The Demise of the World’s Greatest Mission Agency
Mark Tooley on Mainline Decay
Just over ten years ago, fresh out of college, I became missions chairman at my small United Methodist congregation in northern Virginia. I was curious about my denomination’s missions outlook, so I ordered a copy of our missions board’s budget and began reading the board’s publications. My distress over what I discovered about United Methodist missions propelled me into a decade of renewal work within United Methodism (a calling to which I am now devoted full-time at the Institute on Religion and Democracy in Washington, D.C.).
The United Methodist Church was once the nation’s, and probably the world’s, largest missions dispatching organization. Earlier this century it had nearly 2,700 full-time missionaries serving overseas. But a recent ranking of U.S. churches and missions agencies revealed that 25 other organizations now outrank the Methodist missions board in number of missionaries. These organizations include not only conservative denominations and parachurch groups like the Assemblies of God and Wycliffe Bible Translators, but also even the mainline (and smaller) Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.).
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