The other day I was surprised by a headline on The Christian Post which read Evangelical Influence Growing in the United Methodist Church. Intrigued, I clicked on the link and found a summary of an article written by Bill Bouknight, a retired UM pastor, in the most recent issue of Good News Magazine.
In the Good News article, Bouknight makes the following claim:
Liberalism’s high point may have come in 1996—the year when 15 UM bishops took a public stand at General Conference in favor of liberalizing the denomination’s position on homosexuality. Since then, liberalism has been in decline and the evangelical influence has increased. This trend was clearly evident at the General Conferences of 2000, 2004, and 2008. The apparent rejection in 2009 of most of the 32 constitutional amendments by the Annual Conferences of the church just confirms the theory that a gradual course correction has been occurring within the grassroots of a misdirected Methodism in North America.
Bouknight goes on to talk about the UMC’s changing views on homosexuality, the conflict over the interpretation and authority of Scripture, and the growth of the church in Africa. All of these, according to him, point to a more evangelical United Methodist Church.
Of particular interest was his citation of a particular survey:
On this issue [homosexuality] and a range of others, United Methodism was considered to be one of America’s most liberal denominations 25 years ago. That perception has changed. A 2009 survey of Protestant clergy on the issue of same-sex marriage illustrates how UM clergy differ from others. Whereas 67 percent of United Church of Christ clergy and 49 percent of Episcopal clergy favor same-sex marriage, only 25 percent of UM clergy do.
Again, according to Bouknight, this survey is yet another sign of United Methodism’s more conservative side resurging. As best I can tell, he makes no bold claims about the ultimate future of the UMC. Still, there’s no doubt which way he’d prefer it to go.
All in all, it’s an intriguing article. I’d be interested in hearing what you think. From where you sit, does Bouknight have a point? Agree? Disagree? Why?