Methodist Mitosis


Research on 'The Wicked Problem of American Methodism' as an HRA at St. Mary's College
University of St. Andrews

How to Cite

Phillips, R. J. (2021). Methodist Mitosis: Taming the ‘Wicked Problem’ of The United Methodist Church. Methodist Review, 13. Retrieved from


The United Methodist Church faces a ‘wicked problem.’ Numerous challenges confront it on multiple levels that defy linear problem-solution repairs. Sexuality has received most of the attention but theological contradictions, trust deficits, demographics, ineffective organization, and systemic denial are some expressions of this hydra-headed issue. Wicked Problem Theory (WPT) identifies and rejects strategies rooted in authority or conflict as the best approach. Realistic collaboration among competing stakeholders offers the best chance for reformed and new expressions of Wesleyan Christianity to reboot for the twenty-first century. That said, most collaborative efforts fail back into conflict, unless a vision of the ‘mitosis’ of Methodism constructively reframes renewal efforts typically undercut by labels such as ‘schism.’ The existing denomination is perfectly aligned to its current product of sustained and accelerating decline in the United States and Europe. The church’s ‘wicked problem,’ by its very nature, cannot be solved, but it can be tamed and even leveraged toward a revived and reformed future.

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