January 31, 2021
This post concerns a great milestone that Sandra and I have reached in our lives starting back on Jan. 27, 2019. That was two years ago last Wednesday.
Although I have been taking notes for this post for over three weeks, and Sandra and I discussed it together Saturday morning, I hardly know how to begin.
I pray this post will not lose me any readers or friends, but if it does, I’ll remember Shakespeare’s famous line, “To Thine own self be true.”
Jan. 27, 2019, was the day I retired from pastoring in Arkansas from The United Methodist Church.
In early February 2019, we moved to Longview, Texas where Sandra and I would move into a big house together with our daughter, Rachel, and our granddaughter, Summer. That was a great decision for all of us.
So after we got moved in, Sandra and I had to decide where we wanted to attend church. There was a nice little UMC not far from us, so we went to church there for several weeks.
The first Sunday we went to that church, The District Superintendant attended that service too. He was a nice man and after he and I introduced ourselves to each other and he knew I had just retired from pastoring in Arkansas, he gave me his business card and asked me to come to visit him in his office about a mile from where I lived. I told him I would ASAP.
In the interim, the pastor of the little UMC we were visiting sort of let the cat out of the bag as to why the D.S. wanted to see me. The pastor began telling me that he was being transferred to another parish soon and that they were having trouble locating a pastor who would be willing to pastor in a small church that was running out of money and attendees.
When Sandra and I got home from that particular service, I told her what was going on – that the little church may be interested in using me as the pastor. We both agreed that we did not believe God wanted me to pastor anywhere at the time.
Now, let me get to the chase. My sister, Lana, who has called Longview home for 30 plus years lives about 7 minutes from us. She had converted to Catholicism many years ago. Within the next few years, my younger sister, Lisa, who now lives in Dallas, Texas, had also become Catholic, along with her daughter, Maleah, and Lana’s daughter, Kelly. Then there was my daughter, Rachel, and Summer, who had been Catholic for many years.
We attended several of the Catholic churches in the area with Rachel. Kelly and Lana, but it was a decision Sandra and I reached independently to start going to church where Rachel, Summer, and Lana attended – Saint Matthew Catholic Church, about 8 minutes from where we live.
I already knew a lot about the Catholic Church from the time I was in the second grade in Grande Isle, Louisiana where my daddy lived temporarily for a little over a year due to his job.
The elementary school was next door to the grounds of The Catholic Church and children could attend the classes of the Church if they wanted to during recess. So my late brother David who was in the first grade attended. 90 plus percent of residents of that little town were Catholic and David and I did not want to be on the playground by ourselves.
Then there was a nice friend of our family, Alvin Bartholemew, who really took a likening to me and would pick me up every Sunday to go to church with him. I’ll never forget the first Sunday Alvin picked me up and we got to the Church. When we got out of his truck, he asked me if I had any money on me? I said, “No.” He conveniently had ten dimes he took from his pocket and gave to me. He said, “I’m giving you a dollar, but it’s not all yours to keep. The first dime I gave you, you must put in the offering basket when it passes by you. It’s God’s money already. That’s what we call giving our tithes to God, 10% of all you own is God’s anyway. I never forgot that lesson.
As for any of the sermons (or homilies) I heard preached, I don’t remember anything about any of them. Mostly what I remember as a second-grader was how friendly everyone was – especially to the little poor children who were ragged and sometimes not bathed properly. We eventually moved from Grand Isle, but I never forgot the Church or Alvin.
As we started attending Saint Matthew, Sandra admitted to me it scared her to death – the various rituals, etc. that she had never seen before. But she went with me every week. The wonderful Priest, Msgr. Xavier gave us a primer all about the Catholic Church. She would read from it every day. Once after reading in the book for awhile she said to me, “Spencer, there is so much in this book that debunks all the lies I’ve heard all my life about the Catholic Church. She kept reading and kept learning.
Now, let me return to when we first moved to Longview in Feb 2019.
I was still getting newsletters, etc. from Arkansas about the goings-on of the Conference and nationwide and even internationally about the UMC. I was proud to keep up with the news, but I was hearing about the great Issues of the UMC from many other sources anyway. And what I was hearing and reading was not good – completely against MY biblical beliefs.
Many of my UMC friends in Arkansas were also totally against what was being proposed by the UMC. Many of my clergy friends had told me if those things ever happened in the UMC, they would leave the denomination even if it meant losing the security of appointments and even their pensions. I don’t know what my friends have done or what they intend to do in the future.
Now let me get specific about the proposals of the UMC which were supposed to have been dealt with and voted on at an international convention last May in Minneapolis, Minnesota. The meeting was postponed, though, due to the Covid virus. So those issues are still being discussed today until there can be another meeting.
The issue is whether The UMC will accept and place under appointment homosexual clergy and perform same-sex marriages in the Church. Close to 50 percent of the delegates in a previous meeting agreed to accept homosexual clergy while the other half did not. The big issue in the meeting in Minneapolis was how to divide the church assets up between what would be the traditional church and a progressive church. There could be more splits than two, I’m not sure.
