Asheville – An Asheville church decided to sell its property and invest in “local needs,” according to a press release received by the Tribune. Saying that the congregation was “imagining a new model for what a faith community can look like…Biltmore United Methodist Church has voted to sell its property and devote its energy and resources toward responding to Asheville’s most pressing social needs.”
When you get deeper into the press release, it appears that a decline in membership at the church, along with the pandemic and maintenance costs, is at the heart of the sale.
“COVID-19 added a new layer of difficulty. The church halted in-person worship and community support groups and ceased operations with the Asheville Creative Arts Preschool.” The release goes on to say, “Faced with ever-increasing expenses for maintenance, utilities and upkeep, the leadership team began considering a different future. Church leaders drew inspiration from their experience in Seeds of Change, a series of workshops led by Wesley CDC for churches to learn how to better use their properties for more effective ministry.”
I think the church better confront the fact that we are living in a post-Christian era. The Biltmore United Methodist Church chose to sell out their 1.9-acre, 1940s era campus and to social justice.
“Woven into the vision is a commitment to racial justice. The protests following the murder of George Floyd last year prompted the congregation to embark on conversations and calls of action to end personal and systemic racism.” Pastor Lucy Robbins told her congregation, “My hope and prayer is that we, as the Church, can rally around the injustice in our midst such that our world can be changed…And that begins locally.”
Doesn’t that change come from the heart? A change that is a spiritual experience in one’s being? Doesn’t that change come from a higher power, one the church used to refer to as God?
The release said the money would be used to “…address homelessness, food access, health care, children’s needs and other priorities in partnership with local nonprofits.”
But what about the people’s spiritual needs? Sure, you have to take care of people’s physical needs before they can worry about their spiritual needs. If what the church tells us is true, that afterlife is for eternity, shouldn’t there be some provision for people’s spiritual needs?
Penn Jillette, American magician, actor, musician, inventor, television presenter, author and, of course, atheist, said, “I’ve always said that I don’t respect people who don’t proselytize. I don’t respect that at all. If you believe that there’s a heaven and a hell, and people could be going to hell or not getting eternal life, and you think that it’s not really worth telling them this because it would make it socially awkward—and atheists who think people shouldn’t proselytize and who say just leave me along and keep your religion to yourself—how much do you have to hate somebody to not proselytize? How much do you have to hate somebody to believe everlasting life is possible and not tell them that?”
So my question to the church’s leadership is, “…will any of the proceeds go toward people’s spiritual needs?” Oh, I actually sent them that question and I am still waiting on a reply.