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A New Day Coming

Rev. Rob Renfroe

Rev. Rob Renfroe

By Rob Renfroe-

Many people were shocked, actually offended, when Dr. Ted Campbell told the World Methodist Conference, “The question at this point is not whether we divide or not. That, I fear, is a given now.” A United Methodist elder and noted history professor at Southern Methodist University’s Perkins School of Theology, Campbell told a large crowd gathered in Houston, Texas, on September 1, that it is unlikely that the denomination can hold together.

Such admissions are not usually made in public, especially by persons of Dr. Campbell’s stature. However, behind closed doors, others representing The United Methodist Church are making the same prediction. One bishop told me that coming out of the bishop’s commission, “There will be some kind of structural separation. I hope we can maintain some connection around our central mission of making disciples, but structural separation will be the end result.”

Another bishop was even more blunt in his remarks to me: “We may be able to maintain some kind of connection, but the structural separation that will occur as a result of the commission will be so different than where the church is today, that ten years ago it would have been referred to as schism.”

Several leading “centrist” pastors have come to the same conclusion. One put it simply, “I think separation is inevitable.” Another who had been a supporter of A Third Way was even more pointed in his remarks. “We all know we’re going to split. All this happy talk about staying together is just a bunch of nonsense.”

The election of the Rev. Karen Oliveto to the episcopacy has increased the likelihood that The United Methodist Church will not be able to remain in its present form.  Though our Book of Discipline states that self-avowed practicing homosexuals may not serve in ordained ministry, Oliveto is legally married to her long-time partner, another woman. Still, the Western Jurisdiction chose her to become one of our newest bishops.  This came on top of at least nine annual conferences and two jurisdictional conferences that have committed to not “conform or comply” with the parts of the Discipline they disagree with. This leaves many of our evangelical churches trying to maintain what Methodism has always been in parts of the country where the church has left them.

The response has been predictable. Some churches are withholding their apportionments and others have retained legal counsel to determine how they might leave the denomination. The election of the Rev. Gene Robinson as bishop by the Episcopal Church set in motion a chain of events that led many Episcopal congregations to eventually create a new denomination, the Anglican Church in North America.

I take no joy in believing that there may be a separation within the UM Church, whether we maintain some connection or not.  This is the church I love. This is the church where I found Jesus, or better, where he found me. This is the church that has nurtured and discipled me. And this is the church that has affirmed my gifts and my calling. And I will be forever grateful to The United Methodist Church.

I do not rejoice that we have arrived at this place. But I am hopeful that we are moving towards a new beginning.

I can see a new Methodist movement, either within the UM Church or, if it must be, outside of it.

It will be a movement that is not top down, but bottom up. One where boards and agencies actually serve the local church and are responsible to us.  One where we are organized like a missional force that wants to change the world, not like a bloated bureaucracy.

I can see a movement where we don’t argue over the authority of Scripture or what the Bible teaches about sexuality.  Where our seminaries prepare godly men and women to do ministry instead of being schools of religion where some faculty members don’t believe in our doctrines, and teach the latest theological fads that have no power to change the world and that will be forgotten within a generation.

It will be a movement that has freedom to plant evangelical churches on the coasts and in northern urban centers where people will still respond to the Gospel of Jesus Christ if it is presented by servant communities with grace and truth.

I can see a Wesleyan movement that cares about the rejected, the outcast, and the marginalized – cares about them enough both to minister to their physical needs and to tell them how their sins can be forgiven and their souls can be saved.

Dr. Ted Campbell. Photo courtesy of the World Methodist Council.

Dr. Ted Campbell. Photo courtesy of the World Methodist Council.

I can see a movement that you and I will be excited and proud to be a part of.

It will be a new Wesleyan expression for the 21st century. It will be filled with the power of God and the compassion of Christ that compels it into a lost world that needs Jesus.

There is a new day coming. And we are going to be a part of it. Those of you who are young will have decades to enjoy it and shape it and be blessed by it. Those of us who are older will one day before we die look back and say, “The Lord has done a new thing, and it was marvelous in our sight. And he was gracious enough to let us be a part of its beginning.”

Friends, my hope and my prayer is that we will walk into this new day together. This is no time to become discouraged or to grow weary. A better day is coming and it fills my heart with joy to think of us walking into it together for the glory of our Lord and Savior.

