2021 State of the Church Report

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Who do you say I am?

This State of the Church Report describes how The United Methodist Church, over this past year, has sought to better define its missional and theological identity. We have done that at a very sensitive time in the life of our church and in the context of our decades-long struggle over how to be in ministry with our LGBTQIA+ siblings. Our efforts have led us to ask a question similar to the one put to Peter. Who do we say that we are?

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Identity: Who do we say we are?

The United Methodist Church is a global, diverse church.

United Methodists all over the world are liturgical, contemporary, charismatic, social activists, urban, suburban, small town, rural and much more. We are children, youth, young adults, senior adults, new and mature Christians. We are present on four continents, in more than 45 countries, and we comprise an unknown number of cultures and languages, all under the cross and the flame.” 

  • 12 million members on 4 continents, in more than 45 countries
  • Local churches: 30,500 (U.S.); 12,800 (Central Conferences)
  • Overall giving for year-to-date has risen from $36M in 2021 to $38M so far in 2022.
— Latest available statistics, GCFA Data Services (2018, 2019)

Unity amid division

We know that the world is divided. But we cannot replicate the divisions of the world. “We cannot be a church shaped by our political positions. We cannot be a traditional church or a progressive church or a centrist church. We cannot be a gay or straight church. Rather, Christ calls us to make space for one another, appreciate one another, and look for Christ in each other.”

We claim the diversity and unity of our church — a church that includes brothers and sisters in Africa, the Philippines, Europe, North American and beyond. It is a beautiful and diverse connection: “… a holy communion of different races, ethnicities, cultures, and perspectives united by the Holy Spirit, driven by the mission of Christ, and bearing the good news of an unmerited grace that changes lives and transforms communities.”

#BeUMC: Claiming our identity

In the process of claiming our identity, we opened ourselves to a broad range of collaborative partners. The Council of Bishops worked with the Connectional Table and our agencies, especially United Methodist Communications, to shape messaging that will help the world understand who we are and generate conversation, within our connection, about what it means to be United Methodist.

We were joined in that effort by others, including an informal strategy group made up of delegates and other leaders in the connection. Those leaders have been the grassroots energy that has moved this effort forward. Together, we have shaped messaging that has found expression in the #BeUMC campaign.

Learn more about the #BeUMC campaign

Bishops' narrative

In “A Narrative for the Continuing United Methodist Church,” adopted in November 2021, the Council of Bishops casts a vision for the future of the continuing United Methodist Church.

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Disciple making

We are a global connection that makes disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world. In that sense, we are who we have always been, a people rooted in Scripture, especially the Gospel call to “Go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit.”

We do this work all over the world by offering life-changing worship, spiritual formation for people of all ages and cultures, and by putting spiritual disciplines like prayer, study, and fasting at the center of our lives. Forming and nurturing disciples of Jesus Christ is fundamental to our identity.

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Children listen to a lesson during vacation Bible school at Connell Memorial United Methodist Church in Goodlettsville, Tenn. From left are: Abby Hartmann, Emma Furtado, Emme Sinclair Krueger and Barrett Christian. Photo by Mike DuBose, UM News. 
Belonging and inclusion

We are a Wesleyan body grounded in a theology of grace. We want to ensure that all can find belonging and inclusion in our global church—no matter race, ethnicity, sexuality, gender or gender identity, ability, or political persuasion. We are one in Christ and committed to being a welcoming people, a reconciling people, a people who seek to heal the wounds caused by the times when we have not fully lived up to our call.

All of our members, clergy, local churches and annual conferences will continue to have a home in the … United Methodist Church, whether they consider themselves liberal, evangelical, progressive, traditionalist, middle of the road, conservative, centrist or something else.”

If you belong to Christ, or would like to, you can belong to us.

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Pastor Tim Jackson serves Holy Communion at Magnolia Avenue United Methodist Church in Knoxville, Tenn. Photo by Mike DuBose, UM News. 
Influence, connection and impact

Twelve million members strong, The United Methodist Church is a force for global health, the education and welfare of children, care of the environment, and disaster relief. Because of our long commitment to missions, and because of the collaborative partnerships we have nurtured over decades, we are able to sway decisions and provide services that impact lives on just about every continent.

We also are a people who dig deep. Despite a global pandemic that has affected all of our economies, we have continued to support our flagship educational institutions, like Africa University; our world-class disaster relief organization, UMCOR; and the many other ministries funded with apportionments. Because of that kind of generosity and commitment, the cross and flame are recognizable all over the world as the sign of a people and partners who help.

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Joseph Ekow, 5, catches the final trickle of water after filling his bucket at a well behind John Kofi Asmah United Methodist Church in the West Point neighborhood in Monrovia, Liberia. Many families in this dense, urban area lack access to piped water. Photo by Mike DuBose, UM News 
Experience of God through the UMC

We are a worshipping body, a praying body, a body of Christ that regularly grounds itself in theological understandings that undergird our experience with the triune God. We speak often of grace, because it is grace that woos us into relationship with Jesus Christ, grace that makes us right with Christ, then grace that perfects us in the image of God. With arms outstretched to the least and the lost, it is grace that drives us to invite others into a life-changing experience of God in Jesus Christ through The United Methodist Church.

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Who do you say we are?

We are the Church.

We are a global connection.

We are the diverse body of Christ.

We are The United Methodist Church!

And we invite you to #BeUMC with us.

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