Now I go to March of 2019 right after we moved to Longview. I had not seen Lisa, who lives in Dallas for a good while. So her husband, Randy, called all of the clan here in Longview to get together for a big meal at The Roadhouse, a favorite restaurant to all of us. Randy said the “treat’ was on him. So we met and had a great time. After the meal, was over Lisa wanted to come to look at our new house as she had never seen it.
So Lisa and Randy came and stayed and visited for a while even though they needed to get back to Dallas that night.
While Lisa was given the grand tour by the ladies, Randy told me he had brought me something – some books. We went to my office/ library where he unloaded from a bag several books he thought I would enjoy. They were Catholic books and I thanked him for them and I read all of them promptly.
A few weeks later Randy called me to see if I had read any in the books. I told him I had completed one and was about halfway through with the other one. Although none of my other family members tried to get me to join the Catholic Church, Randy’s approach was quite different, very subtle. He kept sending me books he thought I would enjoy – including a very expensive leather-bound Bible. I would always call him to thank him and even told him I was worried about him spending so much money on me. He said to me, “Don’t worry, to me it’s an investment.”
Soon after the March dinner, Randy called me again for one purpose. He told me he had heard of my having an opportunity to pastor a UMC. He said to me, “I don’t think you should accept that offer as I know you well enough to know you no longer go along with the teachings of the UMC.” I told him that Sandra and I had already made the decision not to take the offer. He and I talked for a few more minutes and he had to go.
Three or four days later, right after Sandra and I had finished our morning devotionals, I told her I had to talk to her about something important.
I said, Sandra, I am a Catholic in my heart and I want to join Saint Matthew Catholic Catholic Church as soon as I can. She told me she knew it already and said she wanted to join too.
So we made an appointment with the priest and got everything started to become members. He told us, now Spencer, I would recommend you both go through RCIA training before you make your final decision. RCIA stands for Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults.
We both took the course and loved it and a joining date was set. So we are now both Catholics.
I can’t explain to my friends who are non-Catholics what I meant in my teaser of this post yesterday how that mine and Sandra’s lives have been blessed beyond measure as we work in our Church.
Sandra was telling me a few days ago how much she hurt as she gave birth to John Paul. My mother-in-law was in the holding room with me as we waited for the doctor to finally come to pick Sandra up and take her to the delivery room. Sandra was crying, I was crying and Ruby was crying. Sandra told me as we reminisced about that day a few days ago that there was no way possible to explain to a man or even a woman who had never had a child how painful childbirth can sometimes be. I told her I was sure she was right.
So I extrapolate Sandra’s experience of childbirth to my non-Catholic friends, there’s just no way to describe it. Soon after Randy’s conversation with me about him knowing that I did not believe in some of the things the UMC had become, I wrote a nice letter to my Bishop back in Arkansas that I was withdrawing all my affiliation with the UMC in Arkansas.
I told the Bishop that in good conscience I could no longer be identified with a church that did not speak out against abortion as it should (I quoted to him how the latest poll from a reputable polling company said that 58% of United Methodists thought that having an abortion was okay). And then I told him there was no way I could continue being involved in a denomination that 50% of the clergy not only believed in sodomy but promoted it.
Then I told him some nice things about himself, how I enjoyed reading his daily devotional on Facebook, and some other pleasantries. A few days later, the Bishop had unfriended me on Facebook and never acknowledged I had even sent him a letter. I even shared with him how that the Methodist Church had been where my Grandmother Plumley served and worshipped until she died at nearly 100 years of age.
I would be happy to send a copy of the letter to anyone that wants it if you will send me your email address and promise me you won’t publish the letter anywhere.
I loved the UMC and all the great friends and parishioners I had through the years and I shall never forget them.
As an active Catholic, I am fully involved in the Church. I recently was initiated into the Knight’s of Columbus, a fraternal group of Catholic men who do charitable work for people regardless of race, color, or social status around the world. And now, I am also an official Lector (one who reads the scripture from behind the ambo, Greek for pulpit) at Saint Matthew’s.
I’ve gone much longer on this post than usual but could go even longer but I try not to keep my posts so long that people won’t read them.
An important note to all my non-Catholic friends: Please do not take this letter in any way to think I am being impolite to you. So many of you worship in Protestant Churches and do much good for the Kingdom. Anyone who obeys the Commandments including what is often called the 11th. Commandment or the Greatest Commandment declared by Jesus, “And thou shall love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul and with thy mind, and with all thy strength: this is the First Commandment. And the second is like, namely this, Thou shall love thy neighbor as thyself. There is none other commandment greater than these.” – Mark 12:30-31. So I say to you Protestant friends, keep working for Jesus as we are all under the same commandments to do so.
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God Bless You,
Spencer and Sandra Plumley