Foreword

Acknowledgements

Julie

Visible Problem Indicators

Stewardship

Agents of Change - Issues

Institutional Dynamics

The Institutional and the Local Church

Operative Theology

Prognosis for the Future

Revival - What is Needed?

Closing Remarks

Appendix P
Case Study - Salem United Methodist Church
Lodi, California

[Note: The chronology contained here is more extensive than is contained in the hardcopy book The Church in Bondage.]

Following is a case study involving Salem United Methodist Church in Lodi, California. In this situation, 27 members of the church, leaders who served on key boards, were removed from the church without their prior knowledge and in what appears to be an illegal manner. These were evangelicals wanting to build a church on the orthodox Christian faith, and asking that they receive a pastor who reflected their views.

[Note: The chronology contained here is more extensive than is contained in the hardcopy of the book The Church in Bondage.]

January 1997. The letter presented to the DS, by the PPRC at the January meeting outlining the PPRC's thoughts as to the theology of the church and as to what was needed in a pastor selected for them.

Information to aid in the matching of a pastor for Salem United Methodist Church.

Salem UM, has it's roots in the E.U.B. tradition. We are a conservative evangelical church grounded in long standing, traditional values based on historical Christianity, in the Wesleyan tradition.

Our main mission out reach support is for the Mission Society for United Methodists through Faith Promise giving.

We are sympathetic and in accord with the Good News movement, the Transforming Congregations and the Confessing Movement

Many of our people participate in and support the various camps at Redwood Christian Park in Boulder Creek, California, and Walk to Emmaus.

We believe that all persons are of sacred worth and are welcome to come to the cross on which Christ died for the sins of the world. And the purpose for which the church exists is to present Christ to a lost generation and the building up of the saints.

Of our last six pastors (one served for about 6 months) five of them were in the last years of their service with between 3-5 years before their retirement. Some of them were liberal in their theology and we lost many family groups due to that.

We prefer someone who has a similar theology as that of Asbury Seminary or pastors such as: Andy Vom Steeg, Rick Harrell, Ray O'Neal, Ed Ezaki, Mike Goodyear, David Samelson, Kevin Clancey, Kyle Phillips, John Motz, and Glen Baby. Of the newer pastors there would be Randy Stringer, Sam Manu, Steve Jarrett and Tim Sherburn. These are some of those who we believe would be a good match for our congregation and lead to church growth within our community.

We have asked for this type of pastor for the past 10 years. We are hoping it will also be someone who is in the earlier part of their ministry.

Since we have been losing members and revenue for the past several years, we are not able to afford the same salary we are currently paying. However, if salary was to prevent a match with one of this type of pastor as listed above, we would like to have the opportunity to see if we could again get commitments to meet their requested salary.

We did this once before and did not receive what we were told we would. Our people now feel burned by the appointment process.

It is our conviction that such a person would benefit both Salem and the conference both spiritually and financially by such an appointment match.

Sincerely,

Salem PPRC


Comment from one of the former members of Salem UMC involved in this:

The chairperson of our PPRC was in contact with the DS from time to time for several weeks and months. I believe we even had another meeting with the DS. During this time we were told we were getting the type of pastor we had requested, except that he had many years of service meaning higher salary which was one of our current problems. We tried to find out who it was, as we did not have faith in their words. Then about three weeks later we are now told that there had been a change and another person was to be sent to us who was bilingual. We again [sought] out who, and again no reply and no reduction in salary.

We again asked about some specific persons on our list in the preceding letter, and [were] told [that] none of them were available, however, we know one of them was. In frustration a meeting was then called for of key persons in the church.


May 13, 1997. A letter sent out to all members of the congregation. The letter was also shared with the pastor on or about May 10, since he was retiring in June of that year. He was told that no one would be leaving until the last Sunday in June after his retirement and that he would be given a reception.

May 13, 1997

Dear Salem United Methodist Church Members,

For the past three months, your Pastor-Parish Committee has been in negotiations with the Methodist Conference via our District Superintendent. Through negotiations, we have been about trying to find what the conference calls 'a good church/pastor watch'. With regret, these negotiations have netted poor results.

