RMN Causes a Decline in United Methodist UMC Congregations

“Reconciling” United Methodist Churches Lose Members

on March 28, 2018

Sexual morality is one of the most controversial and most widely discussed issues in our society today. Churches are not immune from related controversies. Within the United Methodist Church, the Reconciling Ministries Network (RMN) has urged the denomination to stray from biblical teachings on marriage. The unofficial group of United Methodists now known as RMN emerged in 1982 to advocate for the gay and lesbian community. It alsolaunched a decades-long, unsuccessful campaign to get global United Methodism to abandon biblical teaching and officially allow same-sex union ceremonies and the ordination of openly homosexually active clergy. However, RMN’s efforts have taken a toll on their affiliated congregations.

RMN’s stated mission speaks of “resist[ing] evil, injustice, and oppression as we seek justice for people of all sexual orientations and gender identities. It believes that all sexual orientations are a gift from God and fights to bring churches to recognize this and celebrate related non-traditional sexual practices, including same-sex unions, and sex-reassignment surgeries. Over the years, hundreds of U.S. United Methodist congregations (out of the denomination’s tens of thousands of congregations around the world) have declared themselves to be “Reconciling Congregations” formally supporting RMN.

I have often heard that once a United Methodist congregation joins RMN, it takes a toll on the congregation. To prove this theory, I have compiled data for most United Methodist congregations that joined RMN between 2008 and 2014. The denomination’s official online data directory, www.UMdata.org, does not include key information before 2007 or after 2016.

When comparing the membership and worship attendance numbers for the year immediately before a congregation joined RMN to the statistics for the year immediately after this decision was made, I found that most congregations declined in both attendance and membership. For example, First UMC in Ferndale, Michigan lost 20.55 percent of its members (from 219 to 174) and 21.18 percent of its average reported worship attendance (85 to 67).

However, it is helpful also to look at longer-term trends. When members are displeased about their congregation becoming affiliated with RMN,  it may take a while for them completely to drift away from that church, and it can take two or more years after their last appearance in worship before they are actually removed from the membership rolls (Per Paragraph 228 of the UMC’s governing Book of Discipline). Additionally, the actual decline may be far greater as the data is based on figures provided by the congregations. It is relatively easy for pastors to skew their numbers for membership and especially attendance.

Meanwhile, proponents of RMN sometimes argue that congregations that make decisions to conform to worldly views on sexuality can initially lose a number of people, but then eventually recover by attracting those who appreciate their liberal view of sexuality. A V-shaped curve is what the RMN supporters like to describe. Yes, it is true to a certain degree that some congregations have experienced growth in both membership and attendance some time after joining RMN. But often this was followed by another period of decline. Out of the 130 congregations who joined RMN between 2008 and 2014, only 14 eventually saw their membership and attendance rise to exceed the numbers it had the year before they joined RMN. That is only about 10 percent of “Reconciling” congregations experiencing a V-shaped curve.

In other words, what the readily available data shows is that when congregations affiliate with RMN, in most cases they lose people initially and do not fully recover.

In the big picture, for each of the UMC’s five U.S. Jurisdictions, I have calculated the average decline for recently RMN-affiliated congregations as a whole by comparing the TOTAL membership and worship attendance figures for all such congregations in each region the year before they joined RMN and comparing these statistics to those for the last year on record (2016). This allows us to observe longer-term trends of 3-9 years. For example, the total membership for the Northeastern congregations before they separately joined RMN was 10,034. The total membership for these same congregations in 2016 was 9,117. So this was an overall decline of 9.14 percent for the newly “Reconciled” congregations within that jurisdiction.

Without exception, in all five jurisdictions, membership and attendance for RMN churches dropped. Those in the Northeastern Jurisdiction dropped 9.14 percent in membership and 16.60 percent in attendance. Those in the Western Jurisdiction dropped 11.57 percent in membership and 21.29 percent in attendance. For those in the North Central Jurisdiction, membership dropped by 5.74 percent and attendance dropped 11.49 percent. Those in the Southeastern Jurisdiction dropped 10.56 percent in membership and 16.60 percent in attendance. Finally, those in the South Central Jurisdiction dropped 6.95 in membership but 3.75 percent in attendance. Although the decrease is more dramatic in some places than in others, the clear pattern is that congregations lose people after they join RMN.

It is worth thinking of the toll such losses can mean for a single congregation. For example, Good Samaritan UMC in the California-Nevada Annual Conference of the Western Jurisdiction originally had 435 members and 207 people in average worship attendance before they joined RMN in 2011. However, after this the congregation suffered a decline trajectory, losing 17.70 percent of its members (down to 357) and 34.78 percent of its worship attendance (down to 135) by 2016. Similar dramatic declines were the case with many other congregations all over the country. Again, with only a handful of exceptions, United Methodist congregations that RMN reported as joining its network between 2008 and 2014 declined and have never recovered.

Through my research of compiling the statistics for churches that joined RMN within the recent years for which data is readily available, I have found a clear overall trend, with only a few exceptions, of congregations declining after they make this change. Although the average decline varies somewhat between different congregations and regions, the fact is that the number of people leaving the church was almost always greater than the number of new people joining the church.

I strongly believe that the church should never turn away a lost sheep. In order to bring back those who strayed, I encourage churches to have grace, love those who are living a life that is displeasing to God, and to preach the Biblical truth fearlessly. Finally, I pray that all of the pastors and leaders of “Reconciling” congregations and that those who part of the LGBTQ community repent and come back to our loving Father’s arms.

  1. Comment by Chet Klinger on March 28, 2018 at 10:39 am

    Given that UMC churches are showing declines across the board in every jurisdiction in the US, I’m wondering how much of that decline in RMN churches would have occurred had the churches not joined RMN. I believe across the denomination in the US, general declines, for whatever variety of reasons, are somewhere between 1% and 4% depending upon jurisdictions. This would show declines in RMC at maybe 6% rather than 10%, wouldn’t?

