African Methodist

Africanizing United Methodism

on November 26, 2019

United Methodism’s finance agency says overseas (central conference) church members next year will outnumber USA (jurisdictional) membership and may already. USA membership in 2018 fell to 6.71 million, its 54th consecutive year of decline, having lost more than 130,000 members.

Overseas membership in 2017 was nearly 6.5 million, almost all of it in Africa. Overseas church attendance in 2017 already exceeded USA attendance, 2,558,622 versus 2,588,883. Every USA region is declining, though more liberal areas in the West and northeast are declining faster.

United Methodist News Service looked for a positive spin about USA membership, noting an uptick in Hispanics, from 68,088 to 80,968. But that’s only 1.2% of USA membership even as Hispanics are close to 20% of USA population.

United Methodism today has fewer USA members than 100 years ago, when its predecessor bodies totaled over 7 million when USA population was only 100 million, compared to 320 million today. USA membership began declining in 1965 and has lost members every year since, which means virtually no active minister has ever known a growing denomination in the USA.

In the 1960s United Methodism in USA had over 11 million, or 4.3 million more than today, a drop of nearly 40% while USA population grew over 50%.

Of course, total global United Methodist membership continues to climb. As the USA loses 100,000 members annually the African church gains between 100,000 to 200,000 members every year.

This African growth means United Methodism is the only expanding USA based Mainline Protestant denomination, the others of which have nearly all USA memberships and have lost one half or more of membership.

United Methodism’s African membership has also prevented it from following other Mainline churches in liberalizing its marriage teaching. The church’s prohibition on same sex unions and sex outside male-female marriage, reaffirmed in February, is thanks to the growing African churches, which are overwhelmingly conservative theologically.

At next year’s General Conference USA liberals, through their “UMCNext” plan, are advocating that USA traditionalists leave the denomination. Passage is very unlikely, but even it were to pass, it would leave USA liberals as a minority and the Africans in the majority. Another liberal plan would organize the USA church into a self governing area setting its own liberal standards, which the Africans are unlikely to abide.

Far likelier is that next year’s General Conference will divide United Methodism into two theologically separate denominations. The liberal one will be almost entirely USA based, perhaps numbering 3-4 million. The conservative one will be global, numbering 8-9 million. It will be about two thirds or more African. American traditionalists will have to learn to function as a minority in terms of nationality, but they will be part of a transnational majority in orthodox theology.

  1. Comment by David on November 26, 2019 at 12:35 pm

    You are assuming that conservative white southerners would want to be in a denomination controlled by Africans.

  2. Comment by Mike on November 26, 2019 at 1:12 pm

    Better to be controlled by conservative Africans than by liberal unsaved white Americans.

  3. Comment by Geary Rowell on November 26, 2019 at 4:02 pm

    As a white man and clergy from Alabama, who has been a member of the UMC since 1950, I can only hope your comment is an attempt at some sort of sick humor!

  4. Comment by Joan Wesley on November 27, 2019 at 10:22 am

    I do not doubt that there will be Americans that have trouble with the concept of Africa being the majority; and it will be for various reasons, including race. However, to say that all southern conservatives will have problems is not true. This conservative southerner believes that the rise of Africa could be the best thing that happened to the UMC in a long time.

  5. Comment by David Gingrich on December 1, 2019 at 5:48 am

    This conservative southerner ALSO believes that the rise of Africa could be the best thing that happened to the UMC in a long time.

  6. Comment by td on November 27, 2019 at 4:42 pm

    Hmmm. How about how white northern orthodox christian believers will feel about being in a church with black orthodox christian believers?

    Unfortunately, the umc in the US is being consumed by US political ideology- especially among its liberal members. It seems that this is a symptom of a dying church whose US clergy and members have no idea what christian beliefs and faith are.

  7. Comment by Robert Moulton on December 2, 2019 at 3:18 pm

    This white, northern Methodist is just fine with the traditional church being predominantly African and black.

  8. Comment by td on December 2, 2019 at 8:01 pm

    Me too! I was pointing out the blatant stereotyping that is occuring in the umc today- mostly along lines drawn during the civil war.

    I personally would prefer if the umc was led by our african bishops instead of our reckless american bunch.

