By Linda Bloom
United Methodist News Service
For the first time since the 1930s, the
A preliminary report from the denomination's General Council on Finance and Administration, released June 21, shows that total
Membership decreased 1.05 percent in 2005. Earlier this spring, a GCFA report released in April, "The State of Our Connection," noted that
Church attendance in 2005 was 3.34 million, the lowest level in reported history, according to GCFA. Attendance had decreased by 1.63 percent from 2004 to 2005.
The trend is different for membership outside the
According to Scott Brewer, GCFA Office of Analysis and Research, the initial data for 2005 is incomplete, but "in past years these reports have provided a relatively accurate prediction of the final statistical totals."
Although some of the denomination's annual conferences are still meeting, GCFA had set an earlier deadline this year for preliminary statistical reports from the conferences. The information was then shared with the leadership of the United Methodist Council of Bishops.
Bishop Scott Jones of
"The council has been aware of the decline for some time," he said. "We take this news very seriously."
Jones is a member of the council's plan team for implementation of its focus on "Making Disciples of Jesus Christ for the Transformation of the World."
A major emphasis has been placed on starting new congregations in the
Outreach to Hispanics and immigrant groups in
In 2007, a convocation for district superintendents, lay leaders, conference staff and bishops is planned "to focus on how we can make disciples of Jesus Christ and improve our efforts at strengthening local congregations," Jones said.
The council expects that these efforts "will bear fruit in the next five to 10 years," the bishop added.
The council also is paying attention to the successful membership efforts of conferences outside the