Rob Renfroe is the president and publisher of Good News.

Comments

  1. Karen Powell says:

    Thank you for sharing your vision and hope for a new beginning . It encourages me to not grow weary, knowing that God is faithful and always victorious. Let’s continue in prayer and watch for this new day!

  2. Bill says:

    Well stated, Rob. There are many who are seeing a similar vision of our future. As always, our movement from where we are to where God will lead needs to be underwritten by fervent prayer, and an unswerving devotion to Jesus Christ and His Gospel message. Lead on, O King Eternal . . . !

  3. Janet says:

    Can it be determined how many members are ready to leave the denomination soon, and I mean very soon, if sexuality issues aren’t resolved within the next several months?

    I don’t know how to obtain this information since people are hesitant to respond to issues about church improvement or whether to continue a program that clearly isn’t working because of the ability of aged members.

    Also, I am concerned about how many have already left without letting anyone know the reason? Does anyone have an estimation?

  4. Bob Walter says:

    In full agreement with Dr. Campbell, I only hope that once the process finally gets started, whoever is negotiating for the majority, does not get derailed by fairness. Although most translations of the Bible(as opposed to interpretations) never use the word “fair” except to comment on a physical appearance or the weather, it speaks volumes on how God disdains the world’s definition of fair. Solomon splitting the baby would be the only fair outcome. Taking the talent away from the unproductive servant and giving it to the most productive one is no way fair. Paying each of the workers in the field the same reeks of being unfair.

    Valuing fairness over justice, or mercy (mercy meaning acting out of love where fairness implies an obligation which obviates love or mercy) or over the obedience to God’s will, despite fairness never being taught in the Bible, is how we got into this mess and why we have remained in it for nearly a half century of decline and failure to fulfill God’s commands. Jesus was very clear. If someone in your congregation sins, speak to them. If they continue to sin, speak to them in front of witnesses. Then in front of the congregation. If they still don’t change, throw them out.(Matt 18:15-17) He never said let the sinner have the offering plates and the candle sticks or do everything you can to make it easier for the sinner to continue his destructive subversion of your faith because that would be the “fair” thing to do.

    If you love them, the right thing to do is discipline them for their sin to help them change, rather than ignore, excuse or enable it.

  5. Linda Branch says:

    Thank you Rob, and all of the men who have walked through this with truth, integrity, and grace. You, along with my Pastor, Branson Sheets, are leaders that I know will continue to be courageous in such a time as this.

  6. Tim Frasher says:

    Amen!

  7. Roger says:

    A New Day is Coming is a good article and message about the restlessness of the U.M.C. The one thing lacking is the Leadership that will take us to the goal that the people in the Pew desire to go. These ideas that are expressed here, do not get down the chain of connection to the small church. As far as I know; no polls have been taken in the Church to determine the thoughts of the believers therefore we lack unity. People will soon vote with their feet and pocketbooks. The new W.C.A. organization wants churches to pay another apportionment while they try to transition churches to Wesleyan practices and their association. We cannot serve two masters. We are now engaged in a great Challenge and we need a Nehemiah for a Leader.

  8. Phil Morrill says:

    The definition of “denomination”: a religious organization whose congregations are united in their adherence to its beliefs and practices.

    You can’t warp beliefs and practices to achieve unity. Nothing more needs to be understood.

  9. William B. says:

    Dr. Campbell has done the United Methodist Church no favors. He arrogantly “discerns” where God is guiding our connection. And Rob Renfroe’s “crocodile tears” of “taking no joy” in a schism are hollow and self-serving. A sad and visionless group.

    • Bill says:

      Please share your vision with us, William B. And what method of discernment do you adhere to? The Bible? The Methodist Quadrilateral? Do you represent a group of true visionaries? The Prophet Isaiah uttered these words: “The Lord says; ‘These people come near to me with their mouth and honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me. Their worship of me is made up only of rules taught by men.’ ” (Isaiah 29:13 NIV)

  10. Phil Hannum says:

    Dear Rev. Renfroe,

    I read your 10/26/2016 article above, including the comments from Dr. Ted Campbell, which is silent on an earlier posting from 5/22/2014 in which Rev. Maxie Dunham and 79 other Methodist leaders addressed the same issue(s) publically and closed by writing:

