By Walter B. Fenton, Good News
One of the largest congregations in The United Methodist Church withheld over $200,000 of its apportionments in 2014 in response to what it believes to be “wholly unsatisfactory” inaction on the part of the Council of Bishops to recent controversies within the denomination. The congregation will make no further payments in 2015 without the explicit approval of the church’s administrative council.
Mt. Bethel UM Church, located in Marietta, Georgia, is the largest UM congregation east of the Mississippi River and is part of the North Georgia Annual Conference. The church, widely known for its local, national and global missions programs, and for Mt. Bethel Christian Academy, a K-12 Christian school, operates three campuses in the Marietta area.
Its administrative council voted to place its apportioned funds in an escrow account until the Council of Bishops (COB) fulfills the requests made in the “Integrity and Unity Statement” published by over 120 leading pastors and theologians, and endorsed by nearly 8,500 clergy and laity across the UM connection. All bishops received a copy of the statement in July 2014 and it was formally presented to the council at its November 2014 meeting in Oklahoma City.
“The administrative council’s decision was unanimous,” said Ferrell Coppedge, lay leader at the nearly 10,000-member church.
The turbulance in the former Mainline denominations, specifically the PC [USA] or United Methodist Church has been building for years, many years.
I recall the late Paul Ramsey’s “Who Speaks for the Church?” and then Tom Oden’s work on church decline, and the late Harold O.J. Brown’s “The Protest of a Troubled Protestant”  anticipated the
decline and apostacy of the modern Protestant churches.
Last summer, I had a UMC pastor, describing his conference, as
divided and schism is possible as the differences are pronounced.
Years ago, a beloved friend of mine a retired UMC bishop related is experience on the West Coast in one of the UMC conference. Coference leadership was determined to go its own way regardless of the offical pronouncements of General Conference.
It appears that in the UCM division will come soon, thanks to actions similiar to the bishop in the story. The General Conference
says one thing; some bishops know better until they are called out for the exercise of poor judgment.
In the UP[USA]. the same actions are causing division. I spoke with an elder in the largest congregation in the presbytery; the church voted to dissolve the ties, as has two other congregations in the same city.
Since my ordination in 1960 and 1964, the end was coming. As an
avalanche in the moutains, once the avalanche begins nothing will stop it. The same with division. Nothing will stop either the bureaucracy or those who want to remain faithful to scripture and doctrine and worship and liturgy, but a unable to reach accord with those in POWER.
Such is the way the ecclesiastical world ends, not with a bang but with a whimper by the powers that be.
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