Major Church Denomination Loses 1+ Million Member in Single Day

The United Methodist Church (UMC), one of the largest Protestant denominations in the United States, has faced a significant exodus of its members in recent times. In a dramatic turn of events, the UMC’s Ivory Coast branch, known as the Eglise Méthodiste Unie Côte d’Ivoire (EMUCI), made the bold decision to leave the UMC, taking with it a staggering 1 million members. This monumental shift was driven by the EMUCI’s unwavering commitment to upholding the teachings of the Bible and its refusal to compromise on the issue of homosexuality, which the denomination had recently embraced.

The roots of this schism can be traced back to the UMC’s decision last year to allow LGBT-practicing clergy and reverse prohibitions on same-sex marriage. This move was seen by the EMUCI and other conservative Methodist groups as a direct deviation from the “unchangeable truth” of the Holy Scriptures. For the EMUCI, the sanctity of marriage and the rejection of homosexuality as a sin were non-negotiable principles that could not be sacrificed in the name of sociocultural and contextual values.

The EMUCI’s decision to leave the UMC was not made lightly. In a statement, Bishop Benjamin Boni expressed that the denomination had sacrificed its “honor and integrity” to appease the LGBTQ community, a move that was unacceptable to the West African Methodists. Citing “reasons of conscience, before God and His word, the supreme authority in matters of faith and life,” the EMUCI made the bold move to sever ties with the UMC.

The departure of the EMUCI is a significant blow to the UMC, as it represents the loss of over 1 million members in a single day. This exodus is particularly impactful given the growth and vibrancy of Methodism in the Ivory Coast, where the EMUCI boasts 900 churches and 100 preaching points, with an annual growth rate of 7-8%. In contrast, the UMC in the United States has been grappling with years of decline, especially as the denomination has embraced more liberal ideologies.

The EMUCI’s decision to leave the UMC is not an isolated incident. Over the past several years, thousands of UMC congregations in the United States have disaffiliated from the denomination, joining the Global Methodist Church or remaining independent, citing the UMC’s liberal drift. Additionally, the Korean Methodist Church, with approximately 1.5 million members, has also expressed its intent to potentially follow suit, further emphasizing the global nature of this doctrinal divide.

The growth and influence of the EMUCI within the UMC is a testament to the resurgence of traditional Methodism, particularly in the Global South. The EMUCI’s demographic reflects the diversity of the Ivory Coast, with 60% of its members being under the age of 35 and women comprising the majority. Alongside its spiritual mission, the EMUCI has also been actively engaged in community development, operating schools and a hospital, further solidifying its role as a pillar of the local community.

At the heart of this conflict lies a fundamental clash of ideologies. The EMUCI and other conservative Methodist groups believe that the UMC’s embrace of LGBTQ-affirming policies is a direct betrayal of the “unchangeable truth” of the Bible. They view homosexuality as a clear sin, and their unwavering stance on this issue has become a defining characteristic of their faith. In contrast, the UMC’s decision to move towards a more inclusive and progressive stance on LGBTQ issues has alienated these traditionalist factions, leading to the mass exodus we are witnessing.

The divide within the UMC is not limited to the Ivory Coast alone. Across the United States, thousands of congregations have chosen to disaffiliate from the denomination, joining alternative groups like the Global Methodist Church or opting for independence. This trend underscores the deep-rooted nature of the ideological rift, with traditionalist Methodists unwilling to compromise their core beliefs in the face of the UMC’s evolving stance.

The potential departure of the Korean Methodist Church, with its 1.5 million members, from the UMC would further exacerbate the denomination’s woes. The Korean Methodists have expressed a similar stance to the EMUCI, stating that “homosexuality cannot be accepted until the Lord returns” and that the church must “teach correctly, without compromise” on this issue.

The mass exodus of members from the UMC, particularly the loss of the EMUCI’s 1 million members, poses significant challenges for the denomination. The UMC’s financial resources, global reach, and overall influence are likely to be impacted by these departures, as traditionalist factions seek to find a new spiritual home that aligns with their values.

As the UMC grapples with this ideological crisis, the future of the denomination remains uncertain. The continued defection of congregations and the potential loss of the Korean Methodist Church could further erode the UMC’s standing, both numerically and in terms of its global reach. The ability of the UMC to navigate this complex landscape and maintain its relevance in the face of such a significant challenge will be a crucial test of its leadership and adaptability.

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Carol M

Wow! May God strengthen and bless them.

Lorraine E Blazich

Who cares what the so called churches say? The Word of God does not change.

Lorraine E Blazich

The Word of God will not and definitely should not be changed by anyone..

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