Volume 14, Number 4 Winter 2004- 2005
The New Year
Following are membership results from the annual conferences for 2004 with changes from the preceding year:
Annual Conference Membership Net Change Jurisdiction* Annual Conference Membership Net Change Jurisdiction*
Alabama - West Florida 145,8802 + 94 SEJ North Central New York 79,8954 - 1,566 NEJ
Alaska Missionary 4,044 - 88 W-J North Georgia 333,6644 + 5,399 SEJ Arkansas 139,1394,5 - 924 SCJ North Indiana 101,267 - 1,653 NCJ
Austria Provisional 6863 + 27 Eurasia North Texas 159,014 - 2,276 SCJ
Baltimore - Washington 206,8304 - 2,532 NEJ Northern Illinois 114,1514 - 1,812 NCJ
California - Nevada 89,1154 - 1,181 W-J Northwest Texas 67,7404 + 266 SCJ
California - Pacific 90,6882 - 1,6102 W-J Norwegian 13,0871 - 1031 Eurasia
Central Pennsylvania 152,632 - 2,536 NEJ Oklahoma 248,364 - 2,265 SCJ
Central Texas 157,4541 + 553 SCJ Oklahoma Indian
Czech & Slovak Republics 1,5293 + 69 Eurasia Missionary 6,232 - 50 SCJ
Dakotas 43,684 - 625 NCJ Oregon - Idaho 35,247 - 915 W-J
Desert Southwest 44,778 - 326 W-J Pacific Northwest 60,495 - 1,072 W-J
Detroit 104,0272 - 942 NCJ Peninsula - Delaware 94,2624 - 623 NEJ
East Ohio 185,041 - 2,313 NCJ The Polish Conference 2,5281 +191 Eurasia
Eastern Pennsylvania 130,5864 - 1,029 NEJ Red Bird Missionary 1,3674 + 3 SEJ
Florida 329,018 - 3,106 SEJ Rio Grande 14,927 + 212 SCJ
Germany North 7,774 - 112 Eurasia Rocky Mountain 69,608 - 1,009 W-J
Greater New Jersey 107,8374 - 1,238 NEJ Sierra Leone 100,1021 + 5,5881 Africa
Holston 168,1214 - 844 SEJ South Carolina 242,057 + 237 SEJ
Illinois Great Rivers 155,3504 - 4,308 NCJ South Georgia 139,917 - 1,419 SEJ
Iowa 198,1593 - 1,5233 NCJ South German 15,337 + 14 Eurasia
Kansas East 77,1323 + 3663 SCJ South Indiana 115,9184 - 2,756 NCJ
Kansas West 87,5242 - 762 SCJ Southwest Texas 120,428 - 487 SCJ
Kentucky 151,887 + 509 SEJ Tennessee 115,912 + 728 SEJ
Liberia 168,6183 First time reported3 Texas 209,2274 + 2,747 SCJ
Louisiana 126,846 +239 SCJ Troy 54,446 - 631 NEJ
Memphis 89,920 - 1,178 SEJ Virginia 342,106 + 785 SEJ
Minnesota 86,0724 - 2,512 NCJ West Michigan 68,4224 - 1,629 NCJ
Mississippi 190,4724 + 483 SEJ West Ohio 243,886 - 6,767 NCJ
Missouri 176,2515 - 1,861 SCJ West Virginia 107,215 - 1,266 NEJ
Nebraska 86,260 - 1,721 SCJ Western New York 58,597 -1,453 NEJ
New England 102,062 - 2,193 NEJ Western North Carolina 292,0711 + 3441 NEJ
New Mexico 40,653 - 1,068 SCJ Western Pennsylvania 195,5374 - 2,201 NEJ
New York 129,6964 + 802 NEJ Wisconsin 97,4232 - 2,188 NCJ
North Alabama 157,8624 - 1,408 SEJ Wyoming 60,5254 - 3,895 NEJ
North Carolina 234,0564 + 1,356 SEJ Yellowstone 16,9702 - 150 W-J
Estimated net change in United Methodist Church membership is a decline of 60,894 members for the year. Sources: Annual Conference Reports, Newscope, United Methodist News Service. Jurisdictions: "NCJ" - North Central Jurisdiction; "NEJ" - Northeastern Jurisdiction; "SCJ" - South Central Jurisdiction; "SEJ" - Southeastern Jurisdiction; "W-J" - Western Jurisdiction.
1 Indicates figures that were reported last year, believed to be incorrect but no others are available.
2 Indicates errors in the data received; figures were estimated by Concerned Methodists.
3 2002 figures are shown since more current statistics were not available.
