United Methodist conference seizes church assets in dispute

"A regional governing body for a Protestant denomination has seized the assets of a large congregation in Georgia in a dispute over who should be the senior pastor." - RNS

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Aaron Blumer's picture


A little reminder of why local church autonomy is so important... and stacks up well when all the tradeoffs are considered.

Views expressed are always my own and not my employer's, my church's, my family's, my neighbors', or my pets'. The house plants have authorized me to speak for them, however, and they always agree with me.

Bert Perry's picture

...it's definitely a reason church members are well advised to "read the fine print" and know what they're signing up for.  If the denomination owns the building, and your congregation is at odds with what the denomination is doing theologically, you're better to just leave before it gets too bad.

That noted, what's going on here is that outside of big cities, southern Methodists (like my stepdad, who winters in Alabama with my two step mom, a Presbyterian) are basically evangelicals who sprinkle their babies and put their pastors in dresses robes (j/k).  The Marietta church has the problem that they're in the same region (Atlanta) with a female "bishop" with a hyphenated name who seems to be assuming that her authority as "bishop" supercedes the Methodist Book of Discipline--more or less their extension of the creeds.

There is also the fact that the pastor is being reassigned to a "racial reconciliation" committee.  There's a story there, too.  I don't know what it is, but that's part of what's going on.

Aspiring to be a stick in the mud.

Bert Perry's picture

Darm wrote:

The attached article explains this a bit more.  


I grew up Methodist, as did the now-wife of a former college roommate of mine, and one of the key dynamics in Methodism is the tension between the bishops and theologically conservative churches who would like a pastor who actually believes the Gospel.  Even back around 1990, it was well known that in certain districts, a theologically evangelical (by Methodist standards) pastor had no chance of getting a pastorate.  It's more or less a hazard of episcopal church government combined with theological liberals taking control of the seminaries.

That's changed a bit in the past 30 years due to the relative lack of liberal pastors coming through the seminaries, thankfully, and at least in rural areas, a church has a good chance of getting a moderately evangelical pastor, but it hasn't reached the point where the bishops are going to start to be replaced by theologically orthodox men.

Aspiring to be a stick in the mud.

Darm's picture

Are you saying that more orthodox minsters are now entering UMC pastorates than 30 years ago?  

Another note.  The North Georgia Bishop indicates that assignment in the UMC is never made for “spite” or “persecution”.  My family on both sides has deep roots in Methodism.  It was always pretty much a given that if you ran afoul of the Bishop or Annual Conference you may be assigned to a “hard-scrabble” church or circuit.  More than one time a pastor who was “on his way up” in the church (being assigned to larger, more prosperous congregations) has been “busted” back down to a much less-desirable situation.  That really is nothing new.  And I doubt seriously that church politics has been so thoroughly reformed that it no longer happens.

Bert Perry's picture

Darm, what I've noticed with an admittedly small sample size (a few small towns) is that UMC churches there are getting evangelical pastors, when previously they would not have.  My hypothesis is that since the UMC has shrunk so much, they have no choice but to allow evangelical lay pastors to take the pulpit in outlying areas.

How big an effect?  I don't know, but it seems different to me.  And dittos on your observations otherwise.  

Aspiring to be a stick in the mud.