2020 State of the Church Report

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Blessed is the Church

In 2020, our identity as Christians, formed in the Wesleyan tradition, helped us to face the challenges of a pandemic, rising authoritarianism, racism and violence around the world.

In this video, four of our bishops tell how United Methodists, in spite of the trials of 2020, have been “salt and light” to the world, sharing God’s love to a suffering world. As we reflect on the celebrations and difficulties of the past year, we have used Jesus’ beatitudes to frame our experiences and tell the story of how The United Methodist Church continues to transform the world.

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Blessings as the marks of the church

Few would characterize this past year as one of blessing. We came into 2020 off of a disastrous 2019 Special Session of the General Conference, which damaged our witness and caused untold suffering within our body. Barely into 2020, we were devastated by a global pandemic, which has killed millions, many in our own families, congregations and communities. And 2020 awakened us to the ravages of racism, painfully epitomized by the slow and public murder of George Floyd.

This was hardly a year of blessing. Yet we have chosen to use these Matthean blessings — these Beatitudes (Mt. 5:1-14) — as the framework for this report. That is because they describe our identity as a church, not our circumstances. As one commentator put it, the Beatitudes “…declare the notae ecclesiae, the ‘marks of the church.’” They are the marks of a community of believers formed through the redemptive acts of Christ. They are the marks of a church, challenged by its own brokenness and the brokenness of the world, yet called to bring about salvation and hope.

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Joyce Holland receives a COVID-19 vaccination from Tia Moore, nurse practitioner, at Meharry Medical College in Nashville, Tenn. Photo by Mike DuBose UM News.
The Rev. Catie Newman prays with John Wm. Weaver in front of a neighbor's wind-damaged home while a United Methodist volunteer team makes emergency repairs to his roof in Marion, Iowa. Weaver's mobile home was severely damaged during a derecho windstorm in August. Newman is the disaster response coordinator for the Iowa Conference. Photo by Mike DuBose, UM News.

Uplifting the poor in spirit

In the face of the unprecedented challenges and uncertainty, United Methodists are a people who look to God for hope and find their identity in the teachings of Christ.

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Family and friends of Bishop John K. Yambasu, (front row, from left) Elizabeth Yambasu, Emmanuel Yambasu, widow Millicent Yambasu and Alfred Lansana, arrive at the burial site on the campus of United Methodist University in Freetown, Sierra Leone, on Sept. 6. Photo by E Julu Swen, UM News.

Grieving and comforting

United Methodists mourn those lost in the pandemic as well as natural disasters, acts of violence and other tragic circumstances over the past year.

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Nyengeterai Mafongoya holds a basket of 20-day-old chicks in Masvingo, Zimbabwe. She started with 20 chicks as part of a United Methodist Women poultry project in February and grown her brood to 100 birds. Photo by Kudzai Chingwe, UM News.

Sharing the inheritance of the meek

The challenges of 2020 humbled people in parts of the world unaccustomed to fighting pandemics and gave United Methodists the opportunity to share resources, wisdom and faith. Tackling the pandemic required shared sacrifice and learning in a spirit of meekness and humility.

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A woman holds a sign saying, “United Methodists stand against racism,” during a Black Lives Matter rally in Willingboro, New Jersey, June 7 at St. Paul United Methodist Church. Photo by Aaron Wilson Watson.

Thirsting for righteousness

In response to the recent murders of people of color, United Methodists called for the dismantling of racism both within the Church and across society.

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Volunteer Trinley Gibson, 9, loads perishable items into a cooler at the Branch of Antioch emergency food assistance program at Antioch (Tenn.) United Methodist Church. The program received a "Sheltering in Love," grant from the United Methodist Committee on Relief to assist vulnerable communities in the United States and around the world during the COVID-19 pandemic. Photo by Mike DuBose, UM News.

Offering mercy

United Methodists acted as Christ’s healing hands in 2020 by providing aid and spiritual support to communities affected by the pandemic and natural disasters.

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Jesús and his pregnant wife, Mariana, care for their 1-year-old daughter, Kataleya, at a tent camp in Juárez, Mexico, where they and dozens of other migrants are waiting for an appointment with U.S. immigration officials to request asylum in the U.S. The young family has been living in a two-person camping tent for two months. They are among some 16,000 asylum seekers who are stranded in Juarez following implementation of the Trump administration’s Migrant Protection Protocols, which force asylum seekers to stay in Mexico while they wait for their immigration proceedings. Photo by Mike DuBose, UM News.

Seeing God

Even as United Methodists struggled with practicing ministry at a distance and uncertainty about the future, they turned their hearts to God for comfort and guidance.

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A pedestrian passes one of The United Methodist Church’s billboards calling for peace in the community of Abobo, Côte d’Ivoire. The United Methodist Church and its partners organized a communication campaign asking that the population and the authorities show restraint during the electoral period. The caravan crisscrossed several towns and hamlets in Côte d’Ivoire. Photo by Isaac Broune, UM News.

Making peace

As the world faces war, ethnic violence, hyper-partisanship and rising nationalism, United Methodists strive to be peacemakers who see and affirm everyone as a beloved child of God.

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Advocates from the Black Lives Matter movement disrupt the proceedings of the 2016 United Methodist General Conference in Portland, Ore. The demonstrators marched into the plenary session chanting slogans and gathered around the central communion table. Photo by Maile Bradfield, UMNS.

Persecuted for Christ's sake

The cost of discipleship is high. Christ tells us to expect resistance and even persecution, but also to take hope in the fact that God is always with us.

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The Rev. Rudy Rasmus, senior pastor at St. John’s Downtown Church in Houston and editor of the book “I’m Black. I’m Christian. I’m Methodist,” at a food bank event with the singer Beyoncé, who grew up in that church. Photo courtesy of St. John’s Downtown Church in Houston.

Being light and salt

Now more than ever, people need Christ’s good news. By finding our identity in Christ’s Sermon on the Mount, we become the salt of the earth and light of the world. See examples of how United Methodists have been salt and light to the world.

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"Beatitudes" Music Video

Even in the darkest times, we find hope in God’s blessings. United Methodist Communications produced an original song and music video based on the Beatitudes from Matthew 5:3–12. This video contains images of United Methodists experiencing and responding to the unique challenges of 2020.

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