Methodist congregation leaves denomination
United Methodist News Service, July 17, 1998
About 200 members of the Kingsburg (Calif.) United Methodist Church declared July 28 that “in Christian conscience” they could no longer remain members of the denomination.
Acting on a recommendation made earlier in the month by their administrative council, members voted together and then separately signed a statement withdrawing from The United Methodist Church. They transferred their membership to a newly created Kingsburg Community Church, effective July 1.
The church’s trustees retained their membership to manage the property until its disposition is finished. The new church’s leadership has said it wants to buy the property.
Expressing regret that the congregation came to the point of leaving the denomination, Bishop Melvin G. Talbert (San Francisco Area) said, “My prayers go with them.”
Other conservatives have threatened to leave over recent events in the denomination, and some have done so. However, the number of people leaving the Kingsburg congregation represents the highest percentage of loss ever for a United Methodist congregation.
The Rev. Richard Plain, superintendent of the Fresno District in which Kingsburg UMC is located, said he would begin the process, spelled out in the denomination’s Book of Discipline, to explore the possible discontinuance of the church and the “potential for mission and ministry” in Kingsburg, some 170 miles southeast of San Francisco. The disciplinary process is an involved consultation that could take months.
Mr. Plain said he is in conversation with the Rev. Ed Ezaki, who had been appointed pastor of the Kingsburg church a week earlier at the annual conference. As of this report, Mr. Ezaki has not turned in his United Methodist clergy credentials. The only California-Nevada clergy to do so has been the Rev. Kevin Clancey, who has led some members of his Oakdale United Methodist Church into a new congregation in their community, some 60 miles east of San Francisco.
Both Messrs. Ezaki and Clancey have been leaders in the California-Nevada Evangelical Renewal Fellow ship, which in April asked church leaders to create a separate conference for evangelicals. Conference leadership refused the fellowship’s request for a negotiated exit with property.
In a comment to The Fresno Bee newspaper, Mr. Ezaki said “100 percent” of Kingsburg’s 371 members are planning to leave.
“The only way it’s not going to happen,” he told the paper on the eve of the vote, “is if there’s some kind of divine intervention. And it’s divine intervention that’s brought us this far.”
In his June 28 sermon, Mr. Ezaki declared, “We have two separate faiths in this denomination that cannot be held together.” He complained that “anyone who breathes” is now allowed to become a United Methodist.