Backers of the Call to Action reforms for the UMC put on a full-court press tonight, bringing in Adam Hamilton, pastor of the 18,000-member UM Church of the Resurrection in Leawood, Kan., to address General Conference delegates.
“The statistics and data that we’re aware of today are pointing us to the fact that something’s got to change,” he said.
Hamilton noted that membership in the U.S. has declined by 5.3 percent or 424,000 in the last five years, and that worship attendance has dropped by 8.7 percent or 291,600.
He underscored that the average age of a United Methodist in the U.S. is nearly 60, and that only about five percent of UM clergy in the U.S. are under 35.
At the current rate of decline, he said, the UMC has less than 50 years of life left in the U.S.
If those stark statistics weren’t enough, his presentation included a video about a venerable UM church that closed last year.
Hamilton championed a 10 year focus on building and sustaining vital congregations, giving annual conferences more flexibility in organization, creating a consolidated and streamlined general church structure, and committing to recruiting and educating 2,000 “next generation clergy.”
He acknowledged that there had been lots of pushback to the agency restructuring, but insisted it was needed to reduce competition and make the general church more effective.
“Our current organizational structure is not sacred,” he said. “John Wesley did not design it.”
Hamilton’s remarks drew a standing ovation from some, but on Twitter some young clergy weighed in negatively, questioning whether Call to Action is the right answer to the UMC’s woes in the U.S.