Sunday, July 8, 2018

Seven Stakes and 53 Wards/Branches Discontinued in Mexico: New District Created in Mexico

Significant restructuring of stakes and congregations has occurred in several areas of Mexico during the past month and seven stakes and 53 wards/branches have been discontinued within approximately the past 1-2 months. This has resulted in a three percent decrease in the total number of stakes in Mexico as there are now 222 stakes and 44 districts in the country. In contrast, the Church in Mexico had previously discontinued only eight stakes in its entire history prior to the announcement of these recent changes (with the exception of the discontinuation of stakes in the mid-1970s as part of the creation of 15 new stakes in the Mexico City area). The number of wards/branches in Mexico has decreased by 54 since year-end 2017 from 1,987 to 1,933, or a 2.7% decrease. These consolidations are the largest experienced by the country in a country with a major LDS presence since the early 2000s when the Church consolidated hundreds of wards/branches and scores of stakes in countries such as Chile, Peru, the Philippines, Ecuador, Brazil, and Guatemala.

Stakes discontinued in Mexico during the past 1-2 months include:
  • Coatzacoalcos México Puerto
  • Madero México Ampliación
  • Minatitlán México
  • Minatitlán México Tecnológico
  • Monterrey México Morelos
  • Monterrey México Paraíso
  • Tampico México Chairel
The Coatzacoalcos México Puerto Stake was organized in 1990 and had 13 wards and one branch prior to its consolidation with the Coatzacoalcos México Stake. The Coatzacoalcos México Stake had five wards and four branches before the consolidation occurred. There are now nine stakes and two branches in the Coatzacoalcos México Stake. Additionally, the Las Choapas México District was organized on June 17th from five congregations formerly assigned to Coatzacoalcos México Stake. The new district has five branches - two of which used to be wards in the stake (Agua Dulce and Cuatro Caminos). There were no wards/branches discontinued within the boundaries of the new district.

The Madero México Ampliación Stake was organized in 2001 and had six wards prior to its consolidation with the Madero México Stake. The Madero México Stake had seven wards before the consolidation occurred. There are now five wards and two branches in the Madero México Stake. The Tampico México Chairel Stake was organized in 2000 and had six wards prior to its consolidation with the Tampico México Stake. Four of the wards in the original stake were discontinued. The Tampico México Stake now has five wards and two branches. As a result of these changes, the number of stakes in the Tampico/Madero metropolitan area decreased from five to three.

The Minatitlán México Stake was organized in 1977 and had six wards prior to its discontinuation. The Minatitlán México Tecnológico Stake was organized in 1997 and had six wards and one branch prior to its discontinuation. The two Minatitlán Stakes were merged into the Minatitlán México Tecnológico District, which has seven branches. This marks the first time in LDS history where the Church in a city with two stakes has had both of its stakes discontinued and merged into a single district. In contrast, the Church has usually discontinued only one of its two stakes in a city where there are two stakes.

The Monterrey México Morelos Stake was organized in 1980 and had five wards prior to its consolidation with the Monterrey México Anáhuac Stake and the Monterrey México Mitras Stake. Two of the wards in the original stake were discontinued. The Monterrey México Paraíso Stake was organized in 1978 and had six wards prior to its consolidation with the Monterrey México Los Angeles Stake and the Monterrey México Roma Stake. Three of the wards in the original stake were discontinued. As a result of the discontinuation of these two stakes, the number of stakes in Monterrey decreased from 12 to 10.

Analysis:
The decision by the Church to discontinue seven stakes and more than 50 wards/branches in several cities in Mexico during the past 1-2 months does not indicate a sudden drop in church attendance or member activity/convert retention rates. Rather, these changes were likely many months or years in planning due to many wards in these cities with few active members and emphasis from the area presidency for better utilization of meetinghouse space. Data from returned missionary and local member surveys indicate that many, if not most, of the wards discontinued during the past 1-2 months in Mexico had between 40-100 active members. Church leaders in the Mexico Area have also focused on the creation of wards that have at least 100 active members in order to better utilize LDS meetinghouse space to conserve costs and to establish larger wards that provide more opportunities for fellowship and socialization. The creation of wards with more active members has also appeared motivated to address challenges with leadership burnout or difficulties with quality church leadership on a local level.

