GracePoint Community/United Methodist Church

I have heard rumors about what has happened / is happening at GracePoint Community Church and GracePoint United Methodist Church and have sought to compile the story as best as I can.

Posts in chronological order:

CONFERENCE COMMITTED TO GRACEPOINT UMC

WICHITA–The United Methodist Church’s commitment to a new church start in northwest Sedgwick County remains strong a day after the leadership of GracePoint United Methodist Church announced plans to leave the denomination and begin a new community church of the same name. “We want the membership of this congregation to know that we are deeply committed to this church and that we hope they will continue to be part of GracePoint UMC,” said Kansas Area United Methodist Bishop Scott Jones.

GracePoint United Methodist Church will continue to worship at Maize South Middle School at 37th Street North and Tyler Road.  Jones and the district superintendents are working to name an interim pastor this week and plan to introduce the new pastor to the congregation at 11 a.m. worship Sunday, March 8.

“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,” Jones said. “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 Rev. Bryson Butts’ decision to leave the United Methodist Church.”

Butts has surrendered his clergy credentials in the United Methodist Church and is no longer a United Methodist minister.

Perspectives from others with whom I have been in conversation:

  • I think this is definitely a time to wait and see, pray and fast, and see what the Lord has next.
  • we can either be mean or gossipy by our nature, but if i learned anything from the umc its that grace is my rule of life
  • there is likely a difference between Bishop Mutti and Bishop Jones’ leadership that may have had an affect on the situation
  • What does it say about the United Methodist Church that pastors like Bryson and Craig Groeschel leave?
  • There will be an interim pastor in place by Sunday, March 8. It will be interesting to see who it [is].

My Reflections

I know I don’t understand this whole thing. There is a great deal of grief involved for many people and a great deal of hope for many people. I hope and pray for spiritual revival in the state of Kansas and renewal in the United Methodist Church. I believe that GracePoint has been and will continue to be used by God in these areas.

I’ll close with these three scripture passages that sum up my feelings.

  • 1 Corinthians 12:26 – “If one part suffers, every part suffers with it; if one part is honored, every part rejoices with it”
  • Romans 12:4-5 – “For just as each of us has one body with many members, and these members do not all have the same function, so in Christ we, though many, form one body, and each member belongs to all the others.”
  • Acts 5:38-39 – “Therefore, in the present case I advise you: Leave these men alone! Let them go! For if their purpose or activity is of human origin, it will fail. But if it is from God, you will not be able to stop these men; you will only find yourselves fighting against God.”
    • Thanks to Chuck for this reference.

Your Invitation to Respond

  • Please add a link to your thoughts or other relevant web pages in the comments
  • What do you make of all this?
  • What perspectives need to be added?
  • How does this make you feel?
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37 thoughts on “GracePoint Community/United Methodist Church

  1. Andrew:

    I’ve been following this story through your facebook and blog. Thank you for sharing this compilation. I’m sure this is a sad time for United Methodists in Kansas.

    I love The United Methodist Church. It’s where I grew up and grew in grace, it’s my context for serving Christ and the church, and its theological grounding and method are foundational to my perspective as a Christian. However, I’m really clear that I do not serve an institution — I serve Christ.

    I didn’t know anything about GracePoint except what I’ve learned through following your posts and checking out their website, so I’m clearly an outsider, but there’s a place in me that wants to trust that somehow God is at work through this, and maybe, just maybe, God will be glorified and God’s purpose will be accomplished. It makes me wonder what good may come from this situation, perhaps through a sharpening of identity and vision for both GracePoint Community Church and GracePoint UMC. I pray it is so.

  2. This is the first I’ve heard of it…Little to say other than it’s really sad.

    Why does the UMC have such problems with “dynamic” pastors in growing congregations? Is the UMC? Is the pastors? “Both” is too easy an answer…This is happening too often, even if it is not leading to churches leaving!

    Do our systems actually impede new ministries? Are egos of control getting in the way?

    Are pastors being unwilling to submit to church leaders/the Church?

    Ugh. I hate church splits…though I have a friend who believes that divisions are sometimes “used by God” to start new things…see Barnabas and Paul in Acts 15.

