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.
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!