Most concerning with these developments has been the lack of success of strengthening wards/branches in many cities in Mexico during the last 5-10 years despite a significantly increased missionary presence in many areas. For example, the number of missions in Mexico increased from 24 in 2011 to 34 in 2013, and decreased to 32 in 2018. However, there has now been no net increase in the number of stakes since 2011 and a decrease of 67 wards/branches during this time even though church membership has increased by 162,184 (or 12.7%) from 1,273,199 to 1,435,383. Thus, the Church in Mexico has appeared to experience the lowest "real growth" productivity of any country in the world with a significant LDS presence (i.e. more than 100,000 members) during the 2010s. Local church leaders and returned missionaries indicate low member-missionary participation, poor collaboration between church leaders and full-time missionaries in regards to proselytism and reactivation efforts, and low participation by many active members in fulfilling callings and meeting other member responsibilities (such as regular temple attendance) have appeared primarily responsible for these changes in LDS growth trends. For example, members have appeared to minimally utilize the Mexico City Mexico Temple even though the Mexico City Mexico Temple has one of the largest temple districts in the world with approximately 80 stakes.

The Church in Mexico began to consolidate wards and stakes with smaller numbers of active members as early as 2011 and 2012 although most of these changes occurred in 2017. The Church first began widespread consolidations in Mexico in Guadalajara where two stakes and 17 wards/branches were discontinued in late 2011 and in 2012. These changes have appeared to have had a positive effect on growth as four new wards/branches have since been organized in Guadalajara after these initial consolidations occurred. Moreover, the Church has reported significant improvements in the functionality and strength of the Church in Guadalajara since these changes occurred. The Church reported significant ward/branch consolidations in Chilpancingo, Ciudad Obregón, Culiacán, Juchitán, Mazatlán, Puebla, Salina Cruz, and Tijuana during 2017 albeit these changes necessitated the discontinuation of stakes only in Ciudad Obregón and Mazatlán. However, there has been significant variability in the magnitude of ward/branch consolidations in Mexico during 2017 and 2018. For example, the Church discontinued approximately half of its wards/branches in the Tampico/Madero metropolitan area and in the city of Minatitlán, whereas only 10-20% of wards/branches were discontinued in other major cities such as Monterrey or Puebla. Furthermore, no stakes were discontinued when ward/branch consolidations occurred in Puebla. To the contrary, one new stake and one new district were organized as part of the restructuring of stakes and congregations.

Despite the bleak picture presented by recent trends in national stake and congregational growth, the Church in Mexico has experienced steady growth in several locations which appear unlikely to experience future consolidations or only a minimal number of consolidations, such as Cancún, Querétaro, Mérida, Orizaba, and Xalapa. Variability in growth trends and church strength/stability has also appeared affected by crime and economic opportunities. Nevertheless, the recent trend in nationwide congregation and stake consolidations does not appear to be over as there appear many wards/stakes in the Mexico City area and other cities in northern Mexico that appear vulnerable to closure.

18 comments:

L. Chris Jones said...

I also wonder how much growth in Mexico and other areas is effected by migration, including immigration. Even in Utah, Salt Lake City has had consolidations, but a few miles down the road in South Jordan there has been considerable growth. Mexico has a lot of out migration but also low retention.

John Pack Lambert said...

The ward I used to be in had multiple actuve families who moved from Mexico not long ago. I have to wonder how factors of active member emigration effect membership in Mexico.

James Anderson said...

Got some other anecdotal news about my temple today in elders quorum. A bishopric member who worked one night a week in the baptistry said that while he was there--this was until the first of May, he said they would have people arrive at 815pm, and everyone who came before then was able to do baptisms or work in that area, and they would often overflow the baptistry seating and have to set up seating outside that room. They would not get done until 11pm on occasion. This is happening at Provo City Center

They also have high turnover for workers anywhere in that temple, the area is largely now younger families and half the stakes are YSA stakes that are assigned to it which is what accounts for the worker turnover

James said...

Thanks for this analysis, Matt! It is interesting (and at times tragic) to see mass consolidations of Church units anywhere in the world. But if the purpose of such consolidations are to add greater numbers to strengthen the units that remain, as is the case here, it should be worth it in the long run.

