregations therefore feel more comfortable with leaving than in the past.

Again, I don’t know. This projected acceleration surprises me.

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