  9. Comment by Larry Bassett on December 1, 2019 at 12:21 am

    The “assumption” regarding “White Southerners” within the UMC being more invested in “race” than in theology and faith practice is in my experience far from reality. Born into the Methodist Church in Arkansas in the year in which the MECS and others reunited, 1939, and having worshiped and served in churches throughout “the South” as well as elsewhere, the notion of “being controlled” by anything or anyone other than Holy Scripture is where your post’s wondering assumption initially goes wrong.

  10. Comment by Donald on December 2, 2019 at 7:42 pm

    What a racist statement! Shame on you!! Or as we say in the South, “Well bless your heart!”

  11. Comment by RuthAnne Henley on December 3, 2019 at 5:43 am

    I am a scripturally conservative southerner who happens to be white. I am growing more weary by the minute of being portrayed as a white supremacist. I am amazed at the meanness of those who preach tolerance, inclusion and “listening to every voice” but plug their ears, harden their hearts and define others dishonestly. God give us Orthodox Christian leaders of any and all races! We are all shades of the same color anyway.

  12. Comment by John Smith on December 4, 2019 at 6:50 am

    Look at the white conservative southern episcopal churches that reorganized under African bishops. Your exuberant embrace of stereotypes is showing.

  13. Comment by Frederick S. Sayeh on February 16, 2020 at 9:37 pm

    It is only out of racism that your ONLY take-away from the article is: “controlled by Africans”; it contaminates your question, Dave.

  14. Comment by Happy to be part of a church filled with africans too. on November 26, 2019 at 1:15 pm


    Leave your racism and bigotry behind, it’s not healthy. Projection onto other others your preconceived notions of how people think is wrong and unhealthful. It is also exactly how the progressives in the denomination see those who don’t buy the sexual ethics they are selling.

    Your post is just another proof that this split should have happened years ago, not just over sexual ethics but many other political, social, and cultural issues. I just cannot get over how bigoted your post is, but it’s normal for a progressive these days and a great shame.

  15. Comment by jeff Allen on November 26, 2019 at 2:37 pm

    Has anyone besides me noticed how intolerant liberals and progressives are. They can’t even hide their contempt for those who disagree with them.

  16. Comment by Dave on November 26, 2019 at 5:03 pm

    I’ve noticed, I’ve noticed!!

  17. Comment by Mark Wesley on November 26, 2019 at 7:32 pm

    Wow, David.
    If you had any credibility left, you just chunked it with that post. Probably best for you to call it day here and go troll some other site.

  18. Comment by JOHN W MARSH on November 27, 2019 at 1:48 pm

    The Catholic church is experiencing a similar demographic dynamic. Privileged to see church history being laid out in our lifetimes. The torch is being passed from the West to the South.

  19. Comment by MC on November 30, 2019 at 1:27 pm

    I wish we could have a human church that, collectively, actually follows the WORD. I know I am not the only one in the world who believes everything written in God’s Word; which includes the part about Him creating me – not me creating Him. Therefore, He gets to make the rules, not me. So, ANYONE who (paraphrased “bottom line”) believes in Jesus will go to Paradise. I have never seen where color, race or ethnicity is a deciding factor. I also believe all past sins are not a factor IF the sinner recognizes the sin, asks for forgiveness for the sin and makes every effort not to repeat the sin, but to repent. My Bible tells me that ability came to me through the Cross. The “every effort” part is determined by God, who is the ONLY one who KNOWS the heart. Therefore, I am so grateful for the African Conference for being more Christ-like. This does not surprise me because they, and many others, have endured heavy persecution for being Christians; while we Americans, fairly recently, advanced to our politically correct persecution stage. Of course we recognize “the signs of the times”, noted in the Word, as a conflict of Spiritual Battle. I believe the African Conference can show us how to stand up to the liberal, progressives, by their example of faith in God and His Holy Word. They are BOLD, just as Jesus told us to be; they do not “do” politically correct.

  20. Comment by Trish on November 30, 2019 at 2:05 pm

    Have prayed for African missionaries and Praise the Lord, they’re here!!!

  21. Comment by Rebecca on November 30, 2019 at 2:24 pm

    Many Methodists in America have been Black and are black. And, the Methodists have mainly been in the Midwest- more so than in the South. And, Methodists were very much against slavery… At least that is my understanding. Also, at least one black Methodist preacher had an Indian tribe for a congregation, and saved that tribe from extinction. All to the good.

  22. Comment by Paul on November 30, 2019 at 3:46 pm

    Actually the Methodist Episcopal Church split over slavery.

