New York Annual Conference

Vanishing Liberal Methodists of New York

on June 10, 2016

The United Methodist Church’s liberal and rapidly declining New York Annual Conference (NYAC) made news this week when the conference’s clergy session voted to approve four non-celibate LGBTQ candidates for ordained ministry. Three of the candidates are seeking commissioning as provisional deacons; the fourth is seeking ordination as a pastor in a part of the church that has seen more than one-in-five attendees vanish in the span of only eight years.

All four of the candidates are signers of an open letter in which a group of clergy and candidates for ordination came out as “self-avowed practicing homosexuals.”

The decision by conference clergy to proceed with approving the candidates is in direct contradiction with the denomination’s Book of Discipline which candidates for ordination must vow to uphold. The discipline states that “The practice of homosexuality is incompatible with Christian teaching. Therefore self-avowed practicing homosexuals are not to be certified as candidates, ordained as ministers, or appointed to serve in The United Methodist Church.”

LGBTQ activists within the United Methodist Church have repeatedly insisted that changing the denomination’s discipline concerning human sexuality is necessary in order for the church to grow. However, the New York Annual Conference is one of the fastest-declining regions in the global denomination.

New York Annual Conference MembershipStatistical totals provided in the NYAC Journal show that both membership and attendance declines have significantly outpaced those of the denomination nationally. Conference membership has declined from 124,341 persons at the beginning of 2006 to 103,253 at the end of 2014, a decline of 21,088 (-17 percent). Conference attendance has declined even more rapidly, from 38,363 in 2006 to 30,382 in 2014, a decline of 7,981 (-21 percent).

The United Methodist Church loses approximately 100,000 members each year in the United States, but is growing globally, especially in Africa, where it adds approximately 200,000 members each year. Of the 12.4 million United Methodists globally, 7.2 million are in U.S. jurisdictions. But while the denomination grows worldwide, the rate of decline in the NYAC is comparable to that of the Episcopal Church and Presbyterian Church (USA), both of which hemorrhaged members and witnessed sharp declines in attendance, baptisms and marriages following votes to redefine marriage or no longer require clerical vows of celibacy in the single life or fidelity in marriage.

New York Annual Conference AttendanceEarlier this year, the local body in New York charged with certifying candidates, known as the Board of Ordained Ministry (BoOM), announced that it would no longer consider sexual practices among its evaluation criteria. New York is one of four conference BoOMs (including Baltimore-Washington, Pacific Northwest and Northern Illinois) to make such an announcement, however New York is the first to move ahead with approving openly LGBTQ candidates. Earlier this spring the Baltimore-Washington Annual Conference BoOM certified a married lesbian woman as a candidate for the provisional deaconate, but she did not obtain the necessary two-thirds vote of conference clergy in order to proceed with commissioning.

NYAC Conference Totals

2014 Membership: 107,571
2014 Attendance: 30,382
2014 Membership at Year End: 103,253

2013 Membership: 110,229
2013 Attendance: 32,296

2012 Membership: 111,441
2012 Attendance: 33,797

2011 Membership: 114,157
2011 Attendance: 33,679

2010 Membership: 115,783
2010 Attendance: 34,394

2009 Membership: 118,595
2009 Attendance: 37,052

2008 Membership: 120,190
2008 Attendance: 36,730

2006 Membership: 124,341
2006 Attendance: 38,363

  1. Comment by Nutstuyu on June 10, 2016 at 4:56 pm

    Love to see this analysis done for Northern Illiniois too so we have some ammunition to deal with “Bishop” Sally Dyck.

  2. Comment by PennyRobinsonFanClub on June 11, 2016 at 8:15 pm

    Sally Dyck.
    Heh heh. Heh heh.

  3. Comment by RicoSuaveGuapo on June 20, 2016 at 4:01 pm

    I had to laugh when so many tweets during General Conference inadvertently referred to her as Bishop Dyke due to auto-correct.

  4. Comment by Namyriah on June 10, 2016 at 5:07 pm

    I was still a UM when they were crowing about electing their first woman bishop. (For once, they actually beat the Episcopagans!) Most of them have been typical liberal clones, just like the male bishops.

    If you keep elevating non-Christians to high office, does it matter which sex they are?

  5. Comment by Railroad Lover61 on June 10, 2016 at 6:31 pm

    At the rate that the UMC is going, it will become the SMALLEST of any Mainline Protestant Church in the U.S. I live in upstate and I see signs that people are almost running away from this Liberal Denomination. I am joining them and have not set foot in a UMC in 2 months. .I don’t like the direction they are going in.

  6. Comment by Phil Griffin on June 13, 2016 at 12:45 pm

    Desert Southwest Conference (AZ & Las Vegas) membership is down 1,500-continuing the trend, but at an increasing rate. Nearly 1,000 avg per year for the last 19 years. Only 32K members, but close to 70% attendance rate. I was surprised by the low attendance in the NY conference. No sign that leadership has a plan to change this trend. I think they believe progressivism is the answer, not the cause.

  7. Comment by John S. on July 1, 2016 at 6:33 am

    And yet nothing will be done about the conferences violation of the BoD further reinforcing the image that the UMC doesn’t really believe in anything.

  8. Comment by Robert Moffat on December 23, 2017 at 12:56 pm

    Some of these comments remind me of the days when our country embraced slavery. The conservatives loved slavery! Then we stopped slavery, and began the lynchings and segregation. Again, the further you went into the really conservative states of the US, the more they embraced such insane behavior. Bottom line. I hate bigotry. And we keep trying to find new ways to allow Christians to embrace hard core bigotry. Why don’t such folks admit, the bigots are more on the side of the Nazi’s than they are on the side of Jesus.

The work of IRD is made possible by your generous contributions.

Receive expert analysis in your inbox.