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Evangelical United Methodists ask to separate from California-Nevada Conference

April 6, 1998

Eighteen clergy and 25 lay people in the California-Nevada Annual Conference of the United Methodist Church issued a statement April 2 asking that they be allowed to separate from the regional body.

"We are divided beyond reconciliation," the evangelicals said, pointing to differences in theology, worship, sacraments, Christian education, ecumenical relations, missions pastoral leadership, church growth, evangelism, ethics and morality.

The California-Nevada Conference includes 93,213 members, 375 congregations and about 325 pastors in an area that covers northern California from Fresno in the south, and northern Nevada, not including the Las Vegas area.

"We evangelicals are tired of fighting," the statement said. "We have no further wish to continue to wage war in conference agencies and on the voting floor. We are convinced that, just as we will never be swayed from the basic affirmations of our faith, we will never change the minds of those with whom we disagree."

Annual conference leaders are asked to help design a "careful and wise process by which evangelical pastors and churches can responsibly choose to transform their theological reality into an organizational realty."

Separation, the evangelicals say, would allow both sides to pursue their vision for ministry without the "distraction and injury of an ongoing war of ideas."

A "just process" is also proposed for evangelical pastors and churches to retain their local property with some compensation to the conference and perhaps reimbursement to the conference for financial assistance in the past.

Such a plan, the evangelicals say, would allow "those people of faith who have built a congregation to pursue their faith in freedom."

Area Bishop Melvin G. Talbert told United Methodist News Service the statement would be considered by the conference ministry staff at its next meeting in mid-April. This group includes the bishop, district superintendents and others.

Signers of the document include the Rev. Robert L. Kuyper of Bakersfield, Calif., newsletter editor for Transforming Congregations, a ministry to the "sexual broken," and the Rev. John C. Sheppard II, pastor of the 650-member First United Methodist Church in Yuba City, Calif.

Produced by United Methodist News Service, official news agency of the United Methodist Church, with offices in Nashville, Tenn., New York, and Washington.

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