4 Figures received differed from the computations of Concerned Methodists. The statistics shown were those received.
5 Reflects conferences merged: Little Rock A.C. + North Arkansas A.C.; and Missouri East A.C. + Missouri West A.C.
Our Methodist Heritage*
Think back to the beginnings of Methodism. One man, who had his heart "strangely warmed" and entered a dynamic relationship with Jesus Christ, had a burning desire to save souls. A by-product of his concern for the welfare of others was helping them resolve their physical and social needs as well. Through his efforts, British society was transformed in such a way that the improvements there prevented the type of revolution that devastated France.
Look at European history and you will quickly realize that Great Britain is one of the few nations that have not undergone a civil war in the past 200 years. Some scholars credit the fact that Britain escaped the political turmoil faced by other European nations to the spiritual movement started by John Wesley, the founder of Methodism. Methodists around the world celebrated the 300th anniversary of Wesley's birth on June 17, 2003.
At the time that John and Charles Wesley founded the "Holy Club" at Oxford, not more than five or six members of the House of Commons went to church at all.
Wesley's theology emphasizing God's free grace and the responsibility of the individual to embrace that grace made a difference in 18th- and 19th-century British society, as he and his followers preached the message of free grace to all people, including the lower classes. While "grace" or salvation is a gift from God, once a person embraces or accepts God's grace, he or she has the responsibility to act on it. With this in mind, Wesley and his movement founded numerous schools for the poor and homes for orphans, as well as churches. The movement also emphasized visitation with prisoners and evangelism to all. This again was a spiritual and not a political movement.
While a student at Oxford, he participated in the "Holy Club" with his brother Charles, who later became a great hymn writer, and George Whitefield, who became one of the greatest evangelists of the spiritual movement known as the "Great Awakening" in the 1700s and 1800s. Because of the Holy Club's methodical ways of looking at religion, the group at Oxford became known as "Methodists."
He measured five feet three inches and weighed 128 pounds.
The state-sponsored Church of England was in need of reform due to lack of attendance and other problems, so Wesley as a minister of the church worked to reform it.
Four events marked major turning points for Wesley and the development of Methodism as a world force. The first was his experience on the ship taking him to the New World on what would later be his unsuccessful "mission" trip to America. During a fierce storm that twice threatened to break the ship and fearing for his life, a terrified John Wesley observed a group of German Moravians whose calmness astounded him. After the storm he talked with one of the Moravians and asked him if he were frightened?
The man replied, "I thank God that I was not."
Wesley continued, "Were your women and children afraid?"
The man responded, "No, because we are not afraid to die."
Later in Georgia he quickly noticed the lasting joy that this group of people had during all of their problems and trials. This made a continuing impression that started him to thinking about a deeper faith and spirituality that he didn’t have.
This spiritual witness of the Moravians led to his association with Peter Boehler when he returned to England and the second turning point in his life. Boehler told him that it was possible that an "instantaneous" experience could give Wesley a faith similar to that of the Moravians. Then on May 24, 1738, while attending a Moravian prayer meeting at Aldersgate, he had such an experience when his heart was "strangely warmed." Until then, Wesley had been seeking to know God in a direct and personal way. He knew in his heart that he did truly trust in Christ for the forgiveness of his sins and for salvation. His relationship "came alive" that moment. He immediately wanted to share his experience with his brother Charles and rushed over to see him only to learn that he had experienced a similar conversion three days before!2
A third turning point was his decision to preach in open fields. As a "high" churchman, he had been hesitant to speak outside the confines of a church. However, with Whitefield’s encouragement and because Anglican pulpits were systematically closed to him, he began a career of preaching "wherever two or more" were gathered. When Epworth Church which Wesley’s father had pastored for many years was closed to him, he stood on his father’s tomb in the church yard and preached. During the early part of his "outdoor preaching" he once spoke to an estimated 3000 people - more than he had been accustomed to reaching from an indoor pulpit. His text that day was, "The Spirit of the Lord is upon me because He has anointed me to preach the Gospel to the poor." He preached to people from all walks of life - one example being miners on their way from the mines. In this way, he reached many who had never set foot in a church.
