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Methodist Restructuring May Empower Non-U.S. Churches — Or Silence Them

With 3 of 10 delegates from abroad, general conference will consider creating an Americans-only body.

It is not uncommon to walk into a United Methodist church and hear the congregation singing "My Country 'Tis of Thee" during a traditional worship service. All four verses of it.

But while the church's 8 million members make the United Methodist Church (UMC) the country's second-largest Protestant denomination, another 3.5 million United Methodists worship overseas, and their numbers are growing as the American body shrinks. The denomination of George W. Bush and Hillary Clinton is also the denomination of Liberian president Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf and former Philippines president Fidel Ramos.

The Methodist leadership overseas tends to be more conservative than its American counterpart, and as the UMC gathers for its 10-day quadrennial general conference to debate sexual ethics, divestment from Israel, and other perennial hot topics, the relationship between the UMC's American and international churches will be the subject of its own debate.

During the conference, which starts tomorrow, April ...

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