United Methodist high court says Ivory Coast church not yet a full member

Manila, Philippines - The United Methodist high court has ruled that the Methodist Church of the Ivory Coast hasn't yet been fully admitted to the denomination.

The Judicial Council concluded that the 2004 General Conference, the top legislative body of the church, did not complete all the required steps for full admission. That work is expected to be finished by the next General Conference, scheduled for next year in Texas.

The ruling means that the Ivory Coast church cannot bring a full delegation to the 2008 meeting. The West African body may be limited to as few as two delegates.

With about 700,000 members, the Ivory Coast church is the largest annual conference, or district, in the United Methodist Church. When it gains full membership, it will have significant influence at Methodist legislative meetings.

The ruling, announced May 2, came during the Judicial Council's first meeting outside the United States to acknowledge the global growth of United Methodism. Nearly 8 million United Methodists are now in the U.S., with another 3.5 million church members overseas.

But over the last decade, the number of United Methodists outside the U.S. more than tripled, while the American denomination shrank at home.