Author: Rev. Dr. Mark R. Holland, Executive Director Mainstream UMC
Our call for unity has been answered with a call for divorce. In response to a recent email sent out by Mainstream UMC, prominent Liberian delegate, Rev. Dr. Jerry Kulah sent me a message offering a “new game plan” that promises in part to “advocate that you move out along with all of your churches.” Apparently my “brand of UMC” is an “embarrassment” to him and other Africans. A “brand” that is shared by 2/3 of the U.S. church.
Either member of a marriage can demand a divorce. We clearly do not have two willing parties to work out this relationship.
Rev. Dr. Kulah is the West Africa Central Conference Coordinator of the UMC Africa Initiative (a ministry funded by Good News and the Wesleyan Covenant Association) and the dean of the Gbarnga School of Theology, a United Methodist seminary in Liberia (a ministry funded by all of us). He has served as both a local church pastor as well as the Monrovia District Superintendent. He has represented the Liberia Annual Conference as a delegate and is a frequent speaker on the floor of General Conference. He spoke memorably at GC 2016, successfully calling for doubling the fund for Central Conference theological education from $5 million to $10 million.
It is one thing to hold a conservative view of Scripture; it is quite another to advocate for all who disagree to leave the church. This is the fundamental difference in ecclesiology between those who advocated for the One Church Plan (we can live together) and those who advocated for the Traditional Plan (we cannot live together). General Conference 2019 made it abundantly clear, we cannot live together.
Everyone needs to read Rev. Dr. Kulah’s strident Christianity first hand. When a key leader in Africa calls for 2/3 of the U.S. church to leave, we have indeed entered unchartered territory. As questions of integrity swirl around voting by African delegates at General Conference, something new is afoot.
Below is the complete text of Rev. Dr. Kulah’s email to me. Also below are additional emails from two of the seventy one people, mostly from Africa, he cc’d. A delegate from East Zimbabwe agrees that he speaks for all of Africa. A gentleman from Liberia equates Mainstream UMC with Satan’s plans.
I would encourage you to forward the link to this post to every United Methodist on your contact list, and encourage them to sign up for our newsletter at www.MainstreamUMC.com/sign-up. We need to grow our network for what is next.
It is becoming increasingly clear that the U.S. church is ready for new life.
Rev. Kulah’s email, dated March 20, 2019 (emphasis his):
I am praying for you and all of our sisters and brothers of the UMC who are following your lead so that you might come to the realization that your DREAM FOR LEGALIZING SAME-SEX UNION IN THE UMC has DIED. Yes, you may defy church laws and illegally practice it as much as you can, you may deny and deceive some that nothing changed as a result of the Special General Conference, but one thing is clear: the MESSAGE has gone out to the whole wide world that THE GLOBAL UMC HAS REJECTED THE LEGALIZATION OF SAME-SEX UNION, THE ORDINATION OF GAY AND LESBIAN PASTORS AND THE CELEBRATION OF SAME-SEX UNION IN CONGREGATIONS OF THE UMC. That is what we fasted and prayed for and God answered our prayers.
This has been the reality since 1972 to present. Therefore, No attempt now or in the future would change the results. If you did not succeed with the massive support you solicited from some key progressive Bishops and leaders of the church at the recent Special General Conference session, do not think you will have a better opportunity in the future. You need a new game plan, and I can offer you the most preferred.
NO BORN-AGAIN, BIBLICALLY-COMMITTED AND INFORMED, HOLY-SPIRIT BAPTIZED AND EMPOWERED BELIEVER of the UMC in AFRICA shall ever betray the trust and support the celebration of what the Holy Bible calls sin (homosexuality) in the church. Furthermore, given the continued rate of numerical decline your brand of UMC is experiencing, there is no likelihood you shall ever succeed through our global communion and connection. So, if you are really serious about reviving the hopes, dreams and aspirations of the LGBTQIA+ COMMUNITY who want to see the legalization of same-sex marriage, I offer you this new game plan: move out of our connection officially, respectfully, amicably and lovingly and start a new church for LGBTQIA+ PEOPLE. We will support your transition and advocate that you move out along with all of your churches. In that way can be at peace. And you can truly be the kind of church you desire to be.
Unfortunately, many progressives were deceived into believing that “change was coming“, meaning, a full legal inclusion of LGBTQIA+ people within global UMC would happen at the Special Session. That is why you find it so difficult to accept reality. How long will you attempt to deny the truth? Your current state of denial of the facts irrespective of how painful it may be since the defeat of the One Church Plan will not help situation. Your defiant posture along with your followers only invites more pains, guilt and frustration because no one will take you serious. The sad reality, however, is that as members of the same denomination with you, your continued action of defiance presents the UMC to the rest of the Christian Community in particular, and the world at large as a terrible embarrassment to the Christian witness. IT IS TIME TO STOP! YOU CANNOT FIGHT FOR GOD! IF YOU CLAIM YOU ARE RIGHT, MOVE ON! DO NOT INFRINGE UPON MY RIGHTS TO LIVE BY OUR CHURCH’S UNDERSTANDING OF SCRIPTURE AND THE TEACHINGS OF THE CHURCH UNIVERSAL. THAT IS TOTALLY WRONG! YOU CANNOT CHANGE THE TEACHING OF THE BIBLE NOR CHANGE THE CONSTITUTION OF THE UMC ON THIS ISSUE.
We (the UMC in Africa, and conservative UMC globally) will not condone your attempt to compromise the authentic teaching of the Holy Bible on the issue of human sexuality, and thereby betray the trust and earnest labor of your great, great, great grand parents whose blood became the “seal” of the Gospel in Africa. Their graves and tombs all over Africa are a visible witness to their sacrificial labor to ensure that the liberating Gospel of Jesus Christ saturated many parts of the Continent of Africa. We cherish their legacy that must be honored until Christ the LORD returns. Like a relay race, they passed on the baton to our great, great, great grand parents. And today, we are committed to lifting that banner even higher, in evangelizing the nations, revitalizing the church and transforming society until it is time for us to pass it on to the next generation. This is where we stand. God bless you.
Email from Simon Mafunda, lay delegate from East Zimbabwe, dated March 21, 2019
Thank you Dr Kulah for speaking on our behalf. This is the voice of Africa. To God be the Glory.
Email from Kenneth C. Jackson, Liberia, dated March 21, 2019
Mark, we in Africa are praying for you and those who are misleading God’s people! But God will continue to fight for his Church. Your plan of misinformation is indicative of Satan’s plan to dilute the Holy Bible and destroy his Church. Again, God is bigger than crafty plan or feelings.
Satan’s plan is already exposed. In this Lenten season, we all need to recognize our shortcomings so that God can forgive us.
God bless you. May he open your eyes.
Kenneth C. JACKSON
Here is the link to my email that inspired the response from Rev. Dr. Kulah.
Rev. Dr. Jerry Kulah advocates for doubling Apportionments for Central Conference Theological Education. https://www.umnews.org/en/news/theological-education-fund-wins-big
General Conference commission is investigating fraudulent voting by African delegates at GC 2019 https://www.umnews.org/en/news/questions-about-task-force-ricocheting-around-church