Outgoing North Georgia Bishop Sue Haupert-Johnson, with her cabinet and conference board of trustees, in an unwanted poisonous Christmas gift for traditionalists, has declared that congregations may not exit United Methodism under Paragraph 2553. They fault traditionalists for spreading “factually incorrect and defamatory” information.
Their action resembles a Third World dictatorship that, having called an election, realizes the results will not be favorable, and cancels the voting, faulting factually incorrect and defamatory information spread by the opposition.
All free debates in society, including the church, by necessity include widely divergent opinions. Opponents of some arguments might deem them “factually incorrect and defamatory.” But rather than forcibly shutting down the conversation, purportedly bad information is countered with better information.
Frustrated traditionalists will note that, from their perspective, United Methodist officials, exploiting denominational resources and the advantages of their office, have disseminated their own factually incorrect and defamatory information. The statement from the bishop, in the style of a despotic Third World regime, made vague and sweeping allegations, without naming names or citing sources. It was simply a declaration to be received from on high.
Bishop Haupert-Johnson’s attitude was foreshadowed last year when she tried to remove the traditionalist pastor of one of North Georgia’s largest churches, 5,000-member Mount Bethel United Methodist, which refused to allow it. After a brief legal battle, the church agreed to pay the North Georgia Conference over $13 million for its independence.
In contrast to Bishop Haupert-Johnson’s claims on behalf of the North Georgia Conference, Paragraph 2553 in the United Methodist Book of Discipline allows congregations to exit United Methodism by a two thirds congregational vote, approved by their local annual conference, by the end of 2023, when the window closes. At least 2200 United Methodist churches have voted to exit so far, over 2000 of which have been ratified by their annual conference, including 71 in North Georgia. From 150 to 200 more North Georgia congregations (out of 700), including many large churches, were preparing to exit in 2023.
No doubt these numbers alarmed Haupert-Johnson and conference officials. In November, the conference trustees voted to postpone building a new 5400 square foot $3.4 million headquarters that the June 2022 annual conference had approved, due to “uncertainties in our immediate next few months and the landscape ahead of us as a conference.”
Haupert-Johnson’s and the trustees’ refusal to abide by Paragraph 2553 of course greatly adds to these “uncertainties.” Their statement reasserts her earlier claim that, “We are not trying to hold any church captive.” But in fact, they obviously are. To what purpose? Are they hoping for more multimillion-dollar payments from churches desperate to exit, as they extorted from Mt Bethel last year? Are they hoping that traditionalists will walk away from their churches, leaving them untenable, allowing the conference to sell the properties? Or is the policy simply an ill-considered emotional and vindictive reaction against departing traditionalists? Whatever the motivation, it does not convey confidence or hope about the future of liberalized United Methodism, which cannot make converts or sustain congregations so must rely on seized properties and accumulated assets.
The North Georgia Conference’s budget has declined greatly over the last three years, 7.8%, 19% and 5%, and will decline 4% in 2023. Apportionment payments by congregations to the conference have fallen from $28 million in 2010 to $17 million in 2022. But net assets have climbed over a decade from under $20 million to nearly $100 million thanks largely to the sale of closed churches. For Haupert-Johnson and conference officials, plunging income and membership have amplified the importance of income from selling closed churches. In this sense, church death benefits the conference.
Disingenuously, the bishop et al call their declaration a “pause” in disaffiliations through Paragraph 2553. But there’s no pause. It’s a complete halt. The exit process concludes with 2023, while their statement says North Georgia will simply await the results of the General Conference of 2024, after the deadline is past, when the denomination likely will officially liberalize, and traditionalist churches will be prisoners, having to buy their freedom or abandon their properties.
Most laughably, their evidence of “deceptive behavior and manipulative misinformation deployed in local churches” is the assertion by traditionalists that: “The UMC’s theological impasse is rooted in our differing beliefs regarding the authority of the Bible, the interpretation of the Bible, its impact on how we live out our faith, and the Lordship of Jesus.”
There can be no truer description of what has divided Methodist traditionalists and progressives dating back many generations, all the way to the heresy trial of Boston Seminary Professor Borden Parker Bowne, who was vindicated in 1904 by a jury of bishops even though Bowne rejected the Bible’s supernatural claims. Haupert-Johnson and other progressive United Methodist institutionalists are reluctant to admit that United Methodism’s division is about sincere and ultimately unbridgeable theological differences.
