Editorial: Methodism’s Late Hour

Rob Renfroe

Renfroe

“So, let us not talk falsely now for the hour is getting late.” That line was written by Bob Dylan in the late 60’s. But it is apropos for The United Methodist Church in 2014. The hour is getting late. And it’s time to speak the truth.

The truth is we may not be able to live together as one church. The truth is if our bishops do not act swiftly and decisively to uphold our process of holy conferencing and enforce our Book of Discipline, The United Methodist Church will be lost. God’s church will continue and the Gospel will go forth, but we will have squandered the beauty and the power of Wesleyan Christianity as embodied by the UM Church.

Knowing that they will not be able to change our official UM positions regarding human sexuality and marriage at the next General Conference, progressives have begun a campaign of disobedience and are now publicly performing services of holy union for homosexual couples. How our bishops respond will determine if this defiance is the end of the beginning or the beginning of the end.

How might our bishops respond and what will be the result of their actions?

They might choose to do little or nothing. This has been the course of action chosen by the majority of our bishops. Some who are left of center, many who see themselves as centrists and most of those who are conservative have refused to make public statements or take decisive action regarding the most divisive issue the church is facing. Wanting to appear as statesmen/women, they tell us that the church should major on the majors and focus its energies on making disciples for Jesus Christ. Agreed. And the crew of a ship should focus on keeping its engines running well and making certain that it’s on course. But when a vessel begins to take on water, at some point the leaks must be repaired or the ship will eventually find itself submerged at the bottom of the ocean.

The division over human sexuality is not a small matter that will fix itself or go away if we just act like it’s not happening. It will sink the UM Church if it is not addressed quickly, decisively, and properly. Doing little or nothing is not the sign of statesmanship. It is the lack of leadership.

At present, the UM Church is declining. Progressives are convinced the reason is our lack of being open to all people. Traditionalists believe one reason is that many of our people cannot abide to stay in a local church or an Annual Conference where the Gospel is not preached, the Bible is not respected, and the Book of Discipline is disregarded.

I receive letters every month from persons who have supported Good News, telling me that they have left the UM Church for those very reasons. Regardless of who is right, the truth is the status quo of United Methodism is a declining church that will continue to diminish to the point of irrelevancy unless our leaders act to right the ship and steer a new course.

They might actively support positions and persons that oppose the Book of Discipline. Our bishops might do so actively or tacitly – both will lead to the same ruinous end. And many of our bishops have chosen this route. Bishop Sally Dyck (Northern Illinois) did so in January 2013 when she stated publicly her support for same-sex marriage as the issue was being considered by the Illinois’ General Assembly. Retired Bishop Melvin Talbert did so when he performed a “holy wedding ceremony” for a gay couple in Alabama this past fall. Bishop Minerva Carcaño chose this option last December when she invited Frank Schaefer to serve in ministry in the California-Pacific Annual Conference. Schaefer’s ministerial credentials were taken from him after he performed a marriage ceremony for a gay couple and said that he would continue to conduct such services in the future. Bishop Grant Hagiya (Pacific Northwest) did so when he appointed a counsel for the church who supports same-sex marriage to try a case involving two UM pastors who performed same-sex marriages. The result? There was no trial and the counsel for the church – who is charged with representing the church’s position – agreed to a one-day suspension for those who performed the services.

We can expect more of the same by progressive bishops who do not personally believe in the United Methodist view regarding sexuality and who are frustrated that so many of us are not as enlightened as they are. The result will be a message coming from our leaders that is confusing to the world and discouraging to the majority of our members. And it will also erode the respect and confidence that most of us possess for the office of bishop. If bishops are able to do whatever they desire, including making a mockery of the Discipline, and the other bishops do not or cannot hold them accountable, the Episcopacy will be seen as becoming ever more irrelevant to the local church.

One could respond, “Well, at least the Council of Bishops asked that charges be filed against Bishop Talbert.” We are still waiting for an announcement that charges have been filed. Assuming that the charges will be filed and announced, the Council of Bishops will be seen as inconsequential and impotent if, as expected, the Western Jurisdiction finds Bishop Talbert not guilty or gives him a one-day suspension as they have promised to do. To a watching world, this would represent a small sound and little fury, signifying nothing.

They might actively support positions and actions that support the Book of Discipline. Since 1972, the UM Church has waited in vain for our bishops – our shepherds who are charged with defending and promoting our doctrines – to create statements, resources and teaching materials that explain and promote our balanced position that all persons possess sacred worth but not all sexual practices are compatible with Christian teaching. Perhaps if the Council had fulfilled its responsibility at some point in the past forty years, we would not be in the confused and divided place we now find ourselves.

