The 1.67 million member Presbyterian Church (USA) has voted to redefine marriage from “between a woman and a man” to “between two people, traditionally a man and a woman.”  Last year’s General Assembly approved the change, which was confirmed by a majority of local presbyteries this year.  It confirms a trajectory starting with the church’s 2010-11 vote to delete its expectation of “fidelity and chastity” by clergy and continuing with its 2012-13 vote to permit clergy to conduct same-sex unions where legal in civil law.

Unsurprisingly, since liberalizing its teaching on sexual morality in 2010-11, the PCUSA has lost nearly 300,000 members, including over 400 congregations, many of them among the denomination’s largest.  Most of the departing churches have joined the Evangelical Presbyterian Church or taken part in the creation of the Evangelical Covenant Order of Presbyterians.

The PCUSA had over three million members in 1983 when it was formed in a merger.  Its predecessor bodies had over four million at their peak in the 1960’s.  Its 2014 loss of over 92,000 was its largest percentage loss, at over five percent.  Its 2012 loss, nearly 103,000, was its largest numeric loss.  Total donations to the PCUSA in 2013-14 declined by over $100 million, from $1.8 billion to $1.7 billion.

In typical Mainline Protestant style, PCUSA officials are often blithely indifferent to their spiral, which would at its current rate mean no church members left in 20 years or less.  “The PC(USA) is a church made up of vibrant congregations doing their best to live out the gospel of Jesus Christ in their communities and in the world,” an apparently unfazed Gradye Parsons, stated clerk of the General Assembly of the PCUSA, cooed.  “Membership declines continue, but on a whole the denomination is settling into the new thing God is creating.”

In other words, God apparently is killing the PCUSA, and its elites don’t seem to care.  Endowments ensure security for most current church officials.  A new triumphant theme for imploding Mainline Protestants is that, while they are losing church members and religious market share, their social liberalism is prevailing in American society.  It’s as if they believe that, once America is fully transgendered and deconstructed into disconnected, self-actualized autonomous individuals, the Mainliners can declare victory and shut their doors.

The more conservative religion that liberal Mainline Protestantism thought it had decisively defeated in the 1920’s is now defeating, or has defeated, the Mainliners.  The new, much-trumpeted Pew Research Center poll on Americans’ religious self-identification shows evangelicals holding steady at 25 percent, while Mainliners have declined to less than 15 percent.  A majority of Protestants in America are now evangelical, a prospect that once-dominant Mainline Protestants likely never expected.

Of course, there is a growing evangelical left that cluelessly urges its coreligionists to become more like Mainline Protestants.  To the extent they are successful, they will neutralize and enfeeble evangelicalism.  There also persist large pockets of evangelical and orthodox belief within the Mainlines, as the Pew study confirmed, despite longtime liberal hegemony.  From under the rubble of collapsed Mainline Protestantism there may yet emerge new orthodox expressions that react against the disastrous impact of theological and sexual liberalism.

Two of the major Mainline denominations have not officially compromised their teaching on marriage and sex: American Baptists of the old Northern Baptist Convention and United Methodism.  The latter has a global membership that is growing, with declining U.S. membership at 7.3 million and overseas membership, mostly in Africa, at 5.5 million.  At the current rate, Africans will become a majority within a decade, ensuring the denomination cannot liberalize, exasperating U.S. liberals.

African Anglicans also have strong ties with the new and growing Anglican Church in North America.  The North American Lutheran Church, which emerged from the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America’s surrender on sex, is also developing ties with overseas Lutherans, especially in Africa.  So, too, are the conservative Presbyterian bodies.

Meanwhile, America’s cities are full of often beautiful and historic Mainline sanctuaries, their steeples soaring, but their pews empty or dotted with elderly.  Some, in urban areas that are being gentrified, are rented to new evangelical church plants that are able to attract even socially liberal young people who shun moribund, socially liberal Mainline churches.

The latest PCUSA vote to affirm same-sex “marriage” further estranged it from Christian orthodoxy and the global church, accelerating the denomination’s decline.  But liberal religion almost always ensures its own demise, landing in a cultural cul-de-sac and opening up opportunities for more vibrant forms of Christian orthodoxy to fill the vacuum.

So when the clueless PCUSA official surmised God is creating a new thing, he likely is right.