Otterbein Church Withdraws

The Otterbein United Brethren church in Waynesboro has withdrawn from the denomination. Otterbein was the fourth-largest UB church, with an average attendance of 814 in 2004.

In a June 9 letter to Bishop Paul Hirschy and to the superintendents and officers of Mid-Atlantic Conference, senior pastor Michael V. Newman explained that the church’s elders and management Oversight Team held a joint meeting on June 8, during which they decided “by a unanimous vote to discontinue our affiliation with the church of the United Brethren in Christ effective Sunday, June 19, 2005. Beginning Monday, June 20, we will function as a nondenominational congregation.”

Newman said the two largest factors in the decision were the following:

“By almost everyone’s assessment, the United Brethren Church is struggling right now….Our leadership, after praying for God’s guidance, has decided that it is not good stewardship to continue to put large sums of money into an organization that is seeing little spiritual impact for the Kingdom of God. We believe it would have greater impact if used in our local church or in the hands of another ministry group.”

“We continue to wrestle with the question of the overall value and need to be part of a denomination in today’s world. Simply put, we often have asked ourselves, ‘What can we do better for the Kingdom of God as a denominational congregation that we can’t do as well or even better as a nondenominational congregation?’ As difficult as this is to admit because of our traditional and relationships, we honestly can’t think of one thing. When we combine that belief with the large amount of money we are required to give in assessments, it has brought us to the conclusion that we should no longer continue to be part of the United Brethren Church.”

Newman explained that they would have preferred to make this decision after the meeting of the US National Conference in late June, but were pushed by the possibility that the US National Conference would require churches that want to withdraw to have a congregational vote on the issue. “We are not a congregational church and have not voted on any issue in our church’s history in the past 20 years, including a recent decision to relocate to another site.” Newman said they believed that requiring such a vote would “be confusing and detrimental to the overall health of our congregation. Thus we felt we had no option but to take this action under the current Discipline, which does not have such requirements.”

Newman continued, “We are proud of our heritage and our past association with the United Brethren denomination, and it will always be an important part of our history….We leave with no regrets or bad feelings toward anyone in conference or denominational leadership or any other United Brethren congregation.”

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