There are some signs of hope. Bishop Robert Hayes recently responded to a federal judge’s declaration that Oklahoma’s ban of same-sex marriage was unconstitutional. The bishop stated not only that the UM position did not condone such unions but he also made it clear that the Scriptures are against same-sex relations and that even if society changes, the ways of God do not. When Bishop Scott Jones addressed the clergy of the Great Plains Annual Conference he said UM clergy should abide by UM positions or find another denomination in which to pastor. When asked what he would do if one hundred of his clergy performed same-gender ceremonies, he stated that he would suspend the one hundred pastors and then make certain they received a fair trial.

One shouldn’t need to applaud statements such as those of Bishops Hayes and Jones. But we do. Clear voices coming from the Episcopacy that uphold our position and make a commitment to enforce what we believe are rare. But they are important and they are appreciated.

If more of our bishops would publicly advocate the church’s beliefs regarding sexuality and indicate their determination to enforce our covenant – not simply because they should but because they believe our position to be right – their leadership would encourage the people in our pews and perhaps cause progressive pastors and bishops to come back to the table for conversation, prayer, and holy conferencing.

I once had a bishop tell me that he could do nothing about pastors who performed gay marriages. “That’s an issue for the Board of Ministry and a jury of the pastor’s peers,” he said. I asked him, “Bishop, if you were to discover that I was cheating on my wife and if I told you I had no intention of stopping, would I be leading worship in my church next Sunday.” “No, you would not,” he said. “I would remove you from ministry in that church.” “Then, Bishop,” I replied, “you can do something about pastors who perform gay marriages.”

The hour is getting late. So, let us not talk falsely. The truth is our bishops can act. The truth is our church needs them to act. The truth is, if they do, there is hope for the UM Church. If they do not, we are standing at the beginning of the end. I pray such is not the case.

Rob Renfroe is president and publisher of Good News.

Comments

  1. Do the UMC leaders who are openly and intentionally violating church law and those who do nothing about it care about the future of the church? They certainly have maneuvered the church right up to the brink, and, unfortunately, many seem to be relishing in the power. With this going on, the vast majority of Bishops show up at their offices day after day, week after week, and year after year and maintain silence with relation to this conflict. I suspect that fear drives most of the silence. This issue has not made it to my church yet, at least not openly. My guess is that our pastors live in much dread and anxiety as to when this thing will raise its ugly head. I know that I dread the day that this happens. But, it does appear that the pace is accelerating toward that very day and we all will be forced to choose sides.

  2. Thank You Editor Renfroe for this excellent “editorial” and open letter to our Bishops and Church. As we are at a crossroad in the life of our Church, I hope the leadership and influential Laity take this editorial as a wake up call and start some action to solve this matter. Evangelicals, who have experienced division, have found that they may have lost beautiful buildings but gained something greater. The Church now is like a boat without a rudder, it is free to float anyway the current or wind carries it. The rudder is small but it can guide a great ship to the destination that is intended. Our Church must have a definitive direction and identity to be a vital witness in the world. Because of the lack of vision, the people perish.

  3. Beautifully written. Thank you so much for standing up for the authority of the Bible and speaking so clearly and articulately about these issue. Very educational. And it is so refreshing to find Methodists who are seeking to fight for this.

    I am a youth director in Methodist church and scour the internet to find articles about what is going on in the Methodist Church in regards to the issue of same-sex issue seeing that proponents of it have the most voice out there and not upholding our biblical roots will devastate the UM church in America.

    Thank you, thank you, thank you

  4. Much truth here. Sadly, after 40 years, I can’t imagine that our Bishops, apart from an unprecedented move of the Holy Spirit, would suddenly “get their act together” and start leading the UMC in a scriptural fashion.

    The unfortunate truth is that most of our Bishops are deceived into believing that they are following Christ when they are actually working against Him. 100+ years of modernism in the church has wrought much destruction. Many, if not most, of our Bishops do not even hold to the core essentials of the Christian faith. Why are we surprised then that the clear teachings in Scripture about sexual purity are ignored and “re-interpreted” when we have leaders who don’t even believe in the divinity of Christ or the resurrection? All of the real great debates in Christianity (e.g., Arminianism vice Calvinism) become non sequitors to those who have rejected the historic creeds or only “believe” in them by “re-interpreting” or “re-imagining” the meaning of all the key terms.

    The UMC is reaping what it has sown. Satan is smart. We have spent many decades voting in leaders who do not hold to scriptural beliefs. These are leaders who are truly deceived and truly believe that they are following Christ. This is the leadership we have today. As a friend often quotes, “Why would we ever expect the unredeemed to act like they are redeemed?” I pray that it is not the case, but I doubt that our leadership today is even capable of providing a scriptural response.

