Wednesday, February 21, 2018

Resource: Maps of locations of World Methodist Council denominations

Today's post is by UM & Global blogmaster Dr. David W. Scott, Director of Mission Theology at the General Board of Global Ministries. The opinions and analysis expressed here are Dr. Scott's own and do not reflect in any way the official position of Global Ministries.

As a research aid and an aid to thinking about the shape of the global Wesleyan/Methodist movement, I have compiled maps indicating the presence of member denominations of the World Methodist Council, the ecumenical body bringing together over 70 Methodist, Wesleyan, and related United/Uniting denominations. The WMC does not include all Methodist/Wesleyan denominations everywhere, but its members include the vast majority of Methodist/Wesleyan Christians.

Using information found on the WMC site, information on the sites of member denominations, and data from the World Christian Database, I compiled a list of all countries where one or more member denominations of the WMC have congregations. I also made a distinction between national denominations (those denominations with members and churches primarily in a single country) and international denominations (those denominations with members and churches in multiple countries, often on multiple continents).

Using that list, I generated a global map highlighting those countries with at least one WMC member denomination.
Here is a static version of that map.
Here is an interactive version of that map.

I also then generated a series of regional maps indicating which specific international denominations operated in particular countries, along with the presence of national autonomous and/or united/uniting denominations in each country.
Here is a .png file of the map for Africa.
Here is a .png file of the map for Asia.
Here is a .png file of the map for Central America and the Caribbean.
Here is a .png file of the map for Europe.
Here is a .png file of the map for North America.
Here is a .png file of the map for Oceania.
Here is a .png file of the map for South America.
Here is a PDF file with all seven regional maps.

There are a couple of caveats to the data and therefore the maps:

1. The data are not perfect. There’s no assurance these maps are 100% accurate or will stay that way for long. Denominations start work in new countries occasionally or have unofficial or unlicensed congregations that may not appear on the public lists.

2. It neglects Korean Methodist Church mission. I know the Korean Methodist Church conducts extensive mission work throughout the world, but I am unfamiliar with how this work is structured in terms of the ecclesial relationships between mission congregations and the Korean Methodist Church.

3. The maps only show presence, not relative membership levels in each country. These vary quite widely from the millions to the dozens. I know such data would be useful, and I may be able to produce it later, but to do so would require an extra challenge of data collection and map making.

4. It is surprisingly difficult to determine what should constitute a "country" for these maps. This difficulty arises not only because of instances of disputed sovereignty, but also because of a number of semi-autonomous relationships between territories and colonial governments. In the Caribbean, I have leaned toward a looser definition of country than elsewhere.

Readers are encouraged to draw their own insights and conclusions from these maps. I will present my insights and conclusions from these maps in a post later this week.


  1. David,
    Your mapping project demonstrates just how heterogeneous is the world Methodist family in each and every place. Looking at the diverse representations of Methodism on the continent of Africa alone brought to mind an incident involving Bishop Abel Muzorewa and his Zimbabwe Methodist ecumenical colleagues. Upon returning to Harare from the 1968 uniting conference of the UMC in Dallas, he audaciously announced to a surprised gathering that included the other Methodist heads of churches, "I am now the Bishop of the United Methodist Church in Zimbabwe." The adjective "United" asserts much more than organizational logistics will ever allow in this communion of followers of John Wesley.
    Robert Harman

  2. Good job, David. Two quick notes: the WMC website says there are now 80 member denominations, representing some 51 million Methodists worldwide. As you say, it may not be up to date, but at least the statistics will be consistent. Picking this up for UM Insight. Thanks.

    1. It's true that they claim 80 member denominations, but they only list 71 distinct member denominations in their list of member denominations. I'm not sure why there's a discrepancy. They also give 51 million as the total membership on their statistics page but elsewhere claim 80.5 million members. I haven't checked with other sources to figure out which of these two is the more accurate figure.