The Washington, D.C. based United Methodist General Board of Church and Society has released the names of its new board members for 2012-2016. And although Africans now account for over 35 percent of United Methodist Church membership, only 5 percent of the board’s members are from Africa. Over 4.2 million Africans will have as many board members as the fewer than 70,000 United Methodists in Europe.
All 13 of United Methodism’s general agencies will have similarly unfair ratios. There is a cap of 10 percent on overseas representation on church agency boards. And within that 10 percent, typically representation is equally divided among the Europeans, the Africans, and the 145,000 church members in the Philippines.
The restructuring plan approved at General Conference would have more fairly given the Africans 25 percent representation on the new oversight body that would have replaced most agency boards. But that plan was overturned by the Judicial Council, leaving the status quo in place. Almost certainly the 2016 General Conference will restore to the Africans more equitable representation.
Meanwhile, church agencies will continue to pretend that we are mostly a nearly all U.S. church. And the Board of Church and Society will continue to reflect the political priorities of liberal Americans while mostly ignoring the beliefs of the church’s only growing segment of our church, the more than 4.2 million church members in Africa.
Here is the breakdown of the Board of Church and Society’s board as they have reported so far:
9 North Central 1.3 million members
8 Notheast 1.3 million members
11 South Central 1.7 million members
19 Southeast 2.8 million members
4 Western 350,000 members
3 Africa 4.2 million members
3 Europe 63,000 members
1 Philippines 145,000 members