    Life is short and many billions of people are falling into a terrible eternity without ever hearing the true Gospel. The UMC is only useful to the extent that it is following and preaching Christ. Right now, I see the Gospel only being preached at the local level. At the UMC leadership and agency level, not only is the Gospel not being preached, sadly, most activity appears to be in active opposition to the Gospel.

  5. It is critical to follow the current church law (‘discipline’ seems ironic don’t you think?) both as clergy and lay servants. Those of us who are United Methodist members have put ourselves under that rule.

    However, I don’t know any United Methodists who would even begin to suggest that the Discipline trumps God’s commands, and that is the issue here. Many of us clearly see God’s commands in this issue as the traditional understanding of scripture and no matter how loving and understanding we want to be (and, in fact are in so many cases, praise God), must follow God’s will as we understand it, even if it seems harsh to some.

    That said, there are also many of us who see God’s commands in this issue as different from the traditional view, and feel that God is calling us to include marriages whether they are traditional or of the same sex. In this view God’s commands must trump the discipline because the discipline is ‘against God’ to the viewpoint. Thus for these people disobedience to the discipline is obedience to God and must be undertaken.

    The issue at hand is whether the disobedience is just or unjust. To each group it is clearly just and equally as clearly God’s will.

    This is the danger, the problem at hand, and the reason the denomination will split in the next years.

    Bear in mind that the Methodist movement has split and reformed in various branches as long as it has existed. This is the way of our theological diversity. The next split will be just as painful as ever, just as destructive to the church’s mission, coffers, and work, but the preservation of the United Methodist Church is not remotely as important as following God’s will.

    The people against the status quo believe God’s will is not being done, and that it is a matter of salvation for those who are gay and want to live as Christians in a committed lifelong relationship. Conversely the people for the status quo believe God’s will is being done and that the issue is a matter of salvation.

    No matter the side you’re on, if you do not see this as a matter of salvation, and yet you’ve taken a position that the other view must be excluded/prevented, you’re not Wesleyan.

    As long as there are people who are committed to both sides of this issue to the point of refusing to “agree to disagree,” the denomination will continue to be divided and a split is inevitable.

    My God have mercy on our souls.

  6. I wish I could say the Gospel is being preached locally. It is sometimes mentioned on Easter, but most of the time, our pastor tells jokes or stories. When he does mention God, there is much focus on love and grace, but holiness is only briefly mentioned during Communion. I think he wants to be liked more than preach, which saddens me. I keep praying and waiting for him to preach with boldness and clarity, and preach on sin, confession, and repentance.

    • Larry Hicks says

      I’m so sorry for you and your church members. As a pastor of a UMC, I would advise you to leave that church and find a local church where the Lords Word is preached.

  7. Thank you Rob for your articles that stand on the word. I do believe that the discipline is in error, when it chooses one sin over all others. Maybe a wording change would be in order that would say that sin is incompatible, with Jesus’ teaching and repentance is the only option. Enough on that. I believe that we are allowing ourselves to be deceived. When we incorporated in our social principles the “The Universal Declaration Of Human rights”, and that we should Implement it. This is a United Nation’s document over which we have no control; about it’s wording, instruction and about how we should behave. Also it is amendable. The Bible is not. It is also becoming increasingly clear where the UN stands on the same sex issues. When they change this document to include same sex marriage then what. John Wesley wrote in our general rules that “these are the General rules of our society: all which we are taught of God to observe, even in His written word, which is the only rule, and the sufficient rule, both of our faith and practice. Little by little we are allowing the world to define what is good and right conduct. I wasn’t at the General Conference in 2004, when the Universal Declaration Of Human Rights was first put in. But I was at the conference in Nashville when the resolution on bullying was introduced and it included this same language. I do not condone bullying but I believe that the Bible is the sufficient rule.Emotions ruled that day. No one wants to not say that bullying is OK and when we hear the stories about how homosexual children that are being bullied, it makes us stand up for what is right. But no one could see the harm in allowing this language in.Who’s gonna Implement these rules when it comes to denying their faith in God’s word. I WILL NOT. My point is that the LBGT groups have turned to the world, because it is there they can change the world opinion of the sinful acts they do and they do it thru emotions, and they are taking the church with them. Jesus spoke about the body and when your eye causes you to sin, pluck it out, and if your hand causes you to sin, cut it off. Paul says turn them over to Satan, I believe a split is in order to save the body.It’s not the eye that causes us to sin it’s our sinful nature and that is what must be dealt with. Lord guide us into your Holiness.

