The latest preliminary figures are out for Methodist Church Membership www.methodist.org.uk/downloads/stats-National-Membership-1213-0513.pdf, and the good news is that they are not nearly so bad as usual. We’ve been losing 10,000 a year (or a church the size of Trinity Hexham www.hexhamtrinity.com weekly) for the last decade and more. This year, according to the official figures, we *only* lost 2,520. Unfortunately the official figures aren’t internally consistent, and if you add up the numbers of those who have joined the Methodist Church, then take away those who have left and have died, you get a deficit of 5,779. It remains to be seen what the corrected figure will finally be.
Does it matter that we are the fastest declining www.brierleyconsultancy.com/images/csintro.pdf denomination in England? Of course it does. Some people say you shouldn’t measure numbers, but in that case what do you measure? Candidates for the Methodist ministry? (none successfully put forward from the Newcastle District for three years). Quality of theological training? (Colleges closed, leaving us with just two). Quality of material? (The Publishing House has gone bust, twice). Quality of faith of the people in church? (see “Modern Methodism and the Parable of the Talents below).
Whenever I talk about this, the responses are along the lines of Elisabeth Kubler-Ross en.wikipedia.org/wiki/K%C3%BCbler-Ross_model in her work on death and dying.
Some folk are in denial and pretend there isn’t a desperate crisis.
Some are guilty and try to do the same things harder.
Some are angry, and say that I should keep quiet about the facts, because I’m being negative.
Some are despairing and think nothing can be done, so we may as well carry on as we are.
Some are bargaining, and try doing things which don’t fix the fundamental problem www.southamptonmethodistdistrict.org.uk/development/regrouping-for-mission/getting-bigger/.
Some are philosophical and hope that Methodism will see them out.
Me? I want to do something about it, but the first step to finding a lifeboat is to realise that the Titanic is sinking. What Methodism is doing is not working and anything other than drastic comprehensive change is not the answer. The numbers reach zero in about 2030, the year I retire. Will I be the last one on board?