    While we are willing to consider many options, we wonder if it is not time for persons of good faith, representing the spectrum of theological positions within The United Methodist Church, to begin discussing ways to create a “win-win” scenario for the mental, emotional and spiritual well-being of everyone involved? In the manner that Paul and Barnabas chose to part amicably (Acts 15:39-41), can we not work for a way of parting that honors the sincerity of those with whom we differ and no longer brings pain to persons made in the image of God?
    We look forward to partnering with others of good will as we pray, seek God and try to discern his guidance.

    http://goodnewsmag.org/2014/05/regarding-united-methodisms-future/
    http://goodnewsmag.org/2014/05/regarding-the-future-of-the-united-methodist-church/

  11. Rev. Margaret Stratton says:

    I believe that Dr. Bill Hinton, a great Methodist leader, foresaw this house dividing years ago. He stepped forward to help us talk about division and amicable separation.in the early 2000′s. But, the conservative pastors then backed away from him. Whether for fear of thei jobs that I do not know. But, surely he was left holding the bag and an abundant group of his supporters abandoned him. As we read in the book of Revelation we must get rid of the Jezabels in our congregations. A Jezebel is man or woman who is not true to the Holy Scriptures once given to the saints. Their false teachings lead to people losing a true relationship to Christ and separation from God in eternity. Our sin is that we won t hold others responsible for forsaking the truth of Scripture. Some of our leaders may be the Jezabels and tares we learn about in Scripture and the laity as well as believing clergy must find a way to get them out of the true church.

  12. Joyce Baughman says:

    Though none of us has a promise of tomorrow, I find myself on the short end of the perspective, At 82, I am saddened by the fact the UMC is involved in an embarrassing controversy perpetuated by persons who pretend to be something they are not, which are supposedly Spiritual Leaders. Clearly, there is a divide that cannot be fixed just as “oil & water” or :”light with dark”. I had no idea, until the selection of Karen Oliveto, of the magnitude of the problems within the church. These are not minor problems but huge differences that effect the basics & integrity of our faith. I, personally, cannot mesh my faith with people who demean the scriptures, perform same sex marriages, believe there are differing methods of reaching heaven, and who wink at sin, and all in the name of the Lord. Violations of the very fabric of our faith begins at the top of the episcopacy to the local level, infecting people who are looking for truth only to be duped by people of little faith (or perhaps no faith). The main difference between the Gay Community and myself is that I was willing to call my sin by its name, repent of it and let Jesus do His work in my life. Instead, they choose to rationalize their sin, allowing Jesus in their lives without dealing with sin and expecting Him to accept their terms for salvation. If need be they delete or twist the Word of God to conform to their desires. Obviously, I am talking about two distinctly different religions here. In Christianity, we follow God’s leadership accepting that He is in charge. The other religion is accepting men’s theories and thoughts and insisting that God’s words be changed because they know better than He does.There is no way that I can support this with money, presence, prayers or participation in it. The Bible tells me that when I join together with people like this, I am then a partaker with them in their evil doing. I am not saying this because of hatred, or even self-righteousness but because I truly care for and love them. In joining forces with them I must forfeit my own core beliefs which means that it can’t happen. This entire matter is hurtful and divisive and unbelievable. The true meaning of what the UMC was in 1961 when I met Jesus there has changed into something I can’t even recognize anymore. Please don’t say that it is because our culture has changed, because I know that. I am also not out of touch with progress. I know those things, but God never changes. He is the same yesterday, today and forever. It would take a miracle for me to be able to stay with the UMC, which, in its true state, I love. However, a person in their 80;s lives life day by day. Christmas is right around the corner and could very well be my last (or I may have 10 or 15 more). It would have been so wonderful to spend it with my beloved church family. This family is in total disarray now, and I see no hope of reorganizing for at least 3 or 4 yrs. By that time I may be with Jesus or the people whose faith is like mine will be scattered. Only a remnant will be remaining…..or will God’s Word to Peter dominate: “and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not overcome it”?.

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  1. […] Many people were shocked, actually offended, when Dr. Ted Campbell told the World Methodist Conference, “The question at this point is not whether we divide or not. That, I fear, is a given now.” Read the complete Good News article by Rob Renfroe. . . . .  […]

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