Thursday, May 22, 2008

The United Methodist Genreal Conference and the Next Christendom

In his 2004 work, The Next Christendom, Philip Jenkins compellingly argued that while God may not be dead, as Nietzsche said, he is moving on. Number crunching statistics that are far more obvious than they are mathematical, Jenkins noted the decline and liberalization of Christianity in northern more occidental nations, notably the U.K. and less notably the U.S., and the growth of a more orthodox/conservative brand of Christianity in the South.

Agree with Jenkins or not, based off the recent General Conference of the United Methodist, Edgar Cayce might as well have penned The Next Christendom.

The United methodists are rapidly becoming less American, if they ever were. Slightly under 8 million members of the UM reside in the US, while 3.5 million and growing live overseas. In fact, 1 million members call the Democratic Republic of Congo home, all faithful Sunday attenders, nearly matching Sunday attendance of American adherents.

At this year's UM General Conference, 30% of the delegates were from outside of the US, many from Africa, up 10% from just four years ago. While in forty years, the UM has lost over 3 milion members in the US, membership is growing exponentially in the Southern Hemisphere. And how do they vote?

Just a couple of weeks ago the United Methodist General Conference voted against the practice of homosexuality as a practice incompatible with the teachings of Christianity 517 to 416, a narrow margin in light of tradition. Without the outspokenly conservative presence of 192 African delegates the United Methodist may have made the headlines just a few days ago.

So, according to Jenkins, within 40 years, the roles may be reversed, and with The UM General Conference as a case study he may be right. Perhaps when I am 68 an African United Methodist Missionary for Christ may be imposing his world view upon my apostate neighborhood, much to the disdain of southern anthropologists.

What do you think?


Anonymous said...

I'm still so sad about this vote at the General Conference that I don't even know what to say about it -- it's one of those things that hits me right at the core.

Thanks for reading my blog.

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