    • Today, I heard the situation with GracePoint described not as a church split, but as a church “theft”. While that sounds somewhat harsh, there was precious little openness, there was little group discernment… the congregation was in the dark until the end of the Mar. 1 service.

      “Splits” come, when they do after rigorous debate, counsultation and attempts at mediation prove futile.

      Let’s not dignify the situation by calling it a “church split”.

  3. Let me qualify that, I’m just curious. I understand them giving back all the “stuff,” but I would imagine there are resources that aren’t as easily given back. I’m sure this is hard on everyone involved, so maybe questions like this are best saved for later.

  4. As I understand it, GP gave back everything they could: the land that was given to them by the conference, plus an additional tract that cost GP $120,000; equipment that if bought new would cost well over $300,000; and everything else they could. I don’t think there was much in the bank accounts, which is raising eyebrows but I really don’t know anything about that. But I wonder what price-point would be acceptable??

  5. It was sad to read about Bryson Butts feeling a need to turn in his UMC credentials. I think that most of these kind of disagreements usually point to a relationship failure.

    Years ago I worked for a Ross Perot company (EDS) that embraced an anti-bureaucracy environment where decisions were pushed down to the lowest level of management.. it made for a great and healthy form of leadership.

    It will be interesting to see how many stay with the UMC version of GP.

  6. Those are awfully specific numbers you are using there Kevin, I’m curious as to your source.

    It begs an additional question though: from whence did GP procure the funds to enable it to leave behind 1/3 million dollars of materials and still be a functional church come Sunday morning?

  7. Ben, you ask that question as though a functional church requires something more than people and a space to gather.

    Even with my limited knowledge I wish this had not happened. What I did know of GP gave me hope for the future of Methodism in Kansas. It is not that hope has been removed, but this is undoubtedly a blow.

    I pray that all parties would learn from this incident, taking a posture of proper humility and steadfast love.

    • Heya Ben,

      I’m not sure exactly what you’re trying to say. It was not my intent to insert the subtext you seem to have uncovered. While I appreciate and share your minimalist viewpoint on the ‘concept’ of church I was trying to address the real-life logistics of this particular situation. Even ignoring the light and sound equipment, your raised criteria of space means my question still has some validity.

      • I suspect they got the money from the same 6-700 people who paid for everything else. And the idea that there was some breach of ethics because of planning this on the UM dime fails to understand that the people payin the salary are probably all going with this Senior Pastor.

    • I think bringing Wesley in is a totally valid point David, thanks for adding some relevant historical perspective.

  8. I had no clue Craig Groeschel use to be UM, was he a pastor at one point and leave? Guess it explains why I like his stuff so much. But that does bother me that we are loosing some of our young cutting edge pastors.

  9. I don’t know enough about GracePoint UMC’s organization and leadership, but one thing that concerns me is that the leadership worked to make this happen even while they were serving a UMC community of faith. For me, that’s an inexcusable breach of ethics. They even had the new website up immediately after the announcement, which makes me wonder where the resources for planning the new church came from. Did it come from within the UMC community (perhaps solicitations?) What then of the tithe to the UMC community?

    Finally, it seems clear to me that there was a broken relationship between the bishop and the pastor – but resigning at a worship service, combined with an invitation to come to a new church is yet another breach of ethics and unprofessional behavior. I am an outsider, of course, but I would be concerned about following such a leader, specifically in a Christian context.

    • Yes and Martin Luther’s appropriation of German Churches to further the protestant reformation was likewise such a breach – we would all do well to not cast the first stone in this situation, as far as I can tell, the disciples were persecuted primarily because they were not “Professionals”….. Perhaps its our professionalism that has left us in such a decimated state as a Denomination, anyway from what I’ve read this church is changing lives day in and day out, what more can you ask…There they stand they can do no other.

  10. Ben,

    Those numbers are ballpark, but they’re mostly correct per the leadership team and my involvement at various levels. Also, I know what kind of equipment the church used and gave back, so whoever receives that will be able to do (almost) whatever they want and any purchases will only need to be made for specific needs and high-end production use.

