Conservatives greatly outnumber liberals in the United Methodist Church: poll

"In findings released earlier this month, the survey found that 44 percent of respondents identified as 'Conservative-Traditional,' 28 percent identified as 'Moderate-Centrist,' 20 percent identified as 'Progressive-Liberal,' and 8 percent identified as 'unsure.'" - Christian Post

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Ed Vasicek's picture

I am surprised at how many conservatives remain in the UMC. They must be good at ignoring their denomination's image.

"The Midrash Detective"

John E.'s picture

While I'm sure that some are ignoring it (or ignorant of it), I've spoken to several conservative UMC pastors while writing articles on this, and they are deeply concerned and waiting to see how the final eggs get scrambled. If this goes the wrong way, the UMC's days are numbered - and very quickly numbered. I'm not necessarily defending their "wait and see" approach before they act, but conservative's love for their denomination is causing them to hope and pray that it will undergo a conservative reformation.

WallyMorris's picture

The UMC church will not have a conservative reformation - It's been heading this way for decades. After the vote this week, the question for any Methodists who still believe the Bible will focus on whether to stay in the denomination. I think you may be surprised at how many decide to stay in order to be a "witness", in addition to keeping property and retirement benefits.

Wally Morris

Charity Baptist Church

Huntington, IN

Bert Perry's picture

Keep in mind a lot of families have been Methodist for a long, long time.  Walking away from it is very hard, and it takes (as in ELCA) a big shift to force them to fish or cut bait.  You also have the issue of "who owns the deed" in many areas.

This survey ought to inform the discussion, though, as ELCA lost about 25% of their members when they made an un-Biblical decision on this very issue a few years back.  A slow bleed became a hemorrhage, really.  And as I've noted before, what happens in small towns a lot is that church buildings really aren't worth that much except as a church, and when a denomination shrinks a lot and abandons one building, other, thriving churches can pick them up for a song.  

Aspiring to be a stick in the mud.

dcbii's picture


Bert Perry wrote:

Keep in mind a lot of families have been Methodist for a long, long time. .  

The pastor of the church I spent the most time in as a child left the United Methodists in the 1950's over what he saw in the denomination then, but he chose to become an independent Methodist, not really all that much different from Baptists becoming independent of a denomination or fellowship.  Sure, it did mean leaving a group with paid-for buildings and starting over, but he considered the change worth it, and he didn't even need to give up being Methodist.  He's long gone now, but if he saw what he did in the UMC in the 1950's, he would hardly recognize that denomination now.  My point, though, is that while one might leave a denominational structure, there's no reason that one cannot go back to principles that that denomination used to hold without changing entirely to something else (like becoming Baptist).

Dave Barnhart

Ed Vasicek's picture

There are several former United Methodist churches in our area than became non-denom community churches.

The church I pastor has roots in the Evangelical United Brethren before they merged with the Methodist Church to become the United Methodists.

In the original version of "Does Inerrancy Matter?" by James Montgomery Boice with a forward by J.I. Packer, (1979), the ICBI author talks about a study of 10.000 clergy done by Western Reserve University.  

"....All the question was really asking was: Do you believe the Bible is God's Word in any unusual sense? Yet, in spite of the level at which the question was asked,

82% of the Methodists

89% of the Episcopalians

81% of the United Presbyterians

57% of the Baptists

57% of the Lutherans

answered, "NO!"

I often wondered if this survey was flawed, because I do not see it quoted anywhere else. 

Even if it is off, I think it is fair to say that a higher percentage of Protestants in our day are more conservative than in the past.  The Untied Methodists, I believe, have become more conservative (as a percentage) than when I first became a believer in 1974, for example.

So I can understand why the Good News Fellowship, for example, is hopeful.  But I think many of the big city churches (like in the Chicago area, where I am from) tend to be either neo-orthodox or completely liberal.  

When I hear of such things, the fundamentalist instinct, "Come out and be separate" kicks into high gear with me.

"The Midrash Detective"

Bert Perry's picture

Ed, one of my college roommates did a senior thesis on church history, specifically on church responses to the civil rights movement of the 1960s, and while I can't remember the specific numbers back in the early 1960s, I do remember that it was really, really dismal.  Your numbers from the 1980s are not, in my view, out of line.  I vividly remember as well the interplay between theological liberals and evangelicals in my childhood Methodist church, which I ended up leaving simply because the contrast between what I was reading in Scripture and what I saw in "my" church was too great.  

Aspiring to be a stick in the mud.