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Holtville residents lined up in front of the United Methodist Church on Dec. 19, 2020, to receive donated food items from church volunteers. | JULIO MORALES FILE PHOTO

LETTER TO THE EDITOR: Explaining the Closure of Methodist Church

This letter is to explain the unfortunate closing of the United Methodist Church in Holtville that formally took place last Friday on March 5, 2021.

By closing the church, the Methodist Conference can take physical possession of the church and its two rental properties — in almost every case, a Methodist Conference already holds legal title to the church properties (churches, parsonages, educational facilities, etc.). 

By taking this action, the Conference is now free to liquidate these properties and then to apply the newly discovered funds for other projects elsewhere.

Early last year the District Superintendent, with the approval of the Bishop for the Southern California and Hawaii Conference, determined that the Holtville Church should be closed. 

The District Superintendent said, “The Holtville church was closed after years of prayer, effort and intervention.” He further stated in correspondence last year that “While Holtville is currently an 83 percent Hispanic community, the congregation does not reflect this community, and has resisted incorporating bilingual or Hispanic-language ministries as well as criticized the bilingual nature and efforts of the current pastor. …”

These observations are not correct. To the contrary, the congregation actually represents a good mix of the current demographics of Holtville. In addition, the monthly effort to distribute USDA commodities to more than 300 low-income families have been immensely successful.

Community involvement in this vital ministry involves more than 20 non-church members assisting in the food distribution. It is interesting to note that the “apportionments” (annual dues) owing to the Conference have been paid in full for the past several years.

The Holtville church has been hard at work developing a long list of programs —certification of four lay speakers, a meaningful youth program, weekly Bible study, community outreach, weekly celebration of a genuine worship service, fellowship activities, and more.

I have been a lifelong member of this church going back to the 1940s. This has been a sad and unnecessary action taken by Conference leadership that reside out of the area. The action to close the church was based on erroneous information and confused thinking. 

While the local congregation has been offered the opportunity to “buy back” the properties, it is unknown at this time what course of action may be taken. Given that the faithful members of the Holtville Church already paid for these properties during the lifetime of this church (1907-2021), finding a workable solution becomes a difficult dilemma.

Victor Dollente was the president of the Holtville United Methodist Church board.