So, last week the GA Stated Clerk released a summary of the 2012 Annual Statistics. The release of the Annual Statistics is historically a day of much kvetching. We wring our hands and accuse each other of being the kinds of Christians that are running everyone off.
And, honestly, there's not a lot to get excited over.
The total membership of the PC(USA) at the end of 2012 was 1,849,496, compared to 1,952,287 in 2011, which is a decline of 102,791 members.
Thirteen new churches were organized in 2012. Eighty-six churches were dissolved, compared to 75 in 2011. One hundred ten congregations were dismissed to other denominations, 89 more than the previous year.
But what gives me courage to go on is related to a quote from our dear Clerk at the end of the article:
“The fact that fewer Americans say they have a religious identity does not necessarily mean there has been an overall decrease in spirituality in America,” Parsons said. “The 2012 statistics challenge us as Presbyterians to connect with the ever-growing number of those with no religious affiliation.”
So our numbers are going down. So what? According to the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life's recent study, "Nones on the Rise," these folks that are leaving our folds are not anti-God . Not even remotely. What they are uninterested in us.
Parsons is right: what our stats challenge us to, is the work of re-understanding ourselves. I've written about this before on my personal blog, and I maintain that Christianity is a "Brand in Crisis."
Presbyterians are not exempt from this, and I, for one, am ready to start the rebranding process.