One question I had was this: Could these mass consolidations of Church units in Mexico delay the announcement of another temple in Mexico for a time? I know that when I covered Mexico in the series of posts about near future temple prospects on my blog, there were comments to the effect that, if the situation of the Church in Mexico improves, there are a number of excellent candidate cities which could be home to a temple one day. Of all of those potential prospects, the consensus seems to be that Puebla will be home to Mexico's next announced temple. Is that prospect just a matter of time, or might the effect of the consolidations in Mexico delay the possibility? It is certainly interesting to think about.

Deg said...

I'm in Mexico right now. My home ward hasn't grown in 20 years (Antequera, Estaca Libertad Puebla)

James Anderson said...

Hard to say on new temples, Monterrey already has a temple and I am not sure where the others are situated in relation to a temple, but the same numbers of members still exist after the dissolution as did before with the assumption that the numbers previously dropped which was the cause for that.

Chris said...

Here are Mexico areas that were on a previous list on the blog, about future possible Temple announcements, if this helps in the analysis or conversation :

Cuautla México Temple
Culiacan México Temple
Puebla Mexico Temple
Querétaro México Temple

Cory Ward said...

Perhaps I could provide some insight on what the area presidency in Mexico has been teaching for the last few years. In 2015 the area presidency, Elder de Hoyos, Pieper, and Valenzuela, put special emphasis on the "plan de area." In years past, the area plan had been a multi-page document that mostly stake and mission presidents ever looked at. But in 2015, the area plan was reduced to one page, front and back, that was widely distributed and talked about. Missionaries were given a copy of it, asked to memorize parts of it, and to teach it in the homes of members. A similar plan was released every year under the presidencies of Elder Pieper and now, Valenzuela. After 2015, leaders in Salt Lake were impressed and suggested that other areas to the same. My parents have a fridge magnet with the "Idaho area plan 2017" on it.

The main theme and "buzz word" of the document was "Autosuficiencia" or Self-sufficiency. The vision of the plan was to make sacrifices in order to support the "hastening and growth of the Kingdom." It said that the church in Mexico has grown over the last 100 years thanks in a large part to the efforts of "Foreigners." It focused on the usual: attending church, sharing the gospel, and family history work. But there was special emphasis on being self-sufficient in regards to Fast offerings. My mission president shared with us that at the beginning of the year that the Mexico area was only providing around 20% of the funds that it used from fast offerings, the rest was coming from the U.S. By the end of the year it was around 60 or 80%.

This theme of being self-sufficient as a nation, I believe is being applied in many aspects. The vision implies that if Mexico can provide for its own needs: Fast offerings, Tithing funds, young missionaries, then it can use the excess to send to other nations where the gospel is developing. Like what is reported in this blog post, the area presidency is now focusing on better utilization of meetinghouse space. With each of these stake discontinuations, that church is letting go to various older, less efficient meetinghouses. I counted a reduction of 8 meetinghouses in Monterrey alone. Less facilities means a greater degree of sufficiency in tithing funds. My mission president taught that Mexico was working to take its rightful place in building the kingdom and becoming independent from the resources of the United States.

Overall I am hopeful for the future of the church in Mexico. I hope that at the end of this period of consolidations that new temples are announced, especially in these areas that are more stable. I also hope congregations become more effective in accomplishing the Work of Salvation and retaining members. However I am concerned that larger congregations will result in a gradual stagnant growth pattern. From experience I agree with the assessment on this post about poor leadership collaboration. Less meetinghouses also could mean greater travel distances for many. In a country where the majority of people don't have a car, it is harder to attract investigators and less active members to locations that are less accessible and expensive to take public transportation.

Unlike many other Latin American countries, The majority of Temples in Mexico don't have patron housing facilities. An investment in building these facilities could improve access to the temple. Next to the Monterrey temple is a large church building that does not currently have any units assigned to it. From google maps, it appears larger than the temple itself. Perhaps it could be renovated into a patron housing facility.

Alexander Marvin said...

My stake announced the creation of 2 new units (to be activated tomorrow).
The Omaha Nebraska Papillion Stake has two new units:
Harrison Hills Ward
Field Club Branch

James said...

