ASHEBORO, N.C. (WGHP) – Brent Tysinger now knows he will continue leading services in the building where he has worshipped for almost all his life.
Tysinger, pastor at Rushwood Church in Asheboro, said after a meeting on Sunday night his church of roughly 400 members is withdrawing a letter of resignation it had submitted on Feb. 5 to The Wesleyan Church, a denomination with about 175 congregations in North Carolina, citing policies that church members felt strayed from their biblical views.
All of this had been headed for a confrontation on Sunday, when church members were expecting to be told by the denomination’s leadership that they couldn’t worship in their building on Old Farmer Road and that Tysinger couldn’t continue as the church’s pastor because both of those were controlled by the domination. Church members were promising to walk out in unity.
But after a meeting of denomination leadership on Thursday night and a hastily scheduled meeting for Sunday night, Tysinger said Monday that his church had “reconciled with the denomination.
“We felt like our concerns were heard,” Tysinger said. “I’ll leave it at that.”
This may sound familiar. A dispute among United Methodist churches has led to dozens in North Carolina that are suing to withdraw from the denomination because of disagreements about similar philosophies, only to be told that the denomination holds title to the land and buildings church members had purchased and, in some cases, had improved for decades.
Tysinger had said on Friday that his church’s situation was similar to the Methodists, that “the same pattern has emerged.”
He cited Wesleyan’s “woke culture,” using a political buzz phrase that typically is employed to underscore concerns from a more conservative perspective. “Woke culture has started to infiltrate the denomination,” he said. “Our denomination and our church are on two different trajectories. We felt like amicable separation is in the best interest of both, before the situation gets worse and becomes more divisive.”
On Monday, Tysinger indicated those concerns had been addressed.
“I’ve never had a concern about the written doctrine of the church,” he said. “It was just some of the things that were creeping into all churches in all denominations. … We wanted to make sure those were handled. The result of the meeting was good.”
Wesleyan’s oversight splits North Carolina into East and West districts. The East is headquartered in Westchester Village in High Point, with Rev. Jonathan Lewis serving as district superintendent, its top post.
Lewis did not reply to emails from WGHP seeking his perspective on the situation, nor did he respond immediately to a phone message on Monday seeking comment about Rushwood’s decision.
About the denomination
The Wesleyan Church, also sometimes known as the Wesleyan Methodist Church, branched from the Pilgrim Holiness Church and has been around since the mid-1800s. It is said to have more than a half-million members worldwide and about 230,000 in North America.
Faithstreet says North Carolina Wesleyan churches describe themselves with words like “casual,” “friendly” and “multigenerational” and tout a variety of ministries.
The NCEast’s posted mission is “to serve those who are serving Christ under our care and direction through the Piedmont, Triangle, and Coastal Regions of North Carolina.”
Both Wesleyans and United Methodists grew from the doctrines preached by theologian John Wesley and his brother in the 18th century in England. His “Holiness Theology” is at the core of both.
An organization called The National Association of Wesleyan Evangelicals recently sent a letter to “our United Methodist friends” to offer churches leaving the denomination a structure for the future.
The first three points in the letter address churches that “do not wish to again subject themselves” to a strong top-down structure, “have no intention of surrendering their property or land deeds” and “hold to a conservative worldview, and do not support the leftist political ideas slowly seeping into the Evangelical landscape.”
Rushwood’s members had protested Wesleyan’s contention that it owns the church building and can determine who the pastor is.
“They say they own the building and the land,” said Tysinger, who has said he is employed at the discretion of the church and paid by its members, unlike some denominations. “They [Wesleyan] pay nothing” for the church’s building costs or his salary.
‘My entire life’
Tysinger said he grew up “since I was three weeks old” in Rushwood and has spent the past 12 years as its pastor. He said he left only from 2007 to 2011 to “pastor a small church in Trinity.
“When I came back in 2011, the church was about to close its doors,” he said. “There were lots of issues. I’ve been the lead pastor for 12 years, but except for four and a half years, I’ve been here my entire life.”
He preaches on Sundays at 10:30 a.m. – the current sermon series is about Genesis – and on Wednesdays at 6:45 p.m. Those services are shared online as well. The church’s Facebook page includes a prescient quote: “The power expressed by praise clears your mind of the fog of the world.”
Megan Turner was married at the church, has been attending since 2014 and serves as a worship leader. She said in an email to WGHP that all the members “back our pastor 100%. … We stand on the truth of God’s Word no matter what happens to us. Our church is the people, not the building.”