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Faithful UM Pastoral Exodus Begins With North Carolina Pastor and The Voice of OrthoVox.org

From: CornersUMC@aol.com [mailto:CornersUMC@aol.com]
Sent: Saturday, March 27, 2004 5:22 PM
To: jwarrene@ucmpage.org
Subject: Corrected and enhanced 

Dear John,

Here's the corrected and enhanced version of my letter.  It contains hyperlinks, corrects typos, adds some scripture references, etc.



Dear Friends,

Effective June 22, 2004 I will no longer be an ordained elder in The United Methodist Church.  On that day I will surrender my ordination credentials to the District Superintendent of the Fayetteville District of the North Carolina Annual Conference.  The next day, June 23rd, I will take a position at an Anglican Mission in America church here in North Carolina for the purpose of planting a new Anglican Mission church in the Research Triangle area. 

I love and appreciate The United Methodist Church.  I came to know Jesus Christ in this denomination and received an outstanding theological education at a premier United Methodist school: the Divinity School of Duke University.  For 17 years I have faithfully, and I think effectively, served as a United Methodist pastor.  Until Christ takes me home I will enthusiastically embrace the Wesleyan heritage of vital piety centered in holiness of heart and life that was instilled in me through the UMC.  

Wonderful ministry is happening throughout the UMC as the Good News about Jesus is preached and lived out in faithful discipleship in its congregations.  Powerful missions of healing and deliverance continue to bubble up from local churches and annual conferences throughout the connection.  Even as an Anglican priest I will continue to be a supporter of and apologist for the authentic Christian ministry and mission embodied in The United Methodist Church. 

My family and I are grieved at leaving our beloved denomination, yet we are filled with excitement and joy at being involved in ministry in the new movement known as The Anglican Mission in America.  That which we love best about United Methodism is present, and even more robustly demonstrated, in the AMiA.  

Several people have asked me how I arrived at the decision to change ecclesial communions.  This decision was not made overnight or in a fit of pique.  Let me state firmly that I have no desire to start an ecclesial insurrection or lead an exodus out of the UMC.  Nevertheless, the genesis of this decision was indeed a point of conscience which quickly became a sense of a positive vocation – a call of the Holy Spirit – to be involved in a fresh move of God embodied in the historic Anglican Church.  

I do not want to belabor the point, but for the purpose of clarity I will explain how this process began.  The point of conscience presented itself in February of 2003 with the refusal of the North Central Jurisdiction to deal with the overt heresy of Bp. Joseph Sprague, even after official charges had been brought against the errant leader.  As an elder of the Church I had vowed to “…be loyal to the United Methodist Church, accepting its order, liturgy, doctrine, and discipline… and accepting the authority of those who are appointed to supervise [my] ministry.”  One consequence of this vow of obedience was that I had to support and endorse funding Bp. Sprague’s heretical “ministry” by encouraging the local church to fully accept the apportionments (monies paid by the local church to the denomination).  The “Episcopal Fund” share of the apportionments pays the salary of the likes of Sprague.  

In stark contrast to this, my commitment to Christ demanded that I oppose heresy and those who promulgate false teaching (cf. Matthew 7:15-23; Romans 16:17-18; 1 Timothy 1:3-7; 1 Timothy 4:1-7; 1 Timothy 6:3-5, 20-21; 2 Timothy 4:1-5; Titus 1:10-14; 2 Peter 2:1-3; 1 John 4:1-6; Jude 3).  Since the Church would not censure or discipline Bp. Sprague, I determined that I was compelled to choose faithfulness to Jesus Christ over my vow to support the denomination.  Further, if I remained in the UMC and did not fulfill my vow to uphold the doctrine and discipline of the denomination by refusing to endorse the apportionments then I would be no better than Bp. Sprague in his refusal to honor the teaching of our Church.  

I realize that not everyone would come to this conclusion, but I believe that conscience demanded I surrender my elder’s orders rather than honor a vow that put me at odds with loyalty to Jesus Christ and the faith once and for all delivered to the saints (Jude 3).  

However, that point of conscience merely served to open my heart to hear the call of the Holy Spirit to be involved in planting churches in The Anglican Mission in America.  This movement is closer to the center of the Great Tradition of the Church than many Protestant sects, stalwartly stands upon the Holy Scriptures as God’s authoritative Word, and embraces the present working of the Holy Spirit.  The emphasis on mission and church planting within the AMiA fueled the passion I already had to plant churches committed authentic Christian community and radical obedience to Jesus Christ.  Moreover, the Anglican Mission stands in solidarity with the Global South and is under the oversight of the Anglican Archbishops of Rwanda and Southeast Asia. 

So I leave The United Methodist Church with a heart full of gratitude and love for the denomination that led me to accept Christ, taught me the Scriptures, nourished me with the sacraments, and equipped me for ministry.  Our Bishop, the Rev. Marion Edwards, has been supportive and sympathetic towards my family and I as we make this transition.  Similarly, my District Superintendent, the Rev. David O. Malloy, has embodied tenderness, love, and pastoral concern as he relates to my wife, my children, and me.  I will always hold a tremendous amount of affection for the colleagues I have served with and the churches I have shepherded.  

That said, I am deeply troubled that certain annual conferences and bishops continue to flout the authority of God’s Word and the clear teaching of our Discipline.  The recent verdict in the Karen Dammann church trial reveals that sections of the United Methodist connection are in open rebellion against God and his Church.  So far the UMC has not demonstrated a willingness to deal decisively with behavior and teaching that threaten to bring individuals and the denomination under the judgment of God.  If I may be so bold I would offer this gentle warning: If The United Methodist Church continues to ignore rebellion, heresy, and apostasy in annual conferences and the episcopal office many other pastors and parishioners may also be forced to choose between loyalty to Christ and loyalty to the denomination.   Sincerely in Christ, The Rev. Benjamin S. Sharpe, Jr.

+Ben Sharpe's OrthoVox: An Online Journal of Classic Ecumenical Christianity
+The Anglican Mission in America

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