Shunning the UMC?

Very interesting article, from Jeremy Smith, about the top 100 United Methodist Churches in the US and how many associate themselves with the United Methodist Church and which do not.  Three Western North Carolina churches are mentioned in here (Good Shepherd, Christ, and Crossroads).  I found this article interesting and I wonder if this trend will continue or eventually will the pendulum swing back? 

Jeremy also has an interesting follow up.

These posts pose a great questions about where our feet should be.  One foot in our past, acknowledging, repenting, celebrating and the other in the future, changing, adapting, and moving for
ward.  Once again, as a church and denomination we are in the extreme center.

Clergy Death Tsunami?

Lovett Weems has predicted that a death tsunami is coming, starting in 2018.  Between the years 2010 and 2050 there will be an increase of 50% in the national death rate.  Much of this is because of the aging out of the Baby Boomer generation.  Weems predicts this will hit the UMC extremely hard.

This is a tweet I saw at the end of September; : “34,000 United Methodist Churches in the US and only 685 UM Pastors under 35. The  needs to take this seriously.”  He tweeted this while attending the Church of the Resurrection’s Leadership Institute.  Then question arose, in the twitterverse whether 685 is  out of elders, all clergy including local pastors, or just ordained ones (elders and deacons).

This got me thinking and asking the question, “how many clergy are really out there in the UMC.”  Could I verify the 34,000 number of churches?  Searching some stats online from the GCFA (General Council on Finance and Administration) it confirmed that there are 44,404 total clergy in the UMC as of May of 2011.  Here is the breakdown:
                   Elders in Full Connection (EFC) = 31,406
                   Deacons in Full Connection(DFC) = 1,471
                   Probationary Deacons (PD) = 302
                   Probationary Elders (PE) = 1,850
                   Associate Members (AM) = 1,766
                   Full Time Local Pastors (FTLP) = 2,781
                   Part Time Local Pastors (PTLP) = 4,810

If there are really only 685 pastors under 35 (I cannot find where to verify that number and if anyone knows I would love to know, please share) here is the percentages against the different pastors within the UMC: only EFC = 2.18%; EFC + DFC = 2.08%; ALL = 1.54%.

By the time the death tsunami stops in 2050 the oldest young clergy today will be 74.  This means these 2%ers will see dramatic, I mean DRAMATIC changes in the UMC in their careers.  If 98% of the clergy are over 35, I bet even the majority of that number are over 50. (Once again this is my guess I cannot find an age breakdown of those 44,404 clergy anywhere)  This means in the next 10-15 years there will be a retirement tsunami within the clergy.  This has the potential of cutting the number of clergy in half by the year 2025.  OMG!

Here are the questions that arise out this staggering percentages.

  • If my thinking is correct and the number of clergy is cut in half in the next 10-15 years, it will leave around 23,000ish clergy to run the 33,814 congregations and 25,947 pastoral charges. Is this possible?
  • Will there be enough clergy to sustain a dying church by 2050?
  • Will all of these 685 (which, I am included in) hang around to pastor a dying denomination?  (BTW: my answer is yes, I’m in for the long hall)
  • Do conferences and districts have to switch their thinking about young clergy to produce the leaders our denomination will need?  Example: The current system likes to place young clergy in smaller churches or charges to gain experience and then 20 years later they get placed in the size churches they grew up in (usually larger congregations). Will they be able to wait 20 years if the pool of clergy turns dramatically shallow?  Or will younger clergy be forced, due to circumstances, to take a more active and demanding leadership role in the denomination/conference/districts?  Are there ways our conferences/districts could prepare for that?
  • Will the US churches be forced to move to a more “circuit” style (like the British Methodist Church) because there won’t be enough clergy to go around? 
  • Will pensions even exist by the time I retire when I am 68 in 2045?  If there is such thing as retirement by then.
  • Can we as a denomination survive? 
As I talked with a friend of mine who graduated with me from seminary and turned 35 yesterday he told me he now realizes how much change will happen in our careers as ministers.  The truth seems to be, the UMC that I was ordained in will not look anything like the UMC I will retire in.  