  2. Comment by Peter on March 8, 2019 at 1:51 pm

    Or it could indicate that the 1-4% decline churchwide is all but entirely accounted for by Reconciling Churches.

  3. Comment by SKipper on March 28, 2018 at 11:50 am

    One cannot emphasize too strongly how very very dangerous this “Reconciling” group is. A danger to the souls of mankind! They encourage people into sexual confusion, which is abuse, plain and simple. They want people to live in sexual perversion knowing all the while how evil it is. They destroy people’s relationship with God and build up their faith in their own self rather than in God. It is right to be offended that they call themselves United Methodists!

    I Samuel 2:9-10

    “He guards the steps of His faithful ones,
    but the wicked are silenced in darkness,
    for a man does not prevail by his own strength.

    Those who oppose the Lord will be shattered,
    He will thunder in the heavens against them.
    The Lord will judge the ends of the earth.”

    Wesley said “sin is a known violation of a commandment of God.” A right relationship with God inevitably brings with it obedience from the heart, highly valued by God. This obedience is noticeably absent in the Reconcilers.

    Christ may not be what they want, but Christ is what they need. It is not too late for them to turn back to God.

  4. Comment by Cheri Mielitz on April 4, 2018 at 1:04 pm

    I would agree completely. You can’t change God’s word to fit the world’s view. We must stand on and be obedient to the word of God. What are we reconciling to? I believe God loves us all the same. We are all sinners and we need to repent and turn away from our sins. God will not be mocked and it is stated in the Bible that we are not to change His word. Now all my life I have been taught from God’s word what is right and what is wrong . I’m a Methodist , but I’m not going to stay in a church that condones sin, marries it, and puts it in the pulpet. I want to love and have compassion for all. I want to know how we can help . I also want to follow Jesus, and do what he would do. I think he would love unconditionally, He would tell them what is wrong and right compassionately, and then He would say repent and go and sin no more. I am not homophobic, or a bigot. I just believe God’s words are true and that watering down the gospel , and condoning sin of any kind is wrong. I’m not as worried about the numbers or the money. I’m concerned that we do what is God’s will in this situation.

  5. Comment by Charles H. Walkup, Jr. on May 16, 2018 at 6:37 pm

    Thank you for your comment. As one who has personally dealt with same-sex attraction (never gay, a false identity), I’m appalled at where the UMC seems to be headed (leaving Jesus and following the world). Those who think they can be LGBTQ and Christian have been deceived and are in darkness. What can we do? I highly recommend “The Gospel Comes with a House Key” (Crossway, April 2018) by Rosaria Butterfield, who was a college professor of Literature and a radical feminist lesbian. For 16 or 17 years now she has been married to Kent Butterfield, the pastor of First Reformed Pres. Church, Durham, NC. Unlike the UMC, they actually practice church discipline, the goal of which is to hold each other accountable for sin, that repentance might lead to reconciliation to God. “Reconciling Ministries” (Network) is a lie. That is not what they are about.

  6. Comment by J. W. Lung on February 26, 2020 at 9:38 am

    Exactly. Until we understand that “homosexuality” is a false identity and the whole structure of deceit that supports the idea of “sexual identity,” we can never minister healing to broken people. Thank you very much for your comment. Rosaria Butterfield is God’s gift to the church and the culture.

  7. Comment by Bill Ivins on March 28, 2018 at 1:34 pm

    It is true that the UMC is loosing membership and attendance all across the board in the United States. What is most startling for me is that our nation is growing, while the church is in numeric decline. As a percentage of the population, the UMC is shrinking more rapidly than we want to admit.

    Leaders within the Progressive wing of the church insist that a full embrace of homosexuality is necessary in order to bring in younger generations who (they say) are more tolerant of homosexuality. But where is the proof? The UCC, ELCA, PCUSA, and the Episcopal Church have all embraced the gay agenda. Yet their memberships are in more rapid decline than the UMC.

    RMN congregations in the United Methodist Church are mostly old and white. They’re not living the diversity dream they profess to embrace. In other words, young people are not flocking to Progressive, gay affirming congregations in the UMC.

    Where one finds growth and age/racial diversity is among the various theologically conservative Pentecostal and Charismatic churches. What is more, younger people are flocking to conservative and evangelical churches too.

    The so-called “One Church” model that is currently being talked about sacrifices Truth at the altar of diversity. If the One Church model is embraced, it will plunge the United Methodist Church into the abyss and we’ll become an obscure, scarcely read footnote in Christian history.

  8. Comment by Gail Eileen Jordan on May 3, 2019 at 6:31 pm

    That is absolutely stupid – young people are NOT flocking to any churches and it is the older, white people who are against inclusion in their churches by the LGBT community. Young people do NOT waste their time in Church and seldom attend any Church except when they are with their older parents and on special occasions. So – don’t know where you got your incorrect info. from but it is 100% inaccurate.

  9. Comment by Brad Pope on March 8, 2020 at 6:30 pm

    Gail- not sure where you live but that is absolutely happening in Atlanta. Explosive growth in bible believing non denominational churches overwhelming younger (18-30 years old), see Passion City. All UMC churches in the city declining and all are quite progressive. Good people in both but the growth difference is dramatic

  10. Comment by theenemyhatesclarity on March 28, 2018 at 1:57 pm

    Excellent article, Ms. Chung. Thank you for your research.

    In Christ,

    The enemy hates clarity

  11. Comment by Jamie Hamrick on March 28, 2018 at 4:42 pm

    This is just clear evidence! Thank you

  12. Comment by William on March 28, 2018 at 4:46 pm

    Forget the bishops and what they appear to be planning to propose. Special General Conference 2019 so desperately needs to be turned into a Bible Conference — with the orthodox forces coming in with Scripture as their weapon and challenge the progressive forces to bring forth their Scripture that backs up their claims that the practice of homosexuality is not a sin, and their Scripture that supports same-sex marriage. Let the delegates then vote. If the vote turns out to be liberalizing the sexual ethics and definition of marriage for the church, then we will know for sure that Satan is in control and the necessary division of the UMC can commence. Otherwise, the progressives who refuse to repent and come home could be invited to exit voluntarily or involuntarily to a denomination friendly to their agenda.

