It's been a half-century since the last year of membership growth in United Methodism.
Mark Tooley, president of the Institute on Religion & Democracy, says United Methodism has lost members every year since 1965, something he calls "tragic and quite remarkable."
"My theory is that, in large part, that's because the seminaries of the denomination had gone liberal by the 1920s,” he tells OneNewsNow. “So, by 1965, virtually all the clergy who had any memory of orthodox teaching and theological teaching had retired. And all the clergy in place by the 1960s had been trained in theological liberalism or modernism."
Tooley says liberal theology deemphasizes the supernatural and Christian doctrine.
"It certainly doesn't acknowledge a need for saving souls or evangelism,” he notes. “And of course, if you don't teach the need to save souls or evangelize, consequently you don't have evangelism and churches begin to decline."
Tooley adds that there have always been large pockets of vitality in orthodox Methodist belief. He says much of that is due to the influence of Asbury Theological Seminary in Kentucky.
"Although it's not officially United Methodist, it graduates more Methodists seminarians than any official seminary does,” he says. “But there are thousands of wonderful, local United Methodist churches. And if someone is in a good Methodist church where the Word is being proclaimed, they need to support it."