Methodists Facing Decline

SPRINGMAID BEACH, S.C. (UMNS)-The United Methodist Church “must face an inconvenient truth” to reverse its 40-year decline in U.S. membership, worship attendance and church school attendance, its bishops agree.

“There are many roles to be played in facing the truth of our church in the United States,” said Iowa Bishop Gregory Palmer, chairman of the internal Council of Bishops Episcopacy Study Task Force.

In a May 3 task force report to the denomination’s Council of Bishops, Palmer told colleagues that retooling its leadership processes for lay members, clergy and bishops “is essential to reversing this decline.”

Since 1964, United Methodist membership in the United States has decreased 27 percent, despite the nation’s population growth by 54 percent. The percentage of youth members declined from one in seven in 1964 to one in 21 in 2005. Also in 2005, approximately 41 percent of its U.S. churches received no members on profession of faith.

The bishops are responding – beginning with themselves – by looking internally and asking “what is the role of episcopal leadership in making disciples for Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world?

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