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United Methodist Expansion in to Albania Marks Continued Vitality Outside U.S.

"Unlike other declining U.S. mainline denominations, United Methodism has hope because of its growing international membership."--Mark Tooley, Executive Director UMAction

Contact: Loralei Coyle 202-682-4131, 202-905-6852 cell, lcoyle@ird-renew.org; Radio Interviews: Jeff Walton, jwalton@ird-renew.org; both with The Institute on Religion and Democracy

WASHINGTON, Sept. 19 /Christian Newswire/ -- The United Methodist Church continues to become more international as Bishop of Central and Southern Europe Patrick Streiff recently signed papers for the legal recognition of the United Methodist Church in Albania.

Legal recognition is a significant step for the United Methodist Church of Albania, which dates to the 1990's, thanks to work by German United Methodists. The United Methodist Church in majority Muslim Albania is still very small. But it is just one example of a growing number of United Methodist churches in former communist countries, including Russia, Estonia, Poland, Bulgaria, the Czech & Slovak Republics, Yugoslavia & Macedonia, Ukraine and Moldova.

United Methodism in the U.S. has declined from 11 million to 7.9 million. But non-U.S. United Methodism now includes 3.5 million members, the vast majority of whom are in Africa. The growing international membership is shifting the once liberal dominated church in a theologically more conservative direction.

IRD Director of UMAction Mark Tooley responded,

"With over 30 percent of its membership now outside of the U.S., the United Methodist Church now is a fully international communion.

"United Methodism continues to be the most bold and vibrant on the frontiers of Christianity. Much like earlier efforts in Africa and South Asia, the UMC is now spreading the Gospel in formerly communist nations like Albania.

"United Methodism's almost only growth comes from the evangelistic zeal of churches overseas, in newly-missioned areas. Unsurprisingly, United Methodism grows in regions where evangelism is a chief priority.

"Thanks to the biblical convictions of many international United Methodists, the denomination is moving in a very different direction from fast declining liberal mainline denominations in the U.S., like the Episcopal Church and United Church of Christ, among others."