— Mission Statement —
Providing honest reporting and analysis on the intersection of contemporary issues and theology, based on a Biblical Christian Worldview.

HomeIn the NewsUnited Methodist Church – A Response From an Insider to the Conflict

United Methodist Church – A Response From an Insider to the Conflict

An Attorney, representing churches leaving the denomination. 

Background

Last week we published an article that used the defection of congregations from the United Methodist (UMC) denomination over the last few years as an example, cautioning all church staff regarding the cost of acquiescing to a woke culture vs. holding firmly to their traditional Biblical Christian roots (details here). It resulted in some controversial responses (see details) and sadly, an unusual, but minor drop in subscriptions to our publications. 

A Further Response

This short post may sound like a doubling down on the subject, however, it would not have been written had we not received the following comment from a reader, (not a Methodist), who has had intimate knowledge of the firestorm within the UMC denomination over the loss of real property, financial support, as well as churches and congregants in general. Below is his unedited comment (with his approval to print). 

“As a California lawyer, I represented dissenting UMC churches who looked to leave the Methodist denomination back in the ’90s and through the 2000s (along with churches from other mainstream denominations.)
These churches were leaving their denomination because the denominations had become unmoored from what they considered biblical traditions.
I am not a Protestant. What I discovered surprised me. What I learned was that, at that time all mainstream Protestant denominations had lost upwards of 50% of their membership since the 1970s. When corrected for population growth, this was something like 80%.
This was at a time when these denominations were pursuing “inclusion.” The UMC slogan was “Open hearts, open minds, open doors.”
Of course, what the UMC – and other such denominations – were doing was chasing off the 99% of the population that had children in order to bring in the 1% who would never have children. Quite frankly, the 1% were not much interested in rules associated with being Christian or belonging to any religion that had any rules.
The collapse of mainstream Protestantism is the greatest unknown story of American history.
Given the importance of mainstream Protestantism to the formation of America’s pluralistic ethos, it is a frightening and significant development.”

Assessment

One could write a book, much less a post, on what this attorney has brought out in his short comments. He has a right to his opinion, just as we all do. However, again, he possesses unique and credible insight into the tension within the UMC, given his exposure to several churches as they disconnected from their denomination (often complicated by centrally owned physical property housing the disenfranchised congregants). Further, he generalized his experiences to a broader statement on the broader group of mainline Protestant churches, traveling the same road of theological liberalism.

Referencing his comments on a 50% membership loss, we can all find different statistics on these trends, but the fact remains that mainline Protestant churches are seeing a continuing decline in church attendance at a much faster pace than evangelical and independent Christian churches (see detail).

Mainline Protestant Churches in General

Quoting from a Christianity Today article entitled, “Mainline Protestants Are Still Declining, But That’s Not Good News for Evangelicals” (details here)…

“If there’s one overarching conclusion that comes from studying survey data of American religion over the last several decades, it is that fewer people identify with an established religious tradition every year. The ranks of religiously unaffiliated also called the nones, have grown from just about 5 percent in the early 1970s to at least 30 percent in 2020.”

As a corollary to declining attendance these mainline Protestant churches are experiencing, is the dismantling of traditional theology in an attempt to broaden their attraction to an increasingly elusive tithing member. An article in Religion News (detail here) titled, “Mainline Protestants, though divided politically, make room for clergy’s views” strengthens this view. This late 2023 article summarized 3,066 lead pastors from a poll conducted by PRRI with the following key points. Further details from the same poll can be found here and suggest members often do not hold the same degree of progressive viewpoints as their church leadership and denominational ruling bodies.

Mainline Pastors and their policy-setting superiors, responded to the poll with the following results. 

  • 49% Were Democrats, 28% Independents, and, 14% Republicans.
  • 55% Identified as politically liberal.
  • 69% Opposed allowing small business owners to refuse to serve LGBTQ patrons if it violated their religious beliefs.
  • 73% Opposed the Supreme Court decision to overturn Roe v. Wade.
  • 79% Agree that their congregations should get involved in social issues.
  • 55% Identified as liberal, 22% as moderate and 22% as conservative.
  • Only 12% agreed with the statement, “God intended America to be a new promised land where European Christians could create a society that could be an example to the rest of the world.”

Conclusion

American church attendance is, and has been for some time, in decline. However, mainline churches like the United Methodist denomination have become splintered by the increasingly liberal stance of lead pastors and their policy-setting administration on social issues. We all will answer to the Lord for our actions. Fortunately, Christ paid the price for those who accept Him. However, teachers of God’s truth have a higher standard.

Titus 2:7-8 – Show yourself in all respects to be a model of good works, and in your teaching show integrity, dignity, and sound speech that cannot be condemned, so that an opponent may be put to shame, having nothing evil to say about us.

James 3:1 – Not many of you should become teachers, my brothers, for you know that we who teach will be judged with greater strictness.


Salvation – Eternal Life in Less Than 150 Words

Please Read/Respond to Comments – on Medium

AuthorJeff Hilles | BCWorldview.org 

PodcastListen or Download

YouTubeSubscribe or Watch

RELATED ARTICLES

Recent Articles