The Presbyterian Church USA in a Nutshell

Jun 21, 2003 10:34 AM EDT

LOUISVILLE - The research services office of the Presbyterian Church USA found that nearly three-quarters of Presbyterians believe Jesus Christ is "the only absolute Truth for humankind," but few think "only followers of Jesus Christ can be saved."

This recent survey conducted on 3,500 people from the PCUSA strongly reflected the qualities and opinioins of the denomination as a whole; officers say the minimal margin of error at 8 percet are not practically significant, and that "small differences should be interpreted cautiously."

Among general results, the survey found that fewer than half of the PCUSA members were born in the Presbyterian Church. However, two thirds of the pastors were brought up Presbyterian. About 15 percent of the members were raised in the Methodist church, and 10 percent were brought up as Baptists.

The study also showed the physical make of the denomination to be heavily caucasian, female, and over fifty. 90 percent of pastors and elders, and 97 percent of members claimed they were white. 61 percent of the denomination were females. However, only about half of the elders and 23 percent of pastors were female. The median age of members and elders was found to be 55 years; 30 percent of all members were retired.

In issues of dogma, 70 percent of members, 75 percent of elders, 71 percent of pastors and 55 percent of specialized clergy said they agree that "the only absolute Truth for humankind is in Jesus Christ." however, only 43 percent of members, 50 percent of elders, 39 percent of pastors and 24 percent of other clergy said believe that "only followers of Jesus Christ can be saved." Two-thirds of members and specialized clergy and 80 percent of pastors and elders said they agree that "Jesus will return to earth some day," and 86 percent of members said they believe in life after death. Ninety-three percent of lay members of the PC(USA) said they believe in heaven, but only 78 percent believe in hell.

The surey was taken from a random sample of 1,102 members, 1,145 elders and 1,435 ordained ministers for the 2003-2005 Presbyterian Panel. The background survey for the new group was conducted between October 2002 and January 2003.

By Pauline J.