United Methodists third largest group in Congress
Editor’s note: Information in this story is based on the religious affiliations reported by congressional staffs to Congressional Quarterly, the Almanac of American Politics and VoteSmart.com. Information on the governors’ religious affiliation comes from CNN and The Almanac of American Politics.
WASHINGTON (UMNS) -- Fifty-three United Methodists served in the 111th Congress, a decline of eight from the last three Congresses, but the denomination still ranks third in total congressional membership.
While there were seven newly elected United Methodists in the 111th Congress, compared to five in the 110th Congress, an unusual number of Methodist members retired, died in office or were defeated for re-election in 2008, resulting in the overall reduction.
Unlike 2006, when all newly elected United Methodists were Democrats, five of 2008’s new United Methodist members were Republicans while two were Democrats.
Those United Methodist Republicans who are completing their first term are Mike Coffman of Colorado, Bill Posey of Florida, Lynn Jenkins of Kansas, Phil Roe of Tennessee and Paul Olson of Texas. The two first-term United Methodist Democrats are Suzanne Kosmas of Florida and Mark Schauer of Michigan.
All seven are House members.
Nine United Methodists served in the Senate, a decline of four from the previous Congress. Former presidential candidate Hillary Clinton of New York became Secretary of State in the Obama administration, while Elizabeth Dole of North Carolina lost her re-election campaign. Larry Craig of Idaho retired, and Craig Thomas of Wyoming died while in office.
Split between parties
At the present, Congressional United Methodists are split almost equally between the two parties, with 27 Democrats and 26 Republicans.
Texas has the largest number of United Methodist members with 11, followed by Florida with five, and Arkansas, Indiana, Michigan and Kansas with three each.
In terms of strength within state delegations, Arkansas is a United Methodist stronghold, with three of its four House members currently claiming membership
in the denomination. Half of the Kansas delegation is United Methodist. Twenty-five states elected at least one United Methodist to Congress in 2008.
Thirty-two Methodists represent states in the South or Border South, while 15 come from the Midwest and six from the West.
United Methodists remain in third place among religious groups represented in Congress, following Roman Catholics in first place and Baptists in second. Jews, Presbyterians and Episcopalians are in fourth, fifth and sixth place, respectively.
Nondenominational Protestants, Lutherans, nondenominational Christians, and Mormons complete the top 10. There are also two Buddhists, two Muslims and eight Eastern Orthodox Christians in Congress.
Five state governors
The United Methodist Church also has five serving as state governors, including Missouri Democrat Jay Nixon, elected in 2008. The other four current United Methodist governors are Republicans Charlie Crist of Florida, David Heinemann of Nebraska and Rick Perry of Texas, as well as Democrat Ted Strickland of Ohio.
Two United Methodists left as governors of their states in 2008. Janet Napolitano of Arizona became secretary of the Department of Homeland Security, and Delaware Gov. Ruth Ann Minner did not seek reelection.
*Menendez is a free-lance writer and research director for Americans for Religious Liberty.