The Mainline Is Dying

If you aren’t a baby boomer or a student of religious history, it can be hard to fathom the cultural influence and social cohesion that once resided in mainline Protestantism. At its height in 1965, mainline Protestant churches counted 31 million members out of a U.S. population of less than 200 million. Most Protestants were in the mainline denominations, and the country’s cultural norms were set, for better or for worse, by the old school Protestant establishment.

Almost 60 years later, all of that has changed. In its recently released demographic report, the Presbyterian Church (USA) announced it lost another 51,584 members. From a membership peak of 4.25 million in 1965, the PCUSA rolls are now down to 1.19 million. And that membership decline hardly conveys the severity of the situation. In the last reporting year, the denomination dissolved 104 congregations and dropped four presbyteries. More than 40 percent of the congregations have fewer than 50 members. Almost a third of the denomination is more than 70 years old, and another 26 percent are older than 55. Keep in mind that only 16 percent of Americans are 65 or older. The PCUSA is literally dying. Read more»

Kevin DeYoung | “Lessons From Mainline Decline” | May 2, 2022


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  1. Tim Keller charitably wrote last Winter that by example, the mainline Presbyterian denomination (and by extension in the article’s general context, much of the rest of the mainlines) has essentially become the religious arm of one of the two major political parties, focusing more on issuing statements in agreement with that political party’s talking points than the core mission of the church. The same is true of the ELCA, UCC, ECUSA, the emerging post-separation UMC, and so on.

    • David: How about this year’s PCA overture calling on the GA to condemn political violence (Republican Trump supporters implied).

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