  8. Hi Rob,

    No large group of pastors/churches will be wiling to leave the denomination until agreements are reached on divisions of pensions and property. As much as some might want to leave, the thought of entering senior years with no income and no church is more sobering (and perhaps rightfully so) than continuing to serve a church with whom they disagree theologically. I have known several who left, but wound up leaving the ministry entirely because they could not support their families on an independent church planter’s salary.

    Peace,

    Trey Harris
    Lead Pastor
    NewSong UMC
    Prairieville LA

  9. Whethr right or wrong, it is absolutely true that a small number of committed persons can change the course of events. It is also true that the silent majority will stand by and be apathetic and biblically illiterate. But the truth still stands that from the beginning to the end of the Bible, we see humans trying to change the ways of God and the results are always the same – utter chaos. May God have mercy on all of us!

  10. Recently one of our youth came out as a gay male at the age of 15. I find your point of view of Scriptural reality unteachable to the other youth who also know him. We can’t live out doing good by not embracing all that he is and love him unconditionally-no strings attached in this real life situation. I and the other youth have known this boy since he was young and to condemn him to a life of no love or intimance inhumane. I also find discrimminating against him repugnant. He may be called to ministry and be a terrific shepherd in the future. Proud member of the NIC under the care of Bishop Sally Dyck. .

    • But you’re Ok if God rebukes him and he spends eternity in torment. Shouldn’t he be made aware of that possibility? What would the Church look like today if Paul had decided that the teachings of Jesus just didn’t resonate well enough with the youth of his day to warrant spending another night in prison.

      • But if this young man has not had sex with another male, or looked on another with lust…, he has not sinned. Speak truth to him now before it’s too late. God might be calling him to a life of singleness. We have self proclaimed lesbians in our church, and they are loved just like everyone else. Just because they wear the label does not mean they are sinning.

    • Kris Aves, God bless you and your church for caring for that young gay man with compassion. Sadly, our beloved United Methodist Church once upon a time decided that God’s mind could be decided by majority vote. Instead, we have too often been blown about by every wind of prejudice and ignorance, and it is only courageous leaders such as Bishops Dyck, Talbert, Sprague, Hoshibata, and others who are willing to stand for the truth that all persons are children of God from whose love nothing can separate them, not ever the judgmentalism of those who use the name of Christ but whose hearts are far from him. From what I read in many of these comments, as well as in Mr. Renfro’s essay, one would think none of them was familiar with the material published by our General Board of Discipleship in 1994 that contained the report of the Committee to Study Homosexuality developed between 1988 and 1992 and delivered to the General Council on Ministries and the 1992 General Conference, because much of what people claim here is specifically refuted in the findings of that committee. Those materials, titled, ironically, “The Church Studies Homosexuality” (ironic, because only fewer than 50,000 study books were sold in our denomination of 12.5 million members worldwide – hardly “the church” to which the title refers), are now hard to come by. However, a more comprehensive set of materials titled “Can We Talk? Christian Conversations about Homosexuality” is available through the umc.org website for $39.95 plus S&H – a bargain for some excellent materials. I encourage you to have your church get them and to use them to engage your church and anyone else you can invite to inform yourselves about the issues and perspectives presented – and they range across the board, from progressive to traditionalist – but at least they are richly and fairly presented, and the materials provide guidance into how to carry on “holy conferencing,” which I have yet to see the UMC do around this subject, mainly because the traditionalists claim “the Bible is clear on the subject,” when, in fact, it is not. It is only their interpretation of it that is clear, but it fails to be definitive, any more than was the traditionalist interpretation of the Bible’s perspective on slavery or on women in leadership.

      • Doug Asbury, I looked on the UMC web site and could find no mention of the “Can We Talk?” series. Our church was one of those VERY few who did the previous study. Any hints?

  11. John Donaldson says

    One observation — which has been true for some time — is that we do not have one “United” Methodist Church. We have a loose confederation of United Methodist Annual Conferences, all of which differ in their interpretation of the Book of Discipline.

    The problem stems from an organizational flaw. We have no chief executive officer to enforce church polity across conference lines – as we did in the days of Wesley and Asbury. What the UMC needs is a CEO – archbishop? – with the authority to keep conferences accountable. Without accountability, the Annual Conferences will continue to go their own way.

    Since we are not really united, do we still need to pay general conference apportionments? Seems like if the rest of the discipline is optional, this should go too.

    • I have to disagree. Having an Archbishop would make things worse, not better.

      In Wesley’s day, unlike today, the Methodist bureaucracy was thoroughly orthodox. Early Methodism put in place a strong top-down hierarchical system of accountability because the main issue they were dealing with was rogue pastors that were deviating from Methodist teaching. Hence, orthodoxy was enforced from above.

