I want to comment on two articles in the January/February 2011 issue.
“Experiencing the Supernatural” brought great joy to my heart! I have been claiming John 14:12 within the various churches I’ve pastored since 1977—often to be faced with blank stares or even open rejection. However, I have also seen great movings of the Holy Spirit in churches hungry to overcome past non-Biblical teaching concerning miracles and the gifts of the Holy Spirit. The positive results have sometimes happened when doing a series of teachings on the Holy Spirit to people willing to receive and flow in the Spirit. The greatest hindrances have been spiritual unconcern or previous false teachings concerning gifts of the Holy Spirit, especially the misuse of the gift of tongues.
Praise the Lord for the new Methodist School for Supernatural Ministry. I’m praying this will continue to gain traction as people get tired of simply playing church and instead become empowered with the power of the Holy Spirit. Why? Because this is a direct fulfillment of a ministry Jesus gave to the church. When we properly uplift Him, as opposed to those simply worshipping their limited or faulty understanding of the Holy Spirit, a new wave of revival will spread across Methodism. As someone once said, “If you want more of the Holy Spirit, draw closer to Christ!”
Concerning “UM mission agency discusses budget and theology,” what I find is the typical ongoing reorganization that keeps turning the same crank.
Many years ago (1990s), I was the chairman of the board of one of the mission agencies within Red Bird Missionary Conference. At that time we had a representative from New York come to the mountains of Eastern Kentucky with the specific purpose of teaching us how to better accomplish missions in the mountains. After much talk there was a question and answer time. So I asked, “Can you tell me how many more souls will be led to Christ if we implement the things you are teaching?” The answer was, “That is an irrelevant question.”
Such an attitude that ignores John Wesley’s mandate to “Offer them Christ” may explain part of the decline the General Board of Global Ministries (GBGM) is dealing with. Good works are wonderful, but if they ignore the basic need for people to come into a living relationship with Christ, we are little more than one more welfare agency.
I applaud the Challenging the Mission work on the Theology of Mission draft. I’m waiting to read it and see if it truly leads people to Christ through a renewed emphasis on evangelism. Bishop Peter Weaver from Boston is right on. However, as he said, “I find the theological statement an improvement, but not quite there.” I join him in yearning for a “clarion trumpet call.” His thoughts about the Theology of Mission draft—“I believe, reflects some of the lukewarmness of the church”— speaks volumes. I’m praying that this doesn’t grow cold like the commission tasked with defining the mission of the church many General Conferences ago. After four years of work, they needed four more. Perhaps we simply need to read the Word!
Richard E. Held
Burnside UM Church
I have resigned my position as a pastor of a United Methodist Church. This decision became much easier as I continued to read your magazine and experience what was going on in the Wisconsin Conference. I can no longer with good conscience continue to operate within a denomination that, on paper, voices traditional Wesleyan beliefs but in practice endorses everything that goes against these stated beliefs.
Your magazine has helped my decision. I have read the articles in which you recognized that the differences between the two sides are much deeper than the surface symptoms, that they are theological and scriptural. And while I understand that you have labeled yourself a “renewal” movement and therefore, by definition, have to work for the renewal of the denomination, I am convinced that as an organization you fail to recognize that you are trying to cure a terminally ill patient.
The United Methodist Church is hemorrhaging members, and in my experience as a pastor of a UM church, unable to attract and keep new members because of our liberal reputation. New members are shocked to learn, through various sources, that their giving goes to support abortion lobbying in Washington, that their youth camps could encourage students to “come out of the closet,” that they are investing in a church, that with one pastoral change could become a bastion of liberalism, and that there is no system in place to bring accountability to all of this.
But when it comes to organizations like yours the problem worsens: 1) this disease is treated like a cold when it is a cancer and 2) groups like yours, while laudable in their efforts, are also either naïve in thinking that renewal is going to come to the large number of leaders and institutions who are convinced they are correct in their interpretation and theology or worse, you have embraced the “open” motto more so than the purity of the faith you have been entrusted with. After serving as a pastor in the denomination, I fear it is a malignant combination of the two.
