Sumter Commission splits on Villages pastor’s request for street name to honor Methodist leader

In a rare split 3-2 vote, Sumter County commissioners voted Tuesday to change the name of County Road 143 south of Lake Deaton to Wesleyan Way.

The road runs past the site where New Covenant United Methodist Church is building a new church and the Rev. Harold Hendren, senior pastor, requested the change.

He said the name change would honor John Wesley, founder of the United Methodist Church.

CR 143 runs north of State Road 44 from near County Road 468, west to a couple blocks past where County Road 44A begins.

In a Sept. 11 letter to County Administrator Bradley Arnold, Hendren wrote that the church, which began with 54 members, now serves 3,000 people weekly and soon will be opening its second Lake Deaton campus. The other campus is on County Road 101 north of County Road 466.

Up to 1,000 people will be attending weekend worship services at the Lake Deaton church within a few months, according to the senior pastor.

He also cited New Covenant’s commitment to the community, which includes construction of 29 homes in Wildwood, providing mentors for at-risk middle-school children and donations of more than $288,000 to local charities through the Bargains and Blessings resale and thrift shop.

“Because the church feels as if we are part of the community, we are graciously requesting that the Board of County Commissioners consider allowing one of the street names to take on our United Methodist’s identity,” the senior pastor wrote.

Despite Hendren’s case for the name change, two commissioners disagreed.

“We can’t have everybody coming to us and asking for road name changes,” said Commissioner Doug Gilpin, noting that he, too, is a Methodist. “There is a serious cost involved.”

Commissioner Steve Printz said it could be a “slippery slope” if others request name changes.

But commissioners Garry Breeden, Don Burgess and Al Butler voted to approve the name change.

Notification of the potential change was sent to 10 affected property owners.

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