      Today, however, we are dealing with the opposite problem. The UMC bureaucracy has abandoned orthodoxy and embraced un-Biblical interpretations of Scripture. And the percentage of our leadership that has abandoned orthodoxy has been increasing for over 100 years. While we still have many pastors at the local church level who hold sound Biblical beliefs, as you move up the hierarchy, you find that scriptural integrity diminishes the higher you go up. When the top is rotten, a top-down organization like the UMC is incredibly destructive. It also attempts to enforce the beliefs at the highest level by controlling the promotions and appointments of those below. That is where we are today. The saying is true, “a little leaven leavens the whole”; After 100 years, there is now very little orthodoxy left at the highest levels.

      So, by appointing an Archbishop with higher authority (who would most likely be elected by our already unfaithful Council of Bishops), we would find ourselves in a worse position. The chance that this Archbishop would hold to sound scriptural beliefs would be slim to none. As a result, rather than acting decisively to enforce the Discpline, we would more likely see un-Scriptural beliefs forced down upon our more orthodox Conferences. The end of which would be worse than our current situation.

  12. Rob,
    I am sorry but your own words could be used against you, “So, let us not talk falsely now for the hour is getting late.” Your article was far too weak in addressing the hour. I am starting to conclude that even Good News has failed us along with the other renewal movements. The ship is 8/10ths underwater and you all are still hoping for dialog or miracles from the council of clowns who are focused on their pensions from clown college and feeling invincible. This has been clear for at least 20 years but the leaders of the renewal movements have failed us by just talking while the liberals moved the bar miles and miles down the road. They are almost at the goalpost now and the shot is about to go off that the game is over. How sad it will be when we look back and see we totally blew it when we could have won the game with some decisive action. But we continued to write and talk and talk and write instead. How sad indeed.
    A group of renewal leaders should hold a meeting and let the press know and focus in on ending this charade. Put together a strategy to toss out ALL those including bishops who will not uphold the Discipline. Fly to Africa and organize meetings there to plan out this strategy to make the Gen. Conf. of 2016 the continental divide Conf. By 2020 it will be way too late. Figure it will be a street fight and put on the armor of God and bring your switchblade. Stay away from the deceptive vocabulary of the liberals like, “Holy Conferencing”. Make the purpose of 2016 a time to change or a time to rend. Wait NO longer. There won’t be anything worth fighting over by 2020.
    God bless Bill Hinson. It took him a long time to see it but finally he did a decade ago. But then the renewal groups at best, did not support him and at worst assailed him. That is the only vote in G.C. history that looks crazier than the vote back in the 80’s to become a 20 million member denomination in 4-8years time.
    It is time for battle. War has been upon you for decades. There is no time left polishing swords and writing poetry.

    • Good News and the other renewal groups have not failed us.

      The renewal groups have worked tirelessly by keeping us informed, letting us know where the battles are, and working with our friends to influence General Conference. Remember, up until now, everyone (liberals, progressives, and traditionalists) has respected the Discipline even when they disagreed with it. Now, however, the battle field has just changed. The progressives and liberals have, in an unprecedented move, decided that they will no longer enforce those parts of the Discipline they disagree with! This is a totally new and terrible game.

      IIt is we, ourselves, who need to be warriors in the fight. If we truly believe that the UMC is worth saving, we need to stand up and be counted. Now is the time to pour in our time, treasure, and talents. And, yes, as you point out, the gloves are off. (I like your street fight / switchblade analogy.) Christian integrity and Christian honesty!

      It’s an uphill battle since much of the UMC bureaucracy is corrupt and apostate. The big question right now is where to concentrate the fight? Do we fight to save the UMC? Do we fight to split the UMC? Both? These are the questions and guidance we need from the leaders of our renewal groups; it is crystal clear that no leadership is coming from our Bishops (aside from apostate leadership).

      Rob and all our renewal leaders need prayer now as never before!

      • Wish I could agree with you completely instead of partially Paul. I will be clear and maybe blunt but I mean no harm.
        I don’t know how long you have been in the UMC or possibly an Elder but homosexual “weddings” have been happening at least since the very early 90’s if not the late 80’s. They have continued the whole time. So this is NOT new it is just a bit more public and by higher “officials”.. In 92 Jim Heidegger is quoted commenting on one in national UM publications and secular nationwide newspapers along with other UM leaders. Trials and homosexual “weddings” have been going on ever since. This is just one part of the UMC becoming Ichabod.
        Yes they have kept us informed. Thank God for that piece of it. You say we should be warriors in the fight. I have been there for decades. But neither you nor I can organize people around the country and overseas to come to G.C. with a plan to cast these people out or be prepared to leave a rapidly dying church. We need the leaders to now lead and recognize the Rubicon has been crossed and if they mess around any longer all will be lost. Dialogue must end and spiritual and political warfare must begin. The battle that we have watched the liberals winning for 40 plus years now be joined at 2016 G.C. instead of simply being reported on. We must face the clear reality that has been obvious for 20 years, we cannot walk together. Let’s give them the left foot of fellowship and not let this Church die.

