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UMC in United States still shrinking Sam Hodges, Feb 27, 2012
By Sam Hodges Managing Editor
UMC membership and average worship attendance in the United States continue to drop, according to the latest figures released by the denomination’s General Council on Finance and Administration.
GCFA said membership dipped 1.4 percent in 2010, having declined 1.2 percent in 2009. Average worship attendance was down by 2.3 percent in 2010, compared to a drop of 1.9 percent the year before.
In 2010, only 54 percent of churches reported receiving any members by profession of faith or faith restored.
But participation was up by 4 percent in 2010 for Christian formation classes, and by nearly 11 percent in covenant discipleship groups. Vacation Bible School participation rose by almost 6 percent.
Non-apportioned giving to mission increased by more than 10 percent, and direct giving to UM-related causes went up more than 29 percent.
Local UMC churches in the United States reported serving 1.1 million people through day-care and education ministries. Nearly 26.3 million people were served through ministries of outreach, justice and mercy.
“Amid some of these worrisome trends, we continue to have strong signs of life in our churches,” said Scott Brewer, assistant general secretary for connectional services at GCFA.
Giving in 2010 to the Advance, including contributions to the United Methodist Committee on Relief (UMCOR), rose by 146 percent over 2009. That was due in part to contributions to Haiti for earthquake relief.
“In times of great need, such as the devastation caused by natural disasters, we have seen United Methodists respond with tremendous generosity,” said Laura Chambers, senior research for GCFA.
The agency also reported that 17 annual conferences paid 100 percent of their general apportioned funds for 2011. In 2010, 15 conferences hit that mark.
The Holston Conference increased from 61 percent in 2010 to 100 percent in 2011.