04 July 2014, The Tablet

Grim statistics reveal sharp decline of number of Methodists in Britain

by Ruth Gledhill

Methodists celebrated more than twice as many funerals as baptisms last year, as latest figures show a decline in membership of one third over the last decade.

The Methodist Church, which began collecting membership figures in 1766, said that every day, on average, over the last decade, 16 Methodists have died while just seven new people have joined the Church.

A report, Statistics for Mission, found that by the end of October last year, there were 208,738 members of the Church compared with 304,971 in 2003, a 3.7 per cent year-on-year decline.

“The key dynamic is the ratio of deaths to new members, which has increased from around two to one at the beginning of the decade to around 2.5 to one in 2013,” the report says.

Numbers of weddings, baptisms and funerals all fell sharply over the decade and in the year to 31 October 2013, there were 2,751 Methodist weddings, 10,043 baptisms and 21,057 funerals.

Children’s attendances fell from 77,900 in 2003 to 32,700 in 2013, a reduction of around 58 per cent.

Dr Martyn Atkins, General Secretary of the Methodist Conference, which met in Birmingham this week, urged members “to rise to the challenge” presented by the falling membership.

Dr Atkins said: “If ever we needed any encouragement to continue to focus on those things that make for an ever better Church, which is a discipleship movement shaped for mission today, then these statistics provide that.”

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