Magazine article The Christian Century

Problems Plague UMC's Study of Problems

Magazine article The Christian Century

Problems Plague UMC's Study of Problems

Article excerpt

The United Methodist Church is discovering that a four-year program to deal with declining membership is fraught with some of the same problems facing the church at large--a lack of money, charges of a lack of trust and wrangling among those involved. Because of those difficulties with the churchs Connectional Issues Study, a group of prominent conservative critics have scheduled their own closed-door session to map out a future for the 8.9-million-member body, the nation's second-largest Protestant denomination.

The by-invitation-only meeting, set for April 5-6 in Atlanta, is being organized by Maxie Dunnam, pastor of Christ United Methodist Church in Memphis, Tennessee; retired Bishop William Cannon of Atlanta; and Thomas Oden, a theologian at Drew University in Madison, New Jersey. The meeting, according to a letter obtained by United Methodist News Service, will bring together "a group of concerned United Methodists who share a desire for renewal and reform within our church."

Organizers of the meeting are associated with the Memphis Declaration, a 1992 manifesto calling for a reduction in church bureaucracy, restoration of evangelistic emphasis, maintenance of the ban on ordination of homosexuals, and allocation of more power to the local church.

The turmoil within Methodism is representative of what is happening throughout mainline Protestantism as it faces declining membership %red revenues, suspicion of national bureaucracies, and controversial social issues-especially those linked to sexuality-that have led to conflicts within the denominations. …

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