Religion’s View of Sex

Here is an interesting graphic describing the different views religions have on sex (and others). (HT: The Blingdom of God) It is interesting to note that Roman Catholics are the only Christian denomination mentioned. Yet, I don’t think that many Protestant denominations would disagree with all the views. But I do think they wouldn’t get as much red.

I learned that Buddhists allow with masturbation and homosexual orientation. I am curious though what is behind the “in most cases”? Roman Catholics believe it is not right to masturbate but in some cases it is okay? I to would rather someone touch themselves and not others. Also, what cases is it wrong for Jews to use birth control?

My limited knowledge of the Jewish faith also has me questioning their stance (of course according to this graphic) on premarital sex. I was a little shocked that they are so ‘for’ premarital sex. Being our ‘father’ religion, I thought they would have a stronger tone to it. Or at least be against the idea.

Upon further research into the stats behind this graphic I was lead to and their survey on teachings by faith groups on sexuality. Within this research is even some more interesting facts. Below is their list, and their numbers mean, 1 = “condemned”, 2 = “morally unacceptable in most cases”, 3 = “neutral” or “no clear position”, 4 = “morally acceptable in most cases”, 5 = “blessed”.
The website states that the information came out of the following: “The San Francisco Chronicle compiled a checklist of sexual ethics “based on official reports and expert advice.” 1 They included four Christian denominations (Baptists, Roman Catholicism, Methodism and Mormonism), and three non-Christian religions (Buddhism, Islam and Judaism). By “Baptists” they seem to be referring to conservative Baptists, like the Southern Baptist Convention. By “Judaism” they may be referring to Reform or Conservative faith groups. “
It is interesting to look at the different beliefs about human sexuality within the different major religions. I am in agreement of their findings on Methodists. Although I think it is telling when you look at the numbers on homosexuality. We have a 4 or morally acceptable in most cases on homosexual orientation but then we have a 1 and two 2s when it comes to homosexual acts or lifestyles. That kind of sends a mixed message. You are of sacred worth, you just can’t live it out. I guess it is the idea, love the sinner hate the sin.
Very interesting though. Enjoy and let me know you thoughts.

Denominational Challenge – THE FINALS


In unbelievable fashion David has defeated Goliath. The United Methodists who got to the finals after a slow but methodical win over the Southern Baptists. The connectionalism of the UMCs was in full force and there was plenty of team work that wore down the autonomous at heart SBs. The Non-Denominationals got to the finals to the finals after a long battle with the Roman Catholics. The Pope pulled out all the stops but it couldn’t contain the passion the Non-Denom Phenoms held. The fact that it was announced that Muslims have taken over the #1 spot as the largest religious group really hurt the ego of the Roman Catholics who have held onto that #1 spot for almost a millennium.

The stage was set for the United Methodist to take on the Non-Denominationals. The United Methodists put up a united front and with the courage and dedication that a General Conference year brings, they met their opponent head on. This holy conferenceing would lead to their undoing for the UMCs though. It seemed that the radical center is hard to hold together than they thought and once major topics arose divisions were seen. The Non-Denominationals though were able to hold on because they are not really a denomination to begin with. They could disagree with each other’s theology because they were not accountable to one another. This allowed them to step on all sides of issues and take no ‘official stance’ as Non-denominational congregations. In this realitive truth society, this proved to be the 4 point play that put the game away.

Congrats to the Non-Denominationals, the Non-Denom Phenoms. May you enjoy your title for the 11 months before the madness begins again.

Denominational Brackets – Final Four

The final four are set. Three number ones made it along with an astonishing win from the Non-Denom Phenoms, as they are being called now in the media. The UMC handed the Eastern Orthodox a major can of AMEN. It was a battle of liturgy and worship. The UMC threw everything at the Eastern Orthodox who stuck with their time tested and High Church style. It was then that the UMC ignited a firestorm by showing their TV commercials that included everyone. This made the EO go to their bench but their realized that the only people they excepted were those who believed in the truth (their truth that is, which defines their denomination, or at least orthodox).

The South Baptist likewise made quick work of the “Whiskicopalians” stating that they were conceived out of the sin of a King. The Episcopal could not find the answer to that one and they soon were looking at too high a deficient to climb back on top.

