While trends in the United States and parts of Europe may support the perception that Christianity will decline in coming decades, patterns worldwide indicate Christianity will grow.
A report from pewresearch.org states, "All of the world's major religious groups are poised for at least some growth in absolute numbers in the coming decades," and, "Four out of every 10 Christians in the world will live in sub-Saharan Africa."
The United Methodist Church through the General Board of Higher Education and Ministry is spurring the growth of Christianity through educational institutions rooted in the teachings of Christ. Today, there are nearly 800 institutions in the Methodist tradition in 80 countries.
Education was an integral part of the Methodist Movement led by John and Charles Wesley in 18th-century England. The first Methodist school – Kingwood – that John Wesley founded in 1748 still exists today.
Through The Methodist Global Education Fund for Leadership Development, Higher Education and Ministry works in five regional hubs encompassing Africa, Asia, Europe, Latin America and North America. The Fund connects partners and institutions in each region. The global network supports, strengthens and develops United Methodist-related education and facilitates institutional partnerships and programs.
Each regional hub has a designated director who works within an affiliated university or related institution. Directors work on culturally specific programs, aligning their activities and plans with the connectional support of Higher Education and Ministry's efforts.
The Rev. Luis Cardoso, director of the Latin America hub, has projects to promote leadership development across the continent. A priority is developing projects for contextual education. Working with local partners, the Latin America hub also develops training workshops that have drawn more than 500 participants.
In Asia, Young Min Paik, a professor at Yonsei University in Seoul, Korea and director of the Asia regional hub, teaches classes and manages the university's new Global Institute of Theology. The graduate-degree program for non-Korean international students provides full scholarships to attend the university. He is also working on the Asia-Pacific Association of the Methodist-related Institutions (APAMEI), which formed in February 2012.
European regional director Michael Nausner, also dean of international affairs at Reutlingen School of Theology in Germany, sponsors stipends, events and courses that "deepen people's understanding of the global nature of the Methodist connection," he says.
The Africa Initiative was the first large project when Higher Education and Ministry initiated its global work in 1984. This led to the creation of Africa University in 1992. The initiative continues to expand with new programs, such as the e-reader project, distance-education learning centers and radio stations to disseminate lifesaving information, created in collaboration with other general agencies. There are nearly 20 Methodist institutions of higher education in Africa connected to Higher Education and Ministry, including Kenya Methodist University, Katanga Methodist University and Methodist University of Côte d'Ivoire.
The work of the 19th-century missionaries continues to bear fruit. By connecting with schools and networks around the world, Higher Education and Ministry ensures that students receive opportunities to progress, to use the latest technologies available and have a chance to build a life and career with the highest quality education.
Betty Elrod is digital communications specialist at the General Board of Higher Education and ministry in Nashville, Tennessee.
One of seven apportioned giving opportunities of The United Methodist Church, the World Service Fund is the financial lifeline to a long list of Christian mission and ministry throughout the denomination. Please encourage your leaders and congregations to support the World Service Fund apportionment at 100 percent.