“Anyone who listens to my teaching and follows it is wise, like a person who builds a house on solid rock. Though the rain comes in torrents and the floodwaters rise and the winds beat against that house, it won’t collapse because it is built on bedrock. But anyone who hears my teaching and doesn’t obey it is foolish, like a person who builds a house on sand. When the rains and floods come and the winds beat against that house, it will collapse with a mighty crash.” When Jesus had finished saying these things, the crowds were amazed at his teaching, or he taught with real authority—quite unlike their teachers of religious law.
Matthew chapter 7, verses 24-29; from the New Living Translation (NLT)
I know that the Chinese Spy Balloon, excuse me, “weather balloon”, is old news. But The Spirit prompted me this morning to think about that episode. And what the The Spirit said was provocatively simple. “Ever think about how many people are just like that balloon? Just floating around, without any real foundation for their life?”And do you know what my response was? I was heart-broken! Know why? Because The Father is heart-broken. How do I know this? Well, this parable that Jesus shared about the difference between being anchored to the Truth and just floating around. If you doubt my connection, then here’s another one:
When He saw the crowds, he had compassion on them because they were confused and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd.
Matthew chapter 9, verse 36 (NLT)
We need to have our lives anchored to Truth; not just any truth, but THE TRUTH! And contrary to popular opinion, we humans do not process THE TRUTH. Only God; and He has chosen to reveal THE TRUTH in what we call The Bible. We have to act upon The Word–by doing what The Word tells us to do. That’s the difference in the outcome of these 2 houses built by different builders. One had the foundation and the other didn’t. Now, progressive theology wants us to believe that the only thing that really matters is love. After all, that’s what Jesus did. Forget the rest, just love like Jesus. While this may sound good, it turns us into those weather balloons, just floating around being controlled by whatever the winds decide to do.
In that powerful Sermon On The Mount, Jesus said “Don’t misunderstand why I have come. I did not come to abolish the law of Moses or the writings of the prophets. No, I came to accomplish their purpose. I tell you the truth, until heaven and earth disappear, not even the smallest detail of God’s law will disappear until its purpose is achieved.” Friends, we must be anchored to The Word, The Bible because that’s exactly what Jesus wants us to do. It’s The Bible guides us and sets the boundaries for our lives. Without ALL of God’s Word, we build houses that simply will not stand up to life as it really happens.
And for anyone in my former tribe, the United Methodist Church (UMC), who thinks they can #StayUMC and still be faithful to God–remember this parable from Jesus, Himself. The leadership of the UMC is building a house upon the sand. And if you stay inside that house, don’t be surprised when it collapses all around you. Here’s a final question for you to consider: Do you want to build your life around human thinking, thinking that is flawed by sin? Or do you want to build your life upon the Word of the Perfectly Holy God?
Don’t be impressed with your own wisdom. Instead, fear the Lord and turn away from evil. Then you will have healing for your body and strength for your bones.
Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will learn to know God’s will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect.
Romans chapter 15, verse 2; from the New Living Translation
You know, I thought I was through writing about the mess in the United Methodist Church. This was because I am no longer a United Methodist pastor. Yet, 48 years of service to the United Methodist Church compels me to pray for the United Methodist Church. But write about it? No way, Jose`! One would think that since the “divorce” is final for many former congregations and pastors, the words about us wanting to leave would be over. Apparently, some think differently than me. Even a friend and brother in Christ. Ron seems to think more needs to be said.
So, I am speaking only to United Methodists who are in the discernment phase and to those who think that as traditionalists they can stay in the United Methodist Church. And from the comments made on Ron’s post and similar posts, there is a prevalent mean and ugly spirit within those remaining United Methodists. He is Ron’s post. I am concealing his last name for obvious reasons.
Let me speak into this statement first: “How many Pastors drove this hatred of the UMC into their congregations?!” OK, Ron, tell us. What was that number of pastors who drove their hated of the United Methodist Church? Was it 1? 5? 25? 50? Of the 198 congregations that disaffiliated December 10, was it 100 pastors? I’m waiting, Ron. And before you give me a number, cite your research and sources.
