"Membership figures don't tell the whole story"

The Methodist Church in Britain has revealed a3.5% year-on-year decline in membership over the past decade, with membership now at 188,000, but continues to reach over half-a-million people each week.

While local church membership has decreased, the triennial Statistics for Mission report presented to the Methodist Conference this week, also showed that general involvement in Methodist churches - through cafés, youth clubs and alternative forms of church - is continuing to be an important aspect of the Church, reaching an estimated half a million people each week.

Mr Doug Swanney, the Connexional Secretary, presenting the report said: "Like many others, I know the deep joy and profound impact that finding a home in the Methodist Church has had in my faith journey, and I know that I desperately want others to have that same experience.

"We continue to rejoice in the good news stories and shoots of growth in certain areas of the Methodist Church, but we cannot ignore the importance of these numbers.

"While it does make for a challenging read, it's important to remember that membership figures alone don't tell the whole story. Across the country, thousands of Methodist communities are impacting the lives of hundreds of thousands of people every week in a wide variety of ways."

The Revd Loraine N Mellor, President of the Methodist Conference highlighted the issue in her Presidential Address on Saturday: "I know I am part, at present, of a declining Church, but I am not part of a declining gospel. The gospel of Jesus Christ is here to stay, but has the time not come of us to be radical? To take some risks in order that we can grow… Because, you see… I don't believe that God is done with us just yet." 

The Revd Canon Gareth J Powell, Secretary of the Conference, said: "At the heart of this report is a challenge - not with the statistics, but with the very nature of our being. We must take seriously our responsibility for being an evangelistic community of love - a profound giving of attention to another person - which leads people to Christ."

  • Read the full text of Loraine's Presidential address here.
  • Watch the report here.
  • Photographs from the Conference are available   here.  
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