Straight Talk: Good News statement on request for a special session of General Conference

For some years now Good News has been working for renewal and reform in the United Methodist Church.

We have maintained, and continue to maintain, that the greatest challenge facing the church has more to do with our fidelity to the truth of core doctrinal teachings than to organizational or structural matters. We have implored our leaders to clearly counter the corrosive claims of theological pluralism and agendas that seek to bring the church into conformity with popular culture rather than having the church serve as an agent for its godly transformation.

The General Council on Finance and Administration has determined that the economic and structural challenges facing the church warrant requesting that the Council of Bishops convene a special session of General Conference. We applaud GCFA’s attentiveness to the health and viability of clergy pensions. We certainly acknowledge that the church, along with individuals and organizations, has been adversely impacted by the economic downturn.

However, we also believe it would be a mistake to assume that macro-economic issues alone have led the church to our current financial and organizational crises.

Should the Council of Bishops determine to convene a special session to address not only the pension crisis, but reorganizational matters as well, we trust such a plan will not be based on the “World Wide Nature of the Church” amendments that were recently rejected by rank and file United Methodists around the globe. That plan failed to address deeper problems and instead proposed more bureaucracy as the way forward. We maintain that any reorganization plan must include at least the following: 1) the merging and/or elimination of various boards and agencies; 2) effective means for holding bishops, clergy and general secretaries accountable for the leadership of the church; and 3) the assurance that the church will remain firmly connected and not carved up into various regions.

We call on United Methodists to give close attention to the challenges facing the church and to pray for our bishops as they consider taking the extraordinary step of convening a special session of General Conference.

By Rob Renfroe, president and publisher of Good News.

Renewal group leaders meet with Bishops’ Unity Task Force

Statement from the Rev. Rob Renfroe, President and Publisher of Good News:
On November 5, 2009, twelve leaders of the renewal groups within the United Methodist Church met with the Bishops’ Unity Task Force.  We were grateful for their invitation to meet at Lake Junaluska and to share our concerns about the unity of the church and how we can move forward in mission together.  The same task force had previously met with a group representing the Reconciling Movement and the Methodist Federation for Social Action (MFSA).  (See below for persons representing the renewal groups and for the bishops present for the meeting.)

We had a wide-ranging and forthright discussion about the matters that threaten the unity of the United Methodist Church.  We spoke about (1) the theological differences that divide our church; (2) events at General Conference that have concerned us; and (3) activities and decisions outside of General Conference by United Methodist leaders which have, at least in our thinking, created divisions rather than unity.

We were very clear that we respect the office of bishop and that we want our bishops to lead us by defending and promoting the church’s positions on controversial issues as stated in The Book of Discipline.  We also made sure to state that whereas we can respectfully listen to all opinions and we can act graciously towards all people, we cannot accept all positions or compromise on what God has clearly revealed in the Scriptures.

We were heartened by the desire of the Bishops to hear us and to understand us.  It was also encouraging to hear from them that many of the issues that concern us have been discussed in the Council of Bishops. All of us present were in agreement that there must be a better way “to do General Conference” and some ideas were shared along those lines.  We are now determining if and how the conversation will continue.Thank you for caring for the United Methodist Church and for the cause of Christ.

Those representing the renewal groups were:
Billy Abraham (Perkins School of Theology)
Steve Wende (Pastor, First UM Church, Houston)
Tom Harrison (Pastor, Asbury UM Church, Tulsa)
Steve Wood (Pastor, Mt. Pisgah UM Church, Atlanta)
Alice Wolfe (Pastor, Anna UM Church, Anna, Ohio)
Chuck Savage (Pastor, Kingswood UM Church, Dunwoody, GA)
Pat Miller (Executive Director of The Confessing Movement)
Tom Lambrecht (Pastor, Faith Community UM Church, Greenville, Wisconsin, and coordinator of the Renewal and Reform Coalition efforts at General Conference 2008)
Liza Kittle (President of the Renew Network)
Larry Baird (District Superintendent, Western New York Annual Conference)
Eddie Fox (World Director of Evangelism for the World Methodist Council)
Rob Renfroe (President and Publisher of Good News and Associate Pastor, The Woodlands UM Church, The Woodlands, Texas.)

Statement from Bishop Sally Dyck, Bishops’ Unity Task Force
Our meeting with the Renewal Groups occurred on November 5, 2009 at Lake Junaluska.  We had an open and spirited conversation around such topics as what unity is theologically and practically.  We also heard from them about their pain in terms of actions at General Conference (again we find that there is deep pain within our church around our divisions).  We began to think about some of the ways in which we can work together (and across differences) to holy conference and will follow up on some of these ideas.
Blessings on you!

Those representing the Bishops’ Unity Task Force were:
Sally Dyck, Chairperson (Minnesota)
Mike Lowry (Central Texas)
Minerva Carcano (Desert Southwest)
Peter Weaver (New England)
Daniel Arichea (The Philippines)
Joao Machado (Mozambique)

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