Instead, like all despotic regimes, they pretend there is no honest disagreement, just “factually incorrect and defamatory” propaganda from malevolent subversives who must be punished or driven out. Like all despotisms, their power is sustained by coercion, not by affection or consensus. And like all despotisms, their coercion ultimately will fuel only greater resentment and precipitate their own fall from power.
Of course, God remains sovereign, and His power can always change minds and hearts. North Georgia gets a new bishop in a few days, whom Haupert-Johnson said she consulted. And perhaps the trustees will realize how destructive the bishop’s policy is and implement a new policy while there is still time to facilitate an orderly division without further acrimony and litigation.
The email for the bishop’s office is: [email protected]. And emails for the trustees, whose chair is Julie Childs, are below. Perhaps your prayers for and gracious appeals to new Bishop Robin Dease and the trustees can help restore the situation:
Board Of Trustees of the North Georgia Annual Conference
Clergy Eric Lee (C-21) [email protected]
Stacey Rushing (C-20) [email protected]
Bert Neal (C-17) [email protected]
Carolyn Stephens (C-17) [email protected]
Laity – Women Cathy Huffines (L-21) [email protected]
Sonja N. Brown (L-16) [email protected]
Julie Childs (L-17)-Chair [email protected]
Ginger Smith (L-18)-Archives and History [email protected]
Laity – Men Ernest Cooper (L-21) [email protected]
Mathew Pinson (L-16) [email protected]
John Lawrence (L-16) [email protected]
Harold Tarpley (21) [email protected]
Treasurer – Allison Berg [email protected]
Conference Chancellor – Jim Thornton [email protected]
Comment by Tom on December 29, 2022 at 5:31 pm
While it will be painful, they are welcome to follow the pathway blazed by the Presbyterian Church (USA), which similarly tried to prevent churches from leaving.
Instead the people left–and now there are burgeoning PCA, EPC, and ECOP churches all getting members from moribund PCUSA churches.
As I say, it is painful to leave a church where you’ve been for years. But we Presbyterians are nearly through the process. Look for the PCUSA to drop below 1 million members in 2 years. And then look for it no longer to be the largest Presbyterian denomination–maybe in 10 years or so.
United Methodists, take note!
Comment by David S. on December 29, 2022 at 6:46 pm
Sadly, this is only delaying the inevitable. And like Tom, this is merely a repeat of the PC(USA) and ECUSA. These people will never learn…if given the choice of staying or walking away, the traditionalists will, if necessary, do the latter, and the replaced income from asset fire sales is NOT sustainable. It shouldn’t take an accounting/finance person to figure that out.
Comment by Jeff on December 29, 2022 at 8:02 pm
“Of course, God remains sovereign, and His power can always change minds and hearts. ”
On the other hand, at some point Romans 1:28 WILL kick in.
“Furthermore, just as they did not think it worthwhile to retain the knowledge of God, so God gave them over to a depraved mind, so that they do what ought not to be done. They have become filled with every kind of wickedness, evil, greed and depravity. They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit and malice. They are gossips, slanderers, God-haters, insolent, arrogant and boastful; they invent ways of doing evil; they disobey their parents; they have no understanding, no fidelity, no love, no mercy. Although they know God’s righteous decree that those who do such things deserve death, they not only continue to do these very things but also approve of those who practice them.”
Can you visualize Sue Haupert-Johnson and the North Georgia Conference nobles, satraps and governors in this passage of Scripture? I’m afraid I can see them there — along with a host of other psUMC antichrists. You might as well face the fact: these are no longer Christians at all, they have “trampled the Son of God underfoot” and aligned themselves with hell itself. May God have mercy on their souls.
Comment by Sandy on December 29, 2022 at 8:42 pm
Bishop Sue Haupert-Johnson is a false prophet.
Comment by Dave Miller on December 29, 2022 at 10:10 pm
The North Georgia Board of Trustees and Bishop are no longer Christian but instead are apostates who will be judged by God for their actions.
Comment by David Connon on December 29, 2022 at 11:34 pm
Will God raise up a Moses to lead his people — North George Methodists — to freedom?
Comment by Jeff on December 30, 2022 at 12:27 am
The Eva “Evita” Peron graphic is so appropriate here; obviously to be applied to Her Majesty Sue Haupert-Johnson.
