We’re Not Leaving

By Rob Renfroe –

Progressive and moderate leaders have an interesting dilemma. Do they partner with leading traditionalists to create and pass a path for amicable separation at General Conference 2020? Or do they fight on, hoping to overturn the church’s teaching on sexual ethics?

Some progressives and moderates have stated they favor amicable separation. They are as tired of the fighting as many traditionalists are. They tell us that The United Methodist Church is no longer viewed as a welcoming church with “open hearts, open minds, and open doors.” As a result, many of their members are hurting and some are leaving for what they believe to be more accepting denominations. Instead of repeating the pain and the ugliness of St. Louis, these liberal leaders have decided that a respectful parting is best for the UM Church and for their local congregations.

Other progressives and moderates want to fight on, resist, disobey the Book of Discipline, and attempt to change the church’s ordination standards and its definition of marriage. They believe they are fighting for justice, so they are willing to put us through another “St. Louis Slugfest,” aka “Mayhem in Minneapolis.” If people are hurt and the witness of the church is harmed, as was the case in St. Louis, “winning” will be worth it. The ends will justify the means.

But there’s another reason why some progressives and moderates are willing to fight on – even if they believe they will lose in 2020. Their thinking goes something like the following. “If an enhanced traditional plan passes in Minneapolis, we will stay and we will disobey. We will marry gay couples and ordain partnered gay clergy. Our progressive bishops will not enforce the Book of Discipline or hold us accountable. Traditionalists will come to learn that no changes in the Discipline will be able to stop us. Eventually, they will become so frustrated that they will leave and we will possess the church’s name and all of its assets.”

This “we will resist until the traditionalists leave” strategy was shared with me by centrist leaders in St. Louis, telling me “even if you win, you won’t win. You can’t make us obey.” This same strategy has also been verbalized by some of the 600 who attended the recent conference of moderates and centrists at The Church of the Resurrection in Leawood, Kansas – both publicly and, again, to me privately. They have the mistaken idea that the Wesleyan Covenant Association’s primary desire is to leave the church. All it will take for a conservative exodus, they believe, is a few more years of progressive resistance.

The problem with that strategy is that we’re not leaving. We will work for an amicable separation that is more than fair for centrists and progressives. We believe that a respectful parting of the ways is the best option for our hurting, divided church. But we will not be bullied into leaving the church we have given our lives to simply because progressive bishops and pastors will not live by the church’s teachings.

Of course, if something like the One Church Plan should pass in Minneapolis, many traditional UM congregations would leave. We cannot be complicit with a church that promotes a sexual ethic that we believe contradicts the word of God and does spiritual damage to vulnerable people. But that is a very different scenario than an enhanced traditional plan’s passing and progressives disobeying it.

Barring a change in the church’s position, traditionalists will not leave the UM Church. Why won’t we leave? Because the United Methodist Church is every bit our church, as much as it is anyone else’s. Because every General Conference for the last several decades – despite intense pressure – has affirmed the traditionalist convictions regarding marriage and sexuality. Because recent U.S. annual conferences appear to have elected enough traditionalist delegates to the 2020 General Conference that the majority of delegates will continue to support a traditional approach to marriage, sexuality, and accountability. Because in many parts of the U.S., we are in traditional annual conferences with orthodox bishops, and progressive disobedience does not disrupt traditionalist congregations or cause them to want to leave. Because traditionalist integrity will not allow us to walk away from our faithful brothers and sisters in the central conferences who have stood with us in the most difficult of times and who for decades have suffered the hateful, demeaning comments of progressive leaders and, still, have never walked away from us. We will not abandon those who have never abandoned us.

One of my great sorrows concerning General Conference 2019 was that progressive and centrist leaders – lay leaders, pastors, and bishops – would not listen to us when we told them (1) we could not abide the One Church Plan (OCP) and (2) we would defeat it. They talked mainly among themselves, were convinced that the OCP was a plan that all reasonable people could accept, and felt certain the OCP would pass. They failed to listen to us and the results were disastrous.

I hope and pray they do not make the same mistake of ignoring our voice as they prepare for 2020. We will not leave The United Methodist Church simply because progressives are disobedient to The United Methodist Church. We will work with progressives to create a plan for separation. That is our preferred option. But we will not be bullied into leaving our church. If that is the progressives’ plan, it will fail. Instead, let’s work together to set each other free from the pain of fighting the same old battles the same old way. We can do better. For the people called Methodists and for the Kingdom of God, we must.

Comments

  1. Kerry Bond says

    Rev. Renfro, thank you for your article. The liberal/moderate wing of the UMC has taken the odd position that “loser takes all.”