The Roman Catholics trained hard for this rematch with the Lutherans. Although the Lutherans hung tight with their Sola Scriptura theme, the RC were too much for them in the end. The Pope came out with a vengeance and laid down the law on the Lutherans with demonstrations of the world wide phenomenon that is the RC denomination.

And the only number one seed to lose this year was the Independent Baptists. They tried to hold it together against the Non-Denom Phenoms but the NDs were too strong. The IBs went to a man on man defense which suited their trend of being autonomous. It played well with the NDs since they think the same too. Both teams seemed to be a bunch of single players out there for themselves. It wasn’t until the NDs realized they were MORE autonomus than the Baptists because they weren’t part of a Convention or had any type of regular denomination in their name that they took the lead, held it and are going to the Final Four.

This year there are a ton of mainliners and the dark horse. Who will win, put your two cents in and come back for the results.

Denominational Brackets – Round 2

South – 2nd Round
There many bracketologists out there that thought that this region would be where the big upset out come out of. Many thought the Episcopal’s would not be able to hold things together and thought the committee was being generous in giving them a 2 seed. Their locker room drama, many thought, would get the best of them and the PCA attempted to poke holes in that area. When play turned to the topic of homosexuality the PCA looked focused and together. The Episcopals looked on their heels until someone pulled out the Book of Common Prayer. In an amazing act of unification, the Episopalians all came together and was able to put the match away in their favor. The Southern Baptists looked as strong as ever in this matchup against the Evangelical Lutherans. The EL looked scared of the SB’s size and power and the scoreboard echoed it. The SB went out to an early lead and never looked back. The EL were left scrambling to help define what made them different than all the other Lutherans but it was to no prevail. The SB rolled to meet the Episcopals in the finals in the South.

North – 2nd Round
The north was a pretty boring region this year. The Full Gospel was a nice surprise but they were like ants under a five year olds shoe, they never stood a chance against the Roman Catholics. The Pope called for two changes in the line up and they simply walked over their opponents. There seemed to be nothing the FG could do to slow the RC monster. Likewise the AMEZ looked over powered by the Lutheran World Federation. The LWF came out strong and never gave up. They stuck to their game plan and kept shooting sola scriptura. The AMEZ could not match their precious and dedication to this battle cry and went home with their heads hung low. Next match though looks promising. It is a rematch from the Halloween upset of 1517. The RC will be out for revenge but will the Lutheran’s have the energy and history to pull off a second upset? We will see because it is of course, March Madness!

West – 2nd Round
The Church of God hung with the Independent Baptist for most of the game and it looked like they would be able to pull off an upset. When it came down to fervor and inspiration, these two were neck in neck. When it came to passion and biblical knowledge, they were even. When it came to conservative values, it too was a draw. Worship styles, belief that Jesus spoke English and wrote the King James Bible, it was still a dead heat. What put the IB over the top wasn’t anything spectacular it was a simple nagging and meticulous Baptist nature that enabled them to push ahead in the end. As for the other battle. The AME came out strong and took a huge lead in the first half. They had history, organization, and unity in their side. Yet it seemed the Non-Demon Fenoms (as one supporter’s shirt called them) came out of the locker room with direction and passion. The second half was a whole different type of play and the Non-Denom took over and pulled out an amazing comeback to win a trip to the Western finals. This looks like a hard team to beat this year.

East – 2nd Round
First up was a clash of style of worship, theology, background, organization, well everything. To look at these two teams it was hard to find any similarities. The play of the game was mirrored these differences as well. The Eastern Orthodox tried to slow the game down while the Pentecostals tried to speed it up. The Pens attempted to get the crowd into it and had them on their feet with their hands in the air, when the EO’s came back with creed after creed and calmed them right back down. The firery Pens attempted to poke holes in the EO’s quoting that their holidays are weeks off from what they are supposed to be. That proved to be the Pens down fall because they could recover as the EO’s backed their holiday claims off another calendar the Pens hadn’t even heard of. The other battle was less of a news story. The United Methodists look more organized and together in years. This is a conference year for them and as always this brings out the methodical nature of this organization. It was that type of connectionalism that was too much for the American Baptists. They attempted to join together but their autonomous nature enabled the UM to overpower them and move into the finals of the East regional.