[Pro 16:5 NIV] The LORD detests all the proud of heart. Be sure of this: They will not go unpunished.
Comment by Dan W on December 30, 2022 at 6:58 am
I’m praying for all of my friends in the North Georgia Conference, but it is clearly time for a separation. The Traditionalists have faithfully supported the UMC for decades. It is time to free them (us) to worship and fellowship as they are lead by the Holy Spirit. Hopefully 2023 will be a year of wisdom for all involved. 2022 was a year of nonsense.
Happy New Year!
Comment by David on December 30, 2022 at 9:52 am
Autocratic bishops are a good argument for a presbyterian church polity, although we’ve recently had hard experience with an autocratic session. I suppose no polity is perfect.
Comment by James on December 30, 2022 at 10:08 am
I repeat myself–“radical feminism and political correctness” are paving the way………!!!
Comment by Reynolds on December 30, 2022 at 1:33 pm
SBC/PCA is a better way. A church can leave or the organization can kick out a church. The administration state of any organization ends up crushing the organization itself.
Comment by Jeff on December 30, 2022 at 5:14 pm
Just leave the sinful church to its own destruction.
A building or an organization isn’t a church. Each of us are a church and represent the body of Christ.
He doesn’t come to to join or build, He comes to separate tye chaff from the wheat, the wicked from the righteous, the unrepentant from the forgiven.
Just leave… don’t pay them a single dime for their hateful war chests.
Comment by Stephanie Jenkins on December 30, 2022 at 5:20 pm
This is why I left the Episcopal Church after 72 years. The conflict is running off lots of people. I am now part of a “church” that exists on line and when I run into the couple who run it. Watch or don’t watch. They are kind. So simple.
Comment by Palamas on December 30, 2022 at 6:04 pm
Greed, lust for power, lust for control, self-righteousness, sheer hatefulness–I’m sure there are sins I’ve missed here, but the record mainline liberals have compiled is a stain they will never remove.
Comment by Concerned Virginian on December 30, 2022 at 6:05 pm
Watch out Virginia ! Praying for God’s divine intervention.
Comment by JoeR on December 30, 2022 at 6:10 pm
This is as stated above all about the money. If the UMC was a business it would be out of business. Selling property is the only short term hope.
It is interesting the leaders postponed the new office building. Given the shrinking head counts and funding they would be hard pressed to rent a closed convenient store.
In Sue’s letter it was mentioned the “pause” was due to misinformation. She also said her Superintendents had over 200 meetings to discuss facts. 200 meetings plus her 6 meetings did not get her message out? I have zero trust in a leadership team that operates in such a manner.
Comment by Allan Rainey on December 31, 2022 at 2:49 am
Dear Bishop Sue & Others More Wise Than Us,
Thank you so much for continuing to block the disaffiliation process!
We, your sheep, do not have the intelligence to think for ourselves or to interpret the words of the Bible.
Also, please forgive our sins for talking to each other without your permission. What can we do to avoid the wrath of hell?
We await your heavenly proclamation for you most certainly talk to God directly.
Your humble serfs,
Comment by Anthony on December 31, 2022 at 9:29 am
Dear North GA Conference Traditional Methodists,
When bishop Sue Haupert-Johnson and Cabinet endorsed the Protocol of Reconciliation and Grace Through Separation in 2020, she stated —- “I think we’ve reached a point, sadly, where we must have some sort of separation to end the harm. I beg you in the name of Jesus Christ and his church, let us move forward in a systematic, supportive, relational, loving, and mutually supportive way”
Now, our departing bishop is falsely accusing good and faithful traditional Methodist leaders (below) who represent her referenced organizations of spreading misinformation and false, defamatory statements while presenting no evidence to substantiate this. These leaders have only exhibited respect, integrity, truthfulness, grace, restraint, and transparency in describing the fractured state of the United Methodist Church in schism. While the bishop accepts no responsibility for her direct contribution nor the contributions of her progressive colleagues to the schism — and as the real misinformation and deceptions flow from them — she turns what is tantamount to defamation of character of these good people into justification for halting the disaffiliation process in the North GA Conference and disenfranchising traditional Methodists of their free speech and voting rights. She further displays contempt for all North GA Conference traditional Methodists by implying that they do not have the intellectual capacity to discern information and cast informed votes.
