CANTERBURY, England (RNS) The Methodist Church in Britain is hemorrhaging members and has been described by a leading religious affairs commentator as “a bit like an iceberg that’s just crumbling into the sea.”

The comments of Linda Woodhead, a sociologist at Lancaster University, follow the publication of a report called “Statistics for Mission” by the Methodist Church that shows a dramatic collapse of membership — to about 200,000 in the U.K. — in the last decade.

“During the past 10 years membership of the Methodist Church has fallen by a third, with attendance falling by a similar proportion,” said Moira Sleight, editor and publisher of the Methodist Recorder.

Added Woodhead: “It’s totally dying out. On current trends, they (the Methodists) will disappear, very soon.”

Methodist churches sprung up in Britain during the aftermath of the French Revolution and the start of the Industrial Revolution — days when the working classes were poorly paid and revolution was in the air.

A scene in the churchyard at Epworth as John Wesley preached on his father's grave. Religion News Service file photo

A scene in the churchyard at Epworth as John Wesley preached on his father’s grave. Religion News Service file photo


This image is available for Web and print publication. For questions, contact Sally Morrow.

The brothers Charles and John Wesley were ordained Anglicans who defied the Church of England’s stuffy establishment by holding open-air meetings and writing more than 6,000 hymns urging industrial and agricultural laborers to turn their backs on alcohol and gambling.

In America, Methodists were popular because they helped fill a spiritual vacuum created by Anglicans who deserted their flocks at the time of the American Revolution.

Methodists around the world number between 70 million and 80 million people.

The United Methodist Church in the United States has 8 million members. There are approximately 5 million members in Africa, Asia and different parts of Europe.

In The Times, the former vice president of the Methodist Church, Richard Vautrey, said Methodists must not despair. “Let’s not dwell on our pain,” he said, “but instead celebrate each God-given day we have left.”

YS/MG END GRUNDY

31 Comments

  1. JESUS GETS AN ‘F’

    1. The Mustard seed is the smallest: Wrong.
    2. Slavery is good: Wrong
    3. The Earth is flat: Wrong
    4. Goodness comes from obedience: Wrong
    5. The Laws of Moses are perfect: Wrong
    6. It is right to abandon people who love you: Wrong
    7. People can live inside a fish for 3 full days: Wrong

    “my words will never fade away” – JESUS (Matthew 25:35)

    WRONG AGAIN, SIR.

      • @Denise,

        “my words will never fade away” – JESUS (Matthew 25:35)

        I was a Christian for 44 years.
        The article above is about people like me.
        We LEFT JESUS.

        We Atheists don’t believe in God anymore. There are millions of us.
        It is nobody’s ‘fault’.

        You don’t believe in Zeus or Allah – and that is nobody’s fault either.
        You simply have no reason to believe those gods are real.
        Similarly, we atheists have no reason to believe Jesus is real either.

        • Max, I have found that the term Christian has become a generic term, it no longer has the same meaning as the New Testament gave it. People call themselves Christians using a criteria not in the bible. Jesus said in John 6:37 All that the Father gives to me shall come to Me, and the one who comes to me I will certainly not cast out. The New Testament teaches that we must be born again John 3:3 and says But God being rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in our transgressions, made us alive together with Christ by grace you have been saved, Ephesians 2:4-5. It also says in Ephesians 2:8-9 for by grace you have been saved through faith and that not of your selves, it is the gift of God; not as a result of works, that no one should boast. The Bible teaches a true Christian is a committed disciple of Jesus Christ once you are born again you are changed into a new person that will desire God and and as Saint Augustine said my heart finds no rest until it rest in thee.
          I think you Max are a victim of a system of poor preaching and bad doctrine that has infected the church that says you say a prayer and your and saved with no real change to the inner man. I think people can be moral and live good lives without ever entering a church or calling themselves Christians. Max I think you were deceiving yourself for 44 years and you were never a true disciple of Jesus Christ. I know this statement will make you angry Max, I hope it will also make you reexamine what you have define as Christian and may be come to a true and real understanding and faith in Jesus Christ. My heart goes out to you Max the church has failed you at least the visible church. I will be praying for you.