The Pastor-Parish Committee related to the Conference what you have been saying that we need to save our fellowship of believers, our "family." We insisted that our new Pastor be conservative in his theology, holding to traditional historical Christianity (Orthodox). We Insisted that he be 'Evangelical' as we understand it from our heritage in the Evangelical Church and the Evangelical United Brethren Church.

The Pastor-Parish Committee also requested that this be a pastor with few years of service in the denomination, as years of service equate to higher salaries. With the continual decline in financial support we cannot support a pastor with many years of service.

The Pastor-Parish Committee presented a list of pastors (two of whom were only for salary comparison) to the Conference. The list was designed to indicate the type of person we most urgently needed. The Paster-Parish Committee was actually made aware of a prime candidate that fit ALL of the above requests This would be a perfect 'match' to meet our pastoral needs and fit within our financial capabilities. This person, after learning of our search, also requested to come and be with us.

Dear friends, in talking with many of you, seeing many in our family of believers leaving our fellowship, and finances being drained, the Pastor-Parish Committee saw this as our last and only hope for Salem's future. However, Salem's request was turned down.

There is a group of individuals, whose names are listed on the next page, who believe the Methodist Conference has not listened to us in the past, and does not seem to understand how important this next appointment would have been for Salem and its families of worshipers.

While none of these individuals are theologians by profession, they are aware of issues and stands by the Conference that go against their theological beliefs. They are tired of seeing Salem's attendance continue to drop and that trend not changing. These individuals are ready to move in a new direction.

You are invited to a meeting for the entire congregation on Sunday, May 18, at 4:30 p.m. in the Salem United Methodist Church Fellowship Hall [Note: this was crossed out and a note made at the bottom of the letter with the new meeting place being Reese School Cafeteria]. This meeting will be to discuss where we have been, what has transpired between the Methodist Conference and Salem United Methodist Church's PPR Committee, and what the future may hold for each of us in regard to where we are now and where we will be in the future.

After much prayer and discussion, some believe that they would be better able to serve Christ and keep the long standing fellowship they have enjoyed with each other over the years by joining with a new church, a church with a pastor meeting all the requests listed above.

NOTICE**
New Meeting Place - Reese School Cafeteria
1800 W. Elm St., Lodi

On Sunday, May 11, Pastor Steve preached from John 17 on Christ's prayer for the Church to be united, to be faithful, and to be effective. We want to follow this and feel the time has come where this is no longer possible within our present context.

We do want to be UNITED. We do not want to see one family at a time leave our fellowship to go elsewhere. We want to keep this family of believers together and feel that the only way to do it is to form a new church as a unified body.

We want to be FAITHFUL. It is increasingly difficult to worship in an organization where the theology is growing increasingly contrary to ours. We desire to fellowship in an evangelical environment so familiar to our roots where calls to commitment at the altar were the norm.

We want to be EFFECTIVE. Many of our Salem families have left to become part of evangelical churches over the past years. We are not presently offering what is needed to promote Christian growth that leads to discipleship. We have not even been effective in keeping our own, let alone reaching out to others. We feel we can be more effective for Christ within a new environment of worship and leadership, without the stigma of this Conference's name.

Please do not feel badly that we have not contacted each of you before this letter. We have not enjoyed the luxury of time in which to contact each and every one of you in person to go over all of this in detail. We are sure that there are many wore who would like to have their names on this list. We ask that you come to the meeting and share your concerns and opinions. Listen as others share their hopes and dreams for the future. We have a heritage to be proud of. Let us not let the legacy left to us die a slow death.

We close with the Apostle Paul's writing to the church in Rome as recorded in Romans 12:1,2. "Therefore, I urge you, brothers (and sisters), in view of God's mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God - this is your spiritual act of worship. Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will he able to test and approve what God's will is - His good, pleasing and perfect will."

Sincerely,

Katy Marconi
Pastor Parish Committee Chair
Lanny Shorts
Finance Committee Chair
Katy and Bob Marconi Lanny and Joyce Shorts
Ted and Grace Norgard Joe and Violet Walker
John and Norene Taddei Emil and Bertha Brenner
Fred and Verna Hoerth Marian Griffin
Bonnie and Sam Holland Adeline Unruh
Irene and John Borelli Joyce Dickhoff
David and Diana Mattheis Harry and Ruth Nies
George and Jeanette Moore


May 19, 1997. Announcement of a church conference to elect new officers. This was not sent to the individual who had supplied the information on the Lodi church and who was one of the persons removed from membership, and who had not received his letter of removal as of this date.

