Grove United Methodist Church in Cottage Grove, Minnesota is closing its doors this Summer for building renovations and asking its older congregants to not come back when they reopen in the Fall in hopes of attracting only young families, leading the church will be a new pastor who affirms LGBTQ teachings.
Citing a shift in culture, the new church leadership has asked the banished older attendees to stay away from worship and Bible study, but to continue maintaining the building site and donating money for the funding of the church operations.
Officials say the church needs a reset, and reopening the church is the best way to appeal to younger people, and the church is set to open with a new LGBTQ affirming pastor, in the Fall.
The older congregants have built the Grove UMC for 30 years, raising it from a meeting spot in an elementary school to owning a building of their own, to absorbing a separate and larger congregation, over that time period.
They grew to two locations.
The older congregants who are being asked to leave the church have survived all the struggles of church building, however, they are being asked to keep their distance by Rev. Dan Wetterstrom, currently head of both locations.
“It’s a new thing with a new mission for a new target and a new culture,” Wetterstrom said.
The members who are over 60 years old are being asked to support the shift in a church culture that excludes their participation.
“These past struggles created a lot of independence. We kept it going,” said church founder Jim Baker. That’s why the members are so fiercely loyal, he said.
Reports of the culture shift at Grove UMC come at a time when many churches are seen struggling to defend the most important tenets of Christianity, seemingly choosing to forego traditional Biblical teaching on marriage and gender, in order to attract more attendees who are comfortable with homosexuality, same-gender marriage, and transgenderism.
The culture shift, away from worshiping alongside older congregants, does not request that the older church builders stop serving or financing the church, however.
William Gackstetter, an original member of the Grove United Methodist Church, said the aging membership has been asked to continue maintaining the church until it reopens without them.
“They want us to mow the lawn and shovel the snow,” he said. “As if anyone would do that. This whole plan makes me sick. I believe it’s evil.”
Cheryl Gackstetter, his wife added, “We are supposed to be silent partners, and still give money.”
The move to oust the aging church builders was approved at the Minnesota Annual Conference of the United Methodist Church as an accepted method to reboot the church after the National Methodist leadership designed a “Traditional Plan” and a “One Church Plan” for a divided worldwide congregation, which National File covered.
After the re-launch of the church, the new Grove UMC congregation will be led by the Rev. Jeremy Peters. Peters who is 30 years old, and has experience in church “planting projects, particularly with young families”, Wetterstrom said.
Peters also is a leading Methodist church apologist to people who identify as LGBTQ, siding with church leaders who are openly homosexual and writing a recent sermon on the matter of LGBTQ about the vote to split.
Peters said in March to the church, “Last weekend my church had an opportunity to show grace to one another, to make room for each other at the table, to say we are going to continue to be a church where people are free to disagree, can agree to disagree, to start to bring some healing to the hurt we’ve done to LGBTQ persons for the last 47 years. ”
“But that’s not what we did. Instead we voted for more prohibitions and stricter penalties… and in doing that we hurt an awful lot of people.”
I am sorry. as a pastor, as a leader in the UM church…I am sorry. for all the times the church hurt you in the name of Jesus. I’m sorry people made you feel unwelcome and small because of your sexuality and your gender identity.
In every church, I’ve ever served there have been LGBTQ members who lead worship, who serve the church, who build up the community even when the UM Church has made it painful for you to be here — you have stuck with us, and I call you a miracle of God — you are the living embodiment of the graciousness and love of Jesus Christ.
Churches will let you down, pastors, conferences, denominations–but Jesus will never let you down. When the church becomes painful, know that he will find you wherever you are. That’s the Jesus I have in mind.
The full sermon is available online.
Apparently Peters does not worry so much about the feelings of congregants once they get “older.”