By Rob Renfroe-
I guess I got to the party a little late. I became associated with Good News in 2009 when I was honored to be named president. At that point, the ministry had already existed for over forty years.
Immediately after accepting Christ as a high school student in Texas City, Texas, God placed two great desires within my heart. One was to lead people into a personal relationship with Jesus. The other, and where this one originated I have no idea, was to help The United Methodist Church become more faithful to the Gospel and to John Wesley’s original vision of a passionate movement committed to grace and truth.
I went to seminary and began to pastor and had opportunities to preach the Good News and lead people to Christ. The other desire (to reform and renew the UM Church) remained, never far from my mind but not realized in any real way. As I saw the denomination I loved drift further and further from the truth, I began to attend General Conference and work with the renewal movements. I was a good foot soldier – picking up brochures from the printer’s, passing out literature on the streets, standing in a protest line. Nothing big, but at least I was there. I was involved. And I began to organize the evangelical movement within my own Annual Conference.
When I was appointed to be the preaching pastor at the west campus of the First United Methodist Church in Houston, I had the great privilege of serving as one of the associates of senior pastor Dr. Bill Hinson. In addition to serving one of United Methodism’s most dynamic and large congregations, he was also one of the founders of the Confessing Movement and he brought me onto its national board. It was there that I not only learned more about the problems within the church but I came to know many of the evangelical leaders within the UM Church. Their compassion for others, their commitment to the Scriptures, their love for the church, and the sacrifices they had made to defend the faith all assured me that there was a place in the church for me. Over time I became president of the Confessing Movement and became involved in the strategy sessions held before and during General Conference.
It was at the 2008 General Conference in Fort Worth that I found myself working closely with Good News president Dr. James V. Heidinger II, editor Steve Beard, then board member the Rev. Tom Lambrecht who served as the chairperson for the evangelical Renewal and Reform Coalition, and vice president of development the Rev. Walter Fenton. We spent many late nights and early mornings together in the presidential suite of the Fort Worth Hilton – the very room where President and Mrs. Kennedy stayed the night before his assassination – preparing for the next day’s floor fights.
I could not have been more impressed with the Good News team. Their knowledge of the issues, their experience garnered over decades of leading the evangelical effort, their passion and their creativity – they were a remarkable team and they were providing incredible leadership for faithful United Methodists that kept the church committed to the truths of Scripture.
When I was invited to become Good News’ third president one year later, I was overwhelmed by the honor of being considered. But my heart told me this was the fulfillment of the desire God had placed in my young heart decades earlier and that there was no better team to join than Good News.
Of all the mainline denominations, the UM Church is the only one that has not caved to the culture and adopted a progressive, nonbiblical sexual ethic. And the primary reason is the work of Good News.
Chuck Keysor’s original article, “Methodism’s Silent Minority,” in 1966 sent shock waves throughout the denomination. It told evangelical Methodists that they were not alone. There were leaders who understood them, believed what they believed, and were willing to fight for the truth of the Gospel. As a result, many faithful Methodists stayed in their churches. Whereas evangelicals within other denominations felt alone and hopeless and many drifted off to more conservative churches, a strong, committed evangelical nucleus remained within the UM Church, emboldened by Keysor’s vision and courage. It’s not an overstatement to say that the history of United Methodism was forever altered the day his article was published.
In those early years, great work was required to turn thousands of hopeful United Methodists into a movement. But Good News did it. Methodists from every part of the country came together at national convocations to proclaim the faith and to work together to impact the course of General Conference. In those early years, victories were few but Keysor and others persevered. They learned how the system worked. They organized, educated, and motivated delegates to uphold our biblical faith. And they did so, always taking the high road. None better than past president Jim Heidinger who not only provided visionary leadership and backbone after Chuck Keysor, but whose picture, I’m pretty sure, you’ll find in the dictionary next to the entry “Christian Gentleman.”
What attracted me to Good News is that its staff and its board members were in the trenches, doing the work, getting their hands dirty, and fighting the battles that had to be fought. It didn’t always make them popular. The liberals attacked them. And, sadly, some evangelicals criticized them for being too strong in their beliefs. Not everyone, even conservative Christians, understand why we have had to fight to keep the church faithful. And, frankly, some see the need but they don’t have the heart to get into the fray. But that’s OK. Good News did. Long before I showed up to join the party, Good News did. And that has made all the difference.
I feel a huge debt of gratitude to those who fought the battles when they were truly difficult. Men and women who were vilified by many and mistreated by their bishops because they dared to say that The United Methodist Church was in trouble and they were committed to making it better. Shortly after General Conference this past May, I wrote the following to our team:
“I remember going to General Conference twenty years ago and my role was to pass out literature on the streets. I had no knowledge of what went on at late night sessions as our leaders strategized and made decisions. Years passed and I got to sit in the room, off to the side without saying much. More years have passed, and now we are in the middle of the room where men like Ed Robb and Ira Galloway and Bill Hinson and Maxie Dunnam once sat. It’s very humbling. I remember looking up to them – wanting to serve them and wanting them to be proud of me. They’re all gone now except for Maxie and I still feel that way about him.
“It’s our turn now. I want to honor their legacy and build on what they did. I want do what would make them proud. And I want to do it in a way that makes God proud.
“Your brother, Rob.”
It’s our turn now. All of us. The church is still in trouble and it still needs Good News. It’s our turn to work for a better day even if we’re criticized, opposed, and attacked. That’s OK because that’s always what happens when you lead. I shudder to think where the UM Church would be without the efforts of Good News in the past. And I am sure that our future will be better if we continue to believe God and struggle for a vibrant, faithful Wesleyan witness in the days to come.
I can promise you that Good News will not fail you. We will stay in this fight, I pray always taking the high road, but we will not forsake the battle for a faithful church. You deserve that of us. Those who have gone before us deserve that of us. And so does our Lord and Savior Jesus.
Rob Renfroe is the president and publisher of Good News.