    I would only be speculating where they got the money to replace the equipment, but as I understand it they will be using gear owned by guys in the church. Also, not everything was replaced… so they’ll be trying to do more with less for a while.

  11. Pingback: Point, Counterpoint, GracePoint « United Methodeviations

  12. My wife and I were two of the original 21 people that helped start GracePoint 5+ years ago, and have been involved ever since.

    The key question at the center of this was really “can we reach more people in the system or out of the system?” As awkward as it seems, the leadership thinks we can reach more people out of the system.

    We have a responsibility to the hurting people in Wichita to help as many as possible find God.

    • Is our only commitment to Kansas residents? What about the world wide scope of the UMC? Does anyone want to argue that approtionment money that funds UMCOR is somehow unfaithful or insignificant? I’m an evangelical wesleyan and I value souls above all, but there is more to the gospel.

      And, whatever happened to making… and then keeping vows? If the “system” is broke, then fix it.

      To “sleep on my couch, eat my food and then run off with my daughter because you are asked to do the chores” seems weak, every weak indeed.

  13. I think we must remember that as protestants generally, and Methodists particularly, we have schism in our DNA. Not sure we can cast stones at this Senior Pastor, when our whole denomination grew out of a blatant rejection of the ecclesiastical order of the Anglican Church, which of course grew out of the rejection of the Catholic ecclesiastical order.

  14. Lifelong – but Wesley was a life long Anglican. The original Methodist resistance to the Anglican church was a movement within, not outside, the denomination.

    Ronnie – my question would be who are you referring to when you say, “we can reach more people out of the system?” GracePoint’s mission, like every other local church, should not be to save the whole world on their own. That’s the mission of the Church, not a church. So let’s say that GracePoint reaching some more people because it is now independent of the UMC – how many people will reject either GracePoint or the UMC because of the “schism” this creates? John 17 says our unity as the Church is our testimony to the world of the reality of Jesus. Maybe that’s why Wesley did everything he could to stay Anglican. Did GracePoint really do everything they could to stay in the UMC?

  15. David,

    I would suggest the notion that Wesley did everything he could to stay Anglican a stretch, and at worst a blatant disregard for the historical facts. Wesley, when confronted by the Anglican establishment’s insistance that he not preach in the streets, gave them the ecclesiastical equivalent of the finger….”The world is my parish….should I serve God or man” He went on to Ordain more than 25 ministers for the work of the movement both for America and for England. Clearly these were serious breaches with the Anglican establishment, something which he had absolutely no authority to do as he was not a bishop of the church…but somewhere along the way Wesley decided that the system was hindering the movement, and so basically wrote off the system… Did he surrender his credentials, no, but for all intents and purposes – he operated outside of the church. So again – Wesley did just about everything he could to get himself kicked out of the Anglican Church, the fact that he remained is perhaps more testimony to the lack of courage on the part of the Anglican prelates, than Wesley’s acquiescence to their authority.

  16. Yeah, after rereading I exaggerated. But I would stand by the essence of what I was saying – Wesley stayed faithful to as much of the Anglican church as he could and “split” on the issues that he believed were essential. But:
    – he did the things you metion after years and years of preaching, leading, and self examination, not after 5 years leading a church and a few years after ordination
    – he did it to a whole new country, not a place across town that already is being served by churches

    I probably shouldn’t have brought Wesley into it but based on the posts I have read here and in other places I think that this is a local church with it’s own form of “inward focus” that has forgotten there is a whole Body of Christ of which they are only one part. That may not be the case, but it sure is how everything I’ve read makes it look.

  17. David,

    I think the discussion of connection to a broader authority certainly has some merit and you are right about the point at which Wesley broke significantly with the church, its a fascinating study to watch Wesley evolve from a strict Anglican into an ecclesiastical rebel but the progression is certainly there and striking. As for the second point (He did it to a whole new country), actually that’s not entirely accurate. Wesley in fact did most of his rabble rousing and ecclesiastical defiance in England. Many of the men he ordained were for work in Great Brittan not overseas, and he was constantly at odds with the vicars of the local parishes to which he was sending converts. Here is a great article on Wesley’s progression and view of ministerial orders if anyone is interested. http://tiny.cc/fDVQg

  18. David,

    I would say that we see Wichita as the mission field. Not the whole world. And not just a 5 mile radius around the “building” either.