The fourth turning point which led to the rapid spread of Methodism both in England and in America came through his mother Susanna. John had returned late to London from a busy schedule and found that a layman had prayed and read the Bible, even though laymen were not permitted to do so. He was angry and was about to scold him when his mother interrupted John and in her direct manner said, "John, he has as much right to read and preach the Scriptures as you have. He is a Christian. Furthermore, he did very well indeed!"3
The idea of the laity preaching was shocking to Wesley – just like the idea of outdoor preaching, but as he prayed about it he sensed the Lord leading him to do exactly that. The idea of laymen and women in ministry enabled the number of gospel "preachers" to be multiplied many times over that of using only ordained clergy.
These four factors in addition to the pureness of the gospel were chiefly responsible for the rapid spread of the "Methodist societies" all over England and later the New World.
Wesley developed the concept of "S.T.E.R." for what he realized would be a balanced life for the Christian disciple. This can be thought of as a table with the center and main leg being Scripture with three other supporting legs which are tradition, experience, and reason. Of the four Scripture is primary.
Scripture is the primary source of Christian doctrine and guidance for human spirituality, priority, and activity, since the writers of the Bible were inspired by the Holy Spirit to communicate the truths of God and His plan for reconciliation with humanity. John Wesley was a "man of one book" as his guide for life.
Tradition helps all Christians to share a common heritage and emphasizes that personal salvation and social justice are twins that go together; alao God provides for our needs as we are doing His work.
Experience is the world’s reality of what the Scripture teaches and guides us to do. It is through experience that we come to know the human truth and applicability of biblical teachings.
Reason reflects our human understanding of the supernatural truths taught by the Bible. While we need to have a faith that understands that there are truths beyond our human comprehension, we need to have a faith that can also be applied in practical, reasonable ways using the world’s resources to be as effective as possible.4
Through his preaching, people began discussing and thinking about not only theology but the social ills of the day and the best ways of addressing them. He helped establish schools and medical clinics for the poor throughout Britain as well as places of worship. Wesley’s discussions were not limited to members of his own movement and the Anglican Church but included members and leaders of other denominations including Moravians, Calvinists and Catholics.
The American Frontier
After the American Revolution, Wesley commissioned Francis Asbury and Thomas Coke to go to the United States to help organize Methodists there; he enjoined the two men to "Offer them Christ." Methodism was part of the wave of popular religious movements that came into the United States within a generation of independence. During this wave of religious fervor, American Christianity divorced religious leadership from social position, and declared the moral responsibility of everyone to act and think for himself or herself.
At the same time, the first Methodist circuit riders appeared, preaching throughout the American frontier. They distributed Bibles and books as well as Methodist periodicals, and these materials were often the primary reading materials for the early pioneers. Circuit riders were also teachers, and they paved the way for the establishment of Methodist schools and colleges across the frontier. They came in all types, but with few exceptions they were God-fearing men with legendary persistence who had an intense desire to spread the gospel message across the frontier while overcoming numerous hardships, obstacles, and dangers.
After one pioneering family had pulled up its wagon and staked out a homestead, the man saw a rider slowly approaching the campfire. He reached for his rifle and told his wife and two children to get inside of the wagon. As the stranger rode up and reined in his horse, the man looked him over then warily asked him, "You ain’t one of them Methodist preachers, are you?" The stranger silently nodded his head, "Yes."
Cursing, the man lowered his rifle and said, "I left Georgia and moved to Alabama to get away from you! Then we left there and come here to Mississippi so we wouldn’t see the likes of you! Now here you are!"
The circuit rider thought for a minute and then replied, "Waal now, I can understand yore movin’ so much tryin’ to get away from us. And if you go as far out West as you can go, you’ll see some of us. When you die, if you go to heaven you’ll see some of us. And if you go to hell, you’ll probably see some of us there too, so you might ought to get used to us!"
Peter Cartwright was a nineteenth-century circuit-riding Methodist preacher. He had a reputation for being a hard preacher and an uncompromising man. One Sunday morning as he was about to take the pulpit, he was told that President Andrew Jackson was in the congregation. He was warned not to say anything out of line, anything that might be controversial to the President. Cartwright stood to preach and immediately announced, "I understand that Andrew Jackson is here. I have been requested to be guarded in my remarks. Andrew Jackson will go to hell if he doesn’t repent."
The congregation was shocked. They sat in stunned silence, wondering how the President might respond. Jackson didn’t flinch.
After the service, President Jackson sought out Peter Cartwright to shake his hand. He said, "Sir, if I had a regiment of men like you, I could whip the world." A military man, this was the greatest compliment the President could give anyone else.