      • Hi Denise,
        Oh, I agree with your first sentence. They are often quite bitter about being exploited and used by the Church- not to mention being victimized by the deceit (and yes- gasp- even fraud and sexual abuse)!
        Many ex Christians, like myself, are still trying to save souls, only now it is from the Church rather than for it. You say Max is wrong. How do you know that? Your argument is nothing but the childish -IS TOO! IS NOT! IS TOO! IS NOT! My daddy’s gonna get you!
        Pitiful. Try growing up and admitting how little we all really know.

    • Jesus is the one who stood up to defend the woman caught in adultery. He is the one who sailed across a sea to help one naked, homeless man living in a graveyard. Jesus touched the man with leprosy when everyone else turned away in disgust. He is the one who helped a corrupt tax collector who everyone else despised. Jesus fed a hungry crowd though he was advised to send them away. I don’t think he got an F. I think he gets an A++.

      • @Craig,

        “I don’t think he got an F. I think he gets an A++.”

        Even Mafia Godfathers do some good things.
        But I cannot give an ‘A’ to someone who says these things:

        ABANDON THOSE WHO LOVE YOU – JESUS
        “If anyone comes to me and does not hate father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters–yes, even their own life–such a person cannot be my disciple.”(LUKE 14:26).

        JESUS – I WILL DISMEMBER PEOPLE WITH A SWORD
        “The master shall cut him to pieces” – Jesus (Luke 12)
        JESUS describes what he intends to do to his own enemies.

        JESUS – I SHALL RETURN TO EXECUTE MY ENEMIES
        “..bring to me those enemies of mine who would not have me as their King, and execute them in front of me.” – JESUS (Luke 19:27)

        JESUS – YOU SHOULD DROWN THEM
        “Drown him with a millstone” (Matt 18:6)

        JESUS – KILL YOUR CHILDREN THE WAY GOD TOLD YOU TO
        “And why do you break the command of God
        for the sake of your tradition? …. ‘Anyone who curses their father or mother is to be put to death.’ ” (Matthew 15:3)

        JESUS – YOU MUST JUDGE OTHERS HARSHLY
        “…if they are unworthy..REMOVE your blessing of peace.” – JESUS (Matt 10:13)

        JESUS – I CAME TO BURN UP THE WORLD AND DESTROY IT
        “I have come to bring FIRE…What constraints! I am impatient to bring NOT PEACE BUT DIVISION.” – Jesus (Luke 12:49-51)

        JESUS – HATE THOSE WHO LOVE YOU
        “Hate your parents…hate your life” – Jesus (Luke 14:26)

        JESUS – I’M A MAFIA GODFATHER. DO IT, OR ELSE.
        “Eat of my body” and “Be baptized and believe” or “Be condemned to Hell” – Jesus (John 6:53-54) (Mark 16:16).

        JESUS – I WILL KILL THE CHILDREN MYSELF
        “I shall kill her children with Death” – Jesus (REV. 1:22-23)

        JESUS – I WANT YOU TO LIVE IN A HOUSE FULL OF ENEMIES
        “Brother will betray brother to death, and a father his child; children will rebel against their parents and have them put to death…for ME.” – JESUS (Matthew 10:21)

        JESUS – I’M HERE TO RUIN YOUR LIFE AND ALL THAT YOU LOVE
        “I did not come to bring peace, but a sword. For I came to set a man against his daughter, and a daughter against her mother, AND A DAUGHTER-IN-LAW AGAINST HER MOTHER-IN-LAW; and A MAN’S ENEMIES WILL BE THE MEMBERS OF HIS HOUSEHOLD.” – JESUS (Matthew 10:35)

        JESUS – JUDGE THEM FOR GOD’S WRATH!
        “And whosoever will not receive you, when ye go out of that city, shake off the very dust from your feet AS A TESTIMONY AGAINST THEM.” – JESUS (Luke 9:3-5)

        *

        There are some good things attributed to Jesus.
        But they are too few – and less likely to be true anyway.

