It is always a sad and sobering portion of Annual Conference when the vote comes up to discontinue churches. This year, the Annual Conference voted to close El Monte First United Methodist Church and First United Methodist Church of Huntington Beach, otherwise known as Surf City United Methodist Church.
El Monte First UMC had been in decline for the past fifty years. Eventually, the congregation was less than twenty people worshiping in a sanctuary built for three-hundred. They decided to discontinue as a ministry and the Annual Conference confirmed this by vote in a plenary session.
Surf City UMC did not want to decline or close. They wanted to find ways to be a vital congregation. However, they did not have a clear sense of purpose beyond survival, and without a sense of purpose bigger than itself, a church cannot, and perhaps should not, continue.
We will probably see more and more churches be discontinued over the next few years. But the hope is that as some churches close, others will receive assets and resources that are freed up in order to continue to grow in vital ministry. We are in a season of continuing transition. The churches that will survive and thrive are those that have a clear sense of purpose bigger than themselves.
In other news, we have elected three candidates for consideration as part of a new class of bishops in our denomination. They are the Revs. Dr. Cedrick Bridgeforth, Sandra Olewine, and Dr. Tom Choi. Many of you may know Pastor Tom as one of the previous pastors of this congregation when it was Los Angeles KUMC and Ascension Ministry. Please pray that the voting bodies will have God’s discernment in electing our new bishops.
I will continue to be at Annual Conference in Costa Mesa. It is different this year as it is a hybrid online and in-person event. Many people will be completely online while others will be in-person and online. It is reflective of a new-normal for society as this is how many of us in this country are doing pretty much everything, whether it is work or play or shopping.
May God guide his church to continue to adapt and change as society changes, while remaining faithful to the unchanging truths of his word.