-Dan Parr, President – North GA Wesleyan Covenant Association
-Jay Terrell, President – Wesleyan Covenant Association
-Rev. Keith Boyette, Senior Executive Director – Global Methodist Church
-Rev. Kevin Lobello, North GA – Global Methodist Church
-Rev. Tom Lambrect, Vice President – Good News
-Rev. Rob Renfroe, President – Good News
-Bishop Mike Lowry, Global Methodist Church
-Rev. Chuck Savage, Treasurer – Wesleyan Covenant Association
-Rev. Jay Therrell, President – Wesleyan Covenant Association
-Mark Tooley, President – Institute On Religion & Democracy
-Rev. Jeff Greenway, Global Methodist Church
-Rev. Dr. Carolyn Moore, Chairwoman – Wesleyan Covenant Association
-Walter Fenton, Deputy Transitional Officer – Global Methodist Church
-John Lomperis, United Methodist Director – Institute On Religion & Democracy
-Plus A Sweeping Indictment of Numerous Others Including North GA Conference Lay Leaders & Pastors
As the bishop and conference leaders are now in violation of church law by arbitrarily nullifying Disaffiliation Provision 2553 — in that there is no language therein allowing this — they are ignoring all the other numerous Book of Discipline violations, some in North GA — with the most recent radical violation being that of the election of the second UMC bishop living in a same-sex marriage — yet the bishop asserts — “We reaffirm our commitment to honor and uphold the Book of Discipline of The United Methodist Church.”
With this aggressive abuse of power against good traditional Methodists who are acting in good faith to discern their future with relation to the UMC schism, denying them the option of a separation vote is both cruel and vindictive — causing irreparable and significant harm. This just confirms the fact that the progressive bishop and her liberal colleagues who caused the schism and perpetuate it — their words are ingenious and hypocritical. Their actions are the antithesis of acting in a systematic, supportive, relational, loving, and mutually supportive way. It has been traditionalists who are in full compliance with the Book of Discipline including following the Disaffiliation Provision 2553 that the Council of Bishops declared as the only exit path after the numerous General Conference delays. It was traditionalists who acted in a systemic, supportive, relational, loving, and mutually supportive way by agreeing to leave the denomination in 2020 by way of the Protocol of Reconciliation and Grace Through Separation in order to end this five decades old conflict peacefully, gracefully, and with integrity. Now progressives who helped negotiate the Protocol and endorsed it have mysteriously withdrawn their support for it thus essentially killing it for passage at the 2024 General Conference.
While the bishop and the conference leadership are attempting to hold traditional congregations captive, she adds insult to injury by proposing that traditionalists wait for 2024 General Conference, by which time Provision 2553 will have long expired.
The Big Question — What Is The End Game Here?
Comment by George on December 31, 2022 at 10:12 am
I feel so blessed that in our Texas conference, the bishop did not ask for a ransom to be free. What some of these bishops are requiring from the traditional Methodists, is a sin.
Yes, a sin. Extracting a ransom is a great sin and they will have to answer for it . I have been watching this schism unfold in slow motion for years. We allowed it to happen. The same people who will not watch the evening news because they can’t handle all the bad happening around them, refused to think our church would be eventually entangled in an internal war of truth vs lies. Tomorrow, I will be a Methodist once again. To borrow from Martin Luther King, I will rejoice,”free at last, free at last, thank God almighty, I’m free at last”.
Comment by Carol Rogers Smith on December 31, 2022 at 11:35 am
Dear Methodist Faithful,
Those of us who were the orthodox in the Mother Church of Georgia, 1733, Christ Church in Savannah, ironically John Wesley’s only American parish, have been praying for you for many years. We pray that the Lord will provide a way for you to walk away.
We processed out, leaving all behind. It was a great privilege. The Lord has richly blessed us in a new neighborhood, a new diocese, The Gulf Atlantic Diocese, a new province, The Anglican Church of North America, and aligned with the orthodox majority of Anglicans around the world.
Carol Rogers Smith
Christ Church Anglican
Comment by Steve on December 31, 2022 at 11:44 am
Both sides have been spewing misinformation for years. (UMC churches will be forced to perform gay weddings/traditionalists who don’t perform gay weddings hate gay people)
In fact, almost all the people you listed have been stating since 2019 that churches that join the GMC would “keep their property.” However, up until a couple of months ago, their transitional BOD included a lien placed on all church property and churches had to pay the GMC to leave. Meaning churches did not own the property. Those people knew they were lying when they made those statements and only changed the tBOD when they got called out for it.