        The famous adulterous scene (‘he who is without sin cast the first stone’) was added to the gospels in the fourth century and is understood to be a forgery by most scholars.

        JESUS ENDORSED the stoning laws – He rejected any change to the stoning laws of Moses:

        JESUS – KEEP ALL 600 STONING LAWS AS GOD COMMANDS
        “For truly, I say to you, till heaven and earth pass away, not an iota, not a dot, will pass the law until all is accomplished. Whoever then relaxes one of the least of these commands and teaches men so, shall be called least in the kingdom of heaven; but he who does them and teaches them shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven.” – JESUS (Matthew 5:18-19 RSV)

        It is an outrage that people still preach this nonsense as if it were divine.

    • Those whose thoughts dwell on the surface are quick in labeling others as failures. Whatever your thoughts are about Jesus would not defame him or undo what did or continue to do. It takes an intimate and personal relationship with Jesus to see what is happening in the lives of others. If you don’t believe Jesus, why border about him? You can have all the aces in the world.

      • @Unisah Contah,

        “If you don’t believe Jesus, why bother about him?”

        I was answering a question relevant to the topic of Methodists leaving.

        Methodists are leaving the church – Why are people abandoning Jesus?
        If you look at Jesus you will see the evidence in the gospels alone
        that Jesus was over-rated – to say the least.

        Religion has become a problem in the world – it should be abandoned.
        And it is being abandoned by millions more every day.

  2. Deacon John M. Bresnahan

    When people want a religion they want a religion that at least believes in itself and its teachings..Most people aren’t inspired by a religion that seems more interested in following the precepts of the New York or London Times instead of the Bible. Or as St. Paul put it “Tickling people’s ears.”

  3. There is a simple method for Methodists to use to re-grow the Methodist Church: Proclaim Jesus Christ, crucified, buried and risen from the dead. Christianity is dying quickly in the United Kingdom because the churches there believe in everything except Jesus Christ. He and His Teachings are generally ignored. The only exception are some very small pockets of Catholicism.

    The U.K. better wake up. If current trends continue it will be a majority Muslim nation in two generations. Sharia is already legal and being used among Muslim communities. In two generations the Queen will be no more and all will be replaced (by popular vote) with a Muslim political structure. There will be no more freedom.

  4. If there are between 70 million and 80 million Methodists around the world, and 8 million are in the US, 5 million are in Africa and 200,000 in the UK then where are the rest?

  5. Obviously Methodism need some new hymns. For legalized pot? In favor of gaining university degrees? In support of corporate tax breaks? Time to give up on getting the working class to stop drinking. Move on to other lesser forms of salvation.

  6. The Methodist Church in the USA is dying because it stands for nothing. Once it had a role and a mission, similar to the Salvation Army -to help the working class in the cities, and to provide a liberal, but hierarchical, Christian community to the farmers.
    After WW2 it abandoned the countryside to the congregationalists, in favor of the more attractive and prospers towns. In short, it abandoned its mission for worldly success.

  7. ‘I am not afraid that the people called Methodists should ever cease to exist either in Europe or America. But I am afraid lest they should only exist as a dead sect, having the form of religion without the power. And this undoubtedly will be the case unless they hold fast both the doctrine, spirit, and discipline with which they first set out.’ – John Wesley

    But there’s HOPE in CHRIST:

    There is remnant of genuine Christians within Methodism, faithful to God in Christ through the Holy Spirit as the carry through the true Gospel which they were founded (Biblical Christianity). Better to be fewer and genuine than huge but filled with superficiality/hypocrisy. If ever there are Methodist churches declining, the honor of Christ is still intact. Apostasy is just a fruit of nominal Christianity or false gospels within the movement but the faithful remain in Christ, the Rock of Salvation!

  1. Comment marked as low quality by the editors. Show comment
  2. Comment marked as low quality by the editors. Show comment
  3. Comment marked as low quality by the editors. Show comment
  4. Comment marked as low quality by the editors. Show comment
  5. Comment marked as low quality by the editors. Show comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Comments with many links may be automatically held for moderation.