The End of Methodism (And Some Others)

Five years ago to the day, Tim Wyatt, in the Church Times wrote:

The Methodist Church has con­tinued its steady decline in member­ship, the latest statistics have shown. Research presented to last week’s annual Methodist Conference in Birmingham revealed that 188,398 people were members of the Church as of October last year. This means that just under three in every thou­sand people in the UK are Methodists. In the decade to 2016, the Meth­odist Church’s membership fell by an average of 3.5 per cent each year.

In other news, that same annual Methodist Conference having received the report about its shrinking numbers, called for the status of EU citizens in Britain and British citizens in Europe to be finalised urgently as a priority in the Brexit negotiations. It said that Methodists ‘should ask their MPs and MEPs to put pressure on the Government and the EU’. A worthy aim, a laudable concern. Well, that was five years ago. What has the denomination been up to in the meantime, apart from talking about Brexit? Its leading boffins worked on a report God in Love Unites Us which called for the church’s redefinition of marriage. Sure enough, the Conference voted not only to redefine marriage contrary to its Biblical roots, but to undermine it altogether, insisting that unmarried couples needn’t bother marrying at all.

If those trailblazing Methodists thought they had stayed their terminal decline, they would be disappointed. The June edition of the British Church Newspaper and the July edition of the Evangelical Times both reported the findings of Dr John Hayward, a Visiting Professor of Mathematics at the University of South Wales. Using mathematical wizardry, Hayward predicts Methodism’s extinction by 2062. Methodism is not alone, of course. Suffering even steeper decline is the Church in Wales, the United Reformed, the Scottish Episcopal, the Churches of England and Scotland. With the exception of Roman Catholicism, every denomination that is shrinking is liberal and likely to be non-existent within forty years. Professor Hayward offers some interpretation:

“A person would have to be a recluse not to know that a new ideology has been taking hold in Western societies over the last few decades. Many names identify it: liberal progressive; diversity, inclusion and equality; critical theory and its derivatives in race, sexuality etc; LGBTQ+; the sexual revolution; even derogatory names such as "wokeness" and "cultural Marxism". To date, no growing church has adopted same-sex marriage."

So if our friends in Methodism were pondering their denomination’s remarkable decline back in 2017, they have only added fuel to their fire in the meantime. Although I shudder at the spectre of an even more aggressive, national secularism, and the horrible chasm left by religion which cults and political ideology are likely to fill, the end of ‘progressive’ Christianity will be no bad thing. Its simpering worldly wisdom clad in religious habit offers counterfeit gospel and false hope. It denies God’s word, rejects judgement, negates Christ’s work and despises His person. Good riddance, I say.

“I know your works, that you are neither cold nor hot. I could wish you were cold or hot. So then, because you are lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will vomit you out of My mouth. Rev 3:15-16

I am not afraid that the people called Methodists should ever cease to exist either in Europe or America. But I am afraid lest they should only exist as a dead sect, having the form of religion without the power. And this undoubtedly will be the case unless they hold fast both the doctrine, spirit, and discipline with which they first set out. -John Wesley

Image by Christopher Willmot from Pixabay