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UM Officials Adopt New "Hands Off" Policy As Another Congregation Separates From Denomination in CA

From: GREGORI45@aol.com; Ed Ezaki eezaki@lightspeed.net
To: John Warrener (E-mail) jwarrene@surfsouth.com
Sent: Monday, August 14, 2000 11:09 AM

Subject: New Church Set to Begin

Dear friends,

Yesterday I led my last worship service at Hope Church. Last Monday our church council met and after much prayer and discussion voted to leave the United Methodist Church. And so, I along with the entire staff, emptied out our offices in anticipation of resigning after the service yesterday. As the news of the decision spread through the congregation, there was much grief as well as relief. Several mostly elderly members declared that they would be unable to go through such a drastic transition.

We approached the service yesterday wondering if it might have been more wise just to leave without gathering one more time. We feared anger, hostility and wailing grief.

As it turned out, God transformed the service into a powerful experience of thanksgiving and reconciliation. What we though might be a funeral for Hope Church was more like an Easter Celebration. 500 people attended the combined service (more than I thought could fit in the sanctuary) and the worship was awesome! It was a wonderful gift of confirmation from the Lord.

Next Sunday, Valley Grace Community Church will worship at 10 am in the Valley High School multi-purpose room. This time I anticipate a time of great joy!

You should know that Dave Bennett, the district superintendent, gave us his full cooperation during the decision making process. We kept him informed and except for sending a letter to the church on his behalf he neither attended any meetings or worship services or interfered in any way. I am thankful for his gracious toleration even when he had grounds to suspend me several weeks ago.

God is good! We don't know at this time how the divide in the congregation will turn out. There may be 40-50 people left in the building. But we have departed with as much respect and openness to each other as I believe could be possible. I do know that Valley Grace Community Church is ready to serve God will joy and deep commitment.

Please pray for our continued grief, deep tiredness, and for office space.

Your brother,
Greg Smith

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