A mainline Protestant denomination recently announced that it will be adding a “nonbinary/genderqueer” category to its annual report regarding church demographics.
The Office of General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church USA (PCUSA), which is the largest Presbyterian denomination in the U.S., said Tuesday that it is making a series of changes regarding how it records the number of congregations and membership statistics in the denomination, according to a press release.
In addition to traditional men and women categories, members of PCUSA presbyteries who identify as nonbinary or genderqueer will also be able to record their identity for official church statistics starting next year.
Kris Valerius, who serves as manager of the PCUSA’s denominational roles and statistics, said such changes are needed, because if they “want to be inclusive, then we have to start asking because you should be aware of who’s a part of your church,” according to the release.
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“We’ll have the same categories, we’re just not defining them any longer, which may upset people,” said Valerius. “The information will be there – we’re just removing the definitions.”
“For instance, we’ve always asked how many female members there are in the church. We’re now asking how many men, women and nonbinary/genderqueer members there are. We’ve never asked that question, so we don’t know how many people will fill it out.”
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The PCUSA is also removing definitions from the ethnic and racial sections, making changes to its financial section, adding a section to track how many members are 17 or 18, and will no longer be tracking how many members are receiving formal Christian education.
While still the largest Presbyterian denomination in the U.S. at 1.1 million active members and 8,813 member congregations, the PCUSA has been hemorrhaging churches and members over recent years. The PCUSA reported earlier this year that it has seen more than 51,000 members depart since 2021.
In 2012, the denomination had about 700,000 more members than today, and about 1,400 more congregations, many of which have left for more conservative Presbyterian denominations such as Covenant Order of Evangelical Presbyterians, the Presbyterian Church in America, and the Evangelical Presbyterian Church.