My first week on the Circuit was through western South Carolina. Only a few meetings. A couple of these promise early fruit, the others show a likelihood of a later harvest. No meeting was futile. A few observations strike me.
1. Many of the United Methodists I met still receive their information on the GMC and the controversies in the UMC from other denominations and public news media. They are learning of the situation when asked questions by friends who attend other churches in the community or when an unchurched person at work or in the checkout line asks them what’s going on. The WCA and the SC laity group standingonscripture are largely unknown. A few are aware of them but aren’t sure what they do or how to get involved. Only occasionally have I bumped into a member of these groups. People are hungry for information. They are where I was a few years ago when I wrote:
2. A strong desire for connection. Without exception, every person I met expressed a deep felt need to be in connection with other local churches who shared their common faith. One of the first questions asked at every meeting is how do we organize with other Methodists who believe as we do. They do not see the UMC as a means to that end but as a hindrance. They experience the SC Conference as promoting ideologies and programs in opposition to the mission of the local church, not offering assistance for missions to which they are called, and obstructing their ability to share information and resources with other churches—not just on disaffiliation but on basic ministry. They want to participate in organized, connectional mission both locally and globally but see the Conference as an obstacle.
3. A surprising willingness to abandon everything and trust in the Providence of Almighty God. They would rather carry with them the resources they have built up over generations to devote to continued Christian ministry, but that is not essential. I confess I am shocked at how many are of that opinion. I did not expect it. Admittedly, these are people who are concerned enough that they reached out to me. This is not a representative sample of the Conference, but whether it is just three families in a church, or as in one case an entire congregation who is willing to walk away and start over; that is a remarkable commitment of faith. You can build a real church on that.
4.We have some brave clergy out there. While most people met with me without clergy present, two pastors placed themselves in very real jeopardy to be part of a work of God. That the Global Methodist Church is attracting that quality of clergy in its beginning bodes well for its near-term prospects.
These newly forming communities will be able to go forward without me. They already possess all they truly need. Some may desire further contact. I certainly desire to see how they progress.
It will take two more weeks to complete the circuit, then we will decide if it deserves another round, If you are in the Upstate SC area or the Columbia-Charleston corridor, I am in those regions over the next two weeks and have several openings. Contact me through Facebook Direct Message or at HermitPreacher@att.net for a confidential meeting.