Grace United Methodist

1200 Aimwell Road

Vidalia, GA 30474

Email: gracelink@gracevidalia.org

Phone: (912) 537-3973

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Response to the UMC Separation Plan

 

January 4, 2020

 

Dear Grace UMC,

 

As you have no doubt heard by now, yesterday an agreement was signed between the opposing sides of the ongoing UMC controversy over sexual morality and Biblical authority. It is important to keep in mind that this agreement is a proposal only. It is not binding and is not a legal or official change. It is in fact only an agreed-upon suggestion for how the UMC could be split into two groups. The debate has raged for decades and I have seen first-hand the ugliness, pettiness and deceitful tactics of those that claim to be for the “rights” of others. This proposal can only become law if approved by the General Conference which meets this summer. By then it could change and in fact, could be changed at GC or rejected altogether. The point is this, this proposal is a suggestion and is not a done deal.

 

At first read, I did not like the idea. In the Proposal, the orthodox conservative Annual Conferences (AC hereafter) and Churches will separate from the UMC and keep all their property and assets. Annual Conferences will vote to decide which group they will join with. If churches in that area do not want to affiliate with the group their AC chooses, they will be allowed to join another one if their church votes that way.

 

The Liberal/Progressives will keep the name UMC, its structures and all its assets. A new Conservative Methodist Denomination will be constituted, most likely the one now begun by the Wesleyan Covenant Association, of which I have been a member for several years. This new Orthodox Denomination will receive 25 million dollars from the UMC, and its member churches will keep their property and assets. As of now, I assume the property and assets will be retained by the local churches and not by the new Denomination.

 

Many are not happy about this agreement and I am still debating it myself. On the one hand, it seems unfair that the group who won the vote at GC 2019 will be the ones leaving with only a relatively small parting gift and unable to use the UMC name or the cross and flame. I still think further negotiation should be done to secure a better financial position. On the other hand, the UMC is huge with many Boards and Agencies that are full of Liberal/Progressive people. It would be nearly impossible to weed them out and these “deep state” personnel would likely work subversively to undermine any Traditional Biblical agenda. We would constantly be fighting the enemy within. Additionally, the name UMC and the cross and flame have almost become synonymous with the beliefs and agenda of the far Liberal left and from a marketing standpoint would not be an advantage and would most likely be a liability to the new orthodox Denomination. A further point is that because the vast majority of Bishops are on the Liberal left, and they cannot be fired under the UMC Constitution, if the Traditionalists kept the UMC, they would be stuck with these Bishops leading Annual Conferences and working to advance the Liberal agenda. The fighting would never end. Thus, while I still think further financial negotiation should be done, it would be better to start completely fresh with the personnel you know and can trust.

 

How does this affect Grace UMC? The South Georgia Annual Conference is already an official WCA Conference. Therefore, it will certainly join with the WCA or whatever orthodox Methodist Denomination emerges. Local churches would then have until 2024 to vote on whether it wants to leave the Annual Conference. Under this new Proposal, if the church does not vote, it automatically becomes part of whatever group the Annual Conference joins. I suppose it would also be possible for a church to decide to become independent or join another denomination, but I am not sure how that would work. My guess is that Grace UMC would simply have to change the sign and the letterhead. We would likely remain a part of the South Georgia Annual Conference and be part of a new orthodox denomination. If a vote is requested, Church Council will decide on when that would happen.

 

In case you are wondering where I stand, let me be clear. I believe the Bible is the absolute Word of God. All sexual immorality, including homosexuality, is sin and no person can engage in it and be right with God. I also believe that no other sin such as pride, selfishness, lust, greed, gluttony, lying, cheating people, gossip, theft, etc. can be engaged in and be right with God. All sin has to be repented of in order for there to be a restoration of relationship with God. Sin separates, but the Good News is that Jesus has paid the price for our sins and if we repent from the heart, subject ourselves to God’s authority, reject sin and purpose to live as He commands, we will be forgiven and restored. If a person refuses to repent, they are in rebellion to God’s authority and cut off their relationship with Him. This does not mean they are no longer saved, they can still repent and God is long-suffering with us, willing that we should all come to repentance. He will continue to work in that person’s heart to restore them to Him. As far as the Church is concerned, no person in continual rebellion can be in leadership. This should be common sense. However, it should always be our goal to restore those who have lost their way and love them back into a relationship with Him. It is not our place to condemn others, though there are times that rebellion makes it impossible for leadership positions in the church to be retained.

 

I hope this article is helpful. The future is, of course, unknowable, but God is in control. There is no need for worry or panic. We trust in Him. I’m sure we will have more information in the near future and probably a meeting or two to address these things. Please stay humble and kind and keep these things lifted in up prayer. Be angry and sin not. Be wise as serpents and harmless as doves. Love one another at all times.

 

I have attached several links below to get more information.

 

South Georgia AC - https://www.sgaumc.org/newsdetail/13135223

 

Wesleyan Covenant Association - https://wesleyancovenant.org/2020/01/02/jan-2020/

 

Institute on Religion and Democracy - https://juicyecumenism.com/2020/01/03/united-methodism-moves-toward-separation/

 

With Much Love and Grace,

 

Pastor Bill