Membership stands at 98,968, down 473 from the previous year......Membership stands at 166,987, up 172 from the previous year......Membership stands at 74,483, down 1,866 from the previous year......Membership stands at 61,534, down 1,379 from the previous year......Membership stands at 96,927, down 2,016 from the previous year. --- representative membership reports from some annual conferences for end of calendar year 2007
They’re coming in and the results are proving to be the same as it has been for many years. The membership of the United Methodist Church continues to decline by thousands each year!
Some attempt to be optimistic by saying that our losses aren’t as bad as they used to be – that’s as encouraging as telling a patient who is bleeding profusely from an injury, “Good news! You’re not losing blood as much as you were yesterday!” The fact is, unless the bleeding is entirely stopped, the guy will die. It is a given – a full supply of blood is necessary to maintain good health and prolonged life!
Among annual conference reports are those which are initiating detailed and often costly “programs” in an effort to reverse the loss of membership. Such is the case in the W. PA Annual Conference with its “Believe Again!” campaign. If a Washington DC politician wants a guideline on creating a bureaucratic “Frankenstein,” all he has to do is look at the W. PA Annual Conference. One of many “goals” in “Believe Again!” has been reached as of the 2007 annual conference session. A full time assistant for Bishop Thomas Bickerton will begin that interesting position as of July 1, 2008. This will enable the bishop to continue his many world wide travels with a full time assistant “minding the store” on the home front! But then, a lot of traveling here and there is quite possible when you are making over $100,000 per year plus a lot of “perks” to go with it.
Oh, by the way -- the W. PA Annual Conference, where I am an ordained elder, has reported its membership to be 187,441 as of end of 2007 -- DOWN 1,738 from previous year. Worship attendance is down 2,552 from previous year!
Will the very ambitious plans of recovery as intitiated in a number of conferences bring about desired and desperately hoped for results? Not likely – but to see why, we have to cross the Atlantic Ocean to a place called Africa and what is going on with the United Methodist Church there.
There is a choice of simple words to describe what is going on, but let’s use the word, “explosion!” The UMC in Africa is growing rapidly. Probably some have attempted to analyze this over recent years.
Let’s cut through all the technical jargon that would be thrown at us about this situation in Africa – the theories – the speculations, etc. Let’s just simply say that these people (laity, pastors, church leaders) know no better than to believe that the Bible means precisely what has been recorded there by direct influence of the Holy Spirit. And God has been wonderfully blessing because of this.
Such is not the case in the United States. We want to redefine God’s boundaries on human sexuality, redefine marriage and redefine what really constitutes a family. In the process we refer to those African United Methodists as being “more conservative” – that’s a bunch of baloney – let’s get it through our thick skulls – those people believe God while we in the United States have placed God on a stool in the corner with a dunce cap on His head and have told Him, “We’ll set the standards on sexual relationships and activity, as well as what marriage and family are all about. Further, we’ll set the record straight that all those so-called “miracles” attributed to you didn’t really happen at all – that’s all a bunch of fairy tale stuff!”
Even professed “evangelicals” have caved in to the pressure in the United States, not wanting to be labeled as being “homophobic” or “mean-spirited.” It’s so much easier to sit down to a table, dialog and say, “We disagree a bit, but we can still work together for the good of the church and exhibit “love” and “respect” for each other’s “positions!”
By the way, anyone out there have some extra gauze to help stop all this bleeding?
And for any from the United Methodist Church in Africa who may stumble into this area – “Brother or sister, keep on taking your stand for God’s revealed truth and the Lord Jesus Christ as the only way of salvation and hope, in spite of the flak you receive from some in the United States UMC or the efforts to hinder and restrict you at General Conference sessions! Remember, Jesus will have the last word on all things – we’ll see how absolutely true that is when He comes back to this chaotic planet!
To whom shall I speak and give warning, that they may hear? Indeed their ear is uncircumcised, and they cannot give heed. Behold, the word of the LORD is a reproach to them; they have no delight in it. --- Jeremaih 6:10