Methodists opened the ordained ministry to women in 1956, and today female ministers account for about 20 percent of the clergy in the denomination. And 14 bishops heading the 50 U.S. regional jurisdictions of the United Methodist Church are women—28 percent of the total.
The United Methodist Church, like other mainline denominations, is steadily losing members. Yet it has some large, thriving congregations, and about 100 of its churches draw more than 1,200 people on a typical weekend.
With megachurches come megacrowds, megamoney and, increasingly, mega–security concerns.
The crowds—anywhere from 2,000 to 20,000 worshipers each weekend—can be an attractive target for a deranged shooter. Overflowing offering plates are tempting to thieves, and well-known preachers can become high-profile targets.
With his folksy, conversational style, Pastor Frank Harrington turned Peachtree Presbyterian Church in Atlanta into a megachurch over three decades. At its peak, Peachtree had nearly 13,000 names on its rolls—six times the membership when Harrington assumed the pulpit in 1970.
The ever-effervescent Robert H. Schuller—who says he invented the megachurch—was bubbling about the architectural atmosphere of the Crystal Cathedral, which is replete with statuary, greenery and fountains. He said the architectural plan ensures that the nearly 10,000-member church he founded will last for years, regardless of who is in the pulpit.