The Presbyterian Church in the U.S. has lost thousands of members and dozens of congregations in 2021 alone.
On Monday, the largest Presbyterian denomination in the United States released its annual statistics, which were put together by the Presbyterian Church (USA) Office of the General Assembly. The report showed shocking revelations, including the fact that the PCUSA has lost more than 51,000 members and more than 100 congregations in 2021.
The Christian Post reported that based on the report's latest numbers, PCUSA's number of congregations decreased from 8,925 in 2020 to 8,813 in 2021. Active membership also saw a dramatic decline, from about 1.24 million in 2020 to 1.19 million in 2021. Furthermore, the mainline Protestant denomination also lost a number of clergy, from up to 18,785 ministers in 2020 to 18,458 in 2021.
Up to 372 clergy have left PCUSA in 2021. The denomination also saw a slight decline in the number of its presbyteries, from 170 in 2020 to 166 in 2021. Losing four regional bodies was attributed to two factors. The first factor was the reorganization of presbyteries in New Jersey in March 2021, during which the number of regional bodies in the state went down from seven to four. Another factor was the merger of the Presbyteries of Sacramento and Stockton to form the Presbytery of North Central California in July 2021. The merger was the result of a drop in member congregations.
In the announcement of the report on Monday, PCUSA General Assembly Stated Clerk J. Herbert Nelson underscored that the decreases were smaller than the year before. Nelson explained in a statement, "We have come to the realization that our church has been forever changed by this pandemic. But this report shows that even though the number of active members continues to go down, we are seeing a slight slowdown in [a] number of people leaving."
Despite the decline in overall numbers, the PCUSA found, however, that there has been a slight increase in the number of "youth professions of faith" and "professions of faith and reaffirmations." The numbers showed that youth professions increased from 5,319 in 2020 to 5,708 in 2021 (a 7.3% increase), while reaffirmations and professions of faith rose from 9,210 in 2020 to 10,921 in 2021, showing an 18.6% increase. These numbers are still below pre-pandemic levels, with 2019 recording 9,023 youth professions of faith and 21,408 professions of faith and reaffirmations.
"The challenge for the PCUSA and other Christian denominations is reaching and retaining young people, developing new leaders for tomorrow's church," Nelson remarked in the announcement. "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."
About 82% of PCUSA churches submitted data for the report, representing 91% of all denominational membership. Nelson concluded, "Great challenges lie ahead for the PCUSA, but I believe God is working amongst us, forming and encouraging us to continue to be creative and innovative in all we do."