Recent conflict in the United Methodist Church has made headlines and there are still issues to be settled. I believe in the church and sincerely believe that there is a solution to the questions confronting our clergy and our membership.

Someone wrote, “Because we think we aren’t supposed to disagree, we Christians do it very poorly.” Indeed, there is room for vigorous debate and disagreement and sometimes we simply have to live with our differences. There is not necessarily a “right” or “wrong” side of every issue. We need to look only at how our friends vote to know that the Christian community is often divided and does not always speak with a single voice.

But despite not speaking with a single voice, our church has done marvelous ministry and that excellent work should not be discounted. One of our great church historians has pointed out that our church has often waded into difficult and controversial issues. As early as 1784 at its Christmas Conference the Methodist Church condemned slavery and declared that its members must free their slaves within twelve months. Abraham Lincoln is said to have admitted that the nation would never have ended slavery without the help of the Methodist Church. Our church has led the way in advocation for women’s suffrage and adult education. A Methodist school, Wesleyan College in Macon, Georgia, is the oldest college in the country to award degrees to women. We have ordained more women to the ministry and support more colleges and universities than any other Protestant denomination. Our church was the first to call for the six-day work week, the eight-hour day, a minimum wage, and decent working conditions.

Our churches still care daily for the poor, the homeless, and the elderly. We educate children and most of our church sponsor a drug rehabilitation program. We still maintain relationship with some of the finest hospitals, colleges, and universities in the nation. And schism in our denomination would leave a gaping home in our social fabric and would do most harm to the poor and the young.

There is a way through these challenges short of division. I pray that our leaders and congregations will diligently search for that way and continue the work of our great church.

Sam R. Matthews



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(2) comments

George Don Spruill

Rev. Matthews speaks of the many good things that the United Methodist Church has done over the many years since its establishment. These things are not in dispute. The problems with this denomination which are in dispute have occurred over the past 20 to 30 years. These problems revolved around the LGBTQ issue. Beginning in the Western Jurisdiction, UMC pastors began affirming same-sex couple unions, which were/are against the Discipline of the UMC. (I left the UMC over this and many other issues in 2000.) When a General Conference occurred in the last year or so to resolve the issue of splitting the denomination between those local church that followed historical Christian beliefs and those which followed a new Progressive direction, I read that the LGBTQ issue had grown to cover most of the country. Further, I have read where the former senior minister of one of the historically most Progressive churches in the connection -- the Glide Memorial UMC in San Francisco -- who is in a marriage relationship with another woman had been ordained a Bishop in the United Methodist Church, against church Discipline. I will therefore dispute Reverend Matthews comment in his last paragraph that "There is a way through these changes short of division." It is foreseeable that, unless the denomination allows the traditional local churches to separate from the -- at this time -- Progressive denomination and with their property, parishioners at these local churches will leave anyway and the denomination that is left will have the problem of selling 100's of millions of dollars in vacant church property. It is sad that this has happened, when all of it could have been avoided, if the leadership of the denomination had followed Scripture and the Discipline of the United Methodist Church.

Mike Nelson

Billy Graham said it all, there is only one way. Forget that and you will pay.

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