      • Pudentiana says

        You are correct. It is time for the laity to remember that we are accountable to God more than to our Annual Conference. If you want a revival, let us turn to the Lord and demand that our Bishops, so-called Shepherds adhere to the Bible and the Discipline. Upon reading the gobeldikuk of Bishop Roy Sano one can see that he has had to stand on his head to affirm acceptance of same sex unions and ordination. He should be booted out of his “mansion” and have his pension cancelled. These hypocrites are destroying their own house by soiling it. Lay people must call these prodigal shepherds to accountability. I challenge you to write a letter of complaint to your bishop and to the whole council which is trampling the Word of God in order to be relevant to what man desires. God will hold them accountable. BUT He will hold us accountable too.

  13. Geraldine Blank says

    We serve a God who is utterly holy. His decisions are pure and blameless.
    We do not need a Discipline to tell us how to live. We have a BIBLE!
    If we would only revere and uphold its teachings, as do the Muslims their Koran,
    our problems would disappear.
    Sin has marred the world. Some have been given terrible burdens to bear. Jesus for one.
    What about the man or woman with a beautiful mind encased in a deformed body.
    Each has to come to terms with their situation under God’s terms. Not ours.
    We have a Bible.
    Those who no longer wish to comply, the expense of a trial should be eliminated.
    Their dismissal should be automatic.
    The expense of a trial should be eliminated.

  14. Ramon A. Evangelista says

    How long does it take for a couple to realize that the most loving thing for their children is to divorce? How long to you keep fighting when you know you have irreconcilable differences? When do you follow Matthew and simply give up on changing the other? When will UM’s be able to read the signs of the time? When does integrity and conscience becomes more important than unity at all cost?

    “Do not be yoked together with unbelievers. For what do righteousness and wickedness have in common? Or what fellowship can light have with darkness?”

    The New International Version. (2011). (2 Co 6:14). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.

  15. Rev. Dennis Hartman says

    And so the call is made by Ramon A. Evangelista and others to give up the ship. Indeed even Rob Renfroe alluded to this possibility. But homosexual issue is not the first to put holes in your ship. Do you remember the God is Dead issue? One of your own started that. Will you allow your theological professors to continue to teach their denying God faith to their students? Come now brothers, cut me a break. God has used this issue to try to open your eyes to how far you have drifted from doctrines of the Bible that Asbury and the great host of Circuit Riders preached. So let a none UM Methodist pastor ask a few questions please .

    If and when this “split” comes, what in the world will you be? I mean, on doctrine. As it stand right now, very little real Methodist Arminian doctrine has been put forth by you Good New and Confession folks. Seemingly you find holier then thou expressions to bypass our doctrines. I took your magazine for four years and here is my summation of what you all believe. Sanctification and immersion. I have known good Baptist brothers who believe in both. So what is our difference? Is Methodism defined totally by “love” in such a way as not to stand for anything? Is that Historic Methodism? Is Methodist Arminianism also equally factious an issue in United Methodism as homosexuality? Look, your Calvinist, and Baptist friends want to devour you too. I know, while they are good people, they care less for our Methodist Arminian doctrines. Have you not heard that Calvinists believe the nonsense that Arminianism is humanism? Not so! So tell brothers, what is your plan? Run to the river with the Baptists and their water gods, or become predestined with the Calvin boys after the split?

    There is nothing unscriptural with the doctrine of our founding fathers. They can easily be defended from most translations of the Bible. Yet in the leadership of the conservative circles of United Methodism it is unheard of to read or hear preachers speak boldly and scripturally against the popular doctrines of immersion, eternal security, and so on. May I predict that if the split comes that those who stood against homosexuality will melt into the Baptist, and Calvinists movements of our time. Not because their doctrines are unprovable, but because you dumped on our doctrines by your silence. My proof of this is as above. There was not much Methodist Arminian doctrine to be found in you publicans in those four years. Or at least nothing to write home about. So I decided not to wast more money. It is not Wesley’s doctrines that got you in trouble in the first place. It was your error or misuse of Wesley’s view of “love” and inclusionism that did you in. So Ramon A. Evangelista and Rob Renfroe, tell me please, are you going to lead the charge to make real Methodist Arminianians and teach strong reasons why we believe, not just in immersion, but the other two modes, and that eternal security is not a orthodox doctrine of the faith? Will you try to keep Methodism Methodism? Or are you the kind that can’t wait for the split so that you can split more form the split? If this is the case, then this old none UM Methodist pastor would rather you stay where you are. I don’t need to draw swords against those who say they are one thing but practice the other. After all, right now, I can take it at face value, that you are Methodists and stand “united” on that bases with you against this issue. So you know it is going happen? and what are your plans for doctrine? It is my prayer that you follow old paths of Methodism which God blessed then. He can do it now. These doctrines helped a lot of people go to heaven and they can do it again.