Denominational Challenge – First Round Results

Sorry about the delay but there was an Easter break in play and only the East was able to get their games played. Last night though after a great ecuminical Easter Service (perfect image of the Kingdom) we got back to business.

SOUTH – First Round
Once again the South went like the East with no upsets. The Southern Baptist’s size and determination to stand up for their beliefs no matter what, was simply too much for the United Brethren. The Free Will Baptists though did give the Episcopals a head ache. The Episcopals seem to have some inner conflict going on during the contest. There was extreme signs of disagreement and at times confusion about theological stances. This may hurt them in later rounds! The PCA were too much for the Free Methodists and by the third quarter it was evident that this mainline was going to take out the smaller denomination. The 4 – 5 matchup was a good one. The Evangelical Lutherans battled hard against the ARPs. It was a tight battle and the ARPs even when out on top when they pulled out the facts that they are the oldest Presbyterian denomination in America and that Billy Graham was raised ARP. In the end though, the Evangelical Lutherans pulled it out with their rigorous study and quoting that without Luther there would have been no Calvin.

NORTH – First Round
The North had some interesting games. The major players, the Roman Catholics and the Lutheran World Federation, handily beat their opponents. The AMEZ church, with all their flare and charisma took control in the third quarter and never stopped against the Friends United Meeting, aka – No Fighting Quakers. The real upset was Full Gospel over the PCUSA. PCUSA came out strong with their cranial style of play. They pulled into a giant lead in the first half. But this is March Madness and during this month all you need is heart and will power. Like David verses Goliath, Full Gospel fought back with their energy and excitement. Their zeal took the game over and the PCUSAs were on their heels. Bring out the coolest website intro to all denominations put the FG in the winner circle in the end.WEST – First Round
What was impressive about the battles in the West was the fact that the Independent Baptists could come together to form this powerhouse team this year. Their autonomy was extremely evident last year but this year the team they have created is one of unity and vision but we will see if that continues. The Non-denominationals scared the Wesleyans because of some of their more liberal evangelical moves. When the Wesleyans saw that some churches were going into bars and giving out shot classes they retreated quickly. That made the Non-Denom fans start a chant, “The world is OUR parish, the world is OUR parish!” This made the Wesleyans feel even more dejected. In the other games the AMEs were simply too much for the calm and reserved Seventh Day Adventists. The Church of God rolled over the Assemblies of God quoting that a church sounds like it has more structure than an assembly.

Play will continue at the end of this week so stay tuned and vote for your favorite. Where will the upsets be and who will be in the final four! Leave your comment and make your predictions.

Denominational Challenge – East’s First Round

EAST – First Round
It was an interesting contest last night with no upsets but some close contests in the East. The UMC made quick work of the Christian Zionist. Although the Zionist made extremely passionate plays the holes in their theology created too many opportunities for the UMC. Plus, with their most famous player Hagee’s endorsement of McCain they seemed too distracted and couldn’t concentrate completely on the contest. The Pentecostals overwhelmed the quiet Moravians with a flurry of Spirit filled moves. The Eastern Orthodox’s vigorous training schedule and liturgical style kept the New Life Fellowship on their heels. The American Baptist came together for a nice round of play which weighed down the Church of Christ team. For the first round in the East it seems the higher ranked teams called the shots.

Denominational Brackets Announced

Just announced today is the line up for the second annual March Madness Denominational Bracket Challenge. Posted below are the four regions and the top 8 denominations.

Here is how it plays out: BUT FIRST REMINDER: This is supposed to be fun and unusally cruel comments aobut other denominations will be deleted. This is tounge and cheek and FUN is the key word!
These denominations are not attached to teams in the NCAA tournament. The winners are choosen by two sets of rules.
First, who the favorite. If there is a huge push for one denomination to win, please let me know by leaving a comment and give your reason. For example: if you would like to see the Wesleyan’s upset Non-denominational please tell me why. Did the Wesleyan’s make the news because of something they did this year or because of a certain theological stance that makes them superior to Non-denom.?
Second, you can also tell me why a denomination should lose because of them making the news or because of a theological position.
Play along and have fun. A full printable bracket will be availible soon. Get your comments in quick though, play begins on Thursday!