The most predictable outcome of this vote is that membership in the Presbyterian Church will decline further, and that many of the alienated will join the growing ranks of the Catholic Church. Moreover we stand to gain some of the best and brightest.
Between 2005 and 2008, the Presbyterian Church lost almost 3 percent of its members. Between 2008 and 2009, membership dropped by over 3 percent. The skid has continued since, leaving the denomination with only 1.7 million members.
Other Protestant denominations that permit gay marriage are the Episcopal Church, the United Church of Christ, the Quakers, and the Unitarian Universalist Association of Churches.
The Episcopal Church has also been in free-fall since abandoning traditional teachings; it now has 1.8 million members left. In 1962, the United Church of Christ had over 2 million members; today it has less than a million. Recent reliable data on Quakers are harder to come by, but there is little reason to believe that the precipitous decline it witnessed between 1972 and 2002 has been reversed. In 2011, the Unitarians admitted that they suffered a sharp decline for the third consecutive year, leading their president, Peter Morales, to conclude that “The culture is moving our way theologically, but not institutionally.”
Morales is right but it is not clear he gets it: the more any religion mirrors the secular values of the dominant culture, the less appeal it has. People of faith are looking for something more meaningful than a body of self-regarding beliefs endorsed by the New York Times.
As for Catholics, we continue to grow, owing, to be sure, in large part to the increase in the Latino population. We are now 78 million strong. Orthodoxy not only makes good theological sense, it makes good institutional sense. That’s a win-win for us.