Wednesday, February 21, 2024

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To Fellow Methodists Regarding Our Church Schism

By Art Hall, Wildwood Crest

To the Editor: 
My wife and I joined the Methodist Church of Cape May Court House over a decade ago. It is a wonderful church, full of some of the most dedicated, hard-working, and delightful Christian people we have encountered in the various parts of the nation where we have lived in our over fifty years of marriage.
We are comfortable with the Court House church because its Christian foundation is spelled out by the life and teachings of John Wesley. He believed the Bible to be the only divinely inspired scripture and the primary source of authority for Christians, holding to the idea that all questions of faith are subject always to scripture.
Today, however, the majority in leadership of the worldwide Methodist denomination is reinterpreting some of the foundational beliefs of the church, stating that the wording of the scripture can be understood in ways that better fit the culture of today. If I thought they were right, it would shake me to the core. 
The church leaders in the highest position saying that some of the Bible’s words don’t necessarily mean what they say. These leaders have no idea how that kicks the foundation out from under me; if I cannot absolutely trust that all the words of the Bible are true, then how can I trust that the words, which I’m relying on, are true?
Our denomination is divided into conferences, with a bishop at the head. John Schol holds that office in our conference. He had sworn to uphold the United Methodist Church’s Book of Discipline, which is the law book by which unacceptable behavior is dealt with. He now places a different meaning on some of the words in the Book of Discipline. My issue is, when one takes an oath, a meeting of the minds is reached. If one unilaterally redefines the words, the former meeting of the minds is nullified. For society to function, one is not permitted to change the terms of an oath without the consent of the other parties involved.
The Methodist denomination held a vote, asking if the denomination wishes to hold to the Book of Discipline, or if they desired to alter it. The worldwide decision was to stick to the existing Book of Discipline. However, the Methodist church leadership in the United States is unilaterally disregarding that vote, and unfortunately, there is no effective method of forcing them not to do so. None whatsoever. In my opinion, Christian sense of fair play holds no sway here.
Instead of honoring the worldwide vote, the leadership is offering churches which disagree with their course of action to leave the denomination, but only upon paying a significant amount of money. It appears to me that the underlying issue centers around the desire of the church leaders to remain in power and about the money to pay their salaries, benefits, and retirement.
So this is where they stand: if a church congregation leaves, they must buy back their church building from the denomination, which you have already paid for once, and pay enormous fees on top of that.
In a recent letter to the local conference, Bishop Schol told us that the opposition to the American church’s position is because of disapproval to their LGBTQ agenda. Speaking for myself, he totally misses the point:  the Bible is true, or it is not true, and my eternal destiny hang on its being true.

Art Hall, Wildwood Crest

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