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Religion Library: Methodist

Modern Age

Written by: Ted Vial

In the 1960s, the Methodist Church in Great Britain began talks on unification with the Church of England.The Church of England rejected this proposal in 1972, but the two churches signed a covenant in 2003.As of 2004, the Methodist Church in Great Britain claimed 293,661 members.

Like all mainline denominations in the United States, the United Methodist Church has a declining membership.When the United Methodist Church was formed in 1968 out of the merger of several Methodist churches, it claimed 11 million members.In 1999 it had 8.4 million members.The African Methodist Episcopal Church currently counts 3.5 million members, the African Methodist Episcopal Zion Church 1.2 million members.

Women have long played a leadership role in the Methodist Church.In 1956 it approve full clergy rights for women.In 1980 Marjorie S. Matthews became the first United Methodist female bishop.

In the United States the Methodist Church is divided over questions surrounding homosexuality.Officially, it holds that all people have sacred worth, and that the church should be in fellowship with all people.It prohibits celebrating same-sex unions.Reverend Jimmy Creech was defrocked in 1999 for participating in such a service.In 1987 Rose Mary Denman was defrocked in New Hampshire for being openly gay, and in 2005 clergy credentials were removed from Irene Elizabeth Stroud because she was in a lesbian relationship.

While Methodism is shrinking in Britain and the United States, it is growing elsewhere.There are 1.5 million church members of the Korean Methodist Church, and the KMC launched a campaign in 2002 to increase that number to 3 million.In South Africa there are 1.7 million Methodist Church members, and in Zimbabwe 112,529 members.In general, churches outside Europe and the United States tend to have a more conservative reading of the Bible and more conservative social values.


Study Questions:
     1.    How is Methodism continuing in contemporary society?
     2.    Describe Methodism's history of female leadership. Why might it be a favorable option for women today?
     3.    Why do Methodist Churches outside of the U.S. continue to grow, while domestically they are experiencing declines?

 

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