    Turn this General Conference into a BIBLE STUDY and let the decision be based on that alone — not some secular driven “local option” or “three branches” structure that would be mostly devoid of Biblical support.

  13. Comment by Christine Simcisko on March 30, 2018 at 9:24 pm

    I completely agree with you idea of turning the 2019 General Conference into a Bible conference.

  14. Comment by MikeS on March 28, 2018 at 11:11 pm

    For groups like this, shrinkage is not failure, it’s success. The goal is Power and Control. Taking control of a shrinking group is something they count as a victory.

  15. Comment by James Waugh on March 29, 2018 at 11:03 am

    This is a straw man argument if I ever saw one. Ms. Chung cherry picked the data that she wanted to use (RMN churches). The only way her article would have any validity is if she would have researched a group of similar non-reconciling congregations in each conference/jurisdiction and tracked them over the same period to see if they gained or lost members. This is nothing but a hatchet job and smear tactic on behalf of the IRD (why am I not surprised).

  16. Comment by John Smith on March 30, 2018 at 7:51 pm

    Then this is a great opportunity for you to show the errors and prove that RMN congregations don’t suffer greater losses. You won’t because we know the data won’t support it and cherry picking attacks on methodology simply show the weakness of the attack.

  17. Comment by James Waugh on April 1, 2018 at 6:27 pm

    This article has so many holes in it that you could drive a Mack truck through it. The author did not use any control data to back up her point. I don’t have to prove it, she does. It is really shameful to publish an article such as this. However, given the agenda of IRD, this is what I expect from them. Sad.

  18. Comment by Brad Pope on March 8, 2020 at 6:38 pm

    I agree that lacking control data was a glaring oversight and very unfortunate because I am certain it would have proven the premise of the article. Other than Adam Hamilton’s church I know of no other growing progressive congregations.

  19. Comment by Donald on March 31, 2018 at 2:59 am

    I will eagerly await your providing documentation that refutes this article. Until then, you have simply demonstrated one more time that the so-called “progressive” wing of the various Legacy Denominations can only call names and provide unproven templates for their assertions.

    This pattern exists within every one of the Legacy Denominations. So far the PC(USA) is winning the race to see which one of them can get below 1M total members – but somehow no one is cheering that pattern.

  20. Comment by Marti on July 15, 2019 at 9:16 pm

    I so agree–finally someone who saw thru the prejudice and fear in this article. So sad to see how many have missed the message of Jesus, who embraced and loved all. Love is letting go of fear.

  21. Comment by Daniel on March 29, 2018 at 5:47 pm

    While I totally respect Christians who want to maintain the historic teaching on marriage, I think the language and ACTION around this issue must change to make any inroads among the LGBT community and those who are their friends and family. I have many friends who are in monogamous same-sex relationships, only one of the couples has married, even though it’s legal now. That alone tells me something, not that they don’t love one another, but that they don’t necessarily think marriage is the answer.

    I think the language needs to change is that instead of constantly attacking RNM or LGBT-affirming Christians, it would behoove to preach the Gospels and let the Word stand for itself. I think it’s already been made pretty clear that if UMC does change the BoD on marriage, that there will indeed be a split. I fully expect that to happen, but I believe if it needs to happen, it shouldn’t be primarily over LGBT people. It’s about sexual ethics more broadly. Those calling for changing the language of the BoD have not been absolutely clear what they want. Is it just marriage equality or is it a complete liberalization of sexuality. Unfortunately, I suspect it’s the latter, which will be absolutely unacceptable to pretty much everyone.

  22. Comment by Nancy Loomis on July 19, 2019 at 11:34 am

    I so agree with you. My church, as well as other nearby churches in Montgomery Co. Md are going through a kind of agonizing decision about “a way forward.” There are a few congregations who have already made the “leap” to become a “reconciling” congregation. I’m more or less in the “one church” camp. One reason for this is that I came from a larger church in another state that had many gays in its congregation (and this was my first exposure to gays in any church.) These members and attendees were open about their sexuality and were welcomed as any other member or visitor would be. At least a few gay members were longtime members and very much a significant part of the makeup up this diverse and growing, yet biblicly grounded congregation. This was my experience during my time there from 1998 to 2008. When I checked recently on their website, and under the leadership of another pastor who been there for some 5 years or more, they are STILL a growing & vibrant congregation, incredibly involved in their surrounding community. They have not transitioned to become a “reconciling” congregation nor do I believe they will make that move in the near future. Love in Christ, acceptance and understanding of others who may not be like the more dominant “us” is first & foremost, what is essential. Churches who believe that becoming a “reconciling” congregation will prove to the world that they’re “on trend” with societal thinking and not homophobic, are, IMHO, making a theologically false leap that could ultimately dwindle their membership and leave a church that was thriving, hollowed out and just hanging on.

  23. Comment by Daniel on March 29, 2018 at 6:22 pm

    Why didn’t my last comment get posted? Please email me the reason or please post. Thank you.

  24. Comment by Wade Arnold on March 29, 2018 at 11:49 pm

    I really appreciate the effort you put into the research for the article; however, the statistics you generated are ultimately meaningless as presented. Could it be that RMN congregations had lower rates of decline than other churches in their jurisdictions, or better yet, in their districts? If your point is that RMN affiliation is bad for a congregation, then you have to show empirically that their rates of decline are greater than non-RMN affiliated churches, which you have not done.

    My point is this, without comparative data, the data you present is uninterpretable. If you would like some help in designing this type of research, feel free to contact me.

