One pastor’s take on why he left the United Methodist Church

Jack Kale, pastor of Central Waterside Church, preaches from the beach. Photo Courtesy of Central Waterside Church

Jack Kale, pastor of Central Waterside Church, preaches from the beach.
Photo Courtesy of Central Waterside Church

Earlier this month we shared a story from the Alabama-West Florida Annual Conference on the third pastor and congregation from that conference who have chosen to leave the United Methodist Church during the past year. All three of these congregations were newly planted churches, and at least two have affiliated with the Nevada based Central Christian Church.

We recently had the opportunity to speak to the Jack Kale, pastor of the Central Waterside Church, located on Pensacola Beach, FL. Jack, a former elder in the UMC, started the Waterside Church while on the staff of the Gulf Breeze UMC. Jack is a graduate of the Candler School of Theology at Emory University.

Why did you choose to leave the United Methodist Church?

The primary reason I left (the straw that broke the camel’s back) was the itineracy. We were part of a large UMC with three campuses. So, in a sense, I chose the mission and vision I was doing under appointment more than I chose to serve the whim of a bishop. I asked to stay. The church asked me to stay. The bishop said to move. This put me in the position of continuing to serve where I felt called and with people who wanted me to be their pastor or having to leave to a new church in another state. I chose to resign and further the ministry I was already engaged with.

I would also add that our vision of starting beach-bar type churches up and down the coast was not embraced by the district in which I served. The UMC church planting process is laborious and prohibitive.

Lastly, I would say that the overall UMC structure is so big that it has lost its ability to adapt and move with the culture. Apportionments are the currency of the UMC, not changed lives.

Were there changes that the UMC could have made in their structures that would have allowed you to stay affiliated?

I lost hope in the UMC making changes to it’s structure in a helpful way after the last General Conference.  If Mike Slaughter and Adam Hamilton can’t work out a way to bring a systemic or structural change to the UMC, who can?  The system is too big and has become maintenance minded and administrative in nature, as opposed to the connectional and visionary position it used to occupy.

There are some who might say that the UMC has invested time, energy and money (in your education) in you and that your leaving doesn’t reflect much gratitude or respect for what the UMC has offered you. How would you respond to that question?

That last question is humorous to me, really.  In that line of reasoning, Steve Jobs should never have left HP or Atari, the reformation should never happened, and America should colonies of England and Spain.  I spent 19 years in the UMC.  I believe that my contributions over that time more than make up for any of perceived lack of respect.  Pastors who started as second career folks with me in seminary are already retired. I doubt they were given grief over their changed relationship to ministry in the UMC.   The truth is that I grieved my decision to leave because I loved the UMC for all it had given me, but I was called by God before the UMC ordained me.  I don’t think John Wesley would be a UMC pastor today any more than Thomas Jefferson would recognize this country as the USA.  In some strange sense, I think I am being more Wesleyan now than I ever was as a UMC pastor.

Click here to visit Central Waterside Church’s Facebook page. 

Jay Voorhees, Former Executive Editor

The Rev. Jay Voorhees is the Executive Editor of The United Methodist Reporter and the Chief Creative Officer for CircuitWriter Media LLC which operates this site and MethoBlog.com. Jay is an ordained elder in the Tennessee Annual Conference. Jay has written on life and the practice of faith in The United Methodist Church at Only Wonder Understands since 2003.

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30 Comments on "One pastor’s take on why he left the United Methodist Church"

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The United Methodist Reporter wants to encourage lively conversation about The United Methodist Church and our articles in the belief that Christian conversation (what Wesley would call conferencing) is a means of grace. While we support passionate debate, we cannot allow language that demeans or demonizes others, and we reserve the right to delete any comment we believe to be harmful or inappropriate. We encourage all to remember that we are all broken and in need of Christ's grace, and that we all see through the glass darkly until that time we when reach full perfection in love. May your speech here be tempered with love, and reflection of the fruits of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. After all, "There is no law against things like this." (Galatians 5:22-23)
 
