Just say a simple, ‘Yes, I will,’ or ‘No, I won’t.’ Anything beyond this is from the evil one.Matthew chapter 5, verse 37; from the New Living Translation (NLT)
(This article is satire. If you are easily offended, you should not read this. This is intended for spiritually mature readers only. Reader discretion is advised!)
(From the WHY News Network) Today is Day 5 of what can only be described as The Arkansas Hostage Situation. The Hostage Situation began this past Saturday, November 19 in Little Rock, Arkansas. It was designed to be a final check to be certain that all congregations seeking disaffiliation had properly followed the disaffiliation process. A group who self-identifies as The Arkansas Annual Conference of the United Methodist Church took 3 congregations hostage. They released 32 other congregations but refused to release First United Methodist Church of Jonesboro, Searcy First United Methodist Church and Cabot United Methodist Church. And, for now at least, these 3 congregations are being held as Hostages by the Arkansas Annual Conference.
Little was known about this radical group before Saturday. An FBI agent who asked to remain anonymous stated: “We were unaware of this Radical Group, and quite frankly, we don’t know what to do.” Though unknown and unnoticed by many, there are those who were aware of this potential abuse happening. To this reporter it appears that their warnings went unheard. And now I am sure that First United Methodist Church of Jonesboro, Searcy First United Methodist Church and Cabot United Methodist Church wished those warnings had been heeded.
Those familiar with the situation said it all started in 2019. The United Methodist Church was embroiled over the issue of human sexuality. The 2019 General Conference was to be the one that was to give a final and definitive statement and position on human sexuality. Many plans had been proposed but the 2 front runners were a more liberal view and a more traditional view. After fractious debates the Traditional Plan passed. And though it was promised by the heads of the United Methodist Church, known as the Council of Bishops, that whichever plan passed would be the final word, that Conference failed to live up to the promise. Those who supported the Traditional Plan have called that Conference The Great Deception.
However, those who were against the approved plan were recalcitrant and intransigent with the outcome. With only limited time remaining for this Session, Rev. Beth Ann Cook proposed a new paragraph to the church’s Book of Discipline known as Paragraph 2553. This would allow congregations who disagreed with the decision a means to graciously exit the United Methodist Church. The caveat was that this provision would expire on 31 December 2023. However, the Rebellion by many leaders within the realm of the Council of Bishops carried out extreme acts in direct violation of what should have been the final word.
So, Paragraph 2553, that was designed and intended to help the more liberalized churches to leave with grace, has become the tool used by Traditional churches to hopefully have a gracious exit from the United Methodist Church. And it appeared that it would work. That is, until The Arkansas Annual Conference chose to hold these 3 congregations hostage. The reverberations of this act of terror has sent shockwaves across other Annual Conferences which will soon hold similar Special Sessions to deal with those churches seeking to disaffiliate. Many are wondering if their Annual Conference will make them hostages as well.
The 3 Hostage Churches had met all of the requirements of Paragraph 2553. Yet, in spite of this, they were taken and are being held as Hostages. The Rev. Beth Ann Cook, author and presenter of Paragraph 2553 recently posted her response to the Arkansas Hostage Situation. The Rev. Cook said this, and I quote: “I’m writing this mostly to process what I’m feeling: grief, disappointment, and frustration.” You can read her entire heart-felt response here.
Surprisingly, the hostages have made brief statements. There words were very carefully chosen as an apparent attempt not to exacerbate the current Hostage Situation. The Rev. John Miles of the Jonesboro First hostages told them: “That’s very discouraging, but y’all it’s not the end of the line,” he said. “There’s much more we can do. And we’ll regroup and we’ll think about it. … When we get back from Thanksgiving, we’ll get together with our administrative board, we’ll get your input and we’ll begin to look at our options for what’s next.”
When asked about the Hostage Situation, Bishop Gary Mueller, head of the Hostage Takers responded that he had complete confidence in the district superintendents and trustees as they worked with churches moving toward disaffiliation. But he also did not second guess the conference members’ decision not to approve the First Jonesboro, Searcy First and Cabot churches’ disaffiliations. Terrorist Leader Bishop Mueller also had this to say, and I quote: “This was United Methodists getting together for conferencing, and they made the decisions they wanted to make.” Searcy First United Methodist’s pastor, the Rev. Jeff Jackson, declined to comment on the special session decision, saying his church is focused on prayer and healing. Leaders of the Cabot United Methodist Church did not immediately respond to request for comment.
Unfortunately, what they wanted has resulted in The Arkansas Hostage Situation. And with no official word about releasing these 3 congregations, one is left to ponder how long this Hostage Situation will last. But for now, this is Day 5 of The Arkansas Hostage Situation and there are no indications how long this will last. All one can do is hope and pray that this horror will end soon and without more casualties and hostages elsewhere. Time will tell. With the deadline of December 31, 2023 looming closer, this reporter wonders how many more Hostages will be taken by the Rogue Organization. But for now, all we can do is wait and see how all this unfolds. This is Randy Burbank, reporting for the WHY Network News. Follow us for more breaking news and updates.