Let’s look at the next statement: “I’m not convinced that all those members had the desire to leave the UMC.“ OK, Ron. There was a 3 month clearly defined process and procedure. It included first and foremost, prayer. In fact, the entire process was to be covered in prayer. Are you saying those 198 congregations didn’t pray? Refused to pray? This process also required to hear from those who were staying in the United Methodist Church. And the last step was a Church Conference where all full members were allowed to be present and allowed to vote. The percentage required to approve disaffiliation was set at 67% in favor. Did the District Superintendent mislead the congregation on how they needed to vote? Was there collusion in counting the votes? Was there a conspiracy within the Conference Board of Trustees to just get rid of those 198 congregations? If their desire was to stay United Methodists, then why did the outcome of those 198 congregations say otherwise? Again, Ron. I’m waiting for your answer.
Now, let’s take on this next statement: “I blame their Pastors. I feel as if they indoctrinated their people.” So, Ron, it’s their pastor’s fault? Really? Are you saying that laypersons are incapable of forming their own opinions and making their own decisions? Hummmm. Interesting, Ron. I wonder how those laypersons feel about your statement? I wonder if they would agree with your personal assessment that they were incapable of making a factual decision. Or, perhaps, you have documentation to prove your allegation? Pastors have a difficult enough time to implement a simple change with just a simple majority. But a 67% majority? My experiences would find that hard to believe. I know your statement said “I feel as if”, but tell me, Ron, when did your feelings become facts? I’m still waiting for your answer.
Then you said, “It’s painful to let 198 congregations go in one day, not to mention all those Pastors who just quit and gave up their orders. It pains me to see so many of my colleagues just leave our Church.” To your credit, half of your statement is true. It is “painful to let 198 congregations go in one day”. And I wholeheartedly agree with you. But did you ever consider that it was painful for many of them, too? I have witnessed the pain of laypersons who made this decision. They are convinced it is where God is leading them–but it’s painful for them, too. Or is it that their pain doesn’t matter? Or is it your pain is larger and more important than their pain? Still waiting for your reply.
But the other half of your statement simply isn’t true: “not to mention all those Pastors who just quit and gave up their orders“! Just as congregations went through a discernment process, so have we pastors. I, and my fellow sisters and brothers have determined that God is leading us in another direction. And in an act of integrity, we must surrender our credentials. It’s what the current Book of Discipline mandates. We are not quitting, we are following! Following the requirements of the Book of Discipline. But more important–we are following Jesus to where He is leading us. If Jesus is leading you to stay in the United Methodist Church, then be faithful to Jesus, Ron. No one is accusing you of not following Jesus. I cannot tell you what Jesus wants you to do anymore than YOU can tell us what Jesus wants us to do when it comes to the United Methodist Church. I hate to think this, but you give the impression of arrogance. We haven’t given up. Just because you say we’ve given up doesn’t mean we have. In case you haven’t figured it out–sometimes it costs us dearly when following Jesus. At 66 years old, I could have simply retired, and kept my United Methodists orders. But God is leading me in a different direction. I’m not asking nor expecting you to like it–however it is reasonable to expect from you my friend and brother in Christ, to respect my decision.
And one last statement you made and I do not know if you thought about how it sounds: I say to those 198 congregations, “Go ahead and Leave, do whatever it is you need to do. We will continue to stand in the light of God and do our part to spread God’s Kingdom! This will not stop and Jesus will be our guide and Lord!” Ron, I hope and pray you will continue to stand in the light of God. Know what, Ron? We who left are going to continue to stand in the light of God and do our part to spread God’s Kingdom, too. Is that so hard for you to comprehend? Surely you are not so–what’s the word–presumptuous as to think we are incapable of making the same decision! Are you? That’s not the Ron I met and thought was my brother in Christ and friend.