  2. Billy Weems says

    I like the “ideal” of the Jones-Bard idea. Needs some work but a start.

  3. Montreuil Milord says

    I concur with those thoughts expressed by my colleague Rob – we will not leave. Amen!

    • Thomas Downing says

      Yes, I don’t want to leave – but, I feel like the Methodist Church (in my area – NC) has left me…

      • Bryan Huffman says

        Not everyone. There are many Traditional clergy and laity in NC.

        • Mark Cartner says

          I feel your pain, Thomas. And yes, Bryan, there are many traditionalists still in NC (in the pews). But dang if it ain’t hard to find one standing in the pulpit. I’m 50, always from Winston-Salem, and still in search of a pastor with our worldview. Maddening
          I blame it on Duke. 😉

          • Angela Blocker says

            I agree with you, Thomas, and with you, Mark – blame a lot on Duke (i.e. adjunct professor James Howell). My husband and I have left our church here in NC (Myers Park United Methodist Church/James Howell)! There is no way we will ever be members of a church/pastor that does not teach according to God’s word in the Bible.
            Thank you, and others like you, Rob Renfroe, holding fast and pressing on towards the prize! We need and appreciate all you do in this battle! May the Lord strengthen and keep you on His path of righteousness for His namesake!

          • David Lee Saunders says

            I concur will Mark and Angela. It causes deep psychological pain in every member of my physical and spiritual being that we have so many bishops, clergy, and congregants, so willing to disregard what we were taught from the beginning. God, he created them male and female. Moreover, God sent his only begotten son to die for all who call on the name of the Lord, repent from our evil ways and follow Jesus. God proclaims that he will not fellowship with sin. Lastly, I ask the question: Do true disciples of Christ believe that the ordination of professed practicing sinners taking ownership of his pulpits will ultimately cause God to “spit” us from his stomach?

      • Aimee Mitchell says

        My husband and I just left our UMC in Burgaw, NC because our new pastor has views such as: Jesus was not SINLESS and a was racist and misogynist , Matthew made up the Great Commission, and Judas did not betray Christ. Pastor Richard Bryant also called John a poetic anti-Semite. My husband who was on the Staff/Parish Committee was told by District Superintendent Edie Gleaves, that he was not allowed to ask theological questions of Pastor Bryant. I wish we could find a traditional UMC.

        • Loronda Schuler says

          Wow, you are allowed to ask what ever you want. Do not let a DS mussel you.

          • Pastor Bryant also appears to deny The Trinity based on hs blogs posted on UM Insight. Last I heard this was America and you have every right to question despite the District Superintendent trying to protect a theologically rogue clergyman. Organize your congregation. Say no with your feet and your contributions. Demand a hearing with the DS and if necessary, the Bishop. No Methodist congregation deserves to have a minister imposed on them that does accept and preach orthodox Christianity. If the DS or Bishop refuse to consider your concerns, you and likeminded congregants go worship together somewhere else.

  4. Rob,
    You said that you are not willing to leave but you are willing to work toward amicable separation. I am inclined to believe you but I also believe that if you are not willing to leave you can’t expect anyone else to be willing to leave either. Chris Ritter made the analogy of splitting a cookie where you give me the cookie, I split it in half, and you pick which half you want… essentially offering me the option you would be willing to take (although not the one you necessarily want which is the whole cookie). So by being unwilling to leave, the only options that are negotiated are coming from a position of power: Ts have the GC votes; C/P have the JC votes to make sure nothing is enforced. The Traditional plan only really works if the exit plan is a means Ts would genuinely be willing to accept themselves if the tables were turned.

    • Mary Meier says

      To my understanding, the gracious exit that the JC approved is an option that the Ts would take if the tables were turned. We would prefer a truly united church, but that doesn’t appear to be in the cards at this point in time. So, as the ones who are not in support of the current, or future, BOD, the C/Ps need to leave or be willing to follow the rules as they vowed to do (for clergy) or promised as members. Just my opinion.

    • Paul Morelli says

      At GC2019, we tried to make an exit plan that “we would take” and the centrists and progressives would not let us perfect it…. we got an exit plan but not as gracious as we were trying for.

  5. Mike Hunt says

    The Methodist Church is done. They started their slide when they went against the Bible back in the 50s and 60s and then started holding their “Book of Discipline” as a higher authority than the Bible.
    If you don’t think they do, just look at how much they discuss the BoD rather than the Bible.
    So much time, talent and treasure is wasted arguing over the rules of man rather than fulfilling the Great Commission.
    And now the progressives are showing their full colors – they do not want anything other than to destroy the denomination.
    Remember – Satan does not hate religion or churches, he hates the Messiah. He divides us and gets us to turