|GracePoint United Methodist Church starts over|
Kansas Area Bishop Scott Jones introduces the Rev. Steve Spencer as the
new pastor of GracePoint United Methodist Church. UMNS photos by Lisa
By Lisa Elliott Diehl*
March 17, 2009 | WICHITA, Kan. (UMNS)
GracePoint United Methodist Church is rebuilding on a strong
foundation of outreach and vibrant worship after church leaders left
the congregation to form a non-denominational congregation of the same
Bryson Butts, founding pastor of GracePoint United Methodist Church,
announced to the congregation on March 1 that he was resigning from The
United Methodist Church effective immediately and would start another
church in northwest Wichita.
The entire church-leadership team and most of the congregation moved
three miles away to form GracePoint Community Church, meeting at
Northwest High School. Before the split, the United Methodist
congregation had an average worship attendance of 700.
Drew Davis (left) and Mark Davis lead praise music at the Wichita, Kan., church.
“We were surprised,” said Kansas Area Bishop Scott Jones. “We would
have liked to have some opportunity to discuss this in advance to see
if the issue could have been resolved in a different way. While we knew
there was some disagreement about the church’s desire to expand faster
than we were able to support, we were unaware of Bryson Butts’ decision
to leave The United Methodist Church.”
Butts surrendered his clergy credentials and is no longer a United Methodist minister.
“I am most concerned for the people of GracePoint,” Jones said. “The
cabinet, conference staff and I have taken many steps this week to
provide support for the strong continuation of GracePoint UMC. Our
mission is to make disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of
In a March 6 letter to Kansas Area United Methodist clergy, Jones
said Butts had been notified of a complaint that had been filed against
him “charging him with disobedience to the order and discipline of the
UMC and that he was withdrawing under complaint.” Jones also wrote that
he “made a number of mistakes with regard to GracePoint over the last
four years, chief among them my trust in Bryson Butts.”
In January, Butts and other church officers incorporated GracePoint
Community Church as a new Kansas corporation. “The conference was not
aware of this action at that time. For more than a month they were
officers, directors and/or leaders of two competing congregations,”
Started in 2003
GracePoint was started by the denomination’s Kansas West Conference
in 2003. The first public worship service was in January 2004, and the
congregation was chartered in January 2005. The remaining congregation
will continue to worship at Maize South Middle School.
According to Jones, the annual conference had supported GracePoint’s
developing a second campus but the church decided last summer to delay
that plan and focus on building its first building.
“We do not see this as a ‘church split’ because our church is ONE behind the decision,” writes Butts in his weblog at BrysonButts.com. He said that the move was made to have multiple locations for ministry.
“A non-denominational structure will allow us the liberty to spread
the message of Jesus - and our campuses - across the city,” he wrote.
“Our vision is truly a movement of God and does not fit traditional
church systems. We will align ourselves with other churches that are
similar in style and vision so that we can work in unison to make a
Butts’ announcement sent Jones and the Kansas Area appointive
cabinet searching for a new senior pastor. The Rev. Steve Spencer was
appointed to succeed Butts, effective March 6.
“GracePoint has made a name for itself in the Wichita community as a
relevant ministry with intentional outreach to the unchurched and those
who are hurting.” Spencer said. “I plan to continue this mission.”
Before answering the call to ministry, Spencer, a native
Californian, was a television reporter and served in the United States
Air Force. Since 2006, he has served as associate pastor at Saint Mark
United Methodist Church in Wichita.
Spencer preached his first sermon on March 8 before 150 people,
including a number of people from other United Methodist churches who
had come to surround the GracePoint congregation with support.
“GracePoint as it was a week ago will never be the same,” he said.
“But what next? We are looking at a future with possibilities. There
are good things on the horizon because of the good things you’ve done
over the past five years.”
* Diehl is director of communications for the Kansas Area of The United Methodist Church.
News media contact: Linda Green, (615) 742-5470 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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