Is African-American Methodism Stronger?

Pan-Methodist Bishops

Episcopal leaders from the various Pan-Methodist denominations gather for a photo in 2006. (A UMNS photo by Linda Green)

The United Methodist Church continues its decline in membership while three predominately African-American Methodist denominations join forces to reach the black male. The United Methodist News Service reports that the United Methodist Church in the United States has declined to about 7.75 million members. Meanwhile, other reports say that the three largest predominately African-American Methodist denominations together have more than five million members. This leads me to think that there may soon, if not already, be more racial/ethnic Methodist U.S. members in the various Pan-Methodist denominations than there are white members. Perhaps the United Methodist Church needs to take some lessons from their African-American counterparts and bring in more racial/ethnic leadership

I do commend the United Methodist denomination for emphasizing reaching new people in new places. However, this also means it needs to put new people in new leadership places as well. How can the UMC reach the racial/ethnic people of today if we are unwilling to share the leadership? This does not mean that we need to focus on putting an African-American to head our new church start program or a Hispanic to lead in evangelism. My belief is that racial/ethnic leadership needs to be across the board. We need to get new voices into how we handle our finances, what type of Christian education programs we form and what are the social and mission priorities the church must engage in.

I hope the United Methodist Church was watching what its Pan-Methodist colleagues were doing and saying at the Great Gathering last week. I also hope each congregation is getting to know its neighbors. The church cannot afford to remain isolated. It must open itself up to God’s people wherever they are.


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