May 19, 1997

CHURCH CONFERENCE

District Superintendent David Bennett is calling a Special Church Conference to be chaired by him on May 28 at 7:00 P. M. to be held in the chapel. The purpose is to discuss the future of Salem United Methodist Church and to elect officers as follows:

Church Council Chair
Treasurer
Staff-Parish Relations Chair and members
Lay Member to Annual Conference
Receive Report of Membership as of this date

Below is the statement read by Pastor Steven Darling after worship on Sunday, May 18, 1997. If you have questions about that statement, please feel free to call him.

STATEMENT READ AFTER WORSHIP SERVICE, MAY 18

I have received a letter with 27 names of members and officers of The Salem United Methodist Church. I have been informed that this letter has been sent to all the members of Salem informing you that the 27 persons whose names appear on this letter dated May 13, 1997 intend to leave this church and form a new congregation in this community of Lodi.

This letter invites you to a meeting this afternoon. This is not an official meeting of this congregation. It is being called by the persons who sent the letter on their own.

I have sent a copy of this letter to our District Superintendent, Dave Bennett, who has conferred with our Bishop, Melvin Talbert and other members of the cabinet. I am to inform you that Salem United Methodist church will remain a United Methodist Church and that Bishop Melvin Talbert will be appointing a United Methodist pastor here July 1, 1997.

Our Bishop, District Superintendent and Pastor will assure that all the assets of Salem United Methodist Church will be protected as a United Methodist Church.


May 19, 1997. The date of a letter received from the pastor of Salem church, Steven L. Darling. It said in part, "...it is my responsibility to acknowledge that you are removed from the rolls of Salem United Methodist Church according to paragraph 243, page 136 of "The Book of Discipline, 1996" and accordingly, from the offices you hold in the congregation."

[Note: Paragraph 243 states that "Persons may be removed from the roll of baptized members by death, transfer, withdrawal or removal for cause." This paragraph is followed #244 which further states "Persons may be removed from the roll of professing members by death, transfer, withdrawal, charge conference action or removal for cause (See [paragraphs] 229, 231, 236-243, 2627.4)" Paragraph 2627.4 starting on page 670 of "The Book of Discipline, 1996" is entitled "Trial of Lay Member of a Local Church...."]

cc: The Rev. David Bennett, District Superintendent
Bishop Melvin Talbert


May 20, 1997. Letter sent to the members of Salem United Methodist Church, apparently except those whose names were not on the list of the letter and considered to still be members of the church.

SALEM UNITED METHODIST CHURCH
345 East Elm Street - Box 2081
Lodi, California 95241
(209) 368-6693
May 20, 1997

Dear Members and Friends of Salem United Methodist Church,

This is a personal and pastoral letter from me to you. I'm writing it out of concern for those of you who may be wondering what has transpired and may transpire in your church.

First, please pray for each other, for Salem United Methodist Church and for me as your pastor. Pray for our District Superintendent, David, and Bishop Talbert. Pray for those who have left our church to start a new congregation here in Lodi. They remain our brothers and sisters in the faith.

Second, I want. to say something about the statement I read after worship on last Sunday which was mailed to you in yesterday's mail. It was intended to encourage all those who are staying with Salem United Methodist Church. I did not anticipate discussion of it at that time, and had no answers for you either. Now I do.

Third, our District Superintendent, David Bennett will be here on the 28th to discuss with all those who are willing to support Salem United Methodist church by their prayers, presence, gifts and service just what the future may hold and to elect officers who will be willing to start the new conference year together.

With that said, I share a sketch of what has taken place recently. You all received a letter through the mail inviting you to a meeting at Reese School. At that meeting 52 people were informed that there were 27 persons who intended to leave Salem united Methodist Church and begin their own congregation. Much work has gone into this. They have talked to a lawyer about Salem's property. They have contracted with a pastor to form the new congregation.

