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Ethics & Religion
Column #1,866
May 31, 2017
Will United Methodists Break Up?
By Mike McManus

 

Like all Mainline Protestant denominations, the United Methodist Church is shrinking. In 1968 there were 12 million United Methodists, but today membership is 7.2 million in the United States. On the other hand, there were only a million United Methodists in Africa in 1968, but explosive growth resulted in a remarkable 5.6 million UM Africans today.

"Within the next five years, if the trajectory rises in Africa and declines in the U.S., there will be more Methodists in Africa than in the United States," asserts Steve Beard, editor of the church's evangelical magazine, Good News.

The magazine has been a "safe harbor for evangelicals and traditional United Methodists who still have a stake in the denomination of their childhood," he added. "We have tried to be an encouragement for people to stay and perpetuate the belief in the orthodox faith that they grew up in."

However, United Methodists of Colorado recently elected Bishop Karen Oliveto, the denomination's first openly gay bishop, who is also in a same-sex marriage. And there are now hundreds of gay UM pastors.

Tom Lambrecht, Vice President of Good News, says "United Methodists teach that God created us male and female, and that heterosexuals should have monogamous marriages. Others in the church dissent from that view, and believe that God created people with same-sex attraction, bisexuals, and even gender fluidity that allow people to experience sexuality outside of heterosexual
marriage.

"We have two fundamentally different approaches, and have had this debate for 50 years. But recL.1tly, within the last five years, those who disagree (with the orthodox view) have disobeyed the church's quarantine, and have performed same-sex marriages that were prohibited by law, and have been ordaining openly practicing homosexuals as clergy, which is against church law."

And as noted, liberals elected Karen Oliveto, as the first openly gay bishop.

This trend has accelerated the abandonment of United Methodism by traditionalists. The denomination shrank 3% in the last year. In just the last week, two entire churches left the denomination - the Orchard Church of Tupelo, MS and Get Well Road Church in northern Mississippi, outside of Memphis.

In an attempt to resolve these differences, UM bishops have appointed a Commission on the Way Forward that Tom Lambrecht is serving on. It is supposed to make recommendations to the denomination in 2019, a year before the next UM quadrennial convention in 2020.

It met three times this year for three and a half days in each session, and will do the same in 2018.

I asked him if he thought the United Methodist Church will split in two, or that enough conservatives will leave to create a new more orthodox denomination. I noted that the Anglican Church of North America, was created by evangelicals who left The Episcopal Church. Similarly, two conservative Presbyterian denominations have emerged from the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.).

Lambrecht agreed that this is a likely outcome.

The Anglican Church of North America has nearly 1,000 churches and 112,000 members. That is not large, but it is growing steadily. And there are no debates about same-sex marriage.

Meanwhile, The Episcopal Church, which had 3.4 million members in 1965, has shrunk to 1.7 million. A lesbian is now the Episcopal Bishop of Washington.

That is not a formula for growth, but for slow death.

____________________________________
Copyright (c) 2017 Michael J. McManus, President of Marriage Savers and a syndicated columnist. For previous columns go to  www.ethicsandreligion.org. Hit Search for any topic.

 

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