  25. Comment by Will Davis on March 30, 2018 at 3:39 pm

    I understand what you mean but there is also a preponderance of anecdotal evidence that the gay issue will cause a loss of members in the long run. It caused a complete split in the local Presbyterian Church in my city. One group wanted to adopt the stance that PCUSA ordered but more than half didn’t so the church was cut in half with a lot of hurt feelings.That coupled with the move by many mainline churches toward minimizing the belief in the Resurrection is causing many to look elsewhere. The Resurrection is, after all, the reason we are Christians.

  26. Comment by Darren Wertz on March 30, 2018 at 4:31 pm

    Sadly the picture this brings to mind is of A fleet of empty ships, carrying no one to heaven.

  27. Comment by Brendan on March 30, 2018 at 4:33 pm

    Interestingly, (except for the South Central, strangely enough) the decline in active worshipers was always higher than the decline in membership.

    This would likely be a much larger hit to a congregation than the simple numbers reflect. In a church, as the old saying goes, “90% of the work gets done by 10% of the people”. Losing an active and involved worshiper, who attends every week, regularly donates to the church, and likely holds a volunteer position or two, is going to hurt a congregation much more than losing someone who is carried on the membership roles, but only shows up at Christmas and Easter.

  28. Comment by John Smith on March 30, 2018 at 7:55 pm

    My problem with this article is one of the major problems I have with the UMC. The focus is on bottoms in the pews and coins in the plate.

    If RMN is correct it doesn’t matter if its losing members. If the conservatives are wrong but gaining members it doesn’t matter. Which one is right, not which one gets more members, should be the question.

  29. Comment by Skipper on March 31, 2018 at 10:39 am

    Had they upheld the truth it wouldn’t matter if losing members, but they present a false message. Those “rightly dividing the Word of God” will recognize same-sex relationships as evil and inappropriate. Unfortunately, many will make that choice anyway. As followers, Methodists are here to help turn them back to God.

  30. Comment by Rev. Laura Schultz on March 31, 2018 at 1:08 am

    My experience is that every church I have seen that a has become reconciling has lost members and has lost diversity.

    When I attended Foundry UMC in Washington, D.C., it was the most diverse church that I had ever been too with an interesting and companionable balance between liberals and conservatives. Those who were gay were openly loved by all who were in the congregation. Once it became reconciling, those on the conservative end felt that their values had been pushed aside and their theology no longer was allowed to be part of the conversation because the other voices quieted down their contribution to the dialogue. Most of the conservatives left the church, reducing it to about half its size. What a shame.!!

    Even more disturbing was the fact that those who had witnessed healing from sexual confusion and change, were very harshly shunned and quieted without the opportunity to share the restorative gift, the transformation, that true reconciliation could bring.

    Real dialogue was stifled, and evidence of real healing was severely censored.

    This also became true of the Baltimore-Washington Conference of the UMC, where those with voices of healing and restoration were shut out and refused a voice in the public forums such as annual conference and editorial participation in the conference news paper. Those in charge made sure that debate was limited by forming small groups to express feelings, not theological depth.

    And despite the General Conference rulings and admonition against using funds to support the RMN, the conference news paper and email announcements were regularly used to promote the RMN meeting and causes.

    In addition, the rules of the annual conference in regard to exhibits at annual conference specifically prohibits the exhibits that go against the Book of Discipline, yet the RMN was allowed prominent display space at each annual conference. Appeal to the Bishop and organizers was dismissed without resolution.

  31. Comment by Charles H. Walkup, Jr. on May 16, 2018 at 7:01 pm

    Thank you for your comments/observations. As one who has dealt with same-sex attraction (never gay) and have been set free by God’s Word, patience, and grace, you have confirmed what I experienced at the UMC I (wife & children) had attended for over 40 years. When the previous pastor brought in another UMC pastor to introduce us to “Reconciling Ministries”, I was the only member who spoke against it. (It passed 80-5). I offered to facilitate discussion groups, but was ignored. When the new (older woman) minister (a social justice warrior for LGBTQ) came on board she tried to silence me, in a private session with a list of demands for me to sign. I simply replied, “Like Peter and Paul, I must obey God, not men.”. In April 2016 (3 weeks before Gen. Conference), a retired black Methodist Bishop was scheduled to guest preach. On the prior Fri. night I discovered he had married 2 men in ALA and been disciplined(?). On Saturday a church friend called to tell me that he and the minister had married 2 men in our church on Saturday. She supposedly was discipline, but is still misleading the congregation today. And yes, they have lost members. On Sunday, the retired bishop ended his sermon by saying that “the Discipline is wrong.” and called on the congregation to follow their example. When he finished I stood and shouted out “As one who has experienced homosexuality, I affirm that the Discipline is correct. You have defiled this sanctuary. You have rebelled against the church. Jesus warned of false shepherds who would mislead his precious sheep.” I exited. Monday’s Charlotte Observer’s front page picture/article was of the wedding. On Tuesday, I received an email from the minister that I was banned from the church, and that if I set foot on the property, the police would be called. When I emailed back and asked to meet and reconcile, the answer was “no”. So much for “reconciling” ministries! The people walk in darkness.

  32. Comment by Jim on August 5, 2018 at 12:43 am

    This bisexual group of people is the reason gay rights don’t progress in church. They see themselves as being healed, when it’s more that they choose to represent another side of their sexuality. That is great, but not all peopke who are gay are going to have that same experience, and that’s why this guy was probably asked to leave.

  33. Comment by Michele on September 6, 2018 at 11:32 pm

    Charles, wow Praise the Lord for granting you freedom! I also experienced freedom in this area. There were a number of occasions when Jesus healed people and it was not well received. Like the time he healed the blind man who was subsequently thrown out of the synagogue. After the pig incident, the people Begged Jesus to leave their region. They said he shouldn’t heal on the sabbath. They said it was satans power by which he cast out evil spirits. (He responded that there are consequences for blaspheming the Holy Spirit) After raising Lazarus, they plotted how to kill him. These negative responses continued when the apostles healed people and the Sanhedrin threw Peter and John in prison, beat them and ordered them not to speak in this name anymore. Not everyone is glad when healings occur.