  23. Comment by Kristen on November 30, 2019 at 2:40 pm

    I am thrilled and deeply grateful to Africa for not succombing to the decay of American morals. As a white southern woman, I can only say thank you, thank you for standing up for historical Christian principles.

  24. Comment by Macy Rivera on December 2, 2019 at 3:54 pm

    Amen! Africa and the Philippines are the backbone of the Traditional UMC. I’m so glad they are growing, because someone must stand up for the USA’s UMC.

  25. Comment by David on November 30, 2019 at 3:08 pm

    This is truly a tipping point, and as a conservative Congregationalist in Canada, this scenario may be of interest to our denomination.

  26. Comment by Jerry Kulah on November 30, 2019 at 3:23 pm

    While we may be growing numerically, we have the challenge of protecting and preserving biblical orthodoxy in Africa, amid subtle, silent invasion of liberal theology from the West. Pray for us as we endeavor to build and operate biblically committed, and Christ-centered theological institutions in Africa by Africans. The need for contextual African Theology cannot be overemphasized.

  27. Comment by Noel Madding on November 30, 2019 at 9:24 pm

    Sometimes we see God working before our very eyes and can’t see it because we are to blinded by what we perceive as our decisions are what make the difference in the UMC . I see God moving in Africa as a way to wake up an institution that was founded on Biblical and Scriptural principals and the leading of the Holy Spirit. God will use everything to build His Kingdom and draw lost souls to Him. We just need to be aware of the Holy Spirit’s movement and follow the prompting the Spirit.

  28. Comment by Warren Budd on December 1, 2019 at 8:46 am

    I am a 77-year-old 2nd year student at Asbury Seminary. A big part of this rich experience has been my interaction with the African students. They are dedicated and smart, and almost all can tell you a story of religious persecution. Being in a denomination with the Africans in the majority would be a spiritual rush.

  29. Comment by cbustertx on December 1, 2019 at 4:28 pm

    Mark Tooley, which reorganization plan does your last sentence, “American traditionalists will have to learn to function as a minority in terms of nationality, but they will be part of a transnational majority in orthodox theology.” refers to?

  30. Comment by Paul York on December 3, 2019 at 9:03 am

    Many years ago our church had the pastor and choir form a black UMC church do the Sunday service. It was the most joyful service I have ever attended. Totally the opposite of the boring service I was accustom to.
    When I hear the words “the joy of the Lord” the memory of this service always comes to mind.

  31. Comment by Diane Amdahl on December 3, 2019 at 5:27 pm

    The Traditionalists still follow the Scriptures, our Book of Discipline and the Wesleyan theologies. Why is it suggested that we leave the church we believe in? Why not the progressives leave since they don’t like the rules and have changed God’s word to fit their needs?

  32. Comment by Thomas Lesh on December 5, 2019 at 12:09 pm

    Blurb statements do not a discussion make. What would John Wesley say? Probably something along the lines of (contemporized) What did Jesus Say & Do? Jesus’ Church body includes all who have God as their Father; who, because of the complete work of Jesus Christ, have been supernaturally “born again” (from above) by the Holy Spirit, and therefore dedicate their lives to walking in supernatural loving, learning and obedient life with Jesus (through/in/whatever… the Holy Spirit). So we are FAMILY to All whom God has received.

  33. Comment by John Smith on December 6, 2019 at 6:50 am

    True, the question being identifying the same, wheat and tares and such not. Thus we are left with the simple things: Be Holy as I am Holy, Obey my Commands, Beware the Leaven of the Pharisees, Confess that Jesus is God all of which are tied to the concept of church discipline and thus we are back to the BOD and its enforcement.

  34. Comment by Rev. R. Edward Cope on December 7, 2019 at 11:14 am

    I am an 80yr. old, retiree, Conference member. I remember my grandmother frequently announcing Sunday mornings how much their WSCS sent to African missionaries! How God has blessed their sacrificial efforts!! Cannot despise their faithful service!!!

  35. Comment by Rev. R. Edward Cope on December 7, 2019 at 11:31 am

    God changed my life and led me into the UMC ministry. Now thrice retired I still serve when asked. In the midst of this seeming disparaging of Africans in the UMC, I have been reminded of my grandmother frequently announcing on Sunday mornings how much support the WSCS sent to African missionaries! Their giving was small in today’s terms but were largely blessed by the Lord they served!! Disparagement seems a sad response!!!

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