Another time, Cartwright was told of a place dominated by a bully who bragged that he would never let any preacher into "his town." This man was the owner of the local tavern. Peter rode to that town, sought out the man, challenged and fought him. As he said later, "It took me singing three stanzas of "All Hail the Power of Jesus’ Name" before I subdued him." The bully became one of Cartwright’s avid supporters and donated his then-former saloon to his ministry.
After the circuit riders had done their pioneering work and converted enough people, a small church might be built by the families and land offered to one of the preachers if he would settle down – especially if one of the local girls had her eye on the man. Through this process countless Methodist churches were established literally from coast-to-coast across the expanse of the United States.
When Methodism came to America it was a civilizing force in the development of this country. As the frontier swept westward, Methodist circuit riders took the gospel message to settlers and lives were changed. Although clergy of the more established religions decried the "sect" of Methodism and predicted it would die, by the second half of the nineteenth century it had expanded greatly, outnumbering the other faiths. During those times, if you were to go into a village and find two churches, the chances were good that one would be Methodist. Methodism came to be known as "America's church."
Wesley’s Final Years
By the time he died in March 1792 at the age of 88, John Wesley had lived a long and eventful life. His attitude toward encroaching old age was to ignore it for as long as possible and always to keep his mind active. And it could be said that, as he grew older, Wesley's life was the very antithesis of ageism (discrimination on grounds of age).
It was while in his 80s that Wesley once walked the streets of London for several days, collecting money for the poor. By this time, the fury of the anti-Wesley mobs was no more. Indeed, many who once had cursed him were now praying for him. And not a few establishment clergymen who had long thundered against him from their pulpits were imploring him to preach from those same pulpits. Clergymen turned out everywhere to hear him preach, and even Church of England bishops were said to be in Wesley’s open-air congregations at this time. The tide had indeed turned.
John Wesley’s legacy lives on in many ways. He preached this way for more than 53 years, traveling on horseback (and later in life in a carriage) more than 250,000 miles throughout the British Isles, the equivalent of ten times around the world. He preached over 40,000 sermons. His legacy to education is in 124 colleges and universities in the United States alone, including schools such as Duke and Emory, plus 13 seminaries and Africa University in Zimbabwe. A prolific writer he authored over 5,000 books, pamphlets, sermons, and tracts.
Wesley, an Anglican priest, started what became the third largest Christian denomination in the United States and the world8and became the father of over thirty others ranging from the Salvation Army, the various African-Methodist Episcopal churches, all the way to those in the Pentecostal tradition.9 At the time of his death his followers numbered over 79,000 in England and over 40,000 in America, but by 1957 there were over 40 million Methodists around the world.10
All of this through the efforts of one person who had a life-changing experience with Jesus Christ – the man John Wesley.
* Extracted from the book At the Crossroads, chapter 2.
Have You accepted Jesus Christ?
It is important to recognize that all people are sinners – every one of us. Romans 3:23 says, "For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God." That’s the bad news. The good news is that God provided a way for us to be reconciled with him. "For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have everlasting life." This is the life-giving message we read in the familiar scripture verse John 3:16. If you have not already received Christ as your savior, you can invite him into your heart. You can do this by -
Recognizing that you – as are all of us - are a sinner.
Repenting of the things that you have done wrong.
Believe that Jesus died on the cross for you and that he rose from the dead.
Through prayer, invite Jesus to come in and control your life (receive him as Savior and Lord).
Recognize that this is a gift that God has given to each one of us, but we need to reach out to Him in repentance and accept it just as we would need to accept any other gift from a friend.
We have no guarantees; there are some who are reading this message who will not be here next year.
If you have not already done so, please do it today.
To have faith where you cannot see; to be willing to work on in the dark;
to be conscious of the fact that, so long as you strive for the best,
there are better things on the way, this in itself is success.
- Katherine Logan
At the beginning of each year, we make our annual request for contributions; we ask that each of you pray and seek the Lord's leading as to how you might support the ministry of Concerned Methodists. We make the most efficient use possible of the money you entrust to our work. Since we have no paid employees and minimize overhead, we are able to translate the maximum amount of donations into our ministry of informing people about what is happening within our United Methodist Church. For those who do choose to provide financial assistance to us, we send our "Monthly Update" that contains even more news than does The Christian Methodist Newsletter on what is happening across our denomination. Finally, it should also be noted that all donor information is kept strictly confidential:
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Concerned Methodists is a "Renewal" organization consisting of men and women literally from "coast to coast" working within the United Methodist Church for revival. We believe that this can be accomplished by greater biblical faithfulness to the denomination's Wesleyan heritage and by drawing from its Judeo-Christian ethic which extends back for over 3500 years.
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