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Economist: United Methodist Church in crisis

Economist: United Methodist Church in crisis

Declining number of U.S. churches could make mission unsustainable

Economist Don House, left, helps lead a discussion about the church budget during the 2012 pre-General Conference news briefing at the Tampa Convention Center, as Bishop G. Lindsey Davis looks on. File UMNS photo by Mike DuBose.

The United Methodist Church has only 15 years to reverse its decline in the United States if it is to have a sustainable future, an economist warned church leaders.

At the same gathering, the church leaders discussed possible missional goals to address that decline and enhance the global denomination’s ministries around the world.

“By 2030, the denomination in the United States will either have found a way to turn around, meaning it is growing, or its turnaround in the United States is not possible,” Donald R. House Sr. told the May 19 combined meeting of the Connectional Table and the General Council on Finance and Administration board. “By 2050, the connection will have collapsed.”

In other words, he predicted that unless things change soon, the denomination in coming decades will not have enough U.S. churches to pay for its connectional structures. Such structures include conferences, bishops, agencies, missions and international disaster response.

His presentation came a week after the Pew Research Center released its 2014 religious landscape survey, showing the share of U.S. adult population that’s mainline Protestant had dropped from 18.1 to 14.7 percent in the previous seven years. The survey counted United Methodists among the mainline Protestants.

House — a lifelong United Methodist — holds a Ph.D. in economics and chairs the denomination’s eight-member Economic Advisory Committee, whose projections help shape the general church’s budget every four years.

House also holds other United Methodist leadership roles, including chair of the South Central Jurisdiction episcopacy committee that oversees the work of that region’s bishops.

In addition, he is one of the drafters of the revised Plan UMC, proposed legislation to reorganize the denomination’s general agencies. The Council of Bishops earlier this month took the unusual step of asking the denomination’s top court to determine if the legislation is constitutional before it goes before the 2016 General Conference.

He addressed the two bodies that put together the general church budget that goes before General Conference, the denomination’s top lawmaking assembly.

To read more of this story from United Methodist News Service, click here.