It’s been in the local news, our Bishop has written a pastoral letter, and the Wesley Covenant Association (WCA) has written a response. The story is about Mount Bethel UMC in Cobb County, the largest Methodist church in our Annual Conference. The issue revolves around who has the authority to appoint pastors and how this process is done. Except for prayer, I do not have the answer to this conundrum, so my tendency is to leave it in God’s hands and to focus on what God has called me to do here at Harmony Grove. However, some of our members are seeking guidance concerning this issue, so I will respond as a United Methodist Elder in full connection in the North Georgia Conference of the UMC. As a Full-connection Elder in the UMC, I took an oath when ordained that I would go wherever the Bishop sent me to serve. Yes, I do have some say in this, and yes, a church has some say in this, but the bottom line is that I serve where the Bishop sends me to serve, and the church accepts whom the Bishop sends. Ideally a process is followed that involves the preacher and/or the church requesting a move, which often takes a few months. Yet, this is not always the case. My wife, Beth, also an Elder in the NGUMC, has been moved twice when neither she nor the church requested it. Her last move was announced in late October for a January 1st move and this was from one large church to one of our largest. She had some reservations and expressed those to her DS, but in the end, she moved. Why? Because she took the oath to move when and where the Bishop sends her. This is the problem with Mount Bethel. Both the pastor and the church are refusing to act as United Methodists and the pastor is breaking the oath he made before God and the church. Yes, the time frame is not ideal, but it is sufficient, and there is nothing in the Discipline that addresses the “ideal” time frame. In fact, the Bishop has up until appointments are announced on the last day of the Annual Conference to adjust moves if needed. Until that time, all pastoral moves (and stays!) are “projected” and not guaranteed. Because Mount Bethel and their pastor are rejecting this process, they are speaking publicly about their desire to sever their ties with the UMC, which is the direction they have been moving for years as indicated by their continued withholding of apportionments to the amount of approximately $1.75 million. So far, however, they have not held a Charge Conference to begin the process, which means the laity of the congregation may not be in agreement about this course of action. It is easy as an outsider to look in and judge, but none of us knows all the facts. So, let us withhold judgement and instead let us pray that God’s will be done, because whether we like it or not, God’s will will be done.
Colossians 1:9-10 : For this reason, since the day we heard it, we have not ceased praying for you and asking that you may be filled with the knowledge of God’s will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding, so that you may lead lives worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing to him, as you bear fruit in every good work and as you grow in the knowledge of God.