  34. Comment by Edie on March 31, 2018 at 8:16 am

    Your argument starts from the false premise that people don’t like Reconciling, your second is that church membership has dropped, your conclusion is that churches that are reconciling will lose members. Let me show how silly this argument is. I propose that church members do not like population growth, church membership has dropped, therefore population growth is the cause of church membership decline. I belong to a Reconciling congregation that has become more Christ centered as a result of becoming Reconciling. I would much rather be part of a smaller Christ centered church that is as inclusive as Jesus was than to be in a mega church that unlike Jesus hates a lot of people.

  35. Comment by Julie on April 2, 2018 at 5:24 pm

    I believe it is safe to say all UMCs have lost worship attendance and members in this period in the US. I don’t think it fair to single out churches affiliated with RMN without comparing them to comparable size conservative congregations. Furthermore, I’ve never heard of a congregation affiliated with RMN to leave the denomination yet at least 2 congregations in Mississippi and 1 in Pennsylvania have done so in less than 2 years. I look forward to an updated version of this claim when 2017 numbers are in and those decreases are counted.

  36. Comment by Julie on April 4, 2018 at 12:19 am

    Oh look, 2 more conservative (NOT Reconciling) UMC’s lose whole congregations of people. http://www.umc.org/news-and-media/2-churches-vote-to-leave-denomination#.WsQ0dk-87F8.facebook

  37. Comment by Ben on April 27, 2018 at 4:06 pm

    I am currently a United Methodist pastor, having served for nearly 20 years. I am ashamed of what the United Methodist Church has become. There seems to no longer be a place for conservative pastors. I am heartbroken by the UMC’s decision to embrace a sin that the Bible calls an “abomination” in eyes of God. Leaving the UMC may be my only option.

  38. Comment by Kenneth Doten on May 1, 2018 at 7:02 pm

    I concur with you Ben, I read a article years ago and the caption was ” the Church forgets to blush ” too many Churches of “what,s happening now ” no accountability ,anything goes, the Shepherds of the flock ( Pastors ) are going to be held more accountable in the eyes of God , I am about to leave the U.M.C. Church in Massachusetts, after 74 years , Ben, I will pray for you, ” keep the faith ” for God is in control

  39. Comment by Charles H. Walkup, Jr. on May 16, 2018 at 7:08 pm

    Dear Pastor Ben,
    My heart aches for you, and for the UMC because of where it seems headed. I’m one who dealt with same-sex attraction and was saved by God’s Word, patience, and grace. Please me my reply above to Rev. Laura Schulz for more details.

  40. Comment by Teresa on September 3, 2018 at 12:34 pm

    Thank you for standing firm on God’s word. If the UmC conferences start normalizing sin, then there’s no point in attending church any more. If you throw out one moral code, all the moral codes go flying out the window. Are the bishops going to give in to adultery, bestiality, child molesting & porn. The bible warned us about these sins for a reason, so we can live healthy clean moral lives, that our days would be long in the land. You can’t serve 2 masters or you’ll love one and hate the other. If this alternative lifestyle is normalized by the church, your teachings on alcoholism&drug abuse will be meaningless to. Instead of making excuses for behavior, get on your knees&pray for ppl to turn away from what God called an abomination. 2 chron. 7:14 is still true today. Jesus didn’t die on a cross for His churches to behave in disgrace.

  41. Comment by Brandon on April 27, 2018 at 4:39 pm

    A common theme amongst homosexuals is that they were molested at a young age. RMN aims at normalizing this through their agenda of gender and sexual fluidity being a “gift.” This begins and ends as an attack on the children who for at least two generations have become accustomed to seeing deviancy from any binary sexual relationship as natural. We now have gender spectrum and fluidity being taught to our children in the public school system and several mainline protestant churches. The overall agenda will be the normalization of sexual relationships with children by adults. Best thing a believing Christian can do today is to homeschool their children and stop attending a liberal church.

  42. Comment by William on April 30, 2018 at 6:18 pm

    If the Reconciling agenda was fully embraced, adopted, and accepted 100% across the entire UMC, would that change the Word of God on sexual immorality and marriage?

    NO! NO! NO! —- OF COURSE NOT! It would only mean that the entire church had joined the reconciled crowd on the train to hell.

  43. Comment by Cal Skinner on April 30, 2018 at 9:50 pm

    How do the declines compare with churches in each conference who did not join?

  44. Comment by Sidney on May 1, 2018 at 1:22 pm

    The cost of Christian discipleship is high, which we are willing to pay as we decide to uphold our Church’s laws that are backed by scriptures come 2019. Our biblical ferment will refine the biblical nature of the church.

  45. Comment by John Gerlach on May 2, 2018 at 10:04 pm

    The decline in membership and attendance is meaningless unless compared to a random sample of churches that did not join. Is the decline 2% worse or 15% worse? The decline could be statistically insignificant or it could be statistically significant. There could be an association and a correlation. But this report does not give enough data.

  46. Comment by John Gerlach on May 2, 2018 at 10:05 pm

    The decline in membership and attendance is meaningless unless compared to a random sample of churches that did not join. Is the decline 2% worse or 15% worse? The decline could be statistically insignificant or it could be statistically significant. There could be an association and a correlation. Or there may be no addition or correlation. But this report does not give enough data.

