One Year Later

I am saddened and embarrassed as I look back at my letter to you for the September, 2021, newsletter. In that letter, I outlined some of the issues related to the schism in the United Methodist Church. It saddens me that a year has gone by and those issues are still dominating our churches, overriding our mission to make disciples of Jesus Christ.

Why does this embarrass me? I am embarrassed because in that same letter I wrote the following:

In a month or so, the LeValley and Berlin Center administrative boards will schedule a time to hear from representatives explaining both options for the future of the church. This session will be held immediately following worship at LeValley for the convenience of the church families. This will be an opportunity to raise questions or concerns you may have.

Well, that month passed and many more after it, but now, a date has been set for the explanatory session. On Sunday, September 25th, two laypersons, Bob Hegel from the Bloomfield Hills United Methodist Church and Nichea VerVeer Guy from Grand Rapids Trinity United Methodist Church, will be at LeValley during worship to discuss the future of Methodism from the Wesleyan Covenant Association and United Methodist Church perspectives. This will be a joint worship service of the Ionia Parish. I pray that as many members from both Berlin Center and LeValley will attend worship that day. Bob and Nichea will each present and then there will be a time for questions and answers. This will not be a debate. The LeValley Ad Board chair, Bill Carlton, and I will make that clear to the presenters and to the congregation and should criticism of what one or the other is saying ensues, one of us will stop the conversation. The same will apply to any reactions from the congregation.

I pray that this session will clear up any confusion any of you may be experiencing. I pray your Christian values will become more clear to you on September 25th. Finally, I pray, that no matter what happens on that day or in the future, when a vote on disaffiliation will most likely occur at a charge conference of our churches, that you will always love your brothers and sisters in Christ, no matter your stand on the future of United Methodism or any theological or cultural issue.

I recently read an article by Timothy Tennent, the President of Asbury Seminary. Asbury Theological Seminary is a Christian Wesleyan seminary in the historical Methodist tradition located in Wilmore, Kentucky. Tennent included in his article 4 myths circulating about the United Methodist Church that he attempted to dispel. I am not including them because they are not relevant to what I am writing today, but I am including a portion of the final paragraph because I think Tennent’s words are important for all of us no matter our position on the future of United Methodism.

It is important that all of us play the “long game.” I include the following definition of the “Long game,” cultivating what Eugene Peterson called “long obedience in the same direction.”

 Now back to Timothy Tennent- There is little question in my mind that the conservative, traditionalist future of the United Methodist church has been dealt a near mortal blow. In the short run, we have lost our voice; we have lost our hope for renewal; we have lost our denomination. But, what we have not lost is the gospel of Jesus Christ. We have not lost the faithful biblical witness. We have not lost our connection to the global church here and around the world and back through time. In the long run, a hundred years hence, the world will have long forgotten the memory of this conflict. In the long run, a new birth of Methodist witness will have survived this crisis and thrived in other expressions in ways we can only now imagine. Our hope will be restored. Our love of Christ and His Word will prevail. The gospel will keep on being proclaimed until Christ returns. There is no progressive agenda, or General Conference vote which can curtail the onward march of the church of Jesus Christ. Jesus promised that He would build His Church and the gates of hell will not prevail against it. That was not a promise for the continuance of any particular denomination, but a promise that the true Church of Jesus Christ will flourish and be faithful until that glorious day when we will stand before him as the Bride of Christ and feast at his heavenly banquet. Let’s keep our eyes on that sure promise.

I love you all and will show love to all who enter the churches of the Ionia Parish.

Pastor Nancy