Sunday was one of the most important and transitional days ever in the long history of First Church. I know there are many folks elated, but perhaps wondering what comes next. Others are a little more concerned about the future, perhaps with a special concern over the building. Still others are fearful or perhaps feel we acted prematurely in leaving the United Methodist Denomination.
For ALL in this Family, let me speak what I hope is obvious: I love you, am honored to be your pastor, and will do my best to walk with ALL of us in these days of transition!
In all of this, we have acted with upmost integrity—never disrespected our D.S. or the United Methodist System. I am convinced that God has and will honor the fact that we have acted like David, and not like Saul…
Rest assured, I was not told that 4 conference officials would be here. I was not told there would be two ballots, or that we would have to sign them. I had no idea the “gracious exit plan” would be presented in such ungracious light, making it all but impossible to use. We flowed by the Spirit as best we could with the curve balls thrown, and everyone left as friends and brothers and sisters in the Lord.
…I can promise you this: I have NEVER been so sure of any decision in my life, nor have we as a congregation ever made a decision (at least in the past 18 years) that involved so many confirmations from the Lord, so many well conducted and attended meetings, or so much prayer and time. We have actively discussed and earnestly sought the Lord over what happened Sunday for over 3 years!
What we did not have 3 years ago, but have so clearly now, is a reason to move forward as an Antioch Church for Appalachia; not just a hundred reasons to leave a denomination that in fact has left us…
Here are the facts and expectations coming from last Sunday’s vote:
We fully expect the process to “close” as a United Methodist Church to be completed by mid-June. We are already “open” and moving forward into God’s destiny for us.
Sunday services, the church committees, prayer meetings, Life Groups, reading the Word daily, and everything else we are as a Family will continue as they are, as the Spirit leads.
I will continue to serve as your pastor, and your pastoral staff including Amy, Catherine, Tina, and John and all our teams and leaders will continue to do what God has called us to do!
Our partnership with Kaleo/Iris and our relationships with Partners in Harvest and the WCA are already in place and moving forward as we are released from our former denomination.
Our name will remain “First Church,” unless and until the Lord makes clear it should change.
Negotiations concerning ownership of the building will begin when the UM denomination chooses to open them. I suspect it may well be fall before we have a definitive answer but know this: We expect to be treated fairly and graciously and with integrity, just as we have behaved throughout this ordeal.
This “ordeal” was NOT caused by this congregation! Lawlessness, as in open rebellion toward the Lord, His Word, and the Book of Discipline have become obscene and routine in the American U.M. Church. We simply stood up to it by the Spirit, rather than pretend it doesn’t really affect us…
Regardless of how you voted Sunday, regardless of your fears or concerns or joys and celebrations, know this: we continue as the same church Family we have always been! We are simply free now to do it with movements led by the same Holy Spirit as we are; folks who are heading in the same direction in and by the same Lord who has given us, direction!!