Florida Conference pastor leaves denomination to start own church (Nov. 4, 2004)

e-Review Florida United Methodist News Service

Florida Conference pastor leaves denomination to start own church

Nov. 4, 2004    News media contact:  Michael Wacht*    
mwacht@flumc.org     Orlando  {0191}

An e-Review Feature
By Michael Wacht

LAKELAND — Calvin McFadden, former pastor of Tallahassee's Ray of Hope United Methodist Church, voluntarily withdrew his membership in the Florida Conference and surrendered his credentials as an ordained minister Sept. 30, according to Florida Area Bishop Timothy W. Whitaker. The Rev. Barbara Awoniyi has been appointed Ray of Hope's new pastor.

McFadden's resignation was the result of his frustration with actions taken by the United Methodist Church, and he left Ray of Hope to start a nondenominational church, according to a story in the Tallahassee Democrat. His new church is called Community of Faith Church.

McFadden cited five major differences with the United Methodist Church, including ordaining homosexuals, lack of African-American leadership, baptismal rules, church finances and the itinerant system for pastors.

The 2004 United Methodist General Conference affirmed its stance against ordaining self-proclaimed practicing homosexuals, but McFadden said he had "a problem when the church starts accepting homosexual persons to serve in ministry over congregations," according to the Democrat article. McFadden also expressed his reluctance to serve in a denomination that "harbors so much racism still today," a desire to be allowed to re-baptize adults, unhappiness with the amount of apportionments Ray of Hope is asked to pay and dissatisfaction with the pastoral appointment system.

"Calvin has been an effective young minister of The United Methodist Church, and his withdrawal is a disappointment," Whitaker said. "I regret his decision to start an independent congregation in the same region as Ray of Hope United Methodist Church. His actions will surprise and disappoint United Methodists in Tallahassee and the Florida Conference who have supported his ministry from the beginning with their faith, love and financial contributions."

The Rev. Charles Weaver, assistant to the bishop, said in a Sept. 24 letter to the editor of the Democrat that some of McFadden's reasons correctly portray the United Methodist Church and others do not.

Admitting that the itinerant system is "not a perfect system," Weaver said "it works as well as any other." He also said that pastoral appointments do not have to be short-term, citing one pastor in Tallahassee who has been serving his church for 20 years.

Weaver also defended the apportionment system, saying it has benefited Ray of Hope church and McFadden's ministry there. "During the formative years of Ray of Hope…United Methodists gave in excess of $325,000 to support Ray of Hope's staff, facilities and grown ministries," he said. "The apportionment system Rev. McFadden criticizes supported his ministry and made possible the beginning of Ray of Hope!"

The United Methodist Church, like many other mainline Christian denominations, does not re-baptize adults, Weaver said, adding the denomination does offer confirmation and baptismal reaffirmation rites for those adults who wish to profess their faith in Jesus Christ.

Weaver said McFadden's stance on the ordination of homosexuals is consistent with the denomination's. "It is also no secret that our traditional stand has been strongly challenged by certain clergy and laity…," he said. "Yet our stand remains firm!"

The "old sin" of racism can still be found in the denomination, Weaver said, but the church has been "intentional in confronting it." The denomination currently has an approximately 92 percent English-speaking Anglo membership, but 36 percent of its bishops are ethnic persons.

"Because we put an emphasis on inclusiveness and celebrate our diversity, we have been blessed with ethnic leadership all across our denomination," Weaver said.


This article relates to United Methodist Church Doctrine.

*Wacht is director of Florida United Methodist Communications and managing editor
of e-Review Florida United Methodist News Service.

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