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 R
Case Study: First United Methodist Church
Kingsburg, 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 First United Methodist Church, Kingsburg (FUMC-K) in the California-Nevada Conference as it became the independent Kingsburg Community Church (KCC).

June 29, 1998. Kingsburg Methodists split from denomination: Lowell and Lois Johnson celebrated the 50th anniversary of their marriage at FUMC-K here by resigning Sunday from the denomination, along with 198 other church members. "It's exciting. It's a good thing. We've seen this coming," Lowell Johnson said. "We have two separate faiths in this denomination that cannot be held together," the Rev. Ed Ezaki said in his sermon preceding the vote. Ezaki and other lay leaders said that current Methodism has forsaken the Bible by allowing same-sex marriages, encouraging sexual permissiveness, questioning the lordship of Jesus Christ and failing to include conservatives in top church positions. "There are some things in life that require absolute purity, and following God is one of them," he said. The vote was 200 to 0 in favor of leaving the denomination, and also launched KCC.. Among those who did not resign were Ezaki and the church's board of trustees, because they will now try to negotiate purchase of church properties from the denomination. A key player in that effort will be the Rev. Rick Plain, the Methodist superintendent who oversees the 62 churches of the Fresno District. Speakers and others at the service expressed sadness, eagerness to take what, in the truest sense, is a leap of faith. "We've got to go forward with our children," said Chrisann Boone, Christian education director. She's now worrying whether she'll have a building to house vacation Bible school. "If we lose this building, that's a sacrifice I'm willing to pay because I'm not willing to waver on my core values," Scott Carlson said.

In a comment to The Fresno Bee newspaper, Ezaki said "100 percent" of Kingsburg's 371 members are planning to leave.

During the vote, dozens of people from other Kingsburg churches stood outside, holding hands in prayer circles as a show of support. Among them was Kingsburg Mayor John A. Wright. "We're working with the healing process," said Wright, a Mennonite Brethren.
- E-mail from Janz Mynderup; original source is believed to be UMNS.

July 7, 1998. California congregation leaves denomination. SAN FRANCISCO (UMNS) -- About 200 members of the Kingsburg (Calif.) United Methodist Church declared that "in Christian conscience" they could no longer remain members of the denomination. They transferred their membership to a newly created KCC effective July 1. Expressing regret that the congregation came to the point of leaving, Bishop Melvin G. Talbert said, "My prayers go with them." Fresno District Superintendent Richard Plain said he would begin the process, spelled out in the denomination's Book of Discipline, to explore the possible discontinuance of the church...The disciplinary process is an involved consultation that could take months. This is not the first time UMs in the conference have broken with the denomination. Last year, a number of members left Salem UMC in Lodi, Calif. A partial walk-out is also occurring in Oakdale [pastored by The Rev. Kevin Clancey].

Both Ezaki and Clancey have been leaders in the California-Nevada Evangelical Renewal Fellowship (ERF), which in April asked church leaders to create a separate conference for evangelicals.
- UMNS #396; July 7, 1998; Nashville, Tenn.; 10-21-28-71B{396}.

July 16, 1998. Cal/Nev Conference Breaks Trust - All Assets Seized
On Wednesday, July 16th, the Conference Treasurer seized approximately $14,000 in cash left in the KUMC checking account.... about 19 checks were outstanding and most have bounced including the payroll check for the pastor Rev. Ed Ezaki, the secretary's accrued vacation pay, and the payroll tax deposit. Approximately three hours before the pastor was informed, he and the Conference Treasurer had discussed the importance of acting honorably in order to produce a win-win situation and avoid an emotional overreaction on either side. Thursday evening, the Conf. Board of Trustees are going to Kingsburg to meet with the former KUMC Trustees, and are asking for immediate relinquishment of the deeds for property (they're bringing a notary), the personal property, and dissolution of the KUMC corporation. The pastor Ed Ezaki and the trustees will be consulting legal counsel in order to determine the next steps. The pastor observed, "The larger question is: how much can you trust people who have just lied to you? Now that I've had a couple of days of pain and anger, I can see that even these dishonorable and immoral actions serve the cause of Christ. They will take everything from any church that has the moral courage to oppose them. And for them, the end justifies the means."
- Source: E-mail from conference member; July 22, 1998

July 22, 1998. World Magazine has an article about the Kingsburg Church...The conference plans to take the property evidently and evict the congregation. Pray for them.
- E-mail; Bob Kuyper, Editor, Transforming Congregations. The information was available at http://www.worldmag.com/world/home.asp

July 22, 1998. So Much for Good Faith and Eye Ball to Eye Ball Truths.
"Above reproach, the bible indicates its overseers are to be. Reflecting back on dealings in the UMC at local and conference levels, I can recall incidents where "just turn the other way" on matters and it will be OK or "we don't have to answer that..." and a list of this type of verbal and psychological abuse will run a rather long gambit. But that is just one of many issues of this alerting note:

