MWC census: Anabaptist world membership up slightly

World membership rises as N. America, Europe decline

Nov 26, 2018 by and

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Membership in Anabaptist churches worldwide grew 0.7 percent since 2015, according to Mennonite World Conference’s triennial census released Nov. 20.

People worship at a congregation of Uganda Mennonite Church, a new member of Mennonite World Conference in 2017 and one of the growing Anabaptist churches in Africa. — Uganda Mennonite Church

People worship at a congregation of Uganda Mennonite Church, a new member of Mennonite World Conference in 2017 and one of the growing Anabaptist churches in Africa. — Uganda Mennonite Church

By MWC’s count, the Ana­baptist-Men­non­ite faith family includes 2,131,000 baptized members in 86 countries. Of this total, 69 percent are members of MWC.

Growth occurred in the Global South, while North America and Europe declined.

Two-thirds of Anabaptists are found in the Global South. Counting only MWC-member churches, that number rises to 81 percent.

Ethiopia passed India for second place on the list of leading countries.

It is difficult to compare the 2015-18 global rate of growth to the previous three-year reporting period. In 2015, MWC reported a 19 percent growth rate — about double the previous rate from 2009 to 2012 — but this was due mostly to add­ing the Church of the Breth­ren to the census.

The 2015 world membership total was 2,115,195. The three-year increase was 15,805.

The largest church conferences are:

Meserete Kristos Church of Ethiopia, 310,877. With a 22 percent increase, the MKC continues to stand out as a large national church that maintains a fast pace of growth.

— Mennonite Brethren Church of India, 212,000.

— Old and New Order Amish, 125,500.

— Church of the Brethren, 111,457.

Worldwide membership in Anabaptist churches that are MWC members grew by 2 percent in three years. (Some Anabaptist groups, notably the Amish and the Church of the Breth­ren, do not belong to MWC.)

Global statistics, a global map showing the most recent statistics for Anabaptist churches in each country, and a large wall map are online at mwc-cmm .org/article/map-statistics.

Africa

Africa maintained its place as the leading continent, with 776,562 baptized members, or 36 percent of the world total.

Africa’s 5 percent growth is exemplified by groups like Uganda Mennonite Church that are springing up in peri-urban areas — the hinterlands outside cities.

Uganda Mennonite Church congregations face many challenges: buildings barely covered by a roof, and no windows; lack of chairs for church members to sit on during services; pastors who have no formal training and sometimes no paycheck.

“Uganda is ripe for evangelism, and the church is growing,” said Bishop Simon Okoth, national coordinator of Uganda Mennonite Church. Accepted as an MWC member in 2017, the church grew from 310 members in seven congregations in 2015 to 553 members in 18 congregations in 2018.

Asia and the Pacific

Asia and the Pacific saw a 2 percent growth in baptized members, although the number of baptized members of MWC decreased slightly. Greater precision in reporting accounts for some of the decreases reported in countries such as Indonesia and Vietnam. Bharatiya Jukta Christa Prachar Mandli, an Anabaptist church based in Kolkata, India, shows the greatest increase: 36 percent growth to 4,260 members in 2018.

Latin America

Baptized members in Latin America grew by 1 percent, from 199,912 in 2015 to 202,603 in 2018.

Two national churches in Latin America grew by more than 30 percent. New MWC member COBIM, the Mennonite Brethren church in Brazil, grew from 6,960 baptized members in 2015 to 10,400 in 2018. Conferencia Peruana Hermanos Menonitas went from 664 members in 2015 to 1,000 in 2018.

In Venezuela, where economic collapse has made daily life difficult, MWC associate member church Casa de Restauracion y Vida Shalom saw its membership fall by more than half, from 250 in 2015 to 120 in 2018.

Europe

Cradle to Anabaptist faith, Europe sees losses in historic areas like the Netherlands, where the Algemene Doopsgezind Societeit fell from 7,650 members in 2015 to 5,725 in 2018. However, new expressions of Anabaptism are growing in Albania and Spain. The former grew exponentially, from 30 baptized members in 2015 to 120 in 2018, while Anabautistas Menonitas y Hermanos en Cristo in Spain increased from 376 to 501, aided by mission work from Amor Viviente of Honduras.

North America

North American membership declined 5 percent. Mennonite Church USA reported a 33 percent decrease in baptized members, to 69,223, as LMC (formerly Lancaster Mennonite Conference) left the denomination to become an independent conference at the end of 2017. LMC joined MWC in 2018.

Several other national churches reported slight decreases overall, while Conservative Mennonite Conference showed 2 percent growth.

The Be in Christ Church of Canada (formerly Brethren in Christ) is growing steadily, with approximately 17,000 attendees in 2018. (The Canadian BIC 2015 reported membership of 4,080 used a narrower measure of membership).


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