CHURCH WAR- TAKE NO PRISONERS
I have been informed that there are several denominations resisting local church efforts to withdraw from their denomination. The one I am most familiar with is the Evangelical Methodist Church (EMC). Let tell you a little about what is happening in this situation.
The EMC was originally formed by a group of clergy and laymen led by Dr. Hamblen. These individuals left the United Methodist Church over issues of theological liberalism, property ownership and a hierarchy of clergy control. In 1946 they established an evangelical denomination with a Wesleyan doctrine coupled with a determination to never again allow the existence of a central control form of government. The dreams and plans included local churches owning and managing their own property, local church self autonomy including their right to call their own pastor but they wanted to maintain enough “connectionalism” (glue) between churches so there would be a general oversight via a General Conference with an elected General Conference Board and a General Superintendent.
Year after year the General Conference put into action legislation that was calculated to prevent any control being exerted by the Superintendents over local churches and the denomination as a whole. They did not want to be return to what they had left, domination from a central control form of government.
Several churches joined the EMC because of the freedom it afforded. The Peoples Methodist Church in the east and the Evangelical Association of Churches in the west merged with the EMC thus forming a closely knit group of an exciting new denomination. Local churches were given the assurance that they could leave the EMC as quickly and as easily as they joined. (This an important concept to remember.) The Discipline outlined the simple procedure churches had to follow to exit the denomination and indeed over the years several local churches freely joined and left the EMC.
Dr. Edward Williamson was elected as General Superintendent in 1998 and through planned legislation he gradually increased his authority over the denomination. The crowning event was when he sponsored denominational legislation that collapsed all six districts of the EMC into one District. This one district was then placed under his immediate supervision along with a Council of Superintendents. Thus began the formation of a strong form of central control, a hierarchy of clergy control.
Several Churches sensed this launch of a hierarchy of clergy control over the denomination, the severe violations of the dreams of the founding fathers and they chose to withdraw from the denomination. To prevent their withdrawal, Dr. Williamson and his Council of Superintendents resorted to spending thousands of dollars on legal fees by taking churches to civil courts and attempting to force these churches into an arbitration arena in order to keep them from withdrawing. Local churches and pastors became prisoners of the denomination with several experiencing their ministries injured or destroyed. Thus the vicious war began. To gain control General Superintendents:
1. Filed charges against pastors via denominational courts to have pastors expelled from the EMC, pastors who are serving churches that wanted to withdraw. The plan is to have these pastors removed from their pulpits and replace them with someone who will follow the Superintendents direction. Unfortunately, they are charging many historically faithful pillars of the EMC and treating them as traitors.
2. Filed charges in civil courts to try and force local churches to go through arbitration to compel them stay in the EMC. In the instance of one church where a former General Superintendent was a member they had the sheriff serve papers on his widow, Mrs. Wease, pertaining to their church. A highly insensitive, insultive action toward the family of a dedicated EMC patriot’s wife, a patriot who has since deceased. He was close to the founding fathers of the EMC and a person who unselfishly gave his life to the EMC.
3. Unlawfully expelled clergy who asked that their credentials be transferred to another denomination. The expulsion notices were given without charges thus a failure to follow the procedures outlined in their own Discipline. Obviously punitive actions.
4. Run up expensive legal costs making it impossible for small churches to compete. Thus small churches have a choice, face bankruptcy or remain in the EMC.
This is not the EMC we use to know. Never before in the history of this denomination have such tactics ever been used. Based on Biblical standards that are suppose to govern the denomination:
It is wrong to take churches to civil court.
It is wrong to exhaust the funds of a local church and then take over their property.
It is wrong that Elders who were pillars in the EMC are being charged, forced into church trials and treated like traitors.
it is wrong that churches that want to withdraw are prohibited from doing so. Remember they were promised they could leave as easily as they joined.
It is wrong that the character of resisting individuals is attacked.
It is wrong that the vision of the founding fathers is being desecrated.
It is wrong to take over a denomination and then divide the membership.
It is wrong that so many God fearing individuals are being wounded.
It is wrong that the ministries of local church are being destroyed.
It is wrong that the doors of local churches are being shut.
Pastors and local churches are beginning to feel the tightening of controls being imposed on them via the various leadership mandates that are being imposed on them by their General Superintendent. This includes a volume of reports required, assessments of pastoral effectiveness, compulsory pastoral attendance at Headquarters sponsored meetings, etc. A record is being kept on each pastor, their assessed effectiveness, their attendance at required meetings with the warning that pastors may loose their ministerial license if they show a pattern of non-compliance. This is only the beginning of a dictatorial regime and a foreshadow of what the future holds.read detailed news at http://www.abc.net.au/local/videos/2015/04/07/4211763.htm
The only way the carnage being visited on churches and pastors who wish to withdraw will cease is for the members of EMC, pastors in the EMC and local churches in the EMC to voice their disapproval of the Superintendent(s) actions, express their displeasure with what they (Bishops) are doing and vote in new leadership at their next election.
Evangelicals around the world are watching what is happening as the testimony of this once unique and beautiful denomination is being tainted.