The UMC *and* USA are “Center-Left”

The United Methodist Church is now a Center-Left denomination.
America is a Center-Left Nation.

These are the twin theses I want to put before you today.

After the past several years of bitter and partisan theological infighting, our separation into UMC and GMC is now complete. Studies show fully one quarter of former-United Methodist Churches have left our denomination for the new “Global Methodist Church.” Studies also show that those congregation tend to trend more conservatively.

I wish them well, and I don’t wish to offer any views of how successful, or unsuccessful, they will be going forward.

I simply want to point out to all reading this —United Methodist and beyond— the result of this shift. Our denomination now more clearly reflects where the United States people are, have been, and likely will be, for the rest of our lifetimes.

Let’s unpack…

First, UMC is Center-Left, not far left.

That’s an important distinction to not overlook. We have not, overnight, become “ultra liberal,” and I do not see any evidence that we will, any time soon. Personally, I’d like that…because my personal views/theology tend toward the more progressive. But this is not where we are, and I don’t see us going there.

Contrary to the Chicken Little hysteria of the GMC and their separation talking points, the New UMC is not planning a full scale invasion of America’s Small Towns with bands of queer clergy, waving rainbow flags, and seeking to “convert children.”
(Lest you think I am exaggerating, these were literal talking-points, apparently on some “one-sheet” of lies told about the “new UMC” during our separation, at many churches who subsequently left for the GMC…)

What has happened is that the center of gravity in the UMC…has shifted.

From “Center-Right” To “Center-Left.”

For much of modern history, the United States has also been Center-Left.

These graphs are my own creation, using publicly available data that anybody can fact check. (Knock yourself out…)

For twenty years now, I have thrown down the assertion that “America is a Center-Left nation.” When I say this…I generally get a blank look, or a condescending one, as if I’m a sweet, misguided, imbecile.

I don’t blame anyone for this. The problem is what we see around us, in term of our elected officials. The make up of Congress, Presidency, and the Courts, often do not reflect a Center-Left reality.

But strip away everything and ask yourself one simple question: “What’s THE BEST DATA SET on America’s true social/political views, over time?”

It won’t be polls…they’ve been shown to be off, time and again. They can be manipulated by partisans on both sides.
It won’t be actual elected members of Congress…Congress is clearly gerrymandered to favor Republicans in ways that are both brilliant and, imho, sometimes evil.
It won’t even be names of Presidents-by-Party…since the Electoral College interferes with our popular vote preferences.
It shouldn’t be, Supreme Court rulings, or who sits on the court, sorted by “ideology.”

It’s something far simpler…

Every four years, Americans give us the best data-set available: the aggregate Presidential election results for the nation as a whole.

And since 1992 —for now three decades— Americans consistently tell itself that Americans as a whole are Center-Left.

Not FAR left…
Not center right…
Definitely not far RIGHT.


Americans vote for candidates who fall on the left side of the political line far more often than they do candidates that fall on the right side. To be specific, Americans have cast 36,000,000 more votes, since 1992, for the Democratic candidates for president. The only Republican to ever win the popular vote in the past three decades is George W Bush in 2004. And that was as the nation was in the midst of (what many saw as) an existentially threatening war.

Democrats have won every popular vote for the past three decades, save one.

Why do I push this point?

Because I am very confident that both within the church and within the culture, we continue to fail to see this truth. Other, more conservative voices –in both church and politics– consistently outshout and oversell their own position. Mass media, unquestionably, conflates and equates Christianity with Evangelical Christianity. This means we all continue to make assumptions for ministries within the church, and public policy withing the world, that assume America is in some other place than it truly is.

But every four years –after all the partisan political speeches, after the vitriolic lies have been spun, after Russia, China, and other bad actors have attempted to sway us– Americans climb into a voting booth. And they tell us who they are.

Maya Angelou told us that when people tell us who they are, believe them.

Americans tell us, time and again, for thirty years, that they are Center-Left.

But almost none of us —where ever we fall on the political spectrum— act or behave as if this data is true. But it is. It is the MOST true, most accurate, most factual way to understand who Americans are.

So, why do I belabor this point today?
Am I suggesting that United Methodists all become Democrats?
Far from it, and quite the opposite.

I am attempting to speak to all United Methodists, wherever they fall out on a spectrum of social and political views. I am assuming a future where many of our United Methodist Churches continue to be split among political partisan lines, very near the center point, but credibly, and slightly, to the left.

Whether you see yourself as a Conservative, Progressive, Libertarian, or “None of the Above” United Methodist…I am simply urging us all of us to keep “Who America Is” the back of our minds…to cut through all the other bs and posturing we might hear.

America is Center-Left.
The new UMC is Center-Left.

To me, that means that —perhaps more than any other denomination still in existence today— we are incredibly well positioned to speak to, reach, and be in ministry with, the people of our nation. We are credibly better positioned than almost any other group in society to bring highly polarized Americans together, as neighbors, friends, and church members.

That’s deeply encouraging and hopeful to me, and I hope it is to you too.

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