Eighty-six of the emails were critical of Holston’s participation in UMCNext. Three emails were supportive of the UMCNext group.
The flood of emails arrived in the hours after an email was sent by the Rev. Tim Jones, director of communications, sharing the news that a group of Holston members had joined a May 20-22 meeting led by the Rev. Adam Hamilton in Leawood, Kansas.
The Holston group attending UMCNext included Bishop Mary Virginia Taylor and other members of the Cabinet, as well as lay people from numerous churches.
“The purpose of the meeting was to discuss and dream of a more inclusive United Methodist Church and ways to achieve this kind of vision,” the statement from Jones said.
The UMCNext meeting concluded with 600 U.S. United Methodists uniting over their opposition to the Traditional Plan. The Traditional Plan was approved by a vote of 483-384 during a special General Conference in February 2019. The majority vote retained the church stance that the practice of homosexuality is “incompatible with Christian teaching” and strengthened enforcement of church bans on same-sex weddings and “self-avowed practicing” gay clergy.
“I am really disappointed to see Holston involved in fighting against the Traditional Plan voted by the Special 2019 Conference!" said an email from the Rev. Roy Corbin, a retired Holston pastor living in Lynchburg, Virginia.
“And the church will split unless a way is made for congregations to leave with their property,” said an email from Larry Williams, a member at Sand Mountain United Methodist Church in Trenton, Georgia. “Why would we even want to remain together with such dividing and diverse thoughts on Scripture? I for one will not stay in a church to sell out to popular and political correct ideas over Scripture."
The Rev. Chuck Griffin, pastor at Luminary United Methodist Church in Ten Mile, Tennessee, said the May 23 statement had “officially communicated schism in a powerful way.” Griffin is chair of the Holston chapter of the Wesleyan Covenant Association.
“The e-mail came across as tone-deaf and insensitive to people who have a deep scriptural basis for supporting the Traditional Plan. A large segment of the Holston clergy and laity now know they will officially be ignored by Holston leadership,” Griffin said.
The Rev. Doug Jennings, pastor at Strawberry Plains United Methodist Church in Strawberry Plains, Tennessee, also responded:
"Who has given these few non-official representatives the right to speak for me or all of Holston Conference for that matter?” Jennings said. “The General Conference has spoken. The promotion of, total disregard and disrespect of the General Conference's decision is very troubling to me.”
Dan Young was one of three who responded positively to the statement:
“It echoed my own thoughts. I’ve been a voice for Unity and your piece gave me encouragement. I’ve felt alone at times in this stand. Good to know I’m not,” said Young, a member of Pikeville United Methodist Church in Pikeville, Tennessee.
Some responders contacted for this story declined to share their comments.
Eighty-six of those responding were men. Three were women.
Annette Spence is editor of The Call, the Holston Conference newspaper.
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