This is Pastor Tim’s Article that will appear in the Jan 27, 2020 edition of the Evening Leader.
Well, I was scrolling my Google newsfeed again. I swear, I need to stop doing that but I can’t help myself. And as I was scrolling down, I saw an article about a passenger who claimed she was assaulted in her sleep on an airplane. There was another article about the rise of poisonous spiders in Australia because of the wildfires, and one about one of the Kardashians’ butt. Full disclosure, I clicked on the spider one.
But then I came to another CNN article about the UMC, but his one is not about the impending split. It was about Grove UMC in Minnesota. The title of the article was – and I quote – “A church made headlines for allegedly asking older members to leave. But the reality is more complicated.” My interest was tweaked, so I clicked on this one.
The article was poorly written, but I got past that. The church is about to do what is known as a replant in an effort to appeal to a younger congregation. This was part of the vision for the church, to revitalize the church to be an intergenerational church that appealed to all ages.
Obviously, I did not receive the letter where people felt like they were asked to leave and CNN did not make any assertions that they had a copy of the letter. They had a direct quote from one parishioner. ONE. They quoted another younger woman who had been quoted by the local newspaper before this story was picked up by CNN. That means that CNN spoke to ONE parishioner. According to the article, others who were reached out to did not return calls.
They interviewed the pastor, a man named Dan Wetterstrom. He explained that they were looking into a time of transition and spoke about the desire to have all ages represented in their congregation. In order to do so, they needed to make some adjustments. The pastor sent out a letter (which I don’t have a copy of either) to explain that the changes were going to be implemented and he wanted to be upfront about what was happening. No one was ever asked to not come to church.
CNN made no attempt to give any credence to his claims. In fact, the article was all about how the pastor didn’t want old people in his church, which was exact thing the pastor denied ever happened. Do you think it was possible that the reporter interviewed the pastor without asking for a copy of the letter? Nothing in the article suggested they asked. If he refused to give them one, then there is no doubt that would have been in the article. My suspicion – he did give them one, it didn’t fit the hit job they had planned, so they ignored it and ran with a controversy after speaking to one parishioner.
This article frightens me. The UMC has not had a single story in my Google newsfeed ever before, and now in less than a month, CNN has written two. Neither has done anything to make the UMC look good. The conversation about a split in the church put the UMC in the media’s crosshairs and now they will not miss an opportunity to take a shot at the church. I can’t imagine a scenario where any pastor would ever even consider the idea of sending a letter telling any group of people they were not welcome. But let’s face it, controversy sells, even if the controversy is fabricated.
This article is a warning to all of you, no matter if you are a part of the UMC or not. Please, be very careful rushing to judgment about anything you read about a church of any denomination. You need to be more diligent than speaking to one parishioner and creating a story. I am not saying that what was accused here didn’t happen, I am just saying the article didn’t provide me much evidence that it did.
I read two articles this morning, and the most venomous one I read was not about a spider.