As 2017 ends and 2018 beginnings, it's time to engage in the annual tradition of looking back at what the top topics on UM & Global were in 2017 and looking forward to what they might be in 2018. To see what my guesses were for 2017 at the beginning of the year, see here.
The most popular post of 2017, and the most popular post ever on UM & Global, is "American UMC decline is a white people problem." This piece combined themes of race, church decline, and data analysis. All three of these themes have been important to UM & Global in the past.
The biggest foci for UM & Global in 2017, though, were undoubtedly church unity and our assessment of the draft UMC ecclesiology document, "Wonder, Love and Praise." Both topics took up a lot of blog posts over the year and included posts that were among the most-read of 2017.
UM & Global's treatment of "Wonder, Love and Praise" harkens back in some ways to our assessment of "Grace Upon Grace." Both series included multiple authors from across the connection reflecting upon important documents of the church. The comment collection process for "Wonder, Love and Praise" is now closed, and we will have to wait to see what the Committee on Faith and Order does with the comments submitted by our authors and others.
The focus on church unity is part of a larger complex of issues including, as I termed them at the beginning of 2017, General Conference, the Sexuality Debate, and Global Ecclesiology. In some ways, the sexuality debate in the UMC has become a black hole, sucking in all others issues that operate at a more than local level. UM & Global would not have spent so much time exploring the grounds for and challenges to church unity in 2017 without that backdrop. Questions of where the UMC will go in the future are important for a blog "dedicated to fostering conversations about the global nature of The United Methodist Church," but the challenge for 2018 will be to continue to engage with such questions without being consumed by them, while still having attention for other important missiological topics.