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by The Rev. Benjamin S. Sharpe, Jr.

On March 22 the Board of Stewards of First UMC Marietta Georgia voted to redirect a fraction of their apportionments in response to a study of the denomination’s doctrinal integrity. Referring to this decision Bishop Lindsey Davis had this response:

Davis described the action as a violation of the covenantal, missional commitments a United Methodist congregation makes to the denomination."We work in a web of intricate connections, and part of our understanding of what it means to be a community of faith is to be involved in that kind of connection. To go off on your own, so to speak, flies in the face of our polity, discipline and order." (UMNS)

What Bishop Davis and other guardians of the status quo (if they were guardians of the Discipline and the Doctrine of the Church we wouldn't be in this mess) fail to see in statements like this is that they are making an admission: they admit to the belief that our connection only works in one direction -- from the top, down.

What about the violation of the covenant commitment by the unaccountable Boards, Agencies and heretical Bishops of the Church (Morrison et al.)? Is that a breach of the connection? No -- that's supposed to be okay because they are the anointed elite of the denomination. Because of their status as the anointed they can pick and choose when to support the covenant community that is our connection and when they can "fly in the face of our discipline, polity and order."

The keepers of the status quo send this message, "First Church Marietta and all others take heed: Just shut up and send us your money. Don’t expect us to be accountable -- but you better keep sending in those checks." Whereas it is impossible for the Boards, Agencies, and Bishops to betray the church (if they do it, then it must be right), any local church who PRESUMES to discern the mind of Christ about the money they are giving has violated a sacred covenant.

What the Rev. Davis forgets is that for the term 'connection' to have any logical meaning it must refer to the joining of more than one person, item, concept or organization. Connection literally must denote a multipoint or MULTIDIRECTIONAL relationship. Connectional relationships involve General Church obligations to the local parish as well as the obligation of the local congregation to the General Church.

No, Bishop Davis (and all others who find that the denomination is now on shaky ground), First Church Marietta has not broken faith with the Doctrines and Disciplines of the Church. They have been faithful in refusing to fund what clearly contradicts our teachings.

And no, they have not broken the connection. You’re just finding out that by definition a connection works both ways.

The Rev. Benjamin S. Sharpe Jr., BA, MDiv.

  • Born September 5, 1961 in Chapel Hill, North Carolina, USA
  • Raised in Hamlet, NC
  • Baptized & Confirmed in Fellowship UMC, Hamlet, NC
  • Accepted Christ as Lord and Savior during a "Lay Witness Mission" at Fellowship UMC when 16 years of age.
  • BA degree from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, 1985
  • MDiv degree, Magna cum laude, Duke Divinity School, Duke University, 1991
  • Ordained Deacon 1990
  • Ordained Elder 1993
  • Student Pastor of Phillips Chapel UMC, Graham, NC, 1987-91
  • Pastor of Atlantic UMC, Atlantic NC, 1991-95
  • Short Term Missionary in Armenia, April-May 1995
  • Founding Pastor of Cornerstone UMC, Fayetteville NC, 1995-Present
  • Ben and Lisa (married 18 years) have 3 lovely daughters: Rebekah, Katie and Elizabeth.

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