As of yesterday we have noted the withdrawal of the 27 persons from our official rolls and they have been requested to relinquish to the office their records, monies, bank books or whatever they have of Salem United Methodist's property.

It is always difficult when these things happen. Persons are hurt. I personally regret having this happen during my last six weeks with you. I want to say that I will see it through until July 1, doing the best I can. If you have any questions or comments, please know I am available to listen to you. I hope to see you at the meeting with David Bennett on the 22nd.

Grace & Peace,

Pastor Steve

cc: Bishop Melvin Talbert
David Bennett, District Superintendent


May 22,1997. This letter was a follow-up to the meeting held at Reese School on May 18. We have been told that as of this time the 27 persons whose names appeared at the bottom of the May 13th letter had not received their letters of removal.

May 22,1997

Dear Friend of Salem Church,

Some of you will get a phone call and some this letter in regards to the up coming meeting. I just don't have the time to call everyone on my list. Please excuse the form letter.

On or about May 15-16, you received a letter informing you of the current status of the appointment process to that point in time in regards to a new pastor coming to Salem Church.

The letter pointed out what had transpired between the Conference and the Chairperson of our Pastor Parish Committee.

You were invited to a meeting on May 18, at which time current information was shared and questions answered, to the best of our ability. At that meeting there were 53 persons in attendance.

It was requested, by several of those in attendance, that there be another meeting, again inviting all members of the church who wish to attend. At this meeting you will meet the new pastor and his wife. He is a young evangelical pastor with a vision for building a church. His greatest joy is seeing people come to a new relationship with Christ. He will share his vision with us, and we will have the opportunity to ask him questions.

This meeting will be Tuesday, May 27, at 7:00 p.m. in the Reese School Cafeteria. The school is located at 1800 W. Elm St., Lodi. It is at the corner of Elm and Mills Ave.

At the conclusion of the meeting you will be asked if you would like to be a part of this new venture. If you choose not to, God bless you as you serve Him. Our hearts and arms are always open to you. If you do decide to join us, you will be asked to make a commitment that evening if you feel able to do so.

Please make this a matter of prayer. And please,in your prayer, ask God what it is that He would like to do in and through you. I hope you will be able to be at the meeting.

Sincerely,

Lanny Shorts


H: This is a copy of the Salem Church Conference Agenda, chaired by the DS and attended by the Fresno DS.

CHURCH CONFERENCE
MAY 28, 1997

Opening

Welcome

Future of Salem United Methodist Church

Report of Membership as of 5/29/97

Treasure

Election of:

Pastor Parish Relations Committee Chair
and Committee Members

Church Council Chair

Lay Member to Annual Conference

Adjournment

Closing Prayer


May 28, 1997. Letter presented to the Salem Church Conference during the meeting. One of the persons who had been removed from membership also requested during the meeting to be given the reason for "removal for cause".

May 28, 1997

Statement to the Salem Church Conference chaired by David Bennett;

The election of the following officers,
Church Council Chair
Treasurer
Staff-Parish Relations Chair and members
Lay Member to Annual Conference
is out of order as the persons elected to these offices cannot be removed from office without a specific vote of the Charge Conference.

In a letter dated May 20, 1997, mailed out to the Salem Church membership from Steven Darling, pastor of Salem Church [that] said, and I quote, "As of yesterday we have noted the withdrawal of the 27 persons from our official rolls and they have been requested to relinquish to the office their records, monies, bank books or whatever they have of Salem United Methodist's property."

This statement is incorrect and not true. Not one of the 27 members sent in a letter asking to be removed from membership, nor did any of them ask to be removed from membership as of the above stated date.

What has taken place is that this conference, the conference to which each of you belong has taken it upon themselves to remove the 27 members from the rolls of Salem United Methodist Church. This was done on their part, as they say, according to Paragraph 243, page 136 of The Book of Discipline, 1996, which says, quote, "Persons may be removed from the roll of baptized members by death, transfer, withdrawal or removal for cause, with the understanding that withdrawal or removal for cause in no way abrogates the baptismal covenant from God's side." Unquote.

I wish it to be made know to this Charge and the members of Salem Church that I did not die, I did not transfer, I did not submit any form of resignation for withdrawal. That only leaves 'removal for cause.'

