I believe that it’s fair to say that no church should ever make an ethics dunce of itself. This, unfortunately, is an extreme example. [Full disclosure: My father was raised as a Methodist, and my father in law was a Methodist minister and scholar.] The rationalizations and double talk came fast and furious, and there even was a Jumbo in the mix.
Praise the Lord!
Rev. Dan Wetterstrom, lead pastor at the Woodbury and Cottage Grove branches of the United Methodist Church, sent out letters to parishioners that the Cottage Grove branch would close on June 1, then open, refurbished, in the Fall seeking the membership of young families with children. Current members who don’t fit that description will not be welcome. The letter encouraged the exiles to worship elsewhere.
The good news is that the old, childless members should be able to come back into the fold in 15 to18 months.
“The ends justify the means” is not a Christian, moral nor ethical philosophy, but that is the reasoning being applied by Wetterstrom and his church’s administrators to deal with what they see as a demographic crisis. Young people are staying away (perhaps because they have noticed the rank hypocrisy and stupidity in the church, indeed many churches, engage in, but I’m just guessing) and the current flock keeps getting older and older.
Wetterstrom’s tap-dancing and spinning to make this pure discrimination sound godly is a wonder to behold. He says he sympathizes with older members who are being kicked out. “It’s especially hard on that community,” he said. “It’s just a real tender time for them.”
Still, he says, jettisoning the oldsters is necessary to save the Cottage Grove church from closing altogether. Current membership is about 1,000, with about 400 attending on a typical Sunday, he said, and almost everyone is 60 and older. Can’t have that! “Something must give,” he said in the letter.
The something, somethings, really, apparently are loyalty, fairness, inclusiveness and respect.
The Minnesota Annual Conference of the United Methodist Church approved the plan to create a new, younger, more vibrant congregation led by young, hip Rev. Jeremy Peters. who has experience in church “planting projects,” that attract young families, Wetterstrom said. The purging—I’m sorry, I meant planting—will cost $250,000, covering Peters’s salary, promotions, events, hospitality and utilities, among other expenses.
“One of the challenges we face if we’re trying to create a new culture a new expression, a new community, it truly has to be new people for that to work,” he said. “It’s not about us, it’s not about our preferences, it’s not about what we want. It’s important we put it in a broader context of ‘How we can help the church fulfill those spiritual imperatives?’”
Rev. Ben Ingebretson, Dakotas-Minnesota director of new church development for the United Methodist Church, said their goal is to increase church membership from half of a percent to 3% statewide. “One of the things churches do is they try to plant a new faith community,” he said. “All denominations do it.”
I knew it was coming! “Everybody does it!,” right at the top of the Ethics Alarms Rationalizations List!
If you read between the lines, these rationalizations on the list also peek out at us as the church leaders try to justify the unjustifiable:
13. The Saint’s Excuse: “It’s for a good cause”
19 B. Murkowski’s Lament, or “It was a difficult decision.”
23. The Dealer’s Excuse. or “I’m just giving the people what they want!”
23 A. Woody’s Excuse: “The heart wants what the heart wants”
25. The Coercion Myth: “I have no choice!”
25A. Frederick’s Compulsion or “It’s My Duty!”
28. The Revolutionary’s Excuse: “These are not ordinary times.”
31. The Troublesome Luxury: “Ethics is a luxury we can’t afford right now”
53. Tessio’s Excuse, or “It’s just business”
57. The Universal Trump, or “Think of the children!”
59. The Ironic Rationalization, or “It’s The Right Thing To Do”
67. The Herd’s Excuse, or “We’re all in this together!”
But the church was not trying to exclude anybody, of course. Heaven forbid!
“That’s just not the way we work,”said Rev. Ben Ingebretson, as his church worked exactly as he says it doesn’t. “Elephant? What Elephant?” Yup, he threw a Jumbo into this unethical communion too.
It was this kind of thing that caused my father to leave the Methodist Church and organized religion generally. It also is a large part of the reason neither my wife nor any of her three sisters stayed in their father’s Church once they were adults.