Author: Advisory Board Editorial Team, Mainstream UMC
This is the fourth of four posts analyzing the results of the Mainstream UMC Grassroots Survey that ran from June 25 to July 11, 2019. There were 28 questions total. This post covers question 24 which identified the greatest concerns about the UMC should there be a split. There are links below to read the other posts.
There was some striking agreement among Traditionalists, Centrists, and Progressives about the value of the local church, our global witness, and pensions. There was also agreement that neither the Cross & Flame logo nor the name “United Methodist Church” are at the forefront of most respondents’ thinking. Finally, there was striking disagreement between Traditionalists and Centrists/Progressives about the value of the general agencies. Centrists/Progressives valued them at almost twice the rate as those who self-identified as Traditional.
One of the last questions, Question 24 asked, “What are your greatest concerns about a church split in terms of the institution itself?” Respondents were able to check as many as they wanted, so the percentages do not add up neatly to 100%. This question revealed some remarkable similarities among Traditional, Centrist, and Progressive respondents. It also showed some remarkable differences. Here are a few of the notable categories.
The top four aggregate concerns were Local Church Ministry and Witness, Local Church Property, Global Ministry and Witness, and Pensions/Legal Issues. Local church concerns were tops for all three groups. This is very important information that as we seek global solutions, we must keep the health of the local church first. Another similarity is that the Global Ministry and Witness was top three for all groups. Clearly, despite the concerns about our global governance structure, particularly by Centrists and Progressives, it is still a top priority. Finally, all three groups ranked pensions in their top 5 concerns, with similar numbers for legal issues. Notably, Traditionalists ranked Pensions/Legal issues as a concern significantly less than the Centrists/Progressives.
|Local Church Ministry & Witness||Local Church Property||Global Ministry & Witness||Pensions/Legal issues|
Every group agreed that preserving the Cross & Flame Logo and the name “United Methodist Church” were the lowest priorities. There was a remarkable consistency among Traditional, Centrist, and Progressive respondents. Everyone valued the Cross & Flame the lowest and, in some cases, valued the name twice as much. The only variance in the data was found when you split responses between lay and clergy. Across the board, the laity valued both the logo and the name at twice the rate the clergy did. Nevertheless, they still came out last in the priority list for everyone.
|Preserving the Cross and Flame||Preserving the name “United Methodist Church”|
Finally, the value of the General Agencies jumped out as the most striking difference between Traditional and Centrist/Progressive responses. Traditionalists valued the General Agencies about half as much as the others. This might help explain the consistent, lower pay out of apportionments among more Traditional annual conferences. It might also explain the expressed willingness of Traditional leaders to sell off the assets of the General Agencies if the denomination splits. This survey did not differentiate among the different agencies, so there is no way to see support for our pension center Wespath, for instance. A future survey could delve into more detail here. Regardless, only Centrists and Progressives saw the aggregated agencies as valuable.
|Mission of General Agencies||Assets of General Agencies|
Generally, Traditionalists—across the board—expressed less concern for the institution itself than either the Centrists or the Progressives. Considering no one was constrained to only choose one or two, Traditional respondents consistently checked far fewer priorities than Centrists and Progressives. There might be some benefit in a follow up survey to understand this more fully. This also dovetails with the Traditionalists’ expressed willingness to dissolve the denomination. They see less value in the General Church than Centrists and Progressives.
In closing, the survey results revealed a number of things. Some we already knew: yes, we are polarized along ideological lines. Results also confirm there is clear alignment between Centrists and Progressives which can serve as a strong foundation for the church moving forward. With a structural alignment that allows US autonomy, results also show the global church can stay together and thrive. Most importantly, every group values the ministry of the local church above all else. All delegates going into General Conference 2020 must put the success of the local church first.
Again, a big “Thank you” to everyone who participated in the survey!
Read all the analysis:
Survey Results 1 of 4: Awakening & Urgency
Posted July 30, 2019
Survey Results 2 of 4: Can We Live Together in the US Church?
Posted August 1, 2019
Survey Results 3 of 4: Changes to the Global Structure.
Posted August 6, 2019
Survey Results 4 of 4: Concerns About a Split.
Posted August 8, 2019
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