June 25, 2017

Eclectica: Shrinking the Church

Just one article to call to your attention for this edition – and we think it is a pretty significant one:

How To Shrink Your Church In One Easy Step
(link below the jump)

The basic thesis of the article is summed up by this:

Every major American church that has taken steps towards liberalization on sexual issues has seen a steep decline in membership.

You can find the whole article here, we recommend you read the whole thing.

For a taste, however, we’d like to offer some excerpts.

By now, we’ve all heard the refrain that U.S. churches need liberalize their teachings on sexuality and homosexuality or rapidly decline. The logic behind the argument is simple: more and more Americans are embracing homosexuality and same-sex marriage, including growing numbers of religious Millennials. So long as churches remain the face of opposition to gay marriage, those churches will shrink into irrelevancy when gay marriage (inevitably, we are told) becomes a settled political issue. … But a number of Christian denominations have already taken significant steps towards liberalizing their stances on homosexuality and marriage, and the evidence so far seems to indicate that affirming homosexuality is hardly a cure for membership woes. On the contrary, every major American church that has taken steps towards liberalization of sexual issues has seen a steep decline in membership.

These findings are born out in several mainstream denominations. For example, consider the Episcopal Church:

In 2002, the number of baptized U.S. members of the Episcopal Church stood at 2.32 million. By 2012, that number had fallen to 1.89 million, a decline of 18.4 percent. Meanwhile, attendance has fallen even more steeply. Average Sunday attendance in its U.S. churches was 846,000 in 2002, but had fallen 24.4 percent by 2012 to only 640,000.

And also the ECLA:

From ELCA’s formation in 1987 to 2009, the average decrease in membership each year was only 0.62 percent. But after the liberalization of the ELCA’s stance on sexuality, membership declined a whopping 5.95 percent in 2010 and 4.98 percent in 2011. Since 2009, more than 600 congregations abandoned the denomination, with almost two-thirds joining conservative Lutheran denominations like the North American Lutheran Church and Lutheran Churches in Ministry for Christ.

The United Church of Christ:

While UCC has been bleeding members for decades, its decline rapidly accelerated after the gay marriage vote. Since 2005, UCC has lost 250,000 members, a decline of 20.4 percent over seven years. While an average of 39 congregations left UCC annually from 1990 to 2004, more than 350 congregations departed in the following three years.

The Presbyterian Church USA:

In 2006, 2.2 million people were members of PCUSA, a number that dropped 22.4 percent to 1.85 million by 2013. PCUSA’s decline accelerated significantly after approving the ordination of non-celibate gay and lesbian clergy in mid-2011, which led to the creation of an alternative denomination in 2012 called ECO: A Covenant Order of Evangelical Presbyterians. Over 100,000 members left the PCUSA in 2012 alone.

The author of the article comments on the contrasting situation in more orthodox churches. These churches are not all growing, but even in situations where some churches are declining, the decline is much slower than the rates in these mainline groups, and their decline is clearly connected with other factors than their stance towards homosexuality.

As my old dad used to say, “Figures don’t lie, but liars can figure.” We shouldn’t make too much of this, but the trends are certainly interesting. We think we can safely say that changing our stance (in any area) for more palatable public positions is really unlikely to attract the world. We must continue to uncompromisingly preach the truth of God’s word and let the power of the Spirit accompanying His word do the work it was intended to do.


Publication of links in The Eclectic Web feature does not imply endorsement of the viewpoint or contents of any of the websites linked. The links are provided as a matter of interest to Christians.

The Eclectic Web is compiled by Don Johnson. Don Johnson is the pastor of Grace Baptist Church of Victoria, Victoria, BC, Canada.


Although Proclaim & Defend is the blog of the FBFI, the articles we post are not an expression of the views of the FBFI as a whole, they are the views of the author under whose name they are published. The FBFI speaks either through position statements by its board or through its president. Here at Proclaim & Defend, we publish articles as matters of interest or edification to the wider world of fundamentalist Baptists and any others who might be interested.

Submit other comments here.