After reading your magazine for years, I am convinced that you think you are dealing with a cold. Though I have read your recognition of the deeper issues, your treatment is not at the level of the disease. You support and engage in “holy conferencing” but what is holy about the conversations? Please show me in scripture where civil conversation was encouraged in lieu of the maintenance of the purity of the faith.
I fear you embrace “open” and “conferencing” more than you do “holy.” In my conference, rainbow scarves predominate at our Annual Conference among elders and those being ordained, pastors share parsonages with same sex partners, put rainbow markers on their signs, and invite other churches to “Prayerfully Pro-choice rallies” with no repercussions and all under the guise that part of being “United Methodist” is the wonderful ability to embrace a wide spectrum of ideas and live and serve in unity. Thus, I am invited to earnestly listen to and discuss the issue of “homosexuality” year after year, pay the salaries of those I would consider opposed to the faith and ruining the denomination, all under the conditions that I recognize that all of us are children of God, have the abiding witness of the Spirit, and are working from the same playbook.
Having read your magazine for years, I have come to the conclusion that renewal movements are futile because you embrace “Open minds, hearts, and doors” and “cordial conferencing” more than the purity of Gospel or the Wesleyan heritage. I am convinced that the only answer is a split in this denomination. I am convinced that for the sake of integrity and the purity of the Gospel, I can no longer serve in the United Methodist system.
I give Jeers to Good News for printing letters signed “Name Withheld” (January/February 2011). Anonymous letters are never “good news” regardless of their take on any issue.
Also, I thought that rock-ribbed, “I am not ashamed of the gospel,” evangelicals would be expected to stand up and be counted. What good does it do to anonymously bemoan the state of the United Methodist Church and tell us of your leaving? Where’s the renewal? Where’s the faith and hope? It appears to be nothing more than bitter catharsis.
As a young seminarian in the 1980s, I got on board the “us against them” train. In my opinion, this posture fuels some, though not all of the Good News movement. It felt good at the time. I assumed that I was on God’s team fighting the forces of Satan, evil, and of course liberal theology. In my day, as a seminarian, it was actually trendy to be ashamed to be a United Methodist. We went ahead and became United Methodist pastors anyway, feigning our anxiety all the way to the ordination altar, into the pastorate and pension program. Ah, what a cross it was to bear!
After 25 years as a pastor, I have come to believe that much of the “liberal verses conservative” debate is a tool of the evil one. It distracts us from proclaiming the good news of Jesus and doing the things he commanded. “Why do you call me ‘Lord, Lord,’ and do not do the things I have asked?” (Luke 6:46).
The UM Church will never be a perfect church. We will never be a confessional church. We are a diverse church—the spiritual womb of both Rush Limbaugh and Hillary Clinton. If you can’t find a home within the drip line of our vast umbrella, perhaps you need to move on.
Personally, I think that Jesus is alive and well in the hearts and minds of the people of the United Methodist Church. With all its imperfections, I’m proud to call the United Methodist Church my home.
Oak Hill UM Church
God’s heavy work
Far too often we hear about people thinking of leaving, or have already left the United Methodist Church because of the moral decline we are experiencing. There were two letters in the January/February edition of Good News expressing discouragement in our church. I’ve even heard of a pastor who suggested to a couple that they might be happier in another church, so they left.
I too quit the UM Church for four hours. It was the night the Episcopalians consecrated a practicing homosexual as bishop. I was so agitated I couldn’t sleep. So I explained it all to God. Everything that could be said had been said. Folks wouldn’t listen to me anyway. Then God made it clear to me that he needs witnesses; quitting won’t help. My life has changed a lot since then, and is now focused on God’s work.
Sure, it is discouraging when people don’t listen, but God is doing the heavy work here. All we have to do is continue to tell the truth of the Bible. See Ezekiel 3:4-11.