    It is my prayer that no “schism” develops as a result. If it does, Satan wins.

    Did we exhaust all of our options? Hard to say… I’m not on the staff or the board. The decision certainly doesn’t come lightly or easily.

    • Mandoron,

      Was the posibility of a departure from the denomination openly discussed with the congregation? No. Refusing to openly deal with something this significant with both the conference officials, the body of the Elders (ordained clergy) and with the congregation cannot be accept as a sign of good faith and integrety. It seems much more like the willful act of a person who has made up his mind and doesn’t want even the opportunity for reconciliation to occur.

      That the not-for-profit incorporation of “Grace Point Community Church” happened in January and the new website was up and running (almost) immediately are additional signs that Bryson had no desire to remain within a denomination where “mutual accountability” is accepted as the norm.

      I am also saddened by this situation. But, to blame the demonination as somehow stiffling creative leadership is ill-informed. You only need to consider Church of the Resurrection to see the latitude that a gifted pastor has to develop a great church and to reach the lost. For anyone to say “it can’t be done and that is why Bryson left” is either uninformed or is looking for someone to blame in order to justify this action.

      After this, if I were a member of GPCC, I would always be concerned at what other significant decision about our church the pastor was hiding from me.

  19. I think they just want to be a mega church, they want to be as sensationilized and out there, the pastor wants attention attention attention, I went to this church when it first started at the zoo, I quit going when it was at maize, why? Because i did not feel like I was part of the upperwardly moble people running it. i never felt the warmth they say they give. I never felt the presence of the UMC when they had it. I think this whole move was just another way to bring publicity. oh and about the money, they are not hurting for money, I am sure they got their way around it some how. I am mean the pastor drives a big ol caddy. That turns me off too. yes his wife is a doctor but she was not practicing when the church started, so where did the money come from to start up her practice? I just think the whole thing stinks. I am glad the are not part of the UMC anymore. I think he just used the UMC and never planned on continuing it, or if he did it was only for the monetary gain.

  20. Wonderer,
    You make some pretty serious accusations for someone who only has speculation, and shoddy speculation at that, to rely on. Accusations like that should come with a real name attached, but I realize it’s easier to hide behind a fake name when spewing venom.

    I am sorry you had a bad experience at GP. I’ve never known anyone there to be anything but kind and open. I hope that if you aren’t active in different church you might give GP another chance. If not, GP, then I wish you well finding another church home and hopefully, they will help you find the grace you don’t seem willing to give.

  21. Wonderer,

    Your rhetoric is disappointing and hurtful, I am reminded of Jesus admonition to not cast stones if we are without sin, and his call to take out the log in your own eye before you try take the speck out of someone else’s eye. And trust me, judging church staff by the kind of car they drive would take you down a very conflicting road. I am fundamentally not glad they are no longer with the UMC, it is a sad and disappointing statement about the nature and future of our denomination. We should be weeping, repenting, and crying out to God for forgiveness…that is the way of our saviour!

  22. Carlos and David,
    The primary historical issue with Wesley is that he gave the Anglican leadership a chance to help in his missionary efforts. The comments about the world as his parish is to the Bishop that refused to help him. Wesley tried to work within the system. The conference only found out about this when he announced it on Sunday morning. There is a difference.

  23. Andrew, I posted a comment yesterday in response to “wondering”‘s accusations about the pastor of GP and it hasn’t been posted yet. I think you should either post my response or remove the post from “wondering”.

  24. A few questions from a UMC member at another UMC church in Wichita. We as a church are so heartbroken for the membership of this church. To have to live out this struggle publicly, to have what seemed to be a vibrant caring person cast away his credentials, to have a website up for the divided new congregation up so soon. I ask this, did Gracepoint members give financial gifts under false pretense that were used for this division? Was any of the production/computer equipment that was bought when the church was functioning as a whole UMC church left? What about the expensive architectural plans, were these left for the original church, and the name…does the name belong to Pastor Butts or is GracePoint property of the UMC Conference? We are praying for all involved, but these are the questions that I would be asking if I were a member, as it seems from the outside like the remaining congregation has been literally fleeced. It might have hurt less to have had all of this stolen in a robbery than right from under their nose by one of their own. Please new GP folks, dont hang me because I am asking, I just don’t know?

