Religion: Struggling for Soul and Purse

Disgruntled Methodists challenge their biggest agency

The 9.5 million-member United Methodist Church is a denomination in which smoking and drinking still carry the faint air of impropriety. Conservatism remains a powerful force in other ways: homosexuality has been openly condemned by the church as "incompatible with Christian teaching," and liberation theology is regarded by some Methodist clergy as the dogma of radical leftists. Conservative members tend to blame their leaders' increasing liberalism for a serious decline in the church. Since 1968 membership has fallen by 1.5 million, Sunday-school enrollment is down by 3...

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