(Photo: Reuters/Adam Hunger)
Some Methodist leaders have expressed doubt that the 45 members of the United Methodist Church in Congress will effectively cooperate as a unit.
Despite the common religious affiliation, some Methodists outside of the federal government doubt that there will be cohesiveness among the UMC members of Congress. Mark Tooley, president of the Institute for Religion & Democracy and author of a book on the history of Methodism in America, told The Christian Post that after Prohibition, cooperation among Methodist politicians has been rare.
"Perhaps, but their UMC affiliation likely won't play strong role in that cooperation. There are few public policy issues that unite UMC members except possibly gambling," said Tooley.
"Ideally, UMC members would unite behind defense of traditional marriage, sanctity of life, religious liberty domestic and global, and opposition to gambling, human trafficking, pornography and pernicious narcotics."
Chett Pritchett , interim executive director of the Methodist Federation for Social Action, told CP that the common identity would not necessarily aid in cooperation.
"Party affiliation or geographic location or religious beliefs are not necessarily pre-requisites for elected officials to have the ability to work together for the common good," said Pritchett.
"I would hope that United Methodists in Congress can work across those boundaries so they might affect real change in the lives of people around the world. Our task, as constituents, who happen to be people of faith, is to hold them accountable for serving the common good."
In the soon-to-be sworn in Congress, there will be 45 members from both chambers who belong to The United Methodist Church. Though a large number, it is three fewer than the previous 112th session, which had eleven Senators and 37 Representatives.
Breaking down the numbers, UMC members of Congress include nine Senators and 36 Representatives. This includes 32 Republicans and 13 Democrats. Five newly elected Congressmen belong to the UMC, including Democratic Senator Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts and Republican Representative Tom Cotton of Arkansas.
The 45 Congressmen are part of what analysts call the most religiously diverse Congress in American history. According to The Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life, the 113th Session will include the first Buddhist member of the Senate and the first Hindu member of either chamber.
While Congress remains majority Protestant, it is a much slimmer majority than a half century ago, when three-quarters of the two chambers subscribed to a Protestant denomination.
In addition to 45 members of Congress, there are also five governors who belong to the United Methodist Church. The Republican governors are Rick Scott of Florida, Phil Bryant of Mississippi, and Nikki Haley of South Carolina, who was raised in the Sikh religion. The Democratic governors are Jay Nixon of Missouri and Earl Ray Tomblin of West Virginia.