The Renewal and Reform Coalition in Tampa

General Conference 2012 gathered in Tampa, and Good News staff, board members, and associates convened to take part in the quadrennial proceedings.

Fielding a team of more than 30 volunteers, The Renewal and Reform Coalition was comprised of Lifewatch, The Confessing Movement, Transforming Congregations, UM Action, the Renew Women’s Network, and Good News.

The Coalition had been working steadily to identify vital issues coming before the church, draft petitions, and assess proposed legislation for the Conference.

Breakfast Briefings: “You are here because you value our Wesleyan heritage that combines a love of others with a commitment to the truth of Scripture,” the Rev. Rob Renfroe, president and publisher of Good News, told the delegates at the first breakfast briefing. “You’re here because you believe that when we United Methodists do it right, nobody does it better. When we do it right, nobody combines grace and truth, personal faith and social holiness, heart and head any better than we do. And you believe that what it has always meant to be Methodist must be maintained, protected and celebrated.”

Good News provided seven breakfast briefings at the Hyatt Hotel where delegates had a chance to be inspired by rousing devotionals, network together, plan legislative strategy, be informed about the progress of legislation, and hear presentations about important issues coming before the conference. Our team worked tirelessly from 6:00 a.m. until well after midnight each day to serve the delegates and to promote our Wesleyan vision of the church.

“We will be keeping you up to speed on what is happening with legislation in each of the thirteen committees, as we move through the first week,” the Rev. Thomas Lambrecht, director of the Renewal and Reform Coalition and vice president of Good News, told the delegates. “During the second week, we will be alerting you to issues that are coming up in the plenary session. We will also be giving you background information on important issues and briefing you on the parliamentary process that will most likely lead to the accomplishment of our goals. Finally, we hope to provide you with inspiration and prayer each day to energize your work on behalf of Jesus Christ and his church. We greatly appreciate your service as a delegate, and we want to serve you and resource you in that work.”

Devotions were given each morning from United Methodist pastors such as the Rev. Alice Wolfe of Ohio, the Rev. Steve Wood of Georgia, the Rev. Keith Boyette of Virginia, and the Rev. Ken Werlein of Texas.

“The Church has the awesome responsibility of holding fast the doctrine, spirit, and discipline with which the Methodist movement first set out,” the Rev. Maxie Dunnam of the Kentucky Annual Conference reminded the delegates during his homily. “There is no question – either in Scripture or in our Wesleyan sources – the community of faith is to be a ‘holy people.’”

Dunnam recited a warning from John Wesley, “If you preach doctrine only, the people will become antinomians; and if you preach experience only, they will become enthusiasts; and if you preach practice only, they will become Pharisees. But if you preach all these and do not enforce discipline, Methodism will become like a highly cultivated garden without a fence, exposed to the ravages of the wild boar of the forest.”

“That is what is happening in the highly cultivated garden of the UM Church,” Dunnam said, “and all mainline churches, for that matter….We need a recovery of holiness for holiness by its very nature is an enemy of relativism that is the operative dynamic of our culture.”

The Rev. Karen Booth, director of Transforming Congregations and author of Forgetting How to Blush, gave a special presentation on United Methodism’s struggle with sexuality issues. John Lomperis, legislative coordinator for the Renewal and Reform Coalition, briefed the delegates on the imperative of having United Methodism end its relationship with the Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice (RCRC) through the Women’s Division and the General Board of Church and Society.

During the final morning’s breakfast, delegates received a very special commendation from Mark Culligan, founder and CEO of Soli Deo Gloria International/ New Hearts Outreach, the Tampa Bay affiliate of Exodus International, a worldwide coalition of Christian ministries that reach out with support and help to those whose lives have been impacted by homosexuality. Mark brought greetings from the Exodus network, shared his testimony of almost 30 years of freedom from same-sex attraction and behavior, encouraged attendees with some words of wisdom from the late Chuck Colson, and personally thanked The United Methodist Church for voting to maintain its historic biblical teaching on human sexuality.

Focus Newsletter: Good News’ daily newsletter was once again distributed by many early-rising volunteers to the breakfast briefing and also outside the convention center every morning. Each Focus newsletter contained news, commentary, and edifying devotional material from Christians throughout the ages.

Perspective: UMGC2012.org was launched in order to provide Good News supporters the most comprehensive news and analysis of General Conference business. This included the day’s Focus as well as pressing prayer concerns. Additionally, further digital updates were given via the Good News Facebook page and Twitter feed.

In the midst of grueling hours, technological difficulties, and the weight of concern for General Conference legislation, camaraderie became not important, but essential, as the Renewal and Reform Coalition worked on behalf of local congregations, jurisdictions, and conferences at home and on the other side of the globe. The Good News family continues to grow, and Good News remains thankful to all, named and unnamed, who worked hard to contribute to the Coalition effort at Tampa.

–Good News Editorial Team