Kingsburg UMC has ceased to be an entity with its bank account seized - approximately $14,000 dollars - and other assets frozen after a meeting where those in "power" were working together so all would have a "win-win" results, a person in the "know" has reported. Rev Ed Ezaki's UMC ordination orders have been surrendered, July 15th, 1998 as well....Now that is real top-notch UMC leadership. So much for trust! So much for conference, district and DS words of affirmation to a pastor and the flock."
- Source: E-mail from Janz I. Mynderup, who has served with the California-Nevada Conference; Saturday, July 18 1998
- Source: E-mail from Janz I. Mynderup, who has served with the Council on Finance and Administration of the California-Nevada Conference; July 18 1998

July 24, 1998. "KUMC trustees and KCC Directors met last night with two Conference trustees, the Conference Treasurer and The DS Rick Plain. It began as a tense encounter. We asked for explanation of the deceptive manner in which KUMC funds had been seized last week. All we got was evasion and blame-passing. All I heard was the Nuremberg defense: we were just following orders. It came out that the DS had indeed been primed to declare the church abandoned last week. He didn't even tell the District Board of Church Location and Building. We were set up. I will pray that the DS grows some integrity through this process. Nonetheless, the good news is that we were able to move from the details to talk about the big issue. That is, we agreed that there was an unknown sum of money that will make the whole issue go away. It was clear that if we could agree on the price, the conference trustees were ready to clear the whole thing up last night. They are, looking to make enough money on the deal to make it seem to the Annual Conference that they "won." I feel that the KCC Board Chair was right when he observed that the Conference does not want to give us any credit for moral ownership of any of the property. I do not know if we will be able to find agreement when we feel that 80 years' of building, paying for and caring for the buildings makes them ours regardless of the Discipline and they feel that the buildings were built for the Annual Conference.

I pointed out to the trustees that the UMC has a long history of supporting land reform in Central and South America. The UMC has taken the position that generations of working the land and living on it gives peasants a moral claim on it regardless of the legal title held by the rich absentee landowners. In my opinion, the situation we are in is analogous. The family of faith in Kingsburg built these buildings. I have a 71 year old grandmother in the church whose grandfather scraped out the basement with his mule team and a scraper. Her mother came across the street from school every day to nail lath to the beams before the plasterers went to work. Over the past 7 years that I have been in Kingsburg, we have spent $500,000 on improvements, carpet, air conditioning, structural repair and the like. The Conference has never spent a dime on the buildings in Kingsburg. Yet, they believe that they own them. The land belongs to the peasants.

I repeat my previous observation that if we didn't have sufficient reason to leave the UMC before, we sure understand why we left now. How could we have remained a part of something so immoral for so long? How could we have supported it with our membership and our apportionment dollars? Pastor GL Johnson of People's Church in Fresno, the largest church in these parts with about 3,000 on Sunday morning, preached last Sunday mentioning our struggle and commending me by name. He also pledged that if we had to buy our buildings, he would take up a collection. Other churches in town have pledged fund raisers and bake sales to help us buy the buildings. To me that is the heart of God for the true Body of Christ. There is no legal obligation for a former Assembly of God church to help out a little country church in Kingsburg, but GL and those like him see it as being faithful to a higher trust, being faithful to God. In Him, Ed Ezaki"
- Source: E-mail, Ed Ezaki;Friday, July 24, 1998 8:25 AM

May 14, 1999. Greeting from KCC. Ed Ezaki wrote:
"Well, the day of freedom has finally arrived! Yesterday afternoon May 13th, title to our buildings was recorded in our name with Fresno County and escrow closed with the Methodist Conference. Thanks for your support and prayers through a difficult year of waiting. The grand total purchase price was $227,562.53 to the Annual Conference. We get the buildings and contents, the parsonage subject to the remaining mortgage, and half of the $20,125 bank account. It looks like we have about $100,000 to raise to pay the whole thing off by year end (our goal). Praise the Lord for His deliverance. What a great relief it is to feel like I no longer have to watch every word, fearing reprisals from the Annual Conference.

Things continue to grow; we will receive 32 new members on June 23rd (including the 9 fearless ones who remained UMC trustees of the shell of KUMC, soon going out of business). We continue to pray for those who remain a biblical witness within the UMC. However, I humbly offer my service and experience to any who are exploring following our path. As I like to tell my students when I teach Revelation, "Good news. If you skip to the end, God wins!
- Blessings," Ed Ezaki
- Source: E-mail; Fri. May 14 17:02:42 1999.

August 18, 1999. We have received a confirmed report that $50,000 from the settlement will be put into a fund by the California-Nevada Conference for legal fees involving future claims against church property.
- E-mail received from layman in the Cal.-Nevada Conference


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