  47. Comment by TarenCapel on May 16, 2018 at 11:43 am

    I was raised by lapsed Protestant parents and decided to try church as a way of making friends and possibly meeting a mate when I was in my early 30s. Unfortunately most of the Methodist churches in my area were reconciling congregations and straight single men shunned them like the plague. While in a volunteer group, I met a man once in my age range who was interested in finding a 20s and 30s youth group and told him about two churches in my area. he tried both and after visiting one of the reconciling congregations told me with disgust “you didn’t tell me there would be all these gay guys with their arms around each other there.” Straight women don’t really care so much about gay men attending the church but they are hopeful about meeting straight guys and those guys are not interesting in hanging around a church with a large gay congregation. It’s just a fact of life. In another congregation the minister told us not to look to church for our social life. Um, okay, if you just want people to sit and listen to sermons about sin, occasionally shake us down for money, and then have groups that cater to the LGBTQ community but very few or none that cater to straight singles, don’t be surprised if your congregation numbers drop. People do want community and a lot of straight single people were hoping to meet mates and friends at church and subsequently learned that wouldn’t be happening. Now, if we had met friends and mates at church, I’ll bet we would be a lot more likely to be long-time church members and to baptize our children in the faith and take them to Sunday school.

  48. Comment by April user on January 22, 2019 at 10:33 am

    Thank you for sharing your perspective as a single woman. Hopefully you have found a good church and a good husband. God bless you.

  49. Comment by Anastasiya Doll on June 3, 2018 at 11:16 pm

    I do have a question…We became members of a United Methodist Church, and I was happy to join them because their book of discipline said that homosexuality is a sin. But now, I am reading so much information about how the entire church is going to compromise those values now, due to decisions of bishops. And my main concern is that our financial support of our church will actually be supporting the “reconciling congregations” since part of our money would be going to the headquarters of UMC, where the money goes to funds that all congregations benefit from, including the reconciling ones. Is that not so?

  50. Comment by Jace Engel on July 7, 2018 at 10:50 pm

    As a life-long Methodist I am sure you are correct about the financial support. I don’t understand why the LGBTQ group wants to force their way into a Bible-believing church that states that homosexuality is against God’s teachings. Why don’t they form their own denomination?

  51. Comment by Diane on July 10, 2018 at 10:54 am

    I hope the Methodist church splits. I have been a devout Methodist for 40 years. Our church was always very open and welcoming to all and that included the LGBTQ community. Our church won city awards for its diversity. Once it joined the RMN, the entire focus of the church changed from its ministries and programs for all to just the inclusion of LGBTQ. Every Sunday morning the sermons and prayers were about this one issue. Separate classes were created to teach the members about LGBTQ as if we were all idiots and did not know what it was. I was fine with our church joining the RMN, because we were always an open and welcoming church. But when it became the only focus of the church it was time for me to leave. It tore my family apart. It broke my heart. But all of the focus on inclusion was now making me feel very excluded. Joining the RMN is fine in my opinion, but a church should not lose track of its other purposes and ministries, which my church did. I think division may be a good thing so Methodists like me will have a place to worship and serve the Lord without being excluded because of being heterosexual.

  52. Comment by Doug on July 21, 2018 at 5:24 pm

    This is the problem with LBGT, it’s all consuming…..it’s all they ever talk about……there is nothing else….

  53. Comment by Michele on September 6, 2018 at 11:08 pm

    Diane, when I read what the Bible actually says about the towns where people were committing homosexuality, (Gen 19 Sodom, Judges 19 Gibeah) I see 2 societies that could not stand up under the weight of it. The two stories have striking similarities – the selfishness and cowardice of those weakly opposing homosexuality, the sheer determination – and anonymity – of those engaging in it, the sickening unholiness of both “heroes” (Lot and the Levite), the incredible battle and suffering on both sides, with no winners. Not a single winner in either of those stories, only loss. If that’s where we are headed, I shudder. It is not a way “forward”.

  54. Comment by April user on January 22, 2019 at 10:36 am

    Your experience is summed up in the statement “You can’t have unity without holiness”.

  55. Comment by Doug on July 21, 2018 at 5:22 pm

    Bottom Line: Why doesn’t the RMN just start their own church? Leave the Methodist Church alone. It would be interesting to know if a church that accepted RMN was on the decline before it accepted RMN. Then, you would see that truth…..that people will do anything to keep their jobs. I am pretty sure that’s why pastors invite the RMN to their church….they need to increase membership. Did you know that 29% of Methodist Members aren’t sure if God exists… that explains alot. How can you EVEN BE A MEMEBER if you aren’t 100% sure that God exists??? Which is why it is very easy for RMN to take root in the Methodist church. I wonder….how will the new Transgender Deacon teach about Sodom & Gommorah. That would be interesting to hear…..

  56. Comment by Beth Scavone on September 18, 2018 at 6:06 am

    One form of heresy and revisionism feeds into another. At Fairlington UMC, a RMN member, Moslems now worship downstairs. This is permitted, in the name of “inclusiveness and tolerance.” But if we the clergy and congregants don’t defend the sanctity of our religion and houses of worship, who can be expected to defend them? By the same token, efforts are made at this church to promote the rights of illegal aliens. They are referred to as “undocumented immigrants,” and we have been instructed to welcome them. Yet, if illegal aliens are merely “undocumented immigrants,” are not burglars merely uninvited houseguests?

  57. Comment by Beth Scavone on September 18, 2018 at 6:09 am

    I salute the moral courage of all who have pushed back. We can be tolerant and kind without validating sin. And the greatest sin in this regard is silence.

  58. Comment by Jim on November 1, 2018 at 8:28 am

    The idea that LGBT people need to respent is rediculous. Just because a church loses members, doesn’t mean the LGBT people are wrong for being. It may be that married people with children prefer to hang out with people who are more like themselves, and that’s probably the real reason for the decline. No right wing theologian is ever going to get rid of LGBT people because they are a natural phenomenon. You can run them out of church or ask them to go elsewhere, but you can’t control that they exist, and you can’t control whether they are Christian or saved either because Jesus decides that, not a blogger or any person, regardless how Christian and right you might think you are.

