On Saturday, April 22, 2023, Ann Russell, McFarland’s lay member of the Holston Annual Conference, and I travelled to Central United Methodist Church in Knoxville to attend a called session of the Annual Conference to consider the request of 264 out of 842 congregations to disaffiliate from the United Methodist Church under paragraph 2553 of the Book of Discipline (our United Methodist Book of Law) which allows churches to leave the United Methodist Church over disagreements of conscience over the matter of human sexuality. The Holston Annual Conference is our regional administrative body that stretches from our corner of Northwest Georgia to Southwest Virginia between Blacksburg and just south of Roanoke. It was a bittersweet day.
Now, I have to say that nothing in our Book of Discipline has changed regarding the “matter” of human sexuality. Since 1972, the United Methodist Church has officially stated that “the practice of homosexuality is incompatible with Christian teaching” and that ceremonies regarding same-sex relationships are prohibited in our facilities. Transgressions of these prohibitions can lead to severe penalties to clergy violating the prohibitions. The penalties have not prevented a handful of violations through the years for reasons of justice. Yet this “issue” has been a source of indigestion for the United Methodist Church for over 50 years. For more details on this situation and its effect on the church, I invite you to listen to the sermon for April 23 here.
As I said, the day was bittersweet. I grieve the loss of 31% of our churches which comprise some 21% of our membership in the Holston Annual Conference. I grieve the loss of friends and the opportunity of ministry together. It is indeed a sad time. Yet, I look forward to what God has in store for us and I invite us to get on our knees and pray Jesus sized prayers invoking Jesus sized dreams as we move forward.
Since 1921 (on this site), McFarland (Memorial) United Methodist Church has been a beacon on the hill to the Rossville community. As we enter into a new era for United Methodism in our community, my hope is that we will continue to offer help, hope and healing to the Rossville community. In fact, I hope that we can continue to be a place where people feel welcome, valued, and appreciated. With that in mind, I am advertising that we welcome anyone who is looking for a church home after their church has disaffiliated OR is looking to get to know Jesus… period. That is our task. May we make it so.
As always, our goal as United Methodists is to make disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world. Our world is in need of transformation. Our world needs to hear the message that God loves us, God is with us, and God never leaves us to face our troubles all alone. May we at McFarland United Methodist Church make this message our priority in the time to come. May we be blessed to be a blessing.
Thanks for allowing me to be your pastor,