|Board considers global aspect of United Methodism|
Scott Brewer, director of research for the United Methodist
Council on Finance and Administration, addresses members of the Board of
Global Ministries in Stamford, Conn. A UMNS photo by Cassandra Heller.
By Linda Bloom*
Oct. 16, 2007 | STAMFORD, Conn. (UMNS)
One-third of the membership of The United Methodist Church now lives
outside the United States. But the denomination's structure remains
decidedly centered both in and on the United States itself.
How to respond to the new global reality was the topic of a panel
discussion during the Oct. 8-11 annual meeting of the United Methodist
Board of Global Ministries.
Scott Brewer, director of research for the denomination's General
Council on Finance and Administration, reported that at end of 2005, the
denomination had almost 13.8 million baptized and professing members,
which includes children who have been baptized. While the U.S. baptized
and professing membership stands at more than 8.9 million and continues
to decline, "globally, the United Methodist Church is growing," with
most of the growth in Africa, he said.
More commonly, United Methodists cite the church's size in terms of
professing membership, which stands at almost 11.5 million worldwide and
almost 8 million in the United States, as of the end of 2005.
Keeping track of such information is part of a long tradition.
"Methodism was one of the very few movements, at least in the 18th
century, where everyone counted — everyone was counted," Brewer
told the directors. "It's part of our cultural and theological DNA to
count each other."
GCFA would like to create a single, worldwide standard of information
from every annual conference, regardless of geography, he said. The data
gathered would include information about membership and participation
figures, finances, appointments, mission and ecumenical work and other
business of the annual conference.
Several petitions on the "worldwide nature of the church" to the 2008
United Methodist General Conference, the denomination's top legislative
body, address the issue of structure. General Conference meets April
23-May 2 in Fort Worth, Texas.
Rena Yocom, a consultant for the Board of Global Ministries, noted
that petitions submitted by the Council of Bishops and Connectional
Table would replace the term "central conference" with "regional
conference." The denomination's central conferences are groupings of
annual conferences outside the United States.
There also is discussion that the United States might become a
regional conference. Such changes require a constitutional amendment,
which has to be passed by two-thirds of the denomination's annual
The Board of Global Ministries has submitted a petition that would
change the current Commission on Central Conference Affairs to the
Standing Committee on Central Conference Matters.
As an independent body, the committee would "serve as the
coordinating body to study the structure and supervision of The United
Methodist Church in its work outside the United States and its
territories and its relationships to other Church bodies."
Bishop Minerva Carcaño
The standing committee would meet twice during every four-year period
to work on petitions and resolutions related to the conferences outside
the United States.
Relationships with autonomous Methodist denominations also are being
considered. United Methodist Bishop Minerva Carcaño spoke with directors
about continuing and deepening ties with the independent Methodist
churches in Latin America and the Caribbean.
The Latin American/Caribbean Methodists regret that the autonomy they
received "did not have more flexibility" to allow for unity, the bishop
said. In fact, she added, being autonomous "stands in direct conflict"
with Methodism's connectional identity and the concept of being one in
A study committee on the Relationship Between The United Methodist
Church and the Autonomous Methodist Churches in Latin America and the
Caribbean will report to the 2008 General Conference.
*Bloom is a United Methodist News Service news writer based in New York.
News media contact: Linda Bloom, New York, (646) 369-3759 or email@example.com.
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