  25. Nameless,

    Again, we Methodists must be introspective not accusatory during this time, are we not a movement saturated in grace, can we not, as Wesley would exhort us, “Think the best of others always”, should we not remove the log from our own eyes before we try and remove the spec from our brothers. To accuse people of theft is reprehensible in this situation. I am not a member of GP, don’t even live anywhere near the city, but I do believe that if we as a denomination do not learn the deep lessons of this departure, we are doomed to see it repeated hundreds of times in the next few years. Our failure both in this instance, and our failure to hold onto hundreds – perhaps thousands of high caliber, deeply devoted, spiritual leaders has devastated our church. Casting stones, and hurling accusations is the wide and narrow path that leads to destruction.

    Nameless and others who are headed down this path – I call on you to repent, return to the message of Grace and Forgiveness that is at the heart of our Wesleyan Proclamation. Pray blessings upon Bryson and GPCC that many more will come to know the saving power of our Lord through there witness, pray the same for the hearts and minds of our UM leadership but always remember the easiest way to lose our own religion, is to assail another’s faith…..

    To Bryson: I’m not sure whether this was the best thing, I’m certainly sure that were all sad to lose you, but brother I know this – The same God who called you to the UM church, will go with you as you leave, may He bless you and keep you, may he cause his face to shine upon you, may he lift up his countenance upon you and give you peace…. And remember “You have nothing to do but save souls, so spend and be spent in this work!” John Wesley’s Charge to his Preachers.

    • Dear Lifelong Methodist,

      I agreed that we shouldn’t be “casting stones” and that we should be trying to figure out what we are losing bright and gifts young ministers.

      But, your post sound like an apologetic for every impatient 30 something that wants to make a church in “his own image”. Maybe the fault is that our evalution process for new clergy is not rigorous enough. Sure, I believe that an “evangelical and entrepenural” spirit is essential in today’s religious landscape. But, to entrust a worshiping congregation of 650-700 to a single ordained (and youthful) pastor and his hand-picked (an mostly uneducated) support team is a formula for the disaster that occurred.

      I continue to wonder why as that congregation grew, the bishop didn’t appointed an older, more experienced ordained person to provide the “balance” that personality driven ministry so obviously needed. Clearly, little or no regard was taken to assist new members in learning about and embracing United Methodism. That will be one of the lessons learned, and while it may slow some expansion, it will prevent the thief of the next “personality driven” congregation.

      I, for one, would have wished that Bryson would have honored his ordination vows and brought his concern to the body of the elders. But, he never really had time for fellowship within the order. I guess we all should have seen this coming.

  26. name unimportant,
    Here is what I know as a member. The pastor and his wife took out personal loans to start the new church and all of the money in the bank, equipment and property was given back to the UMC. The day of the announcement, the tithe was taken before Bryson told us of his plans, my after-thought on this was that it was to prevent anyone who was going to tithe from withholding the tithe. I thought that was a thoughtful consideration.

    The architectural plans belong to the architects and I believe they will be used for the UMC Gracepoint, if they want them.

    The Gracepoint name was created by Pastor Bryson and though he was under the umbrella of the UMC, I’m not aware of any kind of intellectual property agreement or clause that would prevent him from using the same name at a new church.

    After the service on March 1 when this was announced, there was a FAQ list available to all members so that we could get answers to some of these questions (not specifically the last one you ask about the name, I get that info from conversations I’ve had with leadership).

    So, that’s what I know. I hope that helps you understand that those who chose to go to the new church did have information from the church leadership answering many of our questions. We didn’t walk into this new situation lightly or without consideration. Does that help?

