by United Methodist News Service – Heather Hahn
Here is some encouraging news to start the year. For the first time in 11 years, United Methodist annual (regional) conferences in the United States reported an increase in total professions of faith in 2012. Preliminary figures for professions of faith show a gain from 123,986 in 2011 to 124,635 in 2012 — less than 1 percent but still an upward trajectory. Many of the leaders at this fall’s Council of Bishops meeting in Lake Junaluska, N.C., applauded the news as a welcome development after decades of declining U.S. membership and worship attendance.
“Clearly this is the beginning of everything that we’ve been working toward for the past couple of years as we strengthen congregations to make disciples who engage in the world in justice and mercy ministries,” said New Jersey Area Bishop John R. Schol, who has led the denomination’s Vital Congregations Initiative.
“What this really says is we’re starting to move in the right direction. Certainly, it’s not a trend. … But it’s a hopeful sign for the journey ahead.”