Hi Church, I am Reverend Kris Mutzenberger, Northeast District Superintendent and dean of the cabinet.
One of my all-time favorite Discovery Channel shows is Mythbusters. MythBusters is a science based television program that used elements of the scientific method to test the validity of rumors, myths, movie scenes, adages, Internet videos, and news stories. Is the myth confirmed or busted based on scientific testing?
Today, I want to take just a few minutes to bust some myths that I have heard in the Dakotas over the last year as it relates to disaffiliation and The United Methodist Church. I have heard all of these in one form or another as questions asked, or as verbal or written comments.
Myth number one: Every church will have to vote to choose to be United Methodist or Global Methodist.
Busted: Your congregation is United Methodist. Voting in congregations will only take place if your church decides you want to leave the United Methodist Church. Leaving happens through disaffiliation paragraph 2553 and this paragraph is set to expire on December 31, of 2023.
Myth number two: The United Methodist Church is splitting.
Busted: A denominational split is a specific negotiated plan to separate as an entire denomination. This has not yet occurred. What is happening is a new denomination is beginning to form and churches are choosing to leave the UMC to join the new denomination.
Myth number three: The United Methodist Church will not believe in Jesus’ resurrection, or virgin birth or scripture.
Busted: There are no intentions, plans or legislation coming to General Conference to move the United Methodist Church away from the doctrines laid out in the Apostle’s Creed or in our Doctrinal Standards as found in the Book of Discipline. In fact, there are very restrictive rules making it basically impossible to change the United Methodist doctrinal standards which include the historic doctrines of the Methodist and Evangelical United Brethren articles and confessions of faith (Book of Discipline, paragraph 104). The doctrinal standards in the United Methodist Church do not include social issues or statements around marriage and family. These statements and stances of the church are contained in our social principles. (Book of Discipline, paragraph 161)
Myth number four: The United Methodist Church is changing the Bible or going to make their own Bible.
Busted: No one is writing a new Bible. Our doctrinal standards regarding the Bible are: 1. The Bible contains everything necessary and sufficient for salvation 2: The Bible is to be received through the Holy Spirit as the true rule and guide for faith and practice. 3: Whatever is not revealed in or established by the Holy Scriptures is not to be made an article of faith, nor is it to be taught as essential to salvation. The United Methodist Church believes that scripture is the primary source and criterion for Christian doctrine, and we interpret individual texts in light of their place in the Bible as a whole. While we acknowledge the primacy of scripture in theological reflection, our attempts to grasp its meaning always involve tradition, experience, and reason. (Book of Discipline, paragraphs 104 and 105)
Myth number five: The United Methodist Church or the Dakotas Conference have already changed the Book of Discipline as it relates to human sexuality.
Busted: There have been no changes to the wording around human sexuality in the Book of Discipline. The only body that can change the Book of Discipline is the General Conference. No changes have occurred at this time.
Myth number six: We will be forced to do gay marriage ceremonies, or receive a LGBTQ+ pastor.
Busted: Right now pastors have the right to choose whether or not they would officiate a wedding of a heterosexual couple; so, there is no reason to believe that any pastor would be forced to perform a wedding they were uncomfortable officiating in the future. As it relates to being forced to have an LGBTQ+ pastor, we are very conscious in the Dakotas of matching up pastors and churches based on needs, goals, and theology. Our process of appointments gives space for churches to share with us as superintendents what they need. Appointing a LGBTQ+ pastor to a church that won’t accept them is detrimental both to the ministry of the church and the pastor, on so many levels, that it doesn’t make any sense, and will not be the practice of the Dakotas Annual Conference Cabinet.
Myth number seven: Moving to another denomination will solve all our problems as a local church.
Busted: A switch in denomination might give you greater focus or shift your attention in a different ministry direction, but if you are an unfriendly church, it won’t solve that. If you are a dying church, it won’t solve that. If you are an unhealthy church it won’t solve that either. You get the idea; the only “magic bullet” to becoming a healthier, vital, disciple making congregation is Jesus. Focusing on Jesus as you grow deeper in faith together and growing wider as you expand your evangelism focus outside of yourselves.
With these common myths busted, here’s a few other things to know. Things will eventually change in The United Methodist Church and in the Dakotas, but any prediction as to when, how and what exactly those changes will be is speculation. The UMC will remain a theologically diverse worldwide Christian denomination on a mission to make disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world. We won’t always agree, but we will love regardless. The Dakotas Continuing United Methodist task force has been diligently working on a vision and values document that is available on the conference website, for all to see. God is not finished with us yet.
On behalf of my cabinet colleagues Reverends Rebecca Trefz, Joel Winckler, Dan Bader, and Bishop Deb Kiesey, thanks for listening, Know that we are and will be in prayer for your congregation as you discern your next steps.