Also, any statement as to what the pUMC will be like in the future is misinformation. No one knows, including this bishop. But on the flip side, any statement as to what the GMC will be like in the future is also misinformation since they haven’t established their polity yet – they only have a transitional polity. Both sides are entrenched in misinformation.
That being said, the bishop is using something that has been going on for years to justify her actions. It’s appalling. I think churches will succeed in court against the conference based on the fact that misinformation has been commonplace between both sides of this debate for years.
Comment by Thomas on December 31, 2022 at 12:21 pm
As someone who left the Episcopal Church (and Anglicanism) I can’t say I’m surprised. This is what revisionist leftists do. For decades they weedled their way into leadership positions counting on the naivety of conservatives. Once the dynamic flipped, they refuse to extend the same courtesy that they took advantage of.
Comment by C.A. Buster on December 31, 2022 at 12:23 pm
It has become obvious that many ‘regional’ UMC conferences are purposed for preservation of the UMC’s institutional status-quo, acting similar to the song ‘Hotel California’, “Last thing I remember as I was running for the door – Had to find the passage back to the place I was before – “Relax”, said the night man, “We are programmed to receive” – You can check out any time you like, but you can never leave.” ‘Regional’ tyrrants. It is what it is.
Comment by John Smith on December 31, 2022 at 4:28 pm
Tell me again why the GMC insists it must have Bishops?
Comment by Steve on December 31, 2022 at 5:17 pm
Because they are the GMC, not the GBC. They are Methodists, not Baptists.
Comment by George on December 31, 2022 at 5:33 pm
I do wish the rank and file (those of us who fill the pews and tithe)could vote on our leadership. Someone told me that was a bad idea. That politics would become center stage in our churches. Really? Really? What have we just gone through if that’s not politics. It would be one way for information to get out to the people where it was hidden in the past.
Comment by Craig on January 1, 2023 at 12:06 pm
I have been called like some of us few. We are the ones that are willing to fight. They made a mistake because we are mighty warriors. The Methodist Church was infiltrated decades ago and this has been going on for quite some time. The evil ones are working against the ways of the Lord. Our heavenly father will prepare a way for us. The drowning man was grasping at straws as I listened to the lies spouting from the mouth of the superintendent. I regret not standing up and speaking on behalf of my people. The church is in the world like a ship is in the water. If the church takes in too much of the world it will sink. The UMC is sinking and they said we could leave. Then they realized that we were the only thing keeping it afloat and changed their minds. What will we do? I am ready…
Comment by Anthony on January 2, 2023 at 9:46 am
Here in North Georgia the people named in my previous post have been presenting FACTUAL information about the fractured United Methodist Church in schism — all with EVIDENCE clearly showing the breaking of covenant and violation of church law by a number of progressive leaders – including bishops. If that’s misinformation — then we’re no longer a free country. This autocratic bishop, now gone, had no Book of Discipline authority giving her the right to arbitrarily decide which information being exchanged in the conference during this separation phase of the UMC is true or false — NONE. She certainly did not question any information given out by those she sent — apparently indicating that all are to take that information as angelic and from on high. If information being exchanged by these traditional leaders was false, it was her duty to address those situations, following due process, and take care of them in an appropriate manner instead of blanket ACCUSING and INDICTING all traditional conference Methodists and then denying them their FREE SPEECH and VOTING rights!!
Comment by Dan on January 3, 2023 at 9:13 am
Pray for the Virginia annual conference and its faithful, orthodox UMC members who will be getting this vindictive, petty, evil woman as their new bishop. Please get the word out to members of any Virginia UMC congregations attempting to disaffiliate that they had better do so with all haste!
Comment by Anthony on January 10, 2023 at 6:40 pm
And, here we are in the North GA Conference – as traditionalists, stuck. We talk, we talk, we complain, we complain — NOTHING CHANGES. They bully us and we submit. The more we submit, the more they bully. We even continue paying our apportionments. We seem to be paying our abuser for the abuse. We know what’s wrong with them. But, what is wrong with us for continuing to take this abuse?