A removal for cause means that specific charges are to brought against me and an Investigation Committee must be set up. Neither of these have been done. It also means that should such charges be brought against me, or any of the others who had this action taken against them, be granted 30 days to respond to the charges that are made.

This Conference has done none of these.

What has taken place is that 27 people, who have put their lives into this church, and in an effort to see to it that you get the pastor you deserve have been relegated to take what we give you and like it. Just as they have done in the past.


August 6, 1997. The letter received with the explanation for 'removal for cause':

Delta District

DAVID L. BENNETT DISTRICT SUPERINTENDENT CALIFORNIA-NEVADA ANNUAL
CONFERENCE ,GENEVA LARSON,
THE UNITED METHODIST CHURCH ADMINISTRATIVE ASSISTANT

August 6, 1997

Dear Friends:

Grace and Peace to you in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ. I trust that all is going well for you as you begin this phase of your spiritual journeys.

Following is my response to the request made at the Special Church Conference held on May 28, 1997, regarding the reasons for "removal for cause" of your membership at Salem United Methodist Church, Lodi.

The 1996 Book of Discipline states:

"Persons may be removed from the roll of baptized members by death, transfer, withdrawal, or removal for cause, with the understanding that withdrawal or removal for cause in no way abrogates the baptismal covenant from God's side." (Paragraph 243)

"Persons may be removed from the roll of professing members by death, transfer, withdrawal, or removal for cause." (Paragraph 244)

Following the release of the letter of May 13, 1997, signed by each of you, it became clear that you were no longer supporting the United Methodist Church. Statements in this letter make this clear. These statements formed the foundation for the "removal for cause" of your names from the membership rolls of Salem United Methodist Church

Let me quote your words from that letter:

"While none of these individuals are theologians by profession, they are aware of issues and stands by the Conference that go against their theological beliefs. They are tired of seeing Salem's attendance continue to drop, and that trend not changing. Those individuals are ready to move in a new direction."

"After much prayer and discussion, some believe they would be better able to serve Christ and to keep the long-standing fellowship they have enjoyed with each other over the years by joining with a new church, a church with a pastor meeting all of the requests listed above." "We want to keep this family of believers together, and feel that the only way to do it is to form a new church as a unified body." "We feel that we can be more effective for Christ within a new environment of worship and leadership, without the stigma of this Conference's name."

It was in this same letter that the recipients were invited to attend a meeting on Sunday, May 18, 1997, at the Reese School Cafeteria, 1800 West Elm Street in Lodi, with the clear intention of having a discussion leading to the formation of a new church - a new church that became "New Hope Community Church."

At that meeting, Steve Jarrett was introduced as the proposed pastor for New Hope Community Church, Plans and commitments were made to move ahead with the establishment of that church

It is clear from the statements made in the letter and from the intention of the May 18, 1997, meeting that those who signed the letter, by their own words were no longer supporting the United Methodist Church. Thus, these statements are the basis for "removal for cause" of these persons' names from the membership rolls of Salem United Methodist Church of Lodi.

I hope this answers your questions. I wish you my best as you seek God's guidance in the establishment of your new church.

Grace and Peace,

David L. Bennett
DB/gel

cc: - Bishop Melvin G. Talbert
- The Rev. Samuel Fabila - Mr. David Beadles


August 16,1999. From a former member of Salem United Methodist Church of Lodi:

"The thing I found most interesting was that there was no attempt to call [the] PPRC, back into conference to see if any reconciliation was possible. I see only one of two things was their thinking. I) we want a divorce, give it to them; or 2) they were glad to get rid of [the people] to fulfill their own agenda.

I have no desire to reenter the Methodist Denomination with it's current polity and theological bent. We are serving God in a new and vibrant way."


Observation: It is curious that these members, leaders in Salem United Methodist Church, would have been removed from the membership rolls of the church for striving to get a pastor supportive of their church's orthodox Christian beliefs, those that are the foundation of our denomination. They were removed from membership, yet no significant action has been taken against those who have performed "same-sex" ceremonies in violation of the Book of Discipline and the Bible. In actuality, the authority in that conference has openly supported this action.


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