You ended your post with these words: “May our tempers be calm, God’s grace prevail, and by the mercy of the Holy Spirit help us all to move forward.” By us all, do you mean US ALL–or just United Methodists? Ron, if you are just frustrated, I can relate to that. But the accusations you made against 198 congregations and us pastors–well it doesn’t sound like moving forward, it doesn’t sound calm, and it certainly isn’t grace-filled words. Contrary to your statements, I am capable of listening to God and following Him where He wants me to go. Your words, my friend, didn’t form my decision. However, they did confirm I made the right decision.
So, to current United Methodists who are traditionalists/conservatives that think there’s room for you in the United Methodist Church–I can’t tell you what to do. But know that the voice of my friend isn’t the only voice offering ugly words and a lack of grace. You are held in contempt until you agree with progressives. If you can live like that, then by all means, stay United Methodist. I am not abandoning the United Methodist Church. I’m not quitting the United Methodist Church. I am following Jesus, Ron. I’m follow Jesus–even if you think I’m not!
Get rid of all bitterness, rage, anger, harsh words, and slander, as well as all types of evil behavior. Instead, be kind to each other, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, just as God through Christ has forgiven you.
Ephesians chapter 4, verses 31 & 32; from the New Living Translation (NLT)
Saturday was–well–a day of mixed emotions as I attended my last session of the North Alabama Annual Conference of the United Methodist Church. At the end of the session, I surrendered my credentials as a United Methodist Pastor. Over the past decades, I have had friends and colleagues who left with great joy. Not me. Even though my decision has been saturated with prayer and God has very clearly led me to that point, still there is heartbreak. The Tribe that I have lived in for over 66 years has made it clear that there is no room for someone like me. And I admit that I was concerned with how The Conference would handle the disaffiliation of 198 congregations, and what looked like even more pastors.
I must say that I was impressed with the way our Bishop, Debra Wallace-Padgett designed and led the Conference in this unfortunate moment in time. Bishop Debbie has been a shining example of how to lead and respond in times like these. We opened with Holy Communion–that Great Reminder of our utter dependence on God’s Grace. As we entered we were given a lava rock, a sign of the abrasiveness that has been happening. When we came forward to receive those sacred signs, we were asked to drop that abrasive stone in a basket as a sign we were letting go of our painful emotions and harmful words. Then the vote took place, with only about 4 or 5 voting to not allow this to happen. And as we exited, we were given a smooth stone to remind us of God’s healing power that overcomes our differences. (You can see that entire session here)
But it seems to me that some of those who took that smooth stone as the reminder of God’s Healing Grace–well they just didn’t get it. By this I mean they got the smooth stone but not the message. At 1:19 p.m., barely 2 hours after those 198 congregations left the North Alabama Annual Conference, a group calling themselves StayUMC that has been encouraging and promoting folks and churches to stay United Methodist, put up a post in response to this event on their Facebook Page. I invite you to see their entire post HERE. I do have a good friend who is active in this group. And this prepared response has some troubling points that I need to speak into. These will be the bulleted statements:
We sincerely want the best for those who wish to leave the UMC. In order for all of us to find healing, however, it is important to be honest, speaking the truth in love.
So, StayUMC, you want the best for those who leave, then you put in that however. Now, since you are speaking to those who want to stay UMC, your statement “In order for all of us to find healing” means your only concern is those who want to stay UMC. OK, you can’t experience healing until you have that however. Really? And then you dare say you want to be honest and speak the truth in love. Well, when us Traditionalists spoke the truth with love you accused us of being misogynists, homophobic, angry, and mean spirited. You want your views listened to and respected. But you are unwilling to listen to and respect views that are different from yours. If you are hurt, it’s not the fault of those who are leaving. STAYUMC, if it makes you feel better about yourselves to blame us for what is happening, then blame us. Yet, there isn’t much love nor truth in your words.
We rise to speak frankly about this schism and the costs exacted upon us all.
