Thursday, July 14, 2011

Looking For Free Methodist Statistical Clarity

Stats, especially membership stats, for denominations are in interesting thing.  It seems that everyone wants to make their stats look as good as possible.  I remember when the Church of the Nazarene used to compare its world wide stats and included membership stats for the United States.  When the denomination began to get considerably larger outside the United States, it began to talk about the U.S. and Canada.  The latter can, of course, be justified in that it refers to the U.S./Canada Region.  Still, it appeared that there was an attempt to hold onto the dominance of the U.S. church in membership.

From what I have been able to see (and perhaps I just haven't found the correct report, yet!), the Free Methodists are going even further than Nazarenes (see below).  According to their World Missions Report at General Conference, their global membership is now near the 1 million mark (the actual number is 962,289 in 2009, up from 515,951 in 2000).  -  I confess, I was surprised and impressed by this.  -  I congratulate the Free Methodist Church for all that they are doing, by God's grace, for the sake of Christ.

However, when they break down their membership by . . . regions(?), they indicate that their membership for the U.S./U.K./Canada . . . Yes, U.S./U.K./Canada!  We are talking about the Free Methodist Church of North America, and they are including U.K. stats?!  Not to mention the fact that their global organization is more of a federation than, say, the way Nazarenes are organized.  So, there is the Free Methodist Church of North America, and there is the Free Methodist Church in Canada (with their own bishop and Manual).  Then there is the Free Methodist Church Europe (United Kingdom Conference) which indicates that they are "a part of the Free Methodist Church in North America (and is overseen by one of the three FMCNA bishops), so, okay, I guess that's why the stats are put together, but . . .

Anyway, the membership for the U.S./U.K./Canada is shown to be 453,836.  -  I wasn't surprised by that number.  I was shocked!  That is considerably higher than the last figures I recalled for their U.S. membership (I was thinking around 70,000).

I thought, "This can't be right."  (It would be great for them and the Kingdom if it were, but . . . ).  Then I thought, "How many members do they have in the U.K.?"

Well, I went to their denominational website, and under their statistical fast facts they say, as of June 3, 2009, there are 63,777 full members in the United States.  -  Now that is a little more like what I recalled (actually a little lower).  -  Which, again, raises the question:  how many members do they have in the U.K.?  In Canada?  Do they really have nearly 400,000 members in the U.K. and Canada?  Or, are they using a different category of membership over against the June 3 report of full members?

I do wish that denominations would simply give us a clear break down when doing their stats.  I would like to see clear U.S. stats compared to other parts of the world.  As I've said, the Free Methodists are not the only ones that are less than clear, at times.  My own denomination does it, at times, as well.  -  Then, of course, when comparing one denomination with another, there is the question of whether we are talking "apples to apples" or "apples to oranges" when it comes to what constitutes membership and how members are counted.

Still, the Free Methodists are to be congratulated as they near the 1 million member mark, globally.  -  May God's grace and anointing be upon them as they continue to spread the good news of the gospel of Jesus Christ and the message of holiness of heart and life to the world!

Friday, July 8, 2011

The Free Methodist Church Prepares For General Conference

On July 13 - 17 the Free Methodist Church will meet in General Conference on the campus of Roberts Wesleyan College & Northeastern Seminary in Rochester, NY. 

The Free Methodist Church was organized in 1860 near Rochester, New York.  It arose out of the conflict within the Methodist Episcopal Church (now known as the United Methodist Church) over the Wesleyan interpretation of the doctrine of entire sanctification as well as issues such as slavery, free pews, secret societies, and freedom in worship.  Benjamin Titus Roberts was the denominations first bishop.  (Originally he was designated "general superintendent," Wesley's term for the episcopal office, but later the denomination chose to use the more historic designation of bishop.  -  A move I wish we, Nazarenes, would follow!)

The Free Methodist Church, like the Church of the Nazarene and The Wesleyan Church, is a Wesleyan-Holiness expression of Methodism.  Like the other two Wesleyan-Holiness churches, the Free Methodist Church is a affiliated with the Christian Holiness Partnership (which is no longer organized), the Wesleyan Holiness Consortium, the National Association of Evangelicals, and the World Methodist Council.  The three denominations have strong fraternal connections.

Like most (at least American) denominations in the Wesleyan/Methodist tradition, the Free Methodist Church meets for their General Conference every four years.  This Conference marks the denomination's "sesquicentennial."

The General Conference can be followed a number of ways.  There is a website set up for the Conference, here.  Additionally, portions of the Conference will be available via live stream.  Information about that, as well as other General Conference information can be found at the General Conference website.   Of particular interest for many will be the various resolutions provided on the website.  For readers of this blog, you may find interesting the resolution on "open communion," which has already been rejected.

I encourage the readers of this blog to keep our Free Methodist brothers and sisters in our prayers during this important Conference.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Two Prayers For Our Nation

I should have posted these, yesterday.  However, since I was out of town, celebrating the 4th, I didn't have the chance!  Nevertheless, here are two prayers for our Nation. 

Both of these prayers come from the Book of Common Prayer (1979).  The first is the Collect for Independence Day, July 4.  The second is a Collect For the Nation.

Lord God Almighty, in whose Name the founders of this
country won liberty for themselves and for us, and lit the
torch of freedom for nations then unborn: Grant that we and
all the people of this land may have grace to maintain our
liberties in righteousness and peace; through Jesus Christ our
Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one
God, for ever and ever. Amen.


Lord God Almighty, you have made all the peoples of the
earth for your glory, to serve you in freedom and in peace:
Give to the people of our country a zeal for justice and the
strength of forbearance, that we may use our liberty in
accordance with your gracious will; through Jesus Christ our
Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one
God, for ever and ever. Amen.