More Confused Than Ever

I don’t know about you, but if I wasn’t so familiar with the conflict that has persisted in the United Methodist Church for over 50 years, I would have left our service on Sunday more confused than ever. Although I appreciate our speakers giving of their time and their perspective, I believe I did the presenters and those in attendance a disservice by emphasizing that this was an informational session and not a debate. Perhaps, if more discourse had been allowed, each of us wouldn’t have been walking on eggshells and more of our concerns could have been shared and, perhaps, been provided with a better understanding.

As I was preparing this letter to you, I read a very good blog by Gregory Stover, the director of the Global Wesleyan House of Study at United Theological Seminary in Dayton, Ohio. I am including a portion of it, because it gives a concise answer to why we are where we are today. It all began when the Methodist Church merged with the Evangelical United Brethren Church in 1968.

The conflict which brought us to this moment has been with us since the inception of the UMC. It has grown over nearly fifty years in the soil of doctrinal and theological pluralism. The founders hoped that this soil would nourish diverse understandings of Christian (Wesleyan) faith which could grow harmoniously together in a large greenhouse (or as is popular to say, a “big tent”). United Methodism has produced many fruitful missions and ministries across the globe, yet the vision of our founders has not been realized. Nearly fifty years after the merger which created the UMC, we find ourselves entangled in a messy and increasingly untillable garden. The plants seem to require different soil balance and environmental conditions for continued growth together. This tangled garden has grown from the interaction of different and conflicting convictions about the nature of revelation and Biblical authority, as well as the authority and interpretation of Scripture. These varying convictions result in understandings of the nature and mission of the church and what constitutes faithful ministry which are not well aligned. Out of this context our conflict over same-sex relationships has become the immediate cause which is bringing the UMC to the brink of division. The roots of our conflict grow in deep soil. Human sexuality is only one of the potential areas of conflict found in our large green house.

United Methodists have labored diligently to find a way forward. We have studied, appointed special commissions, debated, dialogued, strategized for legislative solutions, and engaged three proposed ways forward at a multi-million dollar special General Conference. For twelve consecutive General Conferences and at the most recent Special Session, we have considered our response to LGBTQAI persons. Repeatedly, we have affirmed the basic response laid out in 1972. We have prayed and plead for unity. Yet, unity now appears more distant than ever.

The time has come for United Methodist leaders across the theological spectrum to come together for honest and honorable conversation about how to accomplish an “amicable separation” in the United Methodist Church.

I will attempt to give just a few distinctions between the Global Methodist Church(GMC) and what Nichea VerVeer Guy presented as the future United Methodist Church. My hope is that with brevity, our confusion may be alleviated.

Key Distinctions of the GMC

-A streamlined, clear, 100 page book of Doctrines and Disciplines

-No trust clause for local church property

-Lay leadership and district superintendents will collaborate on pastoral appointments. No guaranteed appointments.

-Strong emphasis on Biblical teaching and discipleship at every local church.

-Local church responsible for missional efforts. Lower ministry shares.

-Retention of traditional Biblical social doctrines.

 

Distinctions of the UMC

From Bishop Bard-

-Theology will be anchored in historic statements, the Articles of Religion and the Confession of Faith, along with Wesley’s sermons and notes on the New Testament. Look to the Book of Discipline for answers.

-Scriptures contains all that is necessary for salvation, that they reveal “the Word of God so far as its is necessary for our salvation.”

-Scripture is “the primary source and criterion for Christian doctrine.” Scripture is the inspired word of God. When asked about the United Methodist denomination frequently defying these distinctions, Nichea responded that no complaints would be addressed until after the 2024 General Conference.

In closing, please understand that I provide this information to you not to attempt to influence your decision on whether to be a United Methodist, a Global Methodist, a part of another Wesleyan faith, or even another church. The decision is yours and that of Berlin Center and LeValley Churches. My only admonition is that you will always follow Jesus and remain faithful to the Bible, the Word of God that never changes.

Love in Christ,

Pastor Nancy

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