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YouthGuy
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It is interesting. I am an ordained minister from another denomination, but serving in a Methodist church as a youth minister. I have been told many times over the years that I should get ordained in the UMC as well. I have flirted with local pastors class, but never have even given becoming a pastor in the UMC a second thought. Having seen the political and what should be shameful deployment of pastors…HECK NO! There is no way I am tying my family or my future to a bunch of people that “say” they are doing things prayerfully, when it… Read more »
bill krill
Guest

Well and fairly stated, Pastor Kale. Too bad it takes pastors leaving for folks to pay attention that members have been leaving for a very long time for the same reasons. The bishops can give any lip-service they want to ‘matching’ the right pastor to the right congregation, the members all know it’s a political, back-room-good-old-boys process that has nothing to do with the advancement of the mission.

Christopher Coates
Guest
Sadly, though I am thoroughly Wesleyan, I am leaving the UMC after witnessing first hand the destructive and corrupt politics that shape the itinerant system. From the cabinet down to the PPRC laity, the dark heart of humankind emerges over and over. I just retired as a pastor in urban missions (not UMC) and my heart is broken for the ordained elders that I know, especially the women. My adult children who are educated, thinking people, love the Wesleyan way, but not the current interpretation of it by those in power. I am sorry to leave, but relieved to escape… Read more »
john patterson
Guest
As I read many of the above posts, some suggest change, some suggest leaving, some criticize bishops, some just ramble on with no apparent direction. What I feel is lacking in many of the posts is “What Would Jesus Do?” Do you honestly feel Jesus will change because we are unwilling to “Follow” Him? How many examples of Jesus changing and blessing those with differing views can we remember? We all seem to agree that Jesus/God never changes! We live in a new electronic world, some suggest we watch sermons on giant screens, and embrace a rock and roll atmosphere.… Read more »
Romy Sison
Guest
It is amazing to learn that there is a common thread in the reasons of those who had left the UMC. In the Philippines the reasons of our leaving the UMC are similar to yours in the US. We have separated from the UMC Central Conference too. The organizers were former lay leaders and pastors of the UMC Central Conference Philippines. We separated because we wanted to be autonomous. We are the only church in South East Asia that is not autonomous. During the election of bishops in the central conference the candidates promised autonomy, but when they got elected… Read more »
Dan
Guest

Why form your own denomination when you can join an already independent Philippine Methodist church (IEMELIF)? Or the UCCP, which has historically been influenced by the Wesleyan factions. Methinks mere autonomy was not the only issue for separation.

Chuck Layton
Guest

It may have been, in fact, that the cabinet and bishop saw a desperate need for exactly the gifts and graces that Rev. Kale was using in his present appointment to revitalize another congregation! In that case, refusing to move, and removing oneself from the connection would have been exactly the least “called” thing he could have done.

Chuck Layton
Guest
I believe that God is big enough to have plans for people within and people outside the United Methodist Connection. I also think that sometimes a person does “feel” called to make a change. Now, here’s the meat of what I want to say: Don’t be too quick to assume that these are recent questions or problems. Read Heitzenrater’s book “Wesley and the Rise of the People Called Methodist” (Think that’s the title — it will get you close in Amazon or Cokesbury.) Even during Wesley’s life these sorts of questions were being debated. Wesley was certain that no preacher… Read more »
Mack Hall
Guest

What ARE you going on about?

James J. Davies
Guest

My father Dr. D. George Davies served the United Methodist Church for more than 50 years. I have little doubt that he would be saddened at what has evolved in the UMC. I left the UMC in the mid-1980’s and moved to the UCC where I found a meaningful spiritual relationship with which I was comfortable. I, too, believe that John Wesley would have great difficulty with today’s UMC.

Bruce
Guest
I do not claim to know anything about this situation– and since I’m only getting one side of the conversation out of it– I just don’t have enough to form any kind of reflection out of it…however, here here on his statement about Mike Slaughter and Adams. When their ideas were defeated at GC– that’s exactly when I decided I was going to keep all my options open regarding my alliance with UMC. My huge burden is that I love the people I am serving with at my church….I’m thinking stick it out here as long as I can…but I… Read more »
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