By Jessica Brodie
This fall, the senior pastors of two of South Carolina’s largest United Methodist churches have sent letters to their congregations about the upcoming special session of General Conference.
The Rev. Jeff Kersey, senior pastor of Mount Horeb UMC, Lexington, and the Rev. Jody Flowers, senior pastor of Chapin UMC, Chapin, shared their thoughts about the divisions in the denomination over sexuality and clarified their position in support of the current language in the Book of Discipline that states that “the practice of homosexuality is incompatible with Christian teaching.”
In addition to detailing the three plans developed by the Commission on a Way Forward that will be considered at the 2019 General Conference, both pastors noted their church councils had passed resolutions affirming the traditional stance of the UMC. Flowers said the Chapin UMC Church Council voted unanimously Sept. 18 to affirm a resolution supporting the current stance of the UMC, and Kersey said on July 15, the Mount Horeb Administrative Council endorsed a resolution that supports The Traditional Plan and the traditional biblical definition of marriage.
‘Heart burdened with concern’
In his three-page letter, Flowers noted that heart of the crisis is the UMC’s struggle over differences related to human sexuality—more specifically, the practice of homosexuality. The UMC currently supports the rights and sacred worth of all persons regardless of sexual orientation, Flowers said. But because some people do not agree that the practice of homosexuality is incompatible with Christian teaching, “There have been efforts to change the church’s ‘incompatible’ language at every General Conference since 1976; each of those efforts has failed.”
Flowers said his heart is burdened with concern for the UMC.
“The UMC in America is in crisis, and will more-than-likely face major restructuring in the coming years,” he wrote. “These ongoing discussions and debates have splintered (and some would add, have stalled) the United Methodist denomination in America. We are distracted and divided. We need a definitive decision so that we can move forward, regaining our focus on our mission to ‘make disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world.’”
Flowers listed the three plans developed by the Commission on a Way Forward that will be considered at the 2019 General Conference (see article, Page 1) then urged his church to join him in three actions: Pray our way forward, love our way forward and trust God to continue to move us forward.
Flowers said what may or may not happen in February must not impact the good work being done for God’s Kingdom that is happening in Chapin now and after General Conference.
“We will simply continue to do in the future what we have done in the past,” Flowers said. “We will continue to invite all, welcome all, love all, and preach the glorious, life-giving, life-transforming gospel of Jesus Christ to all.”
He closed by noting, “John Wesley, the founder of the Methodist Movement, once said: ‘Offer them Christ!’ That’s what we at Chapin UMC will continue to do, regardless of what is decided in St. Louis, because that’s what faithful churches do. And that’s why we can confidently trust God to move us forward, as we pray and as we love, rejoicing in the goodness of our God every step of the way!”
Controversy, love and sin
In his two-page letter, Kersey also detailed the three plans and the upcoming special session of General Conference.
“This is a controversial topic in our culture and in the church,” Kersey wrote. “We want to be clear with you that love is at the center of our beliefs at Mount Horeb. Our desire is not to condemn or condone but rather convert everyone to a living and transforming faith in Jesus Christ. We fully believe God’s grace is available for all people and all people are of sacred worth.”
Kersey said all people have practices or problems in our Christian life that are incompatible with Biblical Christian teaching, “But we also believe people are not incompatible with God’s grace and love. We are all sinners and would be lost without the grace of God. Therefore, all people will always be welcomed at Mount Horeb.”
“As your senior pastor, I want you to know I am openly supporting The Traditional Model and what I believe is a clear biblical definition that marriage is between a man and woman,” Kersey also wrote, noting this definition of marriage is not a new position for Mount Horeb.
“It is also important to understand the issue of human sexuality/homosexuality is not the only issue at stake,” he wrote. “There are many differences between orthodox traditional Christian theology and progressive Christian theology. These include but are not limited to: the understanding of who God is and His nature, the authority of scripture, the understanding of sin, redemption and the need for transformation by Jesus.”
Kersey closed by urging people to join him on a church-wide prayer team to pray for the future of the denomination and God’s preferred future for Mount Horeb.