Numbers: Distressing and Hopeful
Wednesday, April 25 / Rev. Ed Horne, Wesport (Conn.) UMC
Two reports highlighted tonight's plenary, one presenting distressing statistics about our recent history and the other gave us hope about the future.
The Call to Action reported declines in the UMC in the US over the last 5 years
- Membership: 5.3 percent totaling 423,000 Members
- Worship: 8.7 percent, a decline of 291,600 in average attendance, equaling the total of seven Annual Conferences; and perhaps most distressing of all:
- Baptisms and Confirmations declined by 21 percent – at this rate we will have no children or youth in 20 years unless we change and become a more youth-friendly church.
The discussion and debate about how to make those changes will be one of the centerpieces of this Conference.
Balancing these alarming numbers were more hopeful ones coming from our Four Areas of Focus:
- More than 600 new churches have been started in the past three years which, if we keep to that pace, will lead us to exceed the 2008 GC goal of 650 new church starts in this quadrennium.
- More than 400,000 UM's have gone on VIM trips in this quadrennium
- The Imagine No Malaria campaign has led to a reduction of the death rate due to malaria of 50% in the past three years. This still means that 500,000 people die a year, but millions are sleeping safely due to the efforts of the UMC, the Gates foundation and other non-profits. If we keep at it, the goal of eliminating malaria-caused deaths is reachable.
I'm still sorting through these numbers and what they mean, but what is clear is that the spirit of mission is alive in the UMC!