Gunns Chapel UMC Church Council Says, "Enough is Enough!"
Gunns Chapel United Methodist Church
January 17, 1999
Dr. Al Guinn
Dear Brother Al,
We, the people of Gunns Chapel United Methodist Church, write you today with heavy hearts and grieved spirits. We are embarrassed to be called United Methodists; we are ashamed of our identity and we are disappointed in our leadership. The "service of holy union" yesterday in Sacramento, California, in which two prominent members of the United Methodist Church in that state were joined together in a homosexual "marriage," provides the occasion for this letter. However, be assured that our concerns regarding the denomination and the place of Gunns Chapel within it are based upon much broader realities with a much longer history than merely the more recent determined attempt of the gay lobby to impose its will upon United Methodism.
We understand that the United Methodist Church is a "connectional" church and that, "A . . . member of any local United Methodist church is a member of the global United Methodist connection . . . ." (Book of Discipline ¶216) Therefore, we understand that whatever happens anywhere in United Methodism touches us here at Gunns Chapel. Thus, due to recent events and long-term trends within our denomination, our witness in our community has been damaged because we bear the name United Methodist; our faithfulness to Gods call on our lives has been diminished due to our connection with United Methodism; and, our stewardship of Gods grace poured out upon our congregation has been compromised through our membership in the United Methodist denomination. While we find the most visible and egregious problem in our Church to be its continuing inability to deal with the homosexual challenge, this issue is only a part of our larger dispute with the denomination. The failure of the church to properly address the gay lobby is merely symptomatic of much deeper, more pervasive problems. For example, over the years, we have looked to our leaders to provide godly leadership, but we have found them to be untrustworthy; we have trusted in our denominational agencies and institutions to do the work of the kingdom, but we have discovered they are misusing our trust; we have assumed that our Discipline and the official conference structures of the church would guide us as a people in pursuing the work of the Kingdom, but we have found sadly that these have been unreliable. Many of our bishops have publicly stated their support of apostasy and given their unqualified approval to abominable sin; others of our bishops, rather than calling their ungodly colleagues to account, have insisted that unity must be maintained even in the presence of unchristian doctrine and practice. We find that we no longer have any confidence in such leadership.
We know that those hundreds of United Methodist clergy who have publicly stated their support for the gay agenda (marriages, ordination, etc.) have had their thinking and theology largely formed by their study in United Methodist theological seminaries. We are aware that many years ago these schools largely abandoned historic Christian orthodoxy and Methodist doctrine and that for decades they have been filling the pulpits of our Church with preachers who preach contrary to the Word of God. We find this intolerable. We know that our general boards and agencies likewise for many years have taken positions, advanced ministries, and promoted ideologies that not only misrepresent the vast majority of United Methodist people (including ourselves), but that more importantly they have done violence to the gospel message and have led untold multitudes of people into eternal darkness. Since they have accomplished this work partly with our support, we bear some of the responsibility, as does every United Methodist in the connection. Because we have been compliant in these activities, we have been disobedient and neglectful of our holy mission to reach the world for Christ. We repent of our participation in such ungodliness
Finally, we have stood by for many years and waited for the leadership and the councils of the church to remedy these grave ills. While we have waited, we have faithfully filled the coffers of the denominational treasuries with our offerings, we have remained "loyal" to the program of the larger church, we have accepted the leadership provided us by the conference, we have been thoroughly "Methodist." However, while we have patiently waited and loyally supported the church, we have seen our investment in what we thought was the work of the kingdom abused and the leaders of the denomination have betrayed us. We have witnessed the best efforts of faithful Methodists to restore the denomination to scriptural principles fall by the wayside, while those who led such efforts-Methodists who expressed our positions-have been vilified and ignored by the denominational powers. Over the past thirty years our church has lost three million members, slashed its missionary force to a fraction of its former size, and become a byword within the larger body of Christ; yet, all the while the presence and success of the homosexual lobby has grown ever larger, the pursuit of heterodoxy in our seminaries has continued apace, and the denominational leadership continues to turn a deaf ear to our cry. We have listened while those within the power structures of the church who claimed to represent our concerns have counseled us to "be patient," to "trust our leaders," to "let the General Conference speak for the church," to-above all else-"remain loyal so you can have a place at the table." These platitudes have grown stale, they no longer reassure us, we no longer have any confidence in such counsel.
Brother Al, we are not so much "hurt" as we are angry; we do not expect you or the bishop or other leaders to "feel our pain," but to take note of our determination. For too long we have been, as it were, sheep for the shearers and cattle for the slaughterers. We will be such no longer. We are a small congregation, we do not count for much in the councils of the annual conference nor in the connection at large; we know that. In fact, some in our congregation fear the retribution of the cabinet upon a small church like ours. That fear, in and of itself, speaks eloquently of the corruption in our denomination: What kind of a connection do we belong to that threatens its members with retribution when they seek to be faithful to the Word of God and the call of Christ? What has the body of Christ become when those who remain true to the historic doctrine of the church and the heritage of John Wesley and Francis Asbury must fear the response of United Methodist leaders?
As a congregation, we are in the process of deciding what our response will be to the betrayal of our church. We are gathering information and seeking prudent counsel. As a part of this process, we want to invite you to come to our church and meet with us to discuss the situation within the connection and to hear from us in person our perspective on these matters. We have appreciated your spirit and your visits with us at Charge Conference time. We will be happy to meet with you at your convenience; the best time for us is either Sunday afternoon/evening or Wednesday night.
May God bless you and give you wisdom in these crucial days.
Michael V. Davis,
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