Divergent is the word when comparing the Presbyterian Church in the USA (PCUSA) and the Presbyterian Church in America (PCA). Consider these facts about the PCUSA:
- In its 2008 General Assembly, the PCUSA approved an overture to delete the requirement that ordained officers must “live either in fidelity within the covenant of marriage between a man and a woman, or chastity in singleness.” Although this was recently voted down by a majority of presbyteries, the majority was a slim 95-78. Already, a similar overture is also being prepared for the 2010 GA.
- Meanwhile, membership in the denomination declined by over 69,000 members in 2008, the biggest loss since the PCA left in 1973. Since 1965, its membership has declined by 50 percent.
Compare the above with recent news from the PCA:
- In a quick move to protect its pastors from prosecution in states that allow same-sex marriages, the 37th GA added a qualifier to a section in the church order concerning marriage. The church order says, “It is proper that every commonwealth, for the good of society, make laws to regulate marriage, which all citizens are bound to obey.â€ The qualifier that was added reads: “â€¦ insofar as they do not transgress the laws of God.”
- Although the denomination also lost membership, the loss was less than 5,000 or about 1.4 percent of the total. Much of this loss is being attributed to the purging of membership rolls at a megachurch in Florida.
But all’s not well in the PCA either. For the second year in a row, the GA has rejected calls for a study group to clarify which roles women may play in congregational life, especially in the diaconate. The margin was a slim 446 to 427. Opponents fear that a study group would eventually lead to the ordination of women, first as deacons, then later as elders. Ordaining women to church offices was one of the reasons why the PCA bolted from the PCUSA in 1973. How long can the denomination hold out?