Feb 2, 2012

What I Think 1,159 Congregations Being Present at Fellowship Gathering Might Mean for PC(USA)

Fellowship of Presbyterians just reported that there were 1,159 congregations represented in the gatherings in Minneapolis and Orlando.

I am not sure if the Fellowship of Presbyterians is tracking other numbers but here are some I would be very interested in finding out.

  • How many of the attendants were teaching elders? How many ruling elders? Retired pastors? Specialized clergy?
  • What size congregations were people coming from?
  • What was the percentage of women/men? Whites/non-whites? Racial ethnic break down?
I would love to know what the breakdown of these statistics were so that we can get a clearer picture of what is actually going on in the PC(USA).
Hint, hint to the Fellowship.

I've been pondering about what these numbers mean.

According to the PC(USA) Research Services, as of 2010:

  • There were 10,560 congregations
  • Of the 10,560 congregations, over 52% (5,491) of them are under 100 members
  • Less than 20% (2112) congregations have over 250 members
Here's why I bring all this up. 
The average cost for airfare, lodging, conference fee was about $1,000. Most of the churches under 100 members struggle to have a full-time pastor, let alone having the funds to pay for a conference like the Fellowship gatherings. 

This doesn't mean that the congregations under 100 members are not vital nor important. It's just not very likely that congregations of 100 or fewer members could have afforded to send folks to the conference.

Bare minimum, I think we can conclude:
  • at least 10% of all PC(USA) congregations were present at the Fellowship gatherings
  • there is no telling how many of the 100 and fewer member churches and other evangelical churches would have been present if they could have sent representatives
What all this is telling me is that there is a sense of unsettling about the current life of the PC(USA). People may not be able to articulate what the future church ought to look like, but I think many in the church are clearly saying that the current way of doing and being church in the PC(USA) is no longer a viable way to do ministry for them...that there's got to be a better way.

The question is, do we start from scratch? Do we build and modify what we already have? 

Some questions that I think are well worth considering are:
  • What presbyterian values and ethos must we retain in order to remain presbyterian?
  • What presbyterian values and ethos can be discarded and still remain presbyterian?
  • Are these non-negotiable presbyterian values and ethos valuable/essential for a vital church future?

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