UMC Update

Kessler Park Friends:

It’s been some time since I’ve updated you on the ongoing “split” in the United Methodist Church. I’ve been trying very hard not to “over-share” the play-by-play of almost daily developments, because it seems to me this could get exhausting.

Further, as a part of my own spiritual discipline, I’ve been trying very hard to not speak ill of those who are leaving, or of what they are saying about the United Methodist Church, United Methodist pastors, and even (in one case) things they’ve said privately about me.

In these past months, I’ve been trying to follow the wise admonition: “When they go low, we’ll go high…”

So, I’ll continue that effort in what I say here.

That said, almost every week, one of our members —or somebody I know in the greater United Methodist world— calls or emails me a question about these matters.

So, today, a brief update.

The calls I am getting are from frustrated and confused people, who are “hearing things” that trouble them.

They are hearing accusations being made about the future United Methodist Church, about what United Methodist pastors believe now, and will believe in the future. In some cases…and I know this is a strong word…there are lies being intentionally propagated by those who are leaving the UMC.

I don’t use the word “lie” lightly. But I honestly don’t know what else to call some of this.

Let’s back up a moment…

You might recall that many months ago, I shared with you my theory that the United Methodist Church was going through a “divorce” of sorts. And, like divorces in our real-life families, the adult partners always have a choice as to how they will respond to the reality of the situation.

I also know divorce is a hard and painful subject for many, and even using the metaphor at all could stir up some people’s trauma. That is not my intention.

That said, I’m sure we have all seen how, sometimes, the parties in a divorce speak poorly about one another. Or, in some situations, it’s just one party who speaks poorly about the other.

Unfortunately, over the past few months, we’ve seen just that.

It’s become very clear to me that *some* (not all) of the pastors leaving for the more conservative “Global Methodist Church (GMC)” are choosing to speak poorly about those of us who will remain United Methodist.

You might immediately ask, “What are they saying?!”

But I’m not going to repeat the falsehoods and insinuations they are making, because I don’t want to give them oxygen. It is clear to me there is a “talking points” document being circulated in all sorts of cities and towns across the nation. A lot of what’s being said has an eerie consistency that indicates some “talking point” coordination.

Further, I will say that I do not believe that lay folks are leading this effort. Tragically, my observation is that almost all of these falsehoods and secret insinuations are coming from clergy (again, not all…), and most tragically, even from some Bishops.

Many months ago now, I urged all parties to not do this. I urged that, as this process unfolded, we not speak ill about one another.

I urged those who were leaving to just…leave…with our blessing and our prayers…and allow those of us who seek to stay to move on with our mission for Jesus.

Sadly, my sense is that what I feared might happen instead has come to fruition.

Because a congregation must meet a “Supermajority” threshold to leave (66.7%), some (again, not all) GMC-leaning pastors have felt the need to say ridiculous things about the UMC…in an attempt to sway votes toward leaving. Others have just “declared independence” from the UMC, without following the separation protocol.

Again, this was a somewhat predictable result of the supermajority requirement. It forces the rhetoric to become intentionally extreme, in an attempt to sway lay folks.

But, based on the calls I am getting from various layfolks (almost every week) it’s not working. Folks are *not* being swayed. If anything, they’re just sad and confused that pastors and bishops would behave this way.

They’re disappointed in the GMC-leaning pastors and Bishops who are resorting to such tactics. It feels unseemly and, frankly, gross.

And, it is. Even though it’s incredibly predictable, that doesn’t make it any less tragic.

So, friends, let me end by “going high.” Instead of becoming defensive about the UMC, or bitter about these tactics, let me again re-state what I’ve told you for several years now…

Kessler Park UMC has a bright future.

We will continue be a beacon of light, love, and inclusion for all the people of North Oak Cliff. We will continue to believe Jesus is our Messiah, and continue to take the Bible seriously. We will continue preach and teach Christ’s resurrection, and uphold our Methodist doctrines and standards.

Every United Methodist pastor I personally know —conservative, moderate, or liberal— takes our polity, and our Book of Discipline seriously. I know I do. We all have and we all will.

(We may interpret the Discipline differently. We may disagree with how “complaints” are dealt with, but we all take the process seriously…)

Through the call of Jesus on our lives, we will *also* welcome with open arms people of all sexual orientations, races, nationalities, and economic circumstances.

This is consistent with our Mission Statement:

“We are a community of hope,
founded in faith,
fostering spiritual growth
and meeting human needs
by reflecting God’s love
in Christ’s name.”

We will pray for those who are leaving for the Global Methodist Church. We will ask that they go quietly, and in peace.

We cannot control what others say about us. We cannot control what they do. But we *can* continue to focus on the blessings God gives us, and the mission field God places in front of us.

We will continue to offer worship that renews us for our journey. We will continue to welcome new members (several in the past few weeks!).

We will continue ministries for people of all ages, and acts of justice and compassion in North Oak Cliff. And we will trust that God will be with us in every step we take.

Grace and Peace,

Eric Folkerth

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