While doctrinal fights over sexuality keep grabbing the headlines, anyone who follows United Methodist affairs knows that the real news in this denomination, like so many others, centers on issues of demographics and geography.
While the number of baptisms and conversions sink in America, accompanied by a rapid graying of the surviving people in the pews, the ranks of new Methodists are growing in the lands of the Global South. Since the denomination's General Conferences are global in nature, this means that United Methodists around the world are gaining power, while the Americans slowly fade.
As a rule, journalists covering conflicts inside the United Methodist Church have explained the basic facts of this mechanism. At the 2016 gatherings, most of the weight was carried by Religion News Service, the rare mainstream newsroom that -- in these hard times for journalists -- had a reporter on site.
As things came to a close in Portland, RNS offered a long, interesting news feature that looked at recent events through a global lens, with this headline: "African Methodists worry about the church that brought them Christianity."
I am sure that conservative United Methodists, here in America and abroad, found much to applaud in this piece. However, this was the rare case in which a mainstream newsroom produced a story that had large hole in its content -- on the doctrinal left. While the Africans were allowed to speak, RNS did little to let readers hear the voices of their First World critics.
Does this matter? Yes, it does, because that is where the action is right now.