Aulne to leave Methodists over gay marriage
Global and regional church groups at odds; withdrawing may create financial responsibility
A clash over gay marriage and clergy is leading a local United Methodist Church to begin withdrawing from the denomination.
The General Conference, the global tier of the United Methodist Church, in February voted that homosexuality is not compatible with church teachings. Thus, homosexuals cannot be ordained as ministers and same-sex marriages cannot be performed in United Methodist churches.
At the same meeting, the General Conference created an exit plan that included financial penalties for congregations that disagreed with that decision.
The Great Plains Conference, which includes churches in Kansas and Nebraska, decided to support gay marriage and clergy.
“The Great Plains Conference passed several actions in support of full inclusion for gays and lesbians,” Scott Brewer, treasurer for the Great Plains Conference, said. “Churches can leave if they disagree with either decision.”
Jeff Lee, pastor at Aulne Church, which used to go by the name Aulne United Methodist Church, said the congregation had not yet withdrawn from the conference, but planned to do so.
“It is their plan,” Lee said. “Right now it’s in the conference. We haven’t as a church met and finalized that yet.”
Brewer said if a congregation chooses to withdraw, its property is taken by the conference, which will retain it until its financial obligations are fulfilled.
“It basically requires there’s a process — that the church can have a church vote with a two-thirds majority vote, and if it passes, they are allowed to withdraw,” Brewer said.
The congregation has to pay any unpaid mission shares for the current year and the future 12 months, and be fully paid up on their share of unfunded pension liability.
The amount of money the Aulne church will have to pay to the pension plan is not known because the agency that oversees the pension fund is still calculating the amount, Brewer said.
“That will come in September,” he said.
Rod Just, chairman of the Aulne church’s administrative council, confirmed the battle over acceptance of gays in the church is at the root of their reason to withdraw.
“As of now we are looking at it, but as of now we’re not putting anything out on it for a story,” Just said. After the Aulne church fulfills its financial obligations, its disaffiliation must be approved at an annual conference, which is not likely to happen until May, Brewer said.
Update after print deadline
Pastor Jeff Lee of Aulne Church objected to this article after it was published in print.
In a heated telephone conversation Wednesday, he repeatedly declined to cite specifics he thought was wrong with the article other than to say: “How about we just write up the article ourselves and you publish exactly what we have written.”
Lee stated that he had never consented to be interviewed and had been misquoted. However, he then confirmed — and, in fact, repeated — the exact words that were the only ones attributed to him in the story.
“The only thing that we’ve ever stated is that we are upset — I don’t mean to say ‘upset,’ so don’t put that in your next article — we disagree with the United Methodist Church because they do not recognize full Biblical authority,” he said.
Asked to explain what he meant by not recognizing full Biblical authority, he declined.
“I’m not going to talk about that,” he said.
He then hung up the phone.