Way Forward Viewpoints from South Carolina Clergy and Laity: March 2018

“I believe the One Church model to be the better of the two. The Multi-Church model is unnecessarily complex, and pushes our reconciliation of this issue far into the future.”

—C. Raymond Gilbert, St. Paul UMC, Ninety-six, SC


“I am not very familiar with the alternatives presented here, but I am concerned about reasons and methods for altering in significant ways the organizational structure of the denomination. It appears in either option that there is considerable potential for the UMC to become much different from what it is today, which might not in all ways be a bad thing. There appears to be, however, the possibility that the UMC could become unrecognizable. This is just a ‘first blush’ observation, but, with that in mind, I feel that we might need to consider other options.”

—The Rev. Robert Hoover, Hendersonville Charge, Walterboro District


“I’m a strong supporter of LGBT inclusion in the church and I favor the one church model. It seems to afford progressive congregations the flexibility to live into a call to welcome and affirm all people, while also leaving room for those might feel called otherwise. It’s not perfect, but it’s a good step forward, and could be a witness to what unity in diversity looks like in a world prone to misunderstanding and polarization.”

—The Rev. Jim Morgan, pastor of spiritual formation, Clemson UMC, Clemson


“Both of the plans of Sway Forward are the worse two that they could have come up with.

The first, One Church Model, is how the French would say, ‘C’est la vie,’ or ‘anything goes!’ Are we becoming Southern Baptists where we can do whatever we please and are connectional in name only? The second, Multi-Branch Church Model, is like the old politically incorrect joke about the motto of the Polish labor union, Solidarity, ‘Every man for himself.’ Or more appropriately, like a choice from a Chinese menu: One from Column A and One from Column B.

Two years of deliberation and this is what we get? Neither choice would fit the definition—UNITED Methodist Church. We might as well change the name while we are at it to DIVERSIFIED Methodist Church or DEMOCRATIC or REPUBLICAN Methodist Church.

No matter your thoughts on the matter, either of these choices only sets up for more problems in the future as the Judicial Council begins to interpret it.”

—The Rev. Melvin Bell, Bethel/Duncan Chapel, Walterboro District


“As written, it seems hard to understand exactly what they are talking about. For instance, ‘flexibility to uniquely reach their missional context in relation to human sexuality.’ The Multi-Branch One Church Model is even more difficult to know what they are saying, and I wonder if they even know what they are saying. I think that the only way forward is what God has already given us in His word and not compromising with any and every opinion and idea that comes along. If either one of these proposals are approved, we will have to remove ‘United’ from our church. The best solution is to leave the statement in the Discipline, believe and proclaim the word of God, love each other with the love of God and be the best we can be by the grace of God.”

The Rev. Albert Cox, retired


“Will there be an explanation offered by the COWF or the COB as to why the original Option One was taken out?”

—The Rev. Gregg Scott Varner, Salem UMC


“I appreciate the work of the committee on this issue and based upon what I have gleaned, I support the One Church model. Understanding there are diverse views with regard to biblical interpretation and implications regarding God’s gift of human sexuality, we must remain deeply committed to sharing our ministry together to fulfill our stated mission of making disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world. One major reason for support of this model is its ability to enable the presence of a United Methodist witness in as many places in the world as possible, still considering contextual differentiation and allowing for as much unity as possible. It does not appear to dictate how each annual conference must respond but provides space for discernment of what is required in individual contexts, Christian conscience in matters over which faithful people disagree, and provides congregations some latitude. Under this model, we can turn away from paths leading to schism thus keeping the essential character of the Wesleyan tradition and the global connectional ministry. It appears that it is faithful to scripture. The Bible is one of God relentlessly at work to reconcile broken relationships, to heal the brokenness of our world, and to create a community unified in love.”

—The Rev. George Palmer Hudson, Allendale Circuit, Allendale


“As a lifelong Methodist I am hurt and dismayed by the options presented. I ask, ‘What happened to option three—you know, the one that doesn’t throw those of us who hold ourselves as traditionalist, under the bus and Out The Door of our churches. When people (men and women, laity and ordained) joined The United Methodist Church, each and every one ‘swore before God and His people called United Methodist’ to uphold the tenets of the church as described in our Book of Discipline and our Social Principles. I reiterate: ‘Swore an oath before God.’ If people feel so strongly about heart issues and can no longer uphold the oath they swore, there are other denominations which will gladly accept them in their midst. And as far as the ordained ministry folks, take your share of 401K and go. I, as a certified lay speaker/preacher, a disciple of Christ Jesus, am heartbroken, and ever so disappointed in all who have chosen to leave traditionalists out of the church. Because they are leaving us out, more like throwing us out for our beliefs in Scripture as written is the Word of God.”

—Chuck Blowers, Porters Chapel UMC, Pickens


“What about Option One, retaining our current Disciplinary positions on sexual morality? Since these positions are based solidly on Scripture, and are also compassionate, I feel sure many South Carolinians would want to retain them rather than to change them. The work of the Commission On A Way Forward reveals a much deeper divide in our church over scriptural authority and scriptural interpretation. The reality is if we can’t agree on scriptural interpretation we will never agree on sexual morality or the next cultural challenge facing the church. Whatever decision the 2019 General Conference makes, there will be a portion of our church that cannot in good conscience remain ‘united.’ Therefore, I would hope the Commission and the Council of Bishops will offer a gracious accommodation plan for exiting the denomination for those churches. It’s also important to recognize that recommendations from the Commission On A Way Forward will not be the only options available to the General Conference.”

—The Rev. Jeff Kersey, Senior Pastor, Mt. Horeb UMC, Lexington


“I have it on fairly decent authority that a house divided against itself cannot stand.  Whether it is called ‘generous unity’ or ‘three in one,’ unity in diversity can only stretch so far.  Call me a pessimist, but I think I hear the rubber band popping.  Or is that just the ringing in my ears getting louder with age?  However, three in one does have a theological ring to it.”

—The Rev. Ben Herlong, Cayce UMC, Cayce

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