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Board of large Georgia congregation to vote on withholding apportionments

Produced by United Methodist News Service, official news agency of the United Methodist Church, with offices in Nashville, Tenn., New York, and Washington
March 10, 1998 Contact: Joretta Purdue, Washington, D.C. (202) 546-8722 {140}

Officials of First United Methodist Church, Marietta, Ga., will meet March 22 to act on motions to withhold their 1998 apportionments -– money requested of the church as its fair share of ministry and administration costs beyond the local area.

A task force, created in response to these motions, will report its findings to the church's administrative body, the 250-member Board of Stewards.

With more than 5,000 members, the church is one of the largest in Georgia. Its 1998 apportionments for regional and denominational work total $223,406. Payment of these funds has been temporarily suspended.

Conflicting reports exist on the cause of the move. The church's senior pastor, the Rev. Charles Sineath, did not respond to phone calls from United Methodist News Service. Secular press accounts center on controversy over United Methodist-related Emory University, whose board of trustees last fall voted to allow, under narrow circumstances, same-sex covenant services. The qualifying factors are so limited that the Rev. Susan Henry-Crowe, dean of the Emory chapel, said it is unlikely such a ceremony would ever take place.

The Wesleyan Christian Advocate, weekly newspaper of Georgia United Methodism, reported that individuals close to the situation have said Emory was only the catalyst for some members who harbor a long-simmering dissatisfaction with the denomination. Creation of the task force occurred at a called meeting on Jan. 25 that lasted more than three hours.

A notice in the church's bulletin on Feb. 8 said the task force was studying reasons for the denomination's declining membership.

The January meeting focused on homosexuality, said Craig Caldwell, a college student and member of the board, writing in a letter on the World Wide Web site created for church members. He said he was distressed to see it presented as "merely the declining membership throughout the United Methodist Church."

The task force has been in conversation with Bishop G. Lindsey Davis and District Superintendent Jamie Jenkins.

Jenkins said that First Church in Marietta has always paid its apportionments in full and that he would be shocked if the church decided to withhold its payments.

The task force comprises the present and past chairpersons of the board and two young adult members.

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NOTE: This material was based on a story that appeared in the Wesleyan Christian Advocate by Alice M. Smith, executive director of the Georgia United Methodist Communications Council.


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