Mt. Bethel UMC Resumes Payment of Some Apportionments

By Walter Fenton –

By action of its administrative council, in what was described as a “measured” response, Mt. Bethel United Methodist Church (MBUMC) in Marietta, Georgia, will resume payment of some of its apportionments beginning in the month of June. The council also voted to retain in escrow over $400,000 in apportionments ($200,000 from 2014 and over $200,000 in 2015) to reflect its continuing concerns for unacceptable lapses of integrity, accountability, and fidelity in complying with the Book of Discipline.

In 2014, MBUMC took actions to withhold apportionments after the Council of Bishops failed to respond to the “Integrity and Unity Statement” signed by over 100 leading pastors and theologians and then endorsed by over 8,200 lay and clergy people across the UM connection.

The resumption of partial payment of apportionments was described as a show of “good faith” and appreciation for Bishop Mike Watson’s stand with MBUMC. In early March 2015, MBUMC sent a letter to Bishop Watson requesting that he clarify his understanding of marriage for United Methodists in his Episcopal area (click HERE), and MBUMC received his response on April 13, 2015  (click HERE).

In his reply, Bishop Watson wrote, “I gladly reaffirm my commitment to fulfill my sacred calling to follow Christ within the covenant of scriptural faith outlined by our United Methodist Book of Discipline.” He went on to write, “The principles you described in your recent correspondence are in accordance with our Book of Discipline, which I uphold.”

Ferrell Coppedge, lay leader of the congregation, said, “We’re grateful for Bishop Watson’s clear and unambiguous support for the issues we raised in our letter, which ostensibly, are the same issues raised in the Integrity and Unity Statement.” Coppedge went on to say “we hope that other bishops will be asked by their churches to publicly clarify their positions. As grateful as we are for our bishop’s stand, if other churches across the connection do not hold their bishops accountable, the foundation of trust that has been so severely damaged may prove to be irreparable. We can think of no credible argument for unity without restoring and maintaining the highest standards of integrity within the UMC, beginning with the visible conduct and accountable leadership of our bishops, as their silence has been deafening.”

Based on counsel it received from emissaries Bishop Watson sent to respond to the congregation’s concerns, the administrative council decided to take a “line item” approach to paying apportionments. Like a growing number of local churches across the UM connection, Mt. Bethel’s administrative council decided to continue to escrow all apportionments designated for the general church, and the Episcopal Fund in particular.

“We’ll be happy to consider the release of funds to the general church and the Episcopal Fund,” said Coppedge, “as well as maintain an open mind regarding the release of apportionments held in escrow, when our bishops and other church leaders hold one another accountable, fulfill their fiduciary responsibilities, and consistently act with integrity and fidelity as it pertains to both the form and substance of the Discipline.”

Walter Fenton is a United Methodist clergyperson and analyst for Good News. 

Comments

  1. Marco Bonilla says

    Thank you, Walter Felton for your continued support and faithfulness.
    May our Lord bless you always.

  2. Steve Watts says

    Hooray for Mt. Bethel! The United Methodist book of discipline has been tossed in the trash can along with the Bible. The sorry thing is, it is not just this issue. Poor and ineffective clergy at the local church level, the district level, and including the Bishop continue to remake God in their own image. They all play ball with each other. When you are rotten at the top, how can anyone expect any different down the line. Retirement benefits are at stake. It is surely a travesty that every day, self centered interests trump God’s holy word in the United Methodist Church.
    Steve Watts
    Sarasota, Florida

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