  59. Comment by Mark Noble on January 1, 2019 at 4:12 pm

    This has been a very interesting read from someone that has been but currently is not attending a UMC church. Frankly some of the best teaching I ha e sat under was a UMC in Houston. I am looking for a new church in my area and now know some of the right questions to ask. I have recently attended several Eco Presb churches – interesting history on this issue. Here are my observations : on the LGBT issue many opposing view churches throw out the baby with the bath water. I know Scripture and teaching on the issue but I also know what Scripture teaches on reaching the “lost” be they gay or not. Many churches are so staunch in advocating an anti view they alienate those in that community. This is a shame – I would offer them a warm atmosphere that does not condone but does reach out in love. I have seen many in the LGBT community that are hurting – we have the solution. Share it in love as Christ did in John 13. I wax on. Thanks again for the great conversation and oratory.

  60. Comment by Donald Moeller on January 12, 2019 at 9:20 pm

    Both arguments , pro and con, based on statistical interpretation of membership loss are sophomoric. Unless a validated inventory instrument is used to assess the reasons church members/ attenders leave a congregation, (and that is by asking each person who stays and or leaves the reason for their action,) no factual reasons can be discerned. The study of sociology usually indicates that a spectrum of reasons accounts for human decisions. In theology there are fewer reasons, usually based on catechisms, which account for human action. In that group of Christians who believe that the Bible is the inspired Word of God only one reason is needed to leave ANY denomination and that is failure to follow the Word of God..

  61. Comment by Roy Hollingsworth on January 23, 2019 at 12:43 am

    It is impossible to have a “conversation” with someone who, in response to your assertion of Romans 1:18-32, says “it just doesn’t mean that.” Well, it meant that for nearly 2000 years and I’m sorry, it still means that today. Anyway, they are not about the bible any more; they are about the BOD, “our law book,” as they say, which can be changed by a majority vote. The UMC is about to lose the U. OK by me.

  62. Comment by Richie on February 26, 2019 at 1:20 am

    For nearly 2000 years, Romans 1:18-32 has been about lust and power versus love and equality. Paul says so throughout the passage. And then he makes this point in 2:1 “You, therefore, have no excuse, you who pass judgment on someone else, for at whatever point you judge another, you are condemning yourself, because you who pass judgment do the same things.”
    If we’re not supposed to judge other people’s sins, what are we supposed to do? Paul spends a lot of time getting from 2:1 to 13:8. But we finally get there. And all this talk of the law leads to the most important part of Paul’s letter

    Romans 13:8-10 “Let no debt remain outstanding, except the continuing debt to love one another, for whoever loves others has fulfilled the law. The commandments, “You shall not commit adultery,” “You shall not murder,” “You shall not steal,” “You shall not covet,” and whatever other command there may be, are summed up in this one command: “Love your neighbor as yourself.” Love does no harm to a neighbor. Therefore love is the fulfillment of the law.”

    So there you have it. What Paul’s full discussion of all of the legal transgressions leads to is the Law given by Jesus at the Last Supper. Love one another as I have loved you. This is the Law Jesus brought to the world. Paul, in his own special way, tries to make the point throughout the letter, as he has to make peace with the end of his life under God’s covenant with Israel and transitions to acting out of love (a slave to love) under the new Law brought by Jesus.

    You want an answer to how to grow the church? Do what Jesus told us to do, Love each other as Jesus loves us. In this case, “each other” means there is no us and no them. We are all lost sheep, we are all adopted. Sure, we can run away, but that just makes us more lost, and no less adopted. In fact, our role in loving one another makes us the sheep dogs, out in the woods and crags, helping the lost sheep get home. And then we turn the rest over to God.

  63. Comment by JImmie on February 28, 2019 at 4:31 pm

    Correlation is not causation. Membership is down across the board in the US. One reason the church is losing membership is because youth see through the hypocrisy of picking and choosing the “abominations” that the self-righteous feel need to be enforced. Ezek. 18: 6-13
    Lending with interest is just one example. On that abomination alone we are all “reconciled” by our participation in our economic system. Let see… pork and shellfish, gossip, haircuts, women speaking in church…. I wonder which of these should be enforced along with anti-homosexuality rules?

  64. Comment by Randy A Hayes on March 13, 2019 at 1:23 pm

    This is not real research. There was no control group matching congregations that were not reconciling with those there were. Without a control group, no conclusions can be made. Further, other possible factors for membership decline should have been tested for in both reconciling and non-reconciling congregations. I spent decades doing and reading research and have been published by reputable journals, and have taught classes on doing accurate and meaningful data analysis and I can assure you that this article would have been rejected by any serious research journal. This article is an example of hunting for and manipulating data to support an already arrived at conclusion and is thus not research.

  65. Comment by Randy A Hayes on March 13, 2019 at 1:36 pm

    A second comment on this ‘research’ is that there was no null hypothesis. The author states that she doing the data analysis ‘to prove the theory.’ Research is never done to prove a theory. Research is always worded so that a null hypotheses (i.e. that there is no correlation between elements being studies) is either proven or disproved. Again, this is data mining to give the appearance of proving an opinion and not research in any sense of the word.

  66. Comment by John Quillen on March 18, 2019 at 12:29 am

    Language regarding homosexuals was first introduced into the Methodist Book of Discipline in 1972, which is the same time the Methodist church started its continual decline. (see http://www.gcah.org/history/united-methodist-membership-statistics) That’s arguably at least as strong, but probably as equally unlikely a correlation.

    I understand the conclusions reached by some when faced with scripture on this topic. My struggle is with the correct response when considering all of scripture…

    How do the Greatest Commandments – to love God and love neighbor apply? How do we make disciples if we judge people at arms length before establishing a relationship with them that leads to faith? And, why the explicit judgement? (Plank in one’s eye; Matthew 7:1-5 & Luke 6:37-42), Judging another condemns yourself; Romans 2:1-3, Cast the first stone; John 8:1-8, …)

    How does one who considers homosexuality a sin, who acknowledges that we’re all sinners, and who has read John 8:1-8 continue to think it’s appropriate to make this an issue? For me, this is not a rhetorical question. It has been with great struggle I’ve arrived where I am. We need to be respectful of each others’ earnest efforts to walk in faith. Jesus is literally counting on us.

