An impartial observer would note that the UMC is in steep decline — all of the mainline denominations are (unless you count the SBC, which is only in moderate decline). However, there is emerging a new mainline — of Catholic and Pentecostals, if not Anglicans. And there is a reason for that.
In two recent articles, we see something of a confirmation to the idea that “conservative” churches (i.e., churches that not only require something from their members but likewise encourage worship participation) are growing. The counter is that the “liberals” are dying. There are other marks to “conservative” and “liberal” beyond expectations. Doctrine, for instance. In dying denominations, historic Christian doctrine is often cast aside for 21st century Americanism. There are also other markers — such as a more inclusive outreach. For instance, the AG and the RCC are reporting high numbers of Hispanics and non-whites attending their congregations.
The UMC is the whitest of the mainlines. And in the UMC, the WJ is dying the fastest. Perhaps because of the PWN AC which is in the most racist part of the country. Is there a correlation between the death of the WJ and the racism of the pacific northwestern part of the country? There may be, given the need to cast Christianity not into the light of Afro-Semiticism of historic Christianity, but in the Euro-American centric halls of “Progressive Christianity.” I guess, perhaps, doctrine and inclusion go together.
Anyway, here are two articles to take a gander at:
Mainline Protestant churches are in trouble: A 2015 report by the Pew Research Center found that these congregations, once a mainstay of American religion, are now shrinking by about 1 million members annually. Fewer members not only means fewer souls saved, a frightening thought for some clergy members, but also less income for churches, further ensuring their decline.
The U.S. Assemblies of God closed 2016 with the highest annual number of new churches in its history. The 406 new churches also brings the total number of U.S. churches to 13,023—exceeding the 13,000 mark for the first time.
Maybe it is time for the remaining (old) mainlines to decide what they want to do.