According to a new report by the UCC Center for Analytics, Research & Development and Data, The United Church of Christ lost more than 286,000 members from 2012 to 2022.
Between that decade, the theologically liberal mainline Protestant denomination experienced a net loss of 286,610 members and 551 congregations.
As reported by The Christian Post, the UCC saw a decrease in congratulations, ranging from 4,794 to 4,603 congregations and lost membership from approximately 773,000 to approximately 712,000.
Additionally, the 2022 membership numbers also represented a significant decrease from 1960, when the denomination reportedly had approximately 2.24 million members, which is more than three times the current amount.
The reporter also found that the UCC removed 128 congregations from its records in 2022, an increase of 50.6 percent compared to 2021, when 85 congregations were removed.
The report states that the increase in congregation removals are “related to a new policy from the UCC’s Board of Directors that removes churches from records after two years of being marked inactive unless the Conference requests an extension or otherwise updates an inactive designation.”
“Since this was the first year the policy was enacted, the number of inactive churches removed is not expected to be as high in subsequent years; future years of data collection will demonstrate whether removals return to previous levels,” the report reads.
Another significant decline in the UCC took place between 2005 and 2007, when “the UCC experienced a loss of nearly three congregations per week on average” in light of its 2005 General Synod passing a resolution supporting same-sex marriage.
In a statement last week, CARDD Director Erica Dollhopf said that she hopes the report highlighting the trends in the UCC can help local congregations “identify places where their church might have particular strengths and to find inspiration for how their church might find new pathways to flourishing.”
Dollhopf also pointed out how the reports found that smaller UCC congregations had the highest percentage of volunteer engagement for their assorted projects and ministries.
“This finding highlights the particular gifts of smaller churches — they tend to be close-knit, highly involved communities,” she continued. “The smallest churches by membership size tend to have the most people attending in-person worship relative to membership.”
“While not everyone who attends worship is necessarily a church member, this calculation is another way to approximate engagement, which generally is highest within smaller churches.”
Another finding in the report showed that 83.1 percent of the UCC is white, while 4.8 percent is African American, 4 percent is Asian or Pacific Islander, and less than 1 percent is Hispanic.
Last July, during the 2023 General Synod meeting the UCC elected the Rev. Karen Georgia Thompson to be its first female president and general minister.
In a nomination speech before last year’s General Synod, Thompson said that “hope springs forth” within the UCC, with the denomination being “the place where we have seen the Spirit of God poured forth among us in many ways."
“Here is where we honor the resilience of those who came before us, took risks and oftentimes did more with less than we currently have. And here is the place we identify as now, as we ponder the call of God to be salt and light to the world,” Thompson stated.
Image credit: ©Getty Images/KL Yuen
Milton Quintanilla is a freelance writer and content creator. He is a contributing writer for Christian Headlines and the host of the For Your Soul Podcast, a podcast devoted to sound doctrine and biblical truth. He holds a Masters of Divinity from Alliance Theological Seminary.