By Chet Harris
One of the questions I have been asked at almost every meeting with minsters and churches is one that strikes at the heart of the separation facing the United Methodist Church. “What happens to the members or people attending our church that do not agree with the voting choice of the church?” Undoubtedly, an unknown percentage of members and attendees will not agree with the vote to become a member of a new Methodist denomination or remain a member of the post separation UMC. These people are our friends and most likely for many years have served faithfully the local church they attend.
First, separation will be difficult and painful, creating a season of grief. But, do not allow it to become a source of guilt that causes you to relinquish or ignore your core beliefs. Guilt is not a motivator that enhances our personal well-being, rather it diminishes our sense of identity and makes us dependent on the affirmation of other people for a positive self-image.
Second, decisions such that stand before us requires sacrifice and a measure of cost that is often realized in the redefinition and orientation of relationships. Most likely certain people will walk away from us and even say unsavory things to justify their actions. Do not react to their actions or verbiage. Separation is a high voltage emotional affair and many people will short circuit their usual way of dealing with life. Some will return as your friends, although not agreeing with you, and of course there will be those who write you off. The cost of separation will embrace relationships.
In addition to relationships the membership and worship attendance of individual churches will most likely decline for a season. Do not panic and declare a wrong decision has been made or people would not be leaving! Trust God for your future. Continue to serve and proclaim God’s truth from the pulpit. This is a time to deepen the Lordship of Jesus in the life of the people called Methodists. As part of the new Traditionalist denomination we will enter a time of rebuilding and adjusting to a structure that is placing the local church as key to the future of building the Kingdom of God in East Ohio.
Third, separation calls us to a unique time of witnessing grace in action. I commend each Traditional minister and church to contact a local progressive minister/church and agree to help the members of a Traditional Church to connect with that progressive minister. Personally, I have colleagues who are dedicated to progressive theology that I am comfortable to contact and work out a plan to help members in each of our churches that feel they must leave to bridge into the church of which they are senior minister. This might sound odd or even delusional, yet I maintain it is an excellent way to soften the sense of friction between ministers and churches that have served together in a community for generations. Invite the Progressive/Traditional minister to your church to meet the people who are discontent and plan to walk out the door. Do not assume they will automatically seek out a new Methodist church! Build bridges. Hopefully our Progressive colleagues will offer the same courtesy to Traditional ministers and churches.
Fourth, pray for God’s continued counsel as we move closer to the date of General Conference. I am convinced it is the increasing responsibility of the minister to make the issue facing our denomination known to the members of their appointed church.
God remains on the Throne and each of us are in His keeping power. Reach out to your prayer partners for support and encouragement. This is not the time for intense debate and political maneuvering, rather a call to center our lives in the presence of God. It is critical for each of us to remain under the Lordship of Jesus. His counsel. His will. All glory to God!
Colossians 3:15 “Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful.”
All for the Kingdom,
WCA East Ohio Regional Director
Dates to Remember and Mark Your Calendar
Saturday April 25, 9:00am to Noon – ‘Come to the Well’ Gather for a Morning of Spiritual Refreshment in Worship and Word Location: Dueber United Methodist Church 645 Dueber Avenue SW, Canton, Ohio Speakers: Rev. Bob Kaylor, Dr. Joy Moore, and Jerry Rinehart
Saturday May 30, 10:00am The Future of the WCA and the Traditionalist Church Location: Louisville Christ UMC in Louisville, Ohio Guest Speaker is the WCA President Keith Boyette Presentation will address the decision of the General Conference and the choice before us. Questions and Answers as time permits.
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