    I tip my hat to you on your stand brothers. But your friends from other denominations should be ashamed of themselves if they think you ought to accept their doctrines because they stand with you. May our dear Lord guide you in these areas. Thanks for allowing my post.
    Pastor Hartman

  16. Rev. Sid Hall says

    It is unfortunate that Rev. Renfro quotes a line from Dylan’s masterpiece,”All Along the Watchtower,” which is a song about something wild growling out beyond the walls of power, walls governed by money and business, walls built to keep certain systems in place that differentiate between those holding the power–the princes who keep the view–and those without power–all the women and barefoot servants, too. It is a song about how the center can’t hold if it doesn’t treat people fairly in the system. Dylan wrote it in the 1960s to address the inequities in American society, especially as those inequities played out in the government’s propping up of the military industrial complex, in ignoring the plight of the poor, and in the growing death toll of Vietnam. Does Rev. Renfro see himself and others supporting the current language in the BOD among the barefoot servants or among the princes keeping the view? Methodist Renewal is the very group wielding power in the UMC today, and it, and its predecessors, has held that position since a line was drawn in the sand in 1972 when the discriminatory language was added to the BOD. Christ’s resurrection inaugurated a new order for the world where there are no distinctions between male and female, Jew and Greek, free and slave. The church has lagged behind Paul’s inclusive vision in these three arenas, and the UMC’s history of gate-keeping is no exception. I believe that if Paul were living today, he would also understand that the Christ Event has implications in the church and world for dismantling the power differential between straight and gay people. The growling wildcat and the two approaching riders of the Apocalypse represent the wildness of God’s Spirit, a spirit that swoops in to collapse systems of gate-keeping and exclusion, making all things new. And not just new, but new in the order of Jesus who came to liberate the oppressed–to point toward a realm of justice, love, and equality. In this realm, there are now no distinctions between straight and gay. But, we’ve always lagged behind.

    • As a long-time Dylan fan, I feel the need to respectfully point out that your interpretation of “All Along the Watchtower” does not conform to the common interpretations of the song. As with many, if not most, of his songs, the meaning has been purposely left open to individual interpretation. Dylan has declined to provide any exposition of the meaning other than noting that the album the song appeared on was based on the Bible.

      Following these clues, however, it has been found that the lyrics very closely parallel Isaiah 21 — where the watchman in the watchtower is appointed by the Lord and reports both a lion outside the gate and the two horseman (and their contingent) approaching announcing the Fall of Babylon. (I encourage you to compare the lyrics and the passage for yourself.) That leads to a very different message than the one you provided: Do not be misled by the wisdom, apostasy, and evil of the world; the Lord will save His people — Babylon will be destroyed.

  17. Rev. Sid Hall says

    I apologize for misspelling Rev. Renfroe’s name.

  18. This is not the first time we have faced schism. Perhaps we should follow the example set in the 1840’s when separate churches were set up for colored Methodists.Perhaps a sub-domination could be set up for homosexuals.

  19. Dan Gangler says

    The sky isn’t falling and The UMC will continue to transform the lives of millions of people around the world. I believe in a loving and caring God that will see us through. My God is not The Bible, but the Father, Son and Holy Spirit.

  20. Inman Moore, Retired United Methodist Minister says

    There are many good people in the “Good News” movement and they mean well, but they are moving backward, not forward. The reason we are losing members is that we are not clearly staking out our position. Methodism is not a fundamentalist church. At heart it never has been. We have in recent years appeared to be weak fundamentalists and that does not win against hardcore Calvinistic predestinarian belief that everything that happens is because God made it happen. After a fatal accident some people say “Well, that is just the will of God.” This is not good Methodist theology. Our Wesleyan theology comes from Jacob Arminius, a Dutch liberal theologian. Wesley was a great Bible scholar but his quadrilateral included not only the Bible, but tradition, experience, and reason. Wesley was not a fundamentalist. We need to “boldly go where no humans have gone before” in proclaiming a gospel of good news that includes gays and straights. Gays are gays for the same reason that straights are straight. God made us that way. We Methodists were castigated in some circles during segregation days for opposing segregation, but it was the right thing to do. Today, accepting gays and same sex marriage is the right thing to do and when we realize that it will eventually make us a stronger denomination.