    Personally, I would rather face final judgement for welcoming a gay person and allowing them to live their lifestyle and find their own path than risk leading them away from faith and salvation.

    Please take a moment to consider whether Biblical teachings have been abandoned or simply approached with a different emphasis.

  67. Comment by NancyC on June 28, 2019 at 5:26 pm

    I don’t think the issue is whether or not same sex and related couples are sinning. For many the answer is clearly yes. And yes we are all sinners to one degree or another. The questions I hear are do we want those who are promoting a lifestyle that we consider primarily sinful to be leading the church and to be our example and the example to children. Are they to lead us? Also as a sinner I do my best to follow the Word as I understand it to be. But who leads me? Am I then indirectly accepting/promoting a sinful lifestyle by accepting a leader who is LGBTQ? Does my spiritual life too then revolve around promoting acceptance of LGBTQ lifestyle? Some would say yes and others would say no. If I accept my leader is gay do I then need to filter everything he says through a filter of “ but he is living a gay lifestyle” or do I disregard that critical part of his life choice? Sexual orientation has become a critical choice or decision in today’s world. So if we consider him justified in his decision then is scripture merely a suggestion? Outdated? Not relevant? Do we disregard Romans 1:15-32? If accepting LGBTQ is our primary focus in church then where is God? And yes we are to love God and one another. I can be loving in my heart to someone but not personally accept their lifestyle choices or life path. I can be discerning without judging or condemning. But is this path what God intends for us? Are LGBTQ persons welcome in my church? I certainly hope so but I that does not mean I want the liturgy conducted based on convincing others to accept LBGTQ as an accepted and Godly lifestyle. Is letting LBGTQ lead doing the right thing as if this is the path for Godly living? Who then is my example? If you say Jesus, please remember that he is a roughly first century Jewish Rabbi follower of the Torah and an observant Jew. He fulfilled the teachings(law) he didn’t abolish it. He searched for the lost sheep of Israel( Jews). Homosexuality is forbidden in Judaism too. Yes today there are homosexual Jewish congregations. Would he love LGBTQ persons as neighbor? Yes I’m confident he would. But would He advocate for LGBTQ to be accepted as a valid Godly lifestyle? Surely not.

  68. Comment by JR on September 21, 2019 at 5:24 pm

    Everything -love, justice, good works are all interpreted in the lense of social justice framework, and those who say otherwise is demonized as oppressors, anti-Jesus, and false Christians.

    A church that offers nothing but a platform for social justice activist will lose their flock. People have more to worry about than looking nice socially and be politically correct.

    Church needs to decide whether they will get their pastor as leaders who will defend and teach the orthodox faith and tradition, or as a propaganda puppet chasing Marxism overheard from their theology teachers who also does a failing job.

  69. Comment by Michael caldwell on February 27, 2020 at 12:18 pm

    Interesting look at statistics. But, one might want to look at other statistics. In the Texas Conference a very conservative conference with the restrictive langue in place, the over all numbers of the Conference declined. While there was increase in some “good news” churches there were also an increase in moderate churches but the pastors of those church’s were not affirmed for their efforts. This non-affirmation tended to lead to the destabilization of the moderate churches. This type of activity is not reflected in statistics.

  70. Comment by Doyle T. Brittain on April 23, 2020 at 4:07 pm

    First, I would like to express my appreciation to the staff of Juicy Ecumenism; The Institute on Religion & Democracy’s Blog, for the fine work they do.

    The first lies recorded in the Holy Bible (unabridged KJV) came from Satan who convinced Eve to disregard God’s Word. Times have not changed. Future President Thomas Jefferson made his own bible by cutting out (selecting) only those Scriptures from the Holy Bible that he believed. Then, he put only the Scriptures that he believed in one notebook and disregarded all others. Sad to say, the UMC is following Eve’s and Thomas Jefferson’s example by picking and choosing what part of the Holy Bible to believe and what to reject. Paul warned that this time would come. 2 Tim. 4:3.

    How do these liberals think they know more and better what should and should not be in the Bible than the lone, eternal Creator of all things? Where and how did they get that superior knowledge? If they do not believe any one Scripture in the Bible, how can they believe any other Scripture in the Bible, such as John 3:16? And yet they write stuff that would turn a buzzard’s stomach, like the God Is Dead book, and teach theology to seminarians! Little wonder the UMC is in the mess they are in now. They went to sleep at the wheel and failed to learn from the Baptists who cleaned house in their churches and seminaries a few years ago. Payday is coming and doesn’t always come on Saturday.

    So, when these liberals are at death’s door, will they call for the revised UMC bible modeled after the Thomas Jefferson bible, or the revised Discipline which dates back to the hippies and free-love, or the church membership roll? It is highly unlikely that they will call for the divinely inspired and inerrant word of God (unabridged KJV of the Bible) that they have scoffed for so many years. (2 Pet. 1:21) I hate to think about it, but hell still has plenty of room to accommodate them if they choose to go there. You can believe a lie and be damned! (1 Thess. 2:11-12)

    2 Tim. 4:3 – For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but after their own lusts shall they heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears.

    2 Pet. 1:21 – For the prophecy came not in old time by the will of man: but holy men of God spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost.

    Rom. 1:28 – And even as they did not like to retain God in their knowledge, God gave them over to a reprobate mind, to do those things which are not convenient;

    1 Thess. 2:11-12
    11 And for this cause God shall send them strong delusion, that they should believe a lie:
    12 That they all might be damned who believed not the truth, but had pleasure in unrighteousness.

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