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Bishop Explains Good Pastors, Good Consultants And Good Advertising Could Not Reach Surrounding Sea Of Un-Churched

From: Johnny Bell [johnny.bell@centurytel.com]
Sent: Thursday, September 18, 2003 9:27 AM
To: ucmpage@ucmpage.org
Subject: Reasons from Bishop why open hearts, open minds, open doors failed in Sherwood, AR


The following is an official statement that was posted at ARUMC.org on the internet. This was posted late yesterday or this morning. It can be found by going to that site and then the second line below the picture of the open hands. Forty UMC churches from 1990 to 2000 have closed in Arkansas as stated in an article in the state paper, mentioned in the following statement, just about one year ago.

Statement on Good Shepherd United Methodist Church

Following the Sept. 15 article in the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, several people have asked questions about the closing of Good Shepherd United Methodist Church in Sherwood.  The final worship service for Good Shepherd was Sunday, September 14, 2003, with Reverend Deidre Roberts presiding.  The final Charge Conference will be September 24, 2003, with Reverend Jan Edwards, District Superintendent, presiding.

In the 15 years since Good Shepherd began, the church supported vital ministries such as an active Food Pantry, Motherís Day Out and worship.  The congregation itself is a group of wonderfully warm and caring people.  Four faithful pastors have served Good Shepherd since its beginning.  For all these ministries and faithful people, we are thankful to God.

In June, the pastor, Reverend Deidre Roberts, and representatives of the leadership of Good Shepherd came to Reverend Edwards because Good Shepherd was no longer able to meet its operating budget, including pastorís salary, and also meet its loan payments for the building and property.  In consultation with me, Reverend Edwards asked Reverend Bob Crossman, Chair of the Conway District Church Location and Building Committee, to lead a team of clergy and laity to review Good Shepherdís past, meet with congregational leaders regarding its present, and explore options for the future.

The team discovered the following:

  • Approximately 43,000 unchurched people live within five miles of Good Shepherd.
  • Good Shepherd has a worshipping congregation of about 50 people. 
  • Good Shepherd owes just under $500,000 on the property and building.
  • Over the past 15 years, the North Arkansas Conference and the Conway District contributed over $500,000 to support Good Shepherd.
  • The Conway District was currently contributing $1,300 per month toward Good Shepherdís indebtedness.
  • The debt has always been a tremendous impediment to Good Shepherdís ministry.

In consultation with me, the team explored various alternatives to continue Good Shepherd.  The team talked with pastors and laity about starting new ministries.  They invited and received consultation from national specialists in church development.  In the end, in consultation with the congregationís leadership, the decision was made to close Good Shepherd.

It is always a sad time when a congregationís life comes to an end. However, we are a people of the resurrection. Faith in Jesus Christ does not end. Hope in Godís grace does not end.  Love of our neighbors does not end.  As Reverend Roberts shared with her people, Jesus is calling them into new ministries.  We believe these faithful disciples will follow where God leads them.  We look forward to the future with expectation and hope.

Grace and Peace, 

Janice Riggle Huie

Resident Bishop

Arkansas Area

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