It is difficult indeed to get a feeling for how mass consolidations as described in this blog post might affect the size and strengths of the current temple districts in Mexico. That said, I fully believe there will one day be temples in Mexico in all of the locations Matt identified. Thanks for finding that information. Of the four mentioned, based on the comment made on my blog by a Church member living in Mexico, Puebla and Querétaro appear to be the most likely. Given the issue of congregational consolidations, if I had to narrow that down, I would personally prioritize Puebla, which has been on my list for as long as I have shared my thoughts on future temples. But I know others may disagree with me on that, as is their right to do. A recent series of comments on my blog focused on the ambitious plans many Church leaders have said that President Nelson has that will essentially overshadow and outshine the temple building boom the Church saw in the late 1990s and early 2000s under President Hinckley's inspired "smaller temple designs". With that in mind, there may be a general significant increase in the number of temples announced and the frequency of temple announcements and other temple events. And if that proves to be the case, then we are entering yet another historically unprecedented chapter in Church history. It will be awesome to see it all occur.

Gnesileah said...

Kinshasa Democratic Republic of the Congo Stake
- Kingabwa Ward renamed Kingabwa 1st Ward
- Kingabwa 2nd Ward created

Maputo Mozambique Stake
- Ndlavela Ward created

Lagos Nigeria Ojodu Stake
- Akute Ward transferred from the Lagos Agege Stake
- Ibafo, Igbogbo, Ikorodu, Itamaga, Ketu, Ojodu, and Omole Wards and the Imota Branch from Lagos Nigeria Ikeja Stake

Lagos Nigeria Ikeja Stake
- Ifako and Ogba Wards transferred from Lagos Agege Stake

Port Harcourt Nigeria Stake
- Abuloma Branch upgraded to Ward
- Woji 1st Ward downgraded to Branch

Ladysmith South Africa District
- Ezakheni Branch renamed Ezakheni 1st Branch
- Ezakheni 2nd Branch created

Chennai India District
- Tembaram Branch renamed (corrected) to Tambaram Branch

Catarman Philippines Stake
- Bobon Ward renamed Bobon 1st Ward
- Bobon 2nd Ward created

Samara Russia District
- Avrory Branch renamed Samara Branch
- Bezymyansky Branch discontinued

Río Gallegos Argentina District
- Rio Gallegos Argentina District Branch discontinued

Campinas Brazil Castelo Stake
- Taquaral Ward

Los Andes Chile Stake renamed Aconcagua Chile Stake

San Fernando Chile District
- Peor Es Nada Branch discontinued

Santa Cruz Chile District
- Chepica Branch discontinued

Chimbote Perú South Stake
- Los Jardines Ward created

Gnesileah said...

Coatzacoalcos México Stake
- Canticas Branch transferred from the Minatitlán México Tecnológico Stake
- Agua Dulce and Cuatro Caminos Wards downgraded to Branches and transferred to the Las Choapas México District
- Cuichapa, La Venta, and Las Choapas Branches transferred to the Las Choapas México District
- Las Américas and Puente Wards discontinued

Coatzacoalcos México Puerto Stake (discontinued)
- Allende, Gaviotas, Lomas, Mirador, Progreso, Puerto México, Tesoro, and Veinte de Noviembre Wards transferred to the Coalzacoalcos México Stake
- Boulevard, Campestre, Coatzacoalcos Oeste, Río, and Universidad Wards and the Olmeca Branch discontinued

Las Choapas México District (new)
- Agua Dulce, Cuatro Caminos, Cuichapa, La Venta, and Las Choapas Branches transfered from the Coatzacoalcos México Stake

Minatitlán México Stake (discontinued)
- El Palmar, Hidalgo, and Reyes Aztecas Wards downgraded to Branches and transferred to the Minatitlán México Tecnológico District as the Santa Clara, Praderas, and Niños Heroes Branches, respectively
- Dieciocho de Octubre, Nueva Mina, and Obrera Wards discontinued

Minatitlán México Tecnológico District (downgraded from Stake)
- Juarez and Tecnológico Wards downgraded to Branches
- Buenavista and Patria Libre Wards downgraded to Branches and renamed El Boulevard and Las Delicias Branches, respectively
- Insurgentes and Paquital Wards discontinued

Puerto Peñasco México District
- Puerto Peñasco 3rd Branch created

Tampico México Stake
- Universidad Branch upgraded to Ward

Gnesileah said...

