WASHINGTON (UMNS) - Fifty-three United Methodists will serve in the 111th United States Congress, a decline of eight from the last three Congresses, but the denomination still ranks third in total congressional membership.

While there are 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, resulting in the overall reduction. The new Congress convened Jan. 6.

Nine United Methodists will serve in the Senate, a decline of four from the previous Congress. One of the nine is Senator Richard Lugar, a member of St. Luke's UMC in Indianapolis.

Congressional United Methodists are split almost equally between the two parties, with 27 Democrats and 26 Republicans. Indiana has two Representatives who are listed as United Methodists.

They are Representative Steve Buyer (R) of the 4th District, who resides in Monticello, and Representative Baron Hill (D) of the 9th District, who resides in Seymour and is a member of the First UMC of Seymour.

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.