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United Methodists start dialogue With Church of Latter-day Saints

Feb. 27, 1998 CONTACT: Linda Bloom, New York (212) 870-3803 (10-71B){118} by United Methodist News Service


An elder of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS) joined United Methodists in Salt Lake City Feb. 20-22 for the first formal dialogue between the two denominations. The Rev. Doug Slaughter, pastor of Community United Methodist Church in Ogden, Utah, said the dialogue was organized through the Utah-Wyoming subdistrict of the United Methodist Rocky Mountain Conference.

He noted that pastors in that area face "a constant series of questions about how different aspects of church life, as seen from the United Methodist perspective, relate to the LDS Church."

Baptism is one of the issues that cause confusion. It was found that when pastors were asked by former LDS members whether their baptism would be valid in the United Methodist Church, the response "varied by pastor," Slaughter explained.

The subdistrict's council on ministry organized the Salt Lake City event "with the expressed purpose of beginning a dialogue" on such issues. Elder Jay Jensen, a member of the Quorum of the 70, one of the top authority groups in the LDS, was authorized by the LDS president and its Quorum of 12 to "come and share their point of view in a first-person dialogue," he said. Three United Methodists made formal presentations at the meeting: the Rev. Dan Benedict, Board of Discipleship; the Rev. Gayle Felton, a senior consultant to Duke University; and the Rev. Bruce Robbins, general secretary, Commission on Christian Unity and Interreligious Concerns.

"Elder Jensen was quite clear that their theology and their polity is quite different from that of the United Methodist Church," Slaughter observed, adding that Jensen said a United Methodist baptism would not be valid in their own denomination.

However, Slaughter noted, Jensen was "warmly received and welcomed so that we could continue the dialogue." No formal conclusions were intended, but a working paper "that defines the questions, the issues, the affirmations" of the dialogue was being drafted after the meeting's end. It will be submitted to the churchwide Board of Discipleship for continued development, he said, and hopefully published in some form to be available to other annual conferences.

A videotape of the event also is being edited as an additional resource. Slaughter hopes the United Methodist-LDS dialogue will continue at different levels and from different perspectives.

More information about the dialogue experience is available by calling Slaughter at 801-470-7430 or contacting him by e-mail at 71743.2665@compuserve.com


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