5:45 P.M. EST March 8, 2010 | NASHVILLE, Tenn.(UMNS)
The recession continues to affect giving to The United Methodist
Church at a time when the denomination is experiencing its largest
percentage decline in membership since 1974.
United Methodist churches in the 63 annual (regional) conferences of
the U.S. contributed 84 percent of what the denomination budgeted to
support ministries around the world in 2009. The total apportioned was
$150.3 million; $126.3 million was collected.
Meanwhile, membership dropped 1.01 percent to 7,774,420 in 2008,
according to the latest data from the United Methodist General Council
on Finance and Administration. The council coordinates and administers
finances for the denomination. Average worship attendance was down 1.83
What continued, amid sacrifices, was the work of the church,
“With the economic ups and downs of 2009, church leaders are
reporting that ministry happened on tighter budgets, and the people of
The United Methodist Church are still supporting the mission of the
church,” said Moses Kumar, top executive of the council, and Bishop
Lindsey Davis, president of the council.
Fourteen of the U.S. annual (regional) conferences contributed to
the church’s global ministry funds at the 100 percent level. Fourteen
conferences also increased their giving percentage over 2008. In 2008,
18 conferences paid 100 percent.
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The conferences at the lowest end include Northwest Texas, 58
percent; Alabama West Florida, 59 percent; Memphis, 59 percent; and
California-Nevada, 50 percent.
Those paying 100 percent are Alaska Missionary,
Baltimore-Washington, Central Texas, East Ohio, Greater New Jersey,
Illinois Great Rivers, Iowa, North Carolina, Oklahoma Indian Missionary,
Peninsula Delaware, Red Bird Missionary, Rio Grande, New York and
The conferences that increased their giving over 2008 are Holston,
Kansas West, Louisiana, Missouri, North Texas, Northern Illinois, Rocky
Mountain, South Georgia, Southwest Texas, Texas, West Virginia,
Western Pennsylvania, Wyoming and Yellowstone.
Statistics reported by local churches and annual conferences
indicate that professing membership in 2008 was down 1.01 percent over
2007, the largest percentage decline since 1974, when membership
dropped 1.06 percent.
Membership was the highest, 10,789,624, when the Evangelical United
Brethren and Methodist churches merged in 1968. It has been declining
since the mid-1960s.
There are signs of growth, however.
Eight conferences reported increases in membership, and seven
reported increases in worship attendance, said Scott Brewer, executive
with the council.
The number of constituents – persons who are not officially members
of the church, but for whom the church assumes pastoral responsibility –
increased 1 percent over 2007, with 36 conference reporting increases
in this category.
“We assume that increasingly people getting active in churches today
are more reluctant to officially become a member of the church,”
Brewer said. “This indicates the picture may not be as bleak as the
membership data alone indicates.”
Churches with memberships of 100 and less reported a decline in
membership of 2.25 percent, while churches with 3,000 and more members
increased membership by 1.9 percent.
Spending in the local church was down 3.63 percent from 2007, with
expenditures down in all categories except spending on lay staff
compensation and benefits, which saw no change.
The 2011 apportionments distributed to annual conferences are 2.68
percent lower than originally approved in the budget by the 2008
General Conference, the denomination’s lawmaking body.
“The work of The United Methodist Church continues on. Ministry is still
happening, lives are still being touched, and we are still making
disciples.” -- Scott Brewer
“The apportionment formula is designed to adapt to
changing economic conditions,” Brewer said. “We expected spending in
the local churches to be below expectations for 2008 and it was. By
apportioning less than was originally budgeted, we hope we can aid more
conferences and churches in fully paying their part of the
“It is clear from the data that 2008 was not an easy year for our
churches. The reductions in spending reported in the statistics and the
stories we hear from individual churches tell us that many
congregations had to make tough decisions in the face of some difficult
situations. However, it is also clear from the data that the work of
The United Methodist Church continues on. Ministry is still happening,
lives are still being touched, and we are still making
*Gilbert is a news writer for United Methodist News Service in
News media contact: Kathy L. Gilbert, Nashville, Tenn., (615)
742-5470 or firstname.lastname@example.org.