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A PASTORAL LETTER
TO MEMBERS OF MARIETTA FIRST
UNITED METHODIST CHURCH

forwarded by fax from FUMC member 03-26-98


THE UNITED METHODIST CHURCH

ATLANTA AREA

NORTH GEORGIA CONFERENCE

G. LINDSEY DAVIS, RESIDENT BISHOP

CHRISTINE SELLECK

ADMINISTRATIVE SECRETARY

March 23, 1998

A PASTORAL LETTER TO MEMBERS OF MARIETTA FIRST UNITED METHODIST CHURCH

Dr. Jamie Jenkins, your District Superintendent, has informed me of your recent decision to redirect some of your General Church apportionments to other United Methodist ministries. I want you to know that I am disappointed in your action. It is my hope and prayer that this decision will be short term and that Marietta First United Methodist Church will once again be 100% supportive of the benevolent ministries of our Church.

I have been particularly disturbed by the "Report on the Doctrinal Integrity of the United Methodist Church" compiled by your Ad Hoc Committee. I have read the document and found it to be biased, unbalanced, and full of half-truths. It makes me wonder if your Ad Hoc Committee ever intended to be fair in its "investigation" of the issues confronting our denomination. Obviously, some of the concerns raised by your leadership about our Church are also troubling to me. However, when any group uses one-sided statements to make a generalized judgement, it is unfairly playing on people's fear and bias in order to advance a particular point of view. Frankly, I had expected better.

I am also concerned about your decision to redirect monies to Camp Glisson and the UGA Wesley Foundation. I understand your intention to "keep it within the family", but to divert these funds to those fine United Methodists ministries puts both of them in an awkward ethical dilemma. It is not right for these programs to prosper at the expense of other ministries of our Church or to build their buildings "on the backs" of those who are denied their rightful support.

Your decision not to pay specific General apportionments also places your appointed clergy in a difficult position. Paragraph 619 of The Book of Discipline requires that these staff people be paid "exactly proportional" to the percentage paid on these ministerial support items. Although this paragraph is often overlooked, those who strictly follow The Discipline and Order of our Church will reduce the salaries of appointed staff accordingly.

It is my hope that in the days to come you will reach a better understanding and appreciation for our common ministry together. I am committed to seeking both truth and unity within our Church, but I cannot stand by quietly and allow Marietta First United Methodist Church to proceed in a direction which I believe to be negative and contrary to the expressed will of the North Georgia Conference. Your church is not an independent congregation. You are intricately connected to the North Georgia Conference and the National and Global Church through a vital covenantal web of interactive relationships. Be assured that I want to work with you in the days ahead and that I look forward to the time when you can affirm the full ministry our Church.

I am acutely aware of the controversy and division this issue has created within your own congregation, but I am also distressed beyond measure at the negative impact your decision is already having within our Conference. I fear this consequence of your action may not have been fully understood or considered in your discussion and voting.

I regret that we stand at this point in our relationship, and I am deeply grieved at the frustration and anger that resides in some that have been parts to this action. I hope that the foundational principles of our Church which for over two centuries have guided and aided our mission as a people of Jesus Christ in the Wesleyan movement will again be embraced by your church in the near future. It is my earnest prayer that this action of your Charge Conference will be reconsidered and reversed. As your Bishop, know that I will continue to love you and work with you to seek reconciliation and God's peace. Let us all agree to be in prayer and Christian conversation in these days to come.

In Christ,

G. Lindsey Davis


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