Hemet California Stake
- Little Lake Ward discontinued

Grace Idaho Stake
- Williams 1st Ward renamed Williams Ward

Omaha Nebraska Papillion Stake
- Harrison Hills Ward created
- Field Club Branch created

Edmond Oklahoma Stake
- Edmond 5th Ward created

Harlingen Texas Stake
- Harlingen YSA Branch discontinued

Provo Utah Married Student 2nd Stake
- Provo Married Student 24th Ward created

Sandy Utah YSA Stake
- Canyon Springs YSA Ward discontinued

Saratoga Springs Utah Saratoga ills Stake
- Legacy Farms Ward renamed Legacy Farms 1st Ward
- Legacy Farms 2nd Ward created

Eduardo Clinch said...

Having attended some Church meetings in different areas of Mexico in the early 2000s, I came away concerned for overall activity in the country.
But the temple work is perhaps the best indicator of growth, which appears to be low in the capital from reports addressed here.
We pray that current and future growth continue, as Chile seems to be progressing with its second national temple. Another place with large unit consolidations and many baptized on the rolls.

phxmars said...

Does anyone know if consolidations are imminent in Puerto Rico because of the post-hurricane mass migration stateside?

James said...

I am no expert in finding that kind of information, but unless something has happened or is anticipated that Matt and the rest of us may not be aware of, it doesn't seem likely. As of whenever the Church updated their statistical profiles on Mormon Newsroom, there were 41 total congregations reported. There are, according to Wikipedia, 5 stakes within Puerto Rico. So unless something unanticipated happens, perhaps at worst, only wards and branches might be discontinued, and maybe only a few at that. My guess is that it will depend on the extent of the mass migration, and on how many of those migrating individuals and families do not intend to come back. Until we hear otherwise, I wouldn't bet on it. Hope that helps.

Gnesileah said...

Kinshasa Democratic Republic of the Congo N'Djili Stake created
- Debonhomme, N'Djili 1st and 2nd Wards and Nsanga Branch transferred from Kinshasa DRC Masina Stake
- Fer Bois, Kingasani 1st and 4th Wards and Mokali Branch transferred from the Kinsahsa DRC Mokali Stake

Kinshasa DRC Kimbanseke Stake
- Matadi Ward transferred from Kinshasa DRC Mokali Stake

Aba Nigeria Umuola Stake created
- Ogbor-Hill Top 1st, Umuola 1st, 2nd, Waterside 1st and 2nd Wards and Bible College and Mgboko Obete Branches transferred from the Aba Nigeria Ogbor Hill Stake
- Umueme Ward transferred from the Aba Nigeria North Stake

Port Harcourt Nigeria Choba Stake created
- Choba 1st, 2nd, Emohua, and Omoku Wards and Rumuji Branch transferred from Port Harcourt Nigeria North Stake
- Ogbogoro Ward transferred from Port Harcourt Nigeria West Stake

Port harcourt Nigeria North Stake
- Eliohani Ward transferred from Port Harcourt Nigeria East Stake
- Rumuokuta Ward transferred from Port Harcourt Nigeria West Stake

Northampton England Stake
- Bletchley Ward discontinued

Upolu Samoa Saleilua Stake
- Malaesatalo Branch upgraded to Ward

Rio de Janeiro Brazil Andaraí Stake
- Grajau Ward created

Cuenca Ecuador Stake
- Totoracocha Branch upgraded to Ward

Oaxaca México Mitla Stake
- La Hacienda Ward renamed Ferrocarril Ward
- Guelatao Ward discontinued

Lima Perú Villa Salvador Stake
- Bolivar Ward created

El Tigre Venezuela Stake
- Inavi Ward renamed El Tigre Ward
- Táchira Branch discontinued

Noel Shaw said...

Further to Bletchley Ward, Norhhampton England Stake discontinued.

A number of Milton Keynes Ward members were reassigned to Bedford.
So effectively Milton Keynes Ward is Bletchley Ward members, with the remainder of the old Milton Keynes.