Nov 12 2012

JohnLeek.com: What the Presidential Election Should REALLY Teach the United Methodist Church

Original post at http://www.johnleek.com/2012/11/what-presidential-election-should.html

Some have suggested that the presidential election should show us that the United Methodist Church ought to change some of its positions. I disagree and would like to suggest an alternative lesson.

Looking at exit polling data confirmed some assumptions that I think are a bit more obvious:

image from slate.com

If this election had only been among white voters Mitt Romney would have won in a landslide. In fact 59 percent of white voters chose Mitt Romney in this presidential election. They provided 88 percent of Romney's overall total of between 47 and 48 percent of the vote. America has changed.

Mitt Romney's numbers reminded me of something I'd read before, the demographics of the United Methodist Church in America. 93 percent are white. What America will look like soon looks a lot more like Barack Obama's coalition. Clearly the United Methodist Church needs to place a priority on reaching and planting churches among new populations. The National Plan for Hispanic/Latino Ministry, which follows African methods of heavy lay training and leadership, looks like a good start. 

image from cnn.com

Another distinction was that of income. Among voting households making less than 50 thousand dollars, 60 percent chose Obama. These households made up 41 percent of voters and over half of all households currently. Obama won 81 percent of voters who really wanted a president who cared about them over three other qualities. He lost a majority of voters in all other three groups.

Forty-four percent of United Methodist households are in this group. Since 72 percent of United Methodist households have no children at home and we all know there aren't a huge number of young United Methodists I'd surmise this: our "low income" folks are mostly elderly living on retirement funds and social security.

I suspect that many of the 81 percent that said "cares about people" was the most important quality in a president are in that lower income group. The United Methodist Church, like all Mainline denominations, has done a poor job a reaching lower educated and low income people. United Methodist churches of all ideological backgrounds have missed the boat on reaching these folks. We should be more concerned about the people who aren't like us who aren't in our congregations. They need a relationship with Jesus too!

Grace Church Cape Coral, a UMC reaching many low income people. image from seedbed.com
What should this election teach us? Probably very little. It can show us that the America that exists, "real America" if you will, is not the one our denomination has already reached. It is poorer, more diverse and more disconnected. Will we reach these people by becoming more liberal or conservative? Likely not. We will reach these people by caring to actually reach them. We'll need to empower people through other communities by taking the time to love them, raising up local leadership and providing the resources they'll need to succeed. It'll take real work and risk, but Jesus intends to build his Church. It is my hope that the United Methodist Church in America will join him in that wonderful mission.

About the author

John Wesley Leek

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