A couple of devotions this week on Methodist Life ultimately addressed theologically conservative Methodist leaders positioned to make a difference in our current Holston Conference environment, as well as the people beholden to them. Links to those devotions are below.
Keep your eyes and ears open the next couple of weeks for important developments in the effort to find a more palatable way for traditional Methodist churches to leave the United Methodist Church. If you have not registered your email address on this website, be sure to do so.
For Such a Time as This, Part One
If you are a traditional Methodist and had hoped to receive a pastoral appointment in the Holston Conference, but did not, please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
By Chuck Griffin, Holston WCA President
I took a day to process events of our Holston Annual Conference gathering, and I can tell several of you have done so, too, judging from the expressions of disappointment I have heard since we adjourned Wednesday.
Going in, I know some of you had hoped that a surprising way out of the UMC would take shape—that grace would prevail, moving us beyond the onerous, exit-fee laden disaffiliation process now being presented to traditional Methodist churches.
There’s no use in rehashing the highly structured events of the conference. (At least our bishop is organized.) There was one bright spot in our business meetings, however, and it’s going to make a huge difference over the next few weeks for churches trying to discern a path out of the United Methodist Church.
Our Holston WCA board secretary, the Rev. Todd Chancey, managed to push through a resolution forcing conference staff to publish online all of the Holston churches’ pension liabilities. The conference position had been that churches were not entitled to know this particularly expensive exit fee until after they had nearly completed the disaffiliation process.
Most departing churches do not know right now whether they will be required to eat a mouse or an elephant to get out of the UMC. Both are distasteful, but one is more manageable than the other.
We are going to know soon, though. The resolution requires the pension liability data to be available by July 8. As soon as it is posted, we will send the link around.
Once you look at the pension liability number, add in 12 to 18 months’ worth of tithe payments and what it will cost to do a survey of your property. You very well may find there’s an elephant on your plate.
Again, you can always ask us for help by sending an email to email@example.com. We do see other options on the horizon.
I should mention another resolution that passed, simply because it illustrates how liberals and institutionalists in our conference are sticklers for using the UM Book of Discipline when it suits them and casual about the Discipline when they find it inconvenient.
Resolution No. 1 passed 361-323. Basically, if someone is charged with violating the paragraphs related to prohibitions against same-sex marriage or the ordination of self-avowed, practicing homosexuals, the resolution recommends that punitive actions be suspended until the first annual conference following the General Conference scheduled for 2024. The bishop seemed to indicate from the dais that the Discipline will continue to be enforced in the Holston Conference.
Another important event occurred elsewhere while we were at annual conference.
Five one-time supporters of the General Conference legislation known as the Protocol of Reconciliation and Grace through Separation pulled out of the agreement, effectively killing it.
For those traditionalists who were wanting to wait until 2024, thinking relief would come then—well, you might want to give up on that idea.
By Chuck Griffin
LAKE JUNALUSKA, N.C.—Many of us are here at the Holston Annual Conference, of course, “we” being clergy and lay members of the Wesleyan Covenant Association.
From a traditional Methodist perspective, there’s probably not a lot that can be accomplished here. That’s no surprise, as we’ve watched the institutionally minded leaders of our conference do all they can to define a narrow and twisted path out for churches wanting to depart, one that is both graceless and expensive.
That doesn’t mean we’re done, though. This is a great opportunity for those of us looking for paths out other than disaffiliation to talk one-on-one. At the bottom of this article is the simple handout we are offering while here. As it notes in the second “Paths Out” item, if you are near Lake Junaluska, you can make arrangements to meet with a Holston WCA board member by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org. Be sure to stop by our display table, too.
We have long been committed to serving another group of traditional Methodists, too, the ones who find themselves trapped in a church unlikely to leave the UMC. We want to continue hearing from you, and again, contact us if you’re attending annual conference, or any other time.
Last night, we watched as new clergy were admitted for service in various ways. In particular, we once again had the privilege of seeing new elders ordained.
As always, these earnest people were required to answer the 19 questions put before Methodist ordinands since our earliest days. Elders present in the room also were expected to listen and reflect on these questions, which of course they had to answer on their day of ordination.
These questions all are deeply important. Our bishop described them as part of the covenant language we use to be part of an “order.”
In particular, I leaned in to listen to how they answered questions 8, 9 and 10:
8. Have you studied the doctrines of the United Methodist Church?
9. After full examination, do you believe that our doctrines are in harmony with the Holy Scriptures?
10. Will you preach and maintain them?
Questions 8 and 9 continue to be asked in a denomination that on paper has very traditional, scripturally sound doctrines, including the language in its Discipline related to homosexual marriage and ordinations. To be ordained, you are to accept these doctrines, acknowledge they are rooted in Scripture, and then lead others to the same understanding.
All active ordained elders answered these questions under the same traditional conditions. They presumably said “yes” with no winks, nods or finger-crossing. If such people of integrity came to discover later that they could not uphold these vows, they should have withdrawn from the order.
When it comes to those 19 questions, we hope that last night’s ordinands read them and answered them with sincerity. May they be blessed in their ministries.
By Chuck Griffin, Holston WCA President
The United Methodist Church’s Judicial Council has ruled whether an annual conference can vote to withdraw from the UMC and move to the GMC. In short, the answer is no—not without the General Conference first meeting and passing enabling legislation. Once again, the conspiracy to prevent a General Conference from happening this year continues to bind us to schismatic liberals and institutionalists who refuse to abide by or enforce what is already a conservative, traditional UM Discipline. Here is the full text of the Judicial Council decision: