A Defining Day

A Defining Day

March 4 was one of the defining days in my life. I went to the Alabama-West Florida Conference of the United Methodist Church, accompanied by my son Si, to deliver a letter stating my withdrawal from the United Methodist Church. Sixty-four years as a Methodist pastor came to an end March 4.

That Monday afternoon was the first time in one-hundred years that the Mathison name was not listed as a clergy person in the Conference. That includes my father, Dr. Si Mathison, my brother, Dr. George Mathison, my grandfather, who was a part-time Methodist preacher, and myself. The purpose of this blog is to answer many many people who have asked “Why?”

I received a letter on February 5 from the leadership of the Alabama-West Florida Conference stating, “We need to address the hurt and confusion that is being caused among the clergy and laity as a result of your preaching in services to members and former members of the Auburn First United Methodist Church. As a retired United Methodist pastor, your active participation in this breakaway group is causing harm to a vital United Methodist congregation. Bishop Graves and the Cabinet are requesting that you now cease preaching or providing other leadership to this group while continuing to remain a retired United Methodist clergyman.” 

I responded with some questions for clarification. I asked if this was an effort to move me to withdraw from the UMC. The response was, “Unarguably no.” I asked if this request was only for one disaffiliated church—Auburn. The response was that it should include any disaffiliated churches. 

This presented a dilemma. The bylaws of the John Ed Mathison Leadership Ministry which we established fifteen years ago state that my ministry would be interdenominational, interracial, and international.

Over half of the United Methodist churches in South Georgia, North Alabama, Alabama-West Florida, and Mississippi are disaffiliated. I have preached in about sixteen different denominations, including UMC and churches that have disaffiliated. I preached in multiple African American churches, independent churches, and churches in India, and several churches in South America and Europe.

I had a decision to make. The United Methodist Church has been good to me over the years. Bishop Graves has been extremely helpful to me. I have a lot of great friends who have remained United Methodist. I don’t feel like I’m leaving the UMC—I feel like the UMC, and its direction has left me!

If I continued preaching in disaffiliated churches, that would put Bishop Graves and the leadership in a precarious position. I have always believed in playing by the rules of the organization that I joined. I did not want to be disobedient to their request. I felt I could make the decision to withdraw and solve that problem rather than cause them to have to make some decision which would not be favorable to the advancement of God’s Kingdom.

That’s why I chose to withdraw and join the Free Methodist Church. I am the Pastor Emeritus of Frazer Free Methodist Church. I feel God has big plans for me, Lynn, and our family in the years ahead.

Please pray for my ministry!

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