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Friday, September 20, 2019
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Awakening & Urgency July 30, 2019

Advisory Board, Mainstream UMC

Mainstream UMC conducted a Grassroots Survey that ran from June 25 to July 11. This article is an abbreviation of the first of four articles covering its results.
People in the pews are engaged as never before with a strong sense of urgency for change at General Conference 2020. We are witnessing a generational awakening among Centrists and Progressives in the United Methodist Church. There has been an outpouring of energy following the narrow passage of the Traditional Plan at GC2019.

Not surprisingly, survey results demonstrated the stark polarization between Traditionalists and Centrists/ Progressives. The large numbers of respondents in each group can guide us as we prayerfully discern next steps for the church.

We were hoping for 500-600 responses to our survey to give some direction. We were overwhelmed with 13,176 people taking it over the course of two weeks. Eighty-five percent completed it (11,200) taking an average of 8 minutes and 43 seconds to get through it. In short, people spent over 1,600 hours working on this. There is an unprecedented passion in the church for what is next.

While not a scientific poll, the Mainstream UMC survey helps us understand possible solutions from different perspectives. We had responses from all 54 US annual conferences and 10 countries. About 98% overall were from the United States, 72% Lay and 28% Clergy. We asked respondents to self-identify themselves as either Traditional, Centrist, or Progressive. We received a large number of responses in each group that lends credibility to what we learn about them. The greatest benefit of this survey is seeing the differences in the answers among these three groups. This helps inform what we must do to move the church forward.

Question 8: “Generally Speaking, how would you characterize your theological view?”
  % of Respondents % of Respondents
Traditional 25% 3,202
Centrist 17% 2,253
Progressive 58% 7,465
There is an unmistakable urgency for change in the church right now that is shared across the spectrum of belief. Question 17 asked, “How long do you think you can wait for change in the church?” Remarkably 52% of respondents said they wanted change either by January 1 or at least by General Conference

2020. This compares to only 14% who said they could wait 2-4 years. The remainder of respondents were unsure. The percentages were close together, regardless of whether someone identified as Traditional, Centrist, or Progressive.
Question 9 shows that both awakening and urgency can be traced directly to the perception of the Traditional Plan coming out of GC2019. Progressives and Centrists are closely aligned in strong disagreement. Those who identified as Traditional overwhelmingly agree with GC 2019. This question also shows there are very few neutral parties left. The aggregate number of 73% disagree and 25% agree almost exactly matches the delegate counts in the US following the most recent annual conference elections.

Question 9: “Do you agree or disagree with the 2019 General Conference action to adopt the Traditional Plan?”
  Agree Neutral Disagree
Traditional 89% 3% 8%
Centrist 13% 3% 84%
Progressive 2% 1% 97%
Aggregate 25% 2% 73%
Question 10 follows the same pattern. The survey asked, “Should the United Methodist Church in the United States allow ordination and marriage of LGBTQ persons?” Again, 99% of Progressives and 83% of Centrists said yes. 92% of Traditionalists said no. The aggregate percentages of 74% and 25% is probably the new normal in the US church. The next two questions were only asked to persons who answered “yes” to question 10. Question 11, “Would you welcome an openly LGBTQ pastor in your local church?” And Question 12, “Would you welcome weddings of openly LGBTQ persons in your local church?” Not surprisingly, those who said “yes” to LGBTQ ordination and marriage, whether Traditional, Centrist, or Progressive said they support this in their own church, at 90%+ across the board.

This awakening and urgency puts tremendous pressure on leaders going into General Conference 2020. The people in the pews are tuned in as never before and are expecting change.
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