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Religion IN BRIEF

Presbyterian Membership Drops

August 05, 2000|Religion News Service

The Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) lost members at a faster rate last year than in the previous two years.

The church reports that in 1999, membership dropped by 27,473 to a total of 2,560,201.

In 1997 and 1998, the annual decline had slowed to about 20,000. Prior to that, since the 1960s, the church had lost members at a rate of about 30,000 a year.

The Rev. Clifton Kirkpatrick, stated clerk of the church's General Assembly, said he continues to "pray fervently for the days when those numbers go the other way."

The church "needs to be more active in our evangelization, and in building up the strength and health of our congregations," he said.

The church found declines in adult professions of faith, transfers from other denominations and adult and child baptisms.

Kirkpatrick said he was encouraged by an increase in racial and ethnic minority membership.

"We gained 27,000 racial-ethnic members last year," he said, "which isn't nearly enough, but shows that we are on the right track toward our goal." The church has set a goal of having 10% black, Latino and Asian membership by 2010.

There also were increases in church-school enrollment and the number of female deacons and elders.

Church officials also found an increase in giving in almost every category. Total receipts by governing bodies and churches hit a record $2.8 billion, an increase of almost $216 million from 1998.

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