  21. I am unimpressed.

    The most powerful aspect of Methodism is the fact that we are a non-credal church; a place where seekers after truth may find support, acceptance and sustenance while they look for their own personal salvation.

    Recent drumbeats for enforcement and conformity and punishments are misplaced among Methodists. Leave those dreadful things for the Papists and our more narrow minded fundamentalist brethren to pursue.

    Go back to your copy of Fox’s Book of Martyrs to recall what happens when the elite decide what is good, fit and proper. I, for one, have no desire to return to those times, or those methods.

    If this is what we have become, there remains little wonder why we are swiftly approaching irrelevance in today’s society, and I am hard pressed to say we don’t deserve it.

  22. Automatic removal should be coming, but will it be enough? There is a lot in their bag of tricks.

    Immorality is not “progressive,” just like a ball hit out of bounds in baseball or golf is not a “progressive” shot. It’s an ‘out of bounds’ shot. Jesus said few will take the narrow gate. Many choose the wide gate.

  23. Jeffrey Olah says

    I am currently on sabbatical from Grace United Methodist Church in Union Beach, NJ because of the video sermon from Bishop John Schol who has been in the fore front of refusing to bring to trial any of these pastors that commit these crimes against church doctrine…I love my friends and family at the church but his liberal rantings on everything from homosexuality, the trayvon martin trial to telling people they don’t do enough in the church

  24. I fully agree with the article and most of the comments supporting it. But, I ask myself, so what? While the left/progressives have a plan and are working it, the traditionalists/orthodox folks don’t appear to have one and just seem to only complain. These people running our church got elected and appointed to their positions, and have had a forty year run. Well, why can’t the other side get elected and appointed? Why do the traditionalists seem to be on the outside looking in? Is there no strategy to get control of this church and get it back on course? What is going on here? How did the liberals get control of our church? How did they get their jobs on our dime???

    • No one wants to tell the Progressives the truth – that you can’t live immorally and follow Jesus. Many of us are “too nice” to risk offending someone, even when their life depends on it! But the truth must be given and it’s a great gift!

      Many of them refuse to repent and are looking for another way. But there is not other way. They would like for us to excuse them and look the other way. But they don’t need us to excuse them, they need God to forgive them. There is only one way – repent and live a New Life in Christ!

      The false ministers who tell them they don’t need to live a New Life don’t love them. They want them to stay right where they are. God calls us all to repentance and a New Life in Christ – come let’s go together!

  25. I believe this editorial is true and I can’t understand how anyone who believes in the inerrancy of scripture could disagree. Bishops receive apportioned funds. If rhey do not support the discipline which they promised to uphold they should not receive financial support.

    • Philip Brooks says

      The “inerrancy” of scripture is not a United Methodist doctrine Dee. We believe scripture is God’s revelation, yes and a guide to proper Christian living, but we do not idolize it in the place of God nor do we ignore context when reading it.

  26. Satan has really gotten his claws into some of our United Methodist ministers on the West Coast and N.E. Don’t they know a holy God has every right to expect holiness from us? They make their flocks comfortable in their sin, especially this immorality. They pretend to b a minister or bishop, while promoting this. Don’t they know Jesus said it will be terrible for those who harm His little lambs? Yes, they know and they don’t care! Seminary trained, they have to know what awaits them. With the pride of the Pharisees they assure each other that everything is all right and God’s grace will shower them like a fire hose. They are going to need a fire hose one day! They make our good Methodists cower down and be quiet, afraid to oppose them! But God does not sleep!

    From here in Mississippi it is hard to believe the great evil going on in other parts of the country in this respect, but I don’t have to go there to believe the reports. I believe! Take courage, those of you who struggle alone, our help is in the Lord! Hold on until the end – God will reward us!

    I would like to challenge our United Methodist ministers to be as vocal as our lay people in standing for God. Forget the consequences and stand up for Christ – you will be glad!

  27. Philip Brooks says

    You mention the need for holy conferencing, but you don’t really call for it in the article or articulate what it would look like. Instead you just advocate more of the same methods used in the past that have not succeeded in putting an end to the division, but only intensified it: charges, trials, defrocking, etc. And you’re still waiting for the bishops to swoop in and save the day, but this kind of top-down response will not silence or end grassroots dissent. Has it ever? What I would propose is that forget about the trials and general conferences for a moment and invite holy conferencing among those for whom this issue matters the most. Let’s have the leaders of Good News and Confessing Movement, and other leading conservative theologians in the church sit down with the Reconciling Methodist and liberal theologians and just talk it out. No protests, no jockeying to get resolutions to General Conference, just sit down and pray then talk then worship in that order. Let them talk until all the anger and mistrust between them is extinguished, until they can all look each other in the face and know they are brothers and sisters in Christ.

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