🖵 Discernment 2022-2023

☁ The Storm

In Pastor Sarah’s October 10th letter, she mentioned a storm. The storm we are facing is the division in the United Methodist Church.

Across the United Methodist Church, and here in the Virginia Conference, we are increasingly seeing overt defiance and refusal to adhere to Scripture and to the Book of Discipline by UMC clergy and bishops. Clergy have questioned the deity of Jesus, have allowed openly homosexual staff to serve as clergy, or conducted gay marriages in their church, and have in many other ways violated their oath to the Book of Discipline. In most cases, UMC leadership has not enforced the Book of Discipline or held anyone accountable, essentially setting the stage for clergy to interpret the Scripture and Book of Discipline as they see fit.

A group of concerned members of the LEB congregation came together a few months ago and began to navigate the implications of the brewing storm. Together we chartered a plan to educate ourselves and the congregation on the unsettling division within the United Methodist Church. Our group does not have a disagreement or problem with unity or the leadership at Lebanon. Our action and recommendation to consider disaffiliation was presented as a way to steer OUR boat (Lebanon) OUT of the storm within the UMC, and to keep on a course of traditional biblical teaching, discipleship, and mission. Our heart’s desire is that we as a church family can navigate this storm and stay together to worship as a church family and to make disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world.

Included in the letter that was sent out, Pastor Sarah provided a list of where to begin to educate yourself on the history of the United Methodist Church, our beliefs, our doctrine, our Book of Discipline and on the disaffiliation process. This is a great place to start! We also believe, that despite what the beliefs and doctrine are, the practices of our shared faith are not being followed. The balance is shifting away from Scripture. Evidence of this diversion is well documented in multiple news articles and videos. We are providing you with an additional resource list that will give you the opportunity to see the division from other perspectives.

But why do we need discernment now? The UMC has put into motion a short-term clause, expiring December 31, 2023, that allows local congregations to decide if they will depart or stay in the denomination. Our own Virginia Annual Conference of the UMC set into place a disaffiliation process, which our District Superintendent, Dr. Hyo Lee will speak to us about on October 31st. This process spells out the steps required for a local church to depart.

The discernment process that will follow the meeting with Dr. Lee gives each of us the time to reflect, learn, pray, and search for God’s direction for Lebanon. We will be providing various resources (meetings, devotions, and times of prayer) to help support the discernment process. Pastor Sarah has offered to meet and pray with those who would like to have time with her through this process.

In Proverbs 18:15 we read: The heart of the discerning acquires knowledge, for the ears of the wise seek it out.

Make no mistake, we are in the same boat. Our actions and words, the decisions we make in the coming months will affect everyone in this boat we call Lebanon, as well as those who we witness to and serve in our community. The storm we are in is dangerous – this storm could destroy us, or it could make us stronger, together in our faith. We must, as a congregation, take this time of discernment to determine what direction God is calling our boat to head. It will require love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.

Grace be with you all,

Jimmy Mills, Tim Bellows, Jack and Robin Bruce, Roni Doolin, Leif Gyllenhoff, Jeff Johnson, Mike and Mary-Beth Johnson, Susan Martin, Walt and Cathy Mercer

✉ LebDiscern22@gmail.com