(Photo: UMNS/Kathleen Barry)
Global membership in the United Methodist Church passed the 12.5 million mark in 2012, reaching a record number for the denomination, according to recently released statistics.
Despite continuing its decline in the United States, the UMC maintained a trend of growth in developing countries, which greatly contributed to reaching the record number.
A UMC spokesperson provided The Christian Post with a statement from Scott Brewer, associate general secretary of the UMC General Council on Finance and Administration (GCFA). "In 2012, The United Methodist Church continued to see its greatest growth centered in Africa and the Philippines," said Brewer. "Although there are also conferences in the United States and Europe that also reported increases…the greatest growth is found in what's often referred to as the Global South."
American membership continued its years-long downward trend, as the GCFA reported that the number of UMC members in the United States went from 7,481,383 by the end of 2011 to 7,390,691 members at the end of 2012.
Of the 12 Jurisdictional or Central Conferences, the largest is the Southeastern United States with approximately 2.8 million members. A close second was the Congo Central Conference, mostly comprised of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, with nearly 2.6 million members.
Some believe that the trend of UMC growth in Africa and decline in America will become even more pronounced within a decade.
Mark Tooley, president of the Institute on Religion & Democracy and himself a Methodist, wrote in November that African Methodists could outnumber American Methodists in eight years. "Between 2009 and 2012 United Methodist congregations in Africa gained over 662,000 members in just 3 years. Meanwhile, the U.S. church lost about 290,000 members during those three years," wrote Tooley.
"At the current rates of increase for Africa and decrease for the U.S., African United Methodists may outnumber U.S. United Methodists within 8-10 years. United Methodism in Africa has been gaining about 220,000 members annually while the U.S. church loses about 90,000 annually."