The Pastor's Corner

August 2022

Concord at the Crossroads

I’ve been humming a tune lately. I think you know it too. It is #310 in the Hymnal succinctly titled “He Lives.” We usually sing it at Easter, but it is appropriate any day of any season. Jesus is the risen savior and he’s in the world today. He leads us through all the stormy blast and the day of his appearing will come at last! Jesus is our king, and he is the one we serve. A simple message set to a catchy tune…and yet profound theology.

Concord Church is at a crossroads. I wish we weren’t. I didn’t design for us to be here. In many ways, we had arrived at this crossroads before I got here in late June of 2020. Regardless of when we got here, we are here. The question really is can we sing hymn #310 and mean every word? I know human sexuality is the flash point. Sex is exciting and always grabs the headlines. Beyond who sleeps with whom, there is a much deeper issue. The real issue is “who is Jesus?” and “do we believe the Bible?”

I hope you have watched the 6 videos produced by Good News Magazine and narrated by Rev. Rob Renfroe (if not, please click Here). The videos are well worth the 95 minutes of your time to watch (each is about 16 minutes long). Concord isn’t seeking to change. I don’t want Concord Church to change.

The real irony is that unless we change our affiliation and adjust the name on the sign out front, we will change in ways that will make it impossible for us to sing hymns like #310 without crossing our fingers. Our parent denomination is well underway to becoming a progressive body that looks at the person of Jesus and the authority of Scripture in ways that are simply inaccurate and incompatible with everything we have ever been taught. One meaningful example was in our VBS curriculum we purchased from Cokesbury and produced by The United Methodist Church to reflect official theology and doctrine of our Church. The 2020 curriculum of “Food Truck Party” taught our children that when Jesus fed the 5,000 (see Matthew 14:13-21) it was not a miracle of God but just an act of sharing where Jesus led the otherwise selfish people gathered to share the food they brought with them. As the official Bible Storyteller of VBS, I promise you that I broke from the curriculum and taught the “Feeding of the 5,000” as the miracle of God that you and I have always understood it to be. I wonder how many little boys and girls learned in churches all across the Methodist connection that the “Feeding of the 5,000” wasn’t a miracle at all but just a human act of sharing.

Neither I nor Concord Church has been brought to this crossroads by a discussion of human sexuality. Neither have we been brought here by our own free will. We are here because we cannot compromise on who Jesus is (the holy and pre-existent “Word of God” become incarnate to pay our sin debt and reconcile us to God) and the authority of Scripture (inspired, self-revelation of God authoritative for all people in all times). Human sexuality has been a hot topic since the founding of The United Methodist Church in 1968 and did not divide us. We became irreconcilably divided when we stopped agreeing on who Jesus is and what the Bible is. I feel certain human sexuality will be a hot topic in the future in all Methodist (dare I say all Christian as well?) expressions. The difference will be that when we agree on who Jesus is and what the Bible is, sex will not ultimately divide us. I pray for our homosexual relatives and friends who have been painfully thrust into a heated debate they didn’t seek or want. Just as they have always been welcome at Concord, they will continue to be welcome at Concord. I am grieved that homosexual persons have been used as pawns in a power grab that seeks to fundamentally alter our understandings of sin, salvation, the Bible and the person of Jesus Christ. No homosexual person asked for this and it is unfair and wrong to put them front and center of this growing divide.

So…here we are without asking to be here. The question is what will we do? I am encouraging you to be present on Sunday August 7 th at 6 PM. Our District Superintendent, Rev. Mike Frese, will lead us in a called Church Council to consider and vote on disaffiliation from The United Methodist Church. Each member will have one vote and you must be present to vote. A 2/3 majority is required for disaffiliation. Since our founding in 1815 as a congregation in The Methodist Episcopal Church, there has never been a more important meeting or vote. Perhaps this meeting is one you will alter plans and be present to vote. For some, this simply will not be possible, and I not only understand but share your frustration with the process and the “rules” governing our meeting. It is my hope that on August 7 th , we can uncouple from the UMC, offer them our blessings, and pursue a path that will honor our long held understanding of Scripture and the person of Jesus Christ by joining with like minded Methodists all across the world in The Global Methodist Church. In the Global Methodist Church, we will not only be aligned with congregations who share our understanding of The Bible and the person of Jesus Christ, we will own our facilities, have a much greater say in who our pastors will be and how they will be chosen, and keep more of our resources engaged in ministry in our community. Stay tuned for more exciting details…

“Rejoice, rejoice O Christian, lift up your heart and sing eternal hallelujahs to Jesus Christ the King! The hope of all who seek him, the help of all who find; none other is so loving, so good and kind.

He lives! He lives! Christ Jesus lives today! He walks with me and he talks with me along life’s narrow way.

He lives! He lives, salvation to impart! You ask me how I know he lives? He lives within my heart.”

Peace & Partnership,

Tom Newman, Pastor