A 30-year decline in membership continues in the United Methodist Church, but at a significantly lower rate, according to statistics compiled in recent week from 66 regional conferences in the United States.

In 1997, the church unofficially reported a loss of 42,000 members. If officially confirmed by the church's General Council on Finance and Administration this fall, the figures represent the smallest decline in a decade. For each of the previous two years, the church lost 49,000 members. The denomination, which has 8.5 million U.S. members, is growing rapidly in other areas of the world, where it has another 1 million members.