Not News: Black Church Group Cuts Ties With PCUSA Over Same-Sex 'Marriage'; Membership Decline Continues

March 31st, 2015 11:24 PM

On March 18, Associated Press Religion Writer Rachel Zoll covered the decision by the Presbyterian Church USA (PCUSA) "recognizing gay marriage as Christian in the church constitution after decades of debate over same-sex relationships."

A search at the AP's national site indicates that the wire service hasn't done a story on the U.S. congregation since then. This means that it has ignored a development going at least back to Friday indicating that there has been significant external blowback:

National Black Church Initiative, a Coalition Representing 15.7 Million African Americans, Cuts Ties with PCUSA

The National Black Church Initiative (NBCI), a coalition representing some 34,000 African American and Latino churches, 15.7 million African Americans, and 15 different denominations, announced that it will be cutting ties with the Presbyterian Church (USA) since the denomination decided to redefine marriage to include same-sex marriages.

"NBCI and its membership base are simply standing on the Word of God within the mind of Christ. We urge our brothers and sisters of the PCUSA to repent and be restored to fellowship," NBCI President Rev. Anthony Evans said.

The PCUSA officially decided to redefine marriage in its constitution on March 17 when a majority of the 172 presbyteries voted to do so. Though the vote made the decision official, the actual redefinition will not be taking effect until June 21.

"No church has the right to change the Word of God. By voting to redefine marriage PCUSA automatically forfeits Christ's saving grace," he added. "There is always redemption in the body of Christ through confession of faith and adhering to Holy Scripture."

The PCUSA's decision has brought about a swirl of controversy, and strong opposition from conservative churches. The first church to leave the PCUSA since the approval to redefine marriage is Brighton Presbyterian Church, a 200-year-old New York church which decided to leave on the 26th.

A Google News search on "black churches Presbyterian" (not in quotes, sorted by date, with duplicates) returns only about ten relevant items, all of which come from center-right or Christian blogs and outlets.

It's reasonable to contend thtat the only reason such an action by a group representing 34,000 churches hasn't been deemed newsworthy by the nation's establishment press is that it doesn't fit the "same-sex marriage is inevitable, get over it" template.

While we're on the subject, I recalled a bit of research I did about a decade ago into the growth and contraction in mainline Christian denominations. At the time, I found a list telling me that PCUSA had 4.1 million members in 1960, but that its membership had declined to 3.2 million in 2002.

Rachel Zoll's report at the AP indicates that PCUSA currently "has nearly 1.8 million members." The actual number in 2013 was 1.76 million, a roughly 4 percent decline from the previous year's 1.84 million. It's virtually certain that the group's latest move will, as seen in the excerpt above, continue and perhaps accelerate that contraction.

So the church has seen a membership decline approaching 60 percent during a 55-year time period when the U.S. population has grown by about 70 percent. There's little doubt, especially in recent years, that the falloff is due to a movement which has culminated in what the black church group above characterized as a decision which "automatically forfeits Christ's saving grace."

Millions of Christians voting with their feet to leave PCUSA to take their worship of God elsewhere is not news at the AP or anywhere else in the establishment press. But a desperate and perhaps dying church which believes it can stay relevant by bowing to cultural pressure is.

Cross-posted at