As aforementioned, your phrase “costs exacted upon us all” refers only to those who stay UMC. And what did it cost you for people to follow their hearts and convictions? No, really, what did it cost you? Not a cent. The financial costs of disaffiliation has been borne solely by congregations who left. Why does StayUMC think that it cost them anything for congregations to follow a path different than yours? Well, I’m waiting: Tell me, how much did it cost you? And what if they had stayed instead of leaving? What about the cost to them of abandoning their spiritual discernment and compromising their convictions?
We lament some local churches were made the site of bitter fights rather than being shepherded through conversations that deepen understanding. We lament that at times, instead of relying on common values to do the work of discernment, cues were taken from a polarized society, and outrage was stoked to pave the way for disaffiliation.
Evidence, please. I keep hearing those on the StayUMC caucus saying this over and over. I admit I haven’t talked to every congregation. But, I have heard from several congregations. The scene you described has never been described to me by those I know. Besides, didn’t you hear Bishop Debbie say that the time for healing has come? It sounds like you don’t want healing. You appear to be bitter, and are happy to be bitter.
We lament that the UMC was maligned by some as being unorthodox and accommodating to culture, and misinformation was spread freely about the future of the United Methodist Church’s essential doctrines.
You keep saying nothing else is going to change. Did you forget that the Council of Bishops promised that the 2019 Called General Conference Special Session would be the United Methodist view and stance from that moment forward. They did not keep their word then. So why should be believe them now? You want us to trust the leadership of the UMC, a leadership that does not keep their word. Just because you say essential doctrines won’t change doesn’t mean they won’t change. That’s a proven fact in the UMC.
We lament the reports of some of our laity who experienced bullying, fear-mongering, and half-truths that lead congregation members astray.
Again, cite your sources and present the evidence of alleged bullying. Now, if you want to talk about fear-mongering, bullying, and half-truths, here are some comments from your page:
Who knew we had so many closet Baptists among us!
Don’t let the door hit your derriere on the way out, bigots.
Very charitably put. I find it exceedingly hard to be so charitable.
198 new avowed “Traditional Incompatibalist” congregations in our midst…
I still can’t believe these folks have left our beloved UMC! The church we transferred our membership to after moving to be close to son and family (8 years there)voted to leave! My family could not leave that place fast enough! With help from former Pastors of ANNISTON FUMC where we were members for over 45 years before moving to the Huntsville area guided us to where we needed to be and PTL we are at our new UMC home!
These are not new words directed at us Traditionalists. We have been hearing them for a long time. And since 2019, the frequency of these bullying remarks have only increased. So, who’s the bully here?
We lament because we are not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God.
OK, you’re not ashamed of the gospel. Neither are we Traditionalists. What’s you point? Is there a point? If you are making a point, it would seem you are saying that Traditionalists are ashamed of the Gospel.
We do not believe that those who are leaving the denomination are in a season of standing and contending for the historic faith that has been professed for 2,000 years, as they claim.
Excuse me. How do you know that we are not standing and contending for the historic faith that has been professed for 2,000 years? Do you know what’s in my heart? Have you been listening to my conversations with The Spirit? Who are you to tell me that I haven’t listened to God? If you think I haven’t listened to God, I’ll tell you what you are. You are the new sanctimonious Pharisees of the Twenty-First Century! YOU telling me I haven’t been discerning and listening is the epitome of spiritual arrogance. And last but not least
Nevertheless, we yearn for those seceding from the United Methodist Church to return one day and live into this vision with the main body of the church. In the meantime, we send you with love and hope for the very best for you.
Really? You want us back? I’m sure you do, if we will compromise our faith and values and kiss your ring. You hope the best for us? Based on the comments on your “prepared statement”, the best would be for us to just die and go away. You’re still holding onto those coarse stones when you should have followed the example of your Bishop. You are still being abrasive. Did you not take that smooth stone as a sign of God’s healing? After Holy Communion, THE Sign of Grace, this is your response???????