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Annual Conferences Report Greater Decline in Membership


Annual Conferences Report Greater Decline in Membership Membership of the UMC in the United States declined by approximately 80,000 persons in 2004, based on un-audited numbers provided to NEWSCOPE in this year’s annual conference reports. This continues the drop in membership seen in at least three decades. Conferences reported a 0.9% decline in both membership and worship attendance. This is a larger yearly decline in membership than the nearly 70,000-person drop in 2003. During the late 1990’s, the annual decline ranged from 34,000 to 49,000. With all 63 U.S. conferences reporting, membership in the UMC is nearly 8.1 million.

Thirteen conferences reported an increase in membership, with only two, Red Bird Missionary (1.32%) and North Georgia (1.19%), reporting increases greater than 1%. Seven conferences reported declines of more than 3%. Minnesota (5.21%), Northern Illinois (4.09%), and Yellowstone (4.03%) topped the list, followed by Wisconsin (3.74%), Troy (3.46%), New England (3.30%), and Greater New Jersey (3.06%). Virginia remains the largest, with 341,773 members, but North Georgia is closing the gap and now has 337,635 members. This year’s net gain of 3,971 members in North Georgia is a smaller increase than in recent years, when membership has grown by more than 5,000, according to Bishop G. Lindsey Davis (North Georgia Area).

In the realm of worship attendance, 15 conferences report increases. Three of these––Nebraska (9.29%), Tennessee (8.47%), and Wyoming (4.58%)––had increases greater than 3%. Of these, only Tennessee also reported an increase in membership (0.57%). Five others (Alabama-West Florida, Alaska Missionary, North Georgia, North Texas, and Western North Carolina) also reported increases in both membership and worship attendance.

Of the 62 conferences reporting attendance figures (Texas reported a decline but did not give numbers), 12 reported a decline greater than 3%. Troy (11.92%), Detroit (6.82%), Oklahoma Indian Missionary (6.78%), Red Bird Missionary (6.03%), and Memphis (5.24%) topped the list. Florida reported the largest attendance figure, with 161,038 persons. North Georgia was a distant second, with 134,590 persons. The 62 reporting conferences show the attendance number equaling 42.3% of the membership figure. This percentage varies from a high of 68.8% (Desert Southwest) to a low of 25.3% (Oklahoma). Others with a percentage greater than 60 include North Indiana (68.6%), West Michigan (66.0%), and Alaska Missionary (64.5%). In addition to Oklahoma, those conferences where attendance is less than 30% of membership include Wyoming (26.6%), New York (27.8%), Troy (29.6%), and Central Texas (29.9%).

Full membership of active clergy also appears to continue its decline, with more retirements than ordinations, though this data is incomplete. Of the 43 conferences reporting both ordinations and retirements, North Indiana appears to have the largest decline in active ordained members, with six elders ordained and 26 clergy retiring. California-Nevada reported the largest growth in active full membership, with 14 elders ordained and nine clergy retiring.  

Source:
The United Methodist
THE WEEKLY NEWSLETTER FOR UNITED METHODIST LEADERS
Volume 33, No. 31/August 5, 2005

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