Fired Up About Hell

Chad Holtz was the pastor of Morrow's Chapel (a United Methodist Church in the rural area of Henderson, North Carolina) when he wrote a note on his Facebook page supporting a new book (Love Wins) by Rob Bell. Bell's book questions the traditional view of hell as a place of eternal conscious torment for billions of people.

Two days after Holtz posted his note, he was dismissed from his position because of complaints from church members.

The question being asked now is: Was he rightfully fired?

On his blog, Chad explains a little bit about how he arrived at his current belief (see this post // update: his site is no longer available). It's at least worth a read before any of us jump to defend or criticize him. And it's fascinating to me how the simple act of matching a name with a face, a family, and a story can (usually) tame the comments of the harshest critics.

That said, whether or not his firing was "rightful" should be judged by his doctrinal/confessional requirements within his church and denomination. On heaven/hell, the United Methodist position is listed as: "We believe all persons stand under the righteous judgment of Jesus Christ, both now and in the last day. We believe in the resurrection of the dead; the righteous to life eternal and the wicked to endless condemnation" (Article XII, The Confession of Faith, The Book of Discipline).

I'm not a United Methodist, so I don't know the leeway that is granted from this statement. As it stands the statement can cover a fairly broad range of views. But I think Holtz also knew that his position was on the edge of acceptability - at least in Henderson, North Carolina. That's why he candidly wrote, "I hold no ill will towards those who feel it is best I shake the dust and move on" (see his blog post: "What I Lost Losing Hell" // update: this post is no longer available).

Of course he feels no ill will! He knows that he holds a belief, which he is free to do as a Christian (and which I think is within the bounds of Christian possibility), but - too bad for him - that belief seems to contradict an interpretation of one of the beliefs he is appointed as a United Methodist pastor to believe and teach.

All of that to say, I think that Holtz knows his firing is rightful.
Difficult to swallow, yes. But rightful nonetheless.


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Denominations & Unity

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