Oklahoma Methodist leaders sound off on possible split of church
Several Oklahoma United Methodist leaders shared their views about a plan unveiled on Friday for a new conservative denomination that would split from the rest of the United Methodist denomination to help settle an ongoing disagreement about same-sex marriage and the ordination of gay and lesbian individuals.
The Rev. Jimmy Nunn, bishop of the Oklahoma United Methodist Conference and the Oklahoma Indian Missionary Conference, in an excerpt from his statement to Oklahoma United Methodists: "Many in the church are ready to move past the harmful debates and debasement of others. We believe that all people are of sacred worth, and we are called to make disciples of all people. As we move forward into uncertain times, I urge you to continue being faithful to Jesus Christ. Continue to support your local church, and continue to bring the light of God’s love to those living in spiritual darkness. No plan or separation will ever change the mandate for all Christians to love one another. The Oklahoma Conference will continue to focus on making disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world, and we will continue our commitment to equip local churches and strengthen our United Methodist witness throughout the state. I encourage you to continue your prayers for the Oklahoma Delegation as they prepare for General Conference in May. Moreover, I encourage you to hold fast to your faith, be filled with the Holy Spirit, and expect God to reveal the next steps in our journey forward."
Read Bishop Nunn's full statement at oklahoman.com.
The Rev. Bob Long, senior pastor of St. Luke's United Methodist Church: "There are other plans that have been put forward, but I think what makes this one unique is you have people from different sides coming together. That's a hopeful sign that we can avoid a fight and instead find a way forward. I'm pleased that people from different perspectives are all getting together to talk about this so we can do this in a faithful and loving spirit. If we can find a way for people to hold true to their theological beliefs and show respect to others who would disagree, then that would be a positive witness for the church."
The Rev. Trina Bose-North, senior pastor of Crown Heights United Methodist Church: "We are in unprecedented times. I'm all in favor of something new arising in unsanctioned ways. I think it is really a separation between the United Methodist Church and the more traditional component of the denomination. This plan has one component giving them an exit with an amount of money, $25 million, to walk away. Every other plan that we've talked about had no discussion of money. This plan is the first to address that directly. Maybe that's what it will take for us to separate amicably. We need a creative solution. We're in an untenable situation as a denomination. I'm hoping there is buy-in from the right and the left so we can move forward as a church, even if it is not together. We need to free each other so we can do the work of the church."
The Rev. Sam Powers, senior pastor of First United Methodist Church of Edmond: "It's a reflection of the polarization that you're seeing around the country and around the world. Part of what you're seeing here is people getting together on something we can maybe all agree on. I think it is probably going to happen, but I find it very disturbing that the church would have to split over this. I find it very saddening because there's just so much good that we do together. We have helped eradicate malaria in Africa. Disaster relief is another area where we come together and do important work so I wish there was a way we could agree to disagree on this issue and still work together."
The Rev. Scott Spencer, pastor of Mosaic United Methodist Church: "There were some hints about this before Christmas. I didn't know what it was, but rumors were spreading that there would be big news today. I think the United Methodist Church has been arguing about this for nearly five decades. If there's a separation, our goal would be for us to bless each other to go our separate ways without wasting money fighting over property and assets. On a personal level, I'm OK with new United Methodist denominations being able to form. It saddens me because I've been a United Methodist since I was a toddler. We've been able to do a lot of good in the world. I hope that this does not diminish that."
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