A good friend of mine, Chad Holtz, was fired as the pastor of Marrow’s Chapel United Methodist Church in North Carolina, a rural church in the UMC denomination. Why was he let go? Simply put, he posted on his Facebook page that he supported Rob Bell’s new book, “Love Wins.”
Now, being an ex-UMC pastor myself, all I can say is that this is par for the course when it comes to the industrial church known as the “UMC” and how they do things. The UMC talks a good game about being a Conceptual Age church and welcoming everyone, but when to comes to actually welcoming everyone it falls way short of that reality. The UMC, like so many Industrial Age churches, is one of those dying mainline (I use the term “oldline” when I normally speak of Industrial Age denominations like the UMC) denominations that is graying fast and is unable to grasp the shift in culture and theology in a Conceptual Age. In my experiences with the UMC I have found them to be closed, old, and unwilling to actually be an accepting place. I remember speaking with one UMC pastor while I was going through my ordination trial (process) who told me that I could believe what I wanted, but I just could not share what I believed with others – I needed to learn and tow the company line’ and like Chad, i felt the sting of not keeping my mouth shout – and for that I honor Chad as a man of conviction and honor.
All I can say to Chad is, “You can do better” But I know being a married family man with five children, it will be hard. I know that it is hard to find a place to pastor if you believe in a wider understanding of hell, if you are a pacifist and if you support gay marriage. What I have found so funny over time is that even denominations that support such thinking are shying away from those of us who echo those stands.
Chad has a voice I trust and admire. He is a member of my Facebook page “Church of Misfits” and has shared with me some great insights. I think the best thing to do is to leave you with Chad’s words and a link to his website.
Being released from my church as pastor because of my evolving view of hell and God’s grace has caused me to reflect long and hard about how I got here. For the longest time I embraced the view passed down to me that hell was very, very hot and very, very permanent. I have vivid memories of attending church camp in the 1980′s where hundreds of youth like myself would watch a movie with wide-eyed horror about a young girl who failed to go to the altar at the end of a church service and died tragically on her way home. The flames flickered and licked up her body and her screams pierced the warm autumn night, never to be silenced, ceasing only when the projector was turned off and lights came on and the minister announced that the altar was open. We stampeded up to the front to be saved from this awful fate, trampling over one another in brotherly love in a rush to be saved.