  27. The separation of former Grace Point United Methodist Church members from the United Methodist Church (UMC) is disturbing to me. As a Christian, and a United Methodist, I am willing to follow God’s leading wherever that takes me. I am impressed that the former leadership of Grace Point United Methodist Church (UMC) has the same focus. Both the former leadership of Grace Point UMC and United Methodists fervently pray for non-Christians and work towards sharing the good news of Christ’s great love so that anyone and everyone can have the opportunity to share in the life that God has made available to us here and in the hereafter.
    However, God gives us more than just “a feeling” that reassures us we are doing His will. In the Bible He gives us principles for relating to others. He expects us to fulfill our covenants with Him and with other Christians and to keep our promises. He expects openness, humility and respect when we have disagreements, especially with Christians. He gives us people in authority to help guide us. He expects us to listen to our detractors as well as our “yes men”.
    Mr. Butts, former pastor of Grace Point UMC, has stated that he has no ill-will towards the UMC. It did indeed give him the start he needed to initiate Grace Point UMC. If he didn’t intend to promote a United Methodist church he should have started this project on his own, not with the backing of United Methodist leadership, members and money. The manner in which the split was made was underhanded and not Christian in nature. It is not bringing glory to God and the situation will be a hindrance and excuse for many people, Christian and non-Christian, to disregard God’s call.
    God may indeed be asking the former leaders of Grace Point UMC to discontinue their covenant with other Christians in the United Methodist Church. If that is the case, and they truly believe that is God’s calling, the leadership needs to rethink how this was done and do what is necessary to heal the wounds that have been caused. When God works He doesn’t need our contrivances to fulfill His will. He will provide the money and the structure needed for both the new church and the established church. Don’t make your own rules, take money from other Christians under pretense, divorce the Church body that gave you a start without giving notice, and set up corporations that stand in conflict with the structure under which the church you are serving was established . . . and call it God’s will. If Mr. Butts truly wants to honor God, promote the ministries of all Christians (not just the ones he feels called to serve), and get his church off to a great start, all of the following needs to be done:
    1. Make sure all monies paid by the United Methodist Church to start Grace Point UMC are repaid. It is convenient for former Grace Point leaders to say they have “given back” all that belongs to the UMC but they did not have a choice. Legally land, buildings and equipment never belong to local UM churches. It never was theirs to keep. United Methodists from other churches also gave $300,000 toward start up costs. Have those monies been returned? If God has called former Grace Point leaders to start a new church, He will supply both the funds it needs to keep going and the funds to repay the UMC.
    2. As a show of good faith, consider offering additional or continuing support to United Methodist Church ministries above what is required by law or by conscience. Grace Point not only received financial and administrative support, they attracted some of our most energetic United Methodists and relied on promotion by numerous United Methodist Churches to get started. The UMC has many, many excellent missions throughout the world that former Grace Point could be supporting – if they even knew they existed, which I doubt because many members didn’t even seem to know or care that they were attending a United Methodist church.
    3. Publicly and openly state the specific reasons why Mr. Butts feels that his church cannot continue to do Christ’s ministry under the auspices of the United Methodist church. If we listen we will find areas that we can improve on. Honest criticism will not deepen the hurt it will help us heal and grow.
    4. Determine a new name for the new church. Not only will the similar name for the new church ensure confusion in the future, if God has initiated a new church, a name change is appropriate. Look at all of the people in the Bible who were given new names when God made a significant change in their lives.
    5. Apologize to the members of the Kansas West United Methodist Church for the manner in which this split was made. Many United Methodists gave sacrificially towards the start of a new United Methodist Church with the understanding that the new church would come under United Methodist leadership and guidance. Yes, we are delighted that many people have come to Christ, but the money has been used under pretense and we would like to continue our outreach in the direction God has given to us. I’m sure former Grace Point members will be delighted that the Methodist Church is also fulfilling Christ’s command to plant new churches and call people to Him. God uses many different means and churches to bring people to Him. Some will come through the style initiated by Mr. Butts, some through more traditional United Methodist worship, some through other denominations. It is good and necessary to have them all.
    If the leadership of the church that has split from Grace Point UMC cannot or will not do these things, I would suggest to the members that they need to make sure that a system is put in place to hold their leaders more accountable for the lives and the money entrusted to their care. At this point their track record for keeping promises when it is not convenient is not very good. If the leadership can do these things, there is no stopping this new church!
    Connie Van
    Junction City (formerly Cheney)

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