Old parishioners to be cast aside by Methodist church to attract younger members
A church in Minnesota, United States is planning to kick out their old parishioners to attract younger ones in a bid for survival.
Due to membership and financial problems, the Grove United Methodist Church is set to close in June, as per local paper St. Paul Pioneer Press yesterday, Jan. 19. However, the church aims to reopen in November with a new game plan: get rid of present members, most of whom are over 60 years old.
These members, who have been part of the church for the longest time, cried foul on the decision to just let them go, claiming the move as being discriminatory during a meeting on Jan. 12.
“I pray for this church, getting through this age discrimination thing,” gray-haired member William Gackstetter was quoted as saying.
“This is totally wrong,” Gackstetter’s wife Cheryl said. “They are discriminating against us because of our age.”
In a meeting last December, the church found out that they are “nearing the end” unless they change something, which is how they came up with the decision to get new members by ushering out the old ones.
The church argues that reopening is the best way to gain younger families as members, as per report. The present, gray-haired members, however, see this as an insult.
When the plan was relayed to them by a visiting pastor earlier this January, Cheryl said she called the pastor a hypocrite, saying they “are kicking us out of our church.”
These senior members will supposedly be asked to worship to a different branch, said a memo which the church put out, as per report. It was also recommended that these members stay away for two years; only then can they consult for reapplication.
The church has two branches, which are located in Cottage Grove and Woodbury, both within Minnesota. Old members could come to the Woodbury branch instead, said church head Rev. Dan Wetterstrom, who also argued that as Cottage Grove’s population is growing, so should the church.
The old members will also not be physically barred from the church, but they are expected not to attend at all, according to Jeremy Peters, a specialist the church hired for the reopening plan.
“It’s a new thing with a new mission for a new target [and] a new culture,” Peters was quoted as saying.
“We are asking them to let this happen,” Wetterstrom added. “For this to be truly new, we can’t have the core group of 30 people.”
Despite this plan, however, the senior members were reportedly asked to continue maintaining the church during its hiatus.
“They want us to mow the lawn and shovel the snow. As if anyone would do that. This whole plan makes me sick. I believe it’s evil,” Gackstetter said in the report.
Cheryl meanwhile claimed that they are still expected to be “silent partners” and continue donating money to the church.
The church’s founder, Jim Baker, is also siding with the seniors, and even questioned the move of the church he created: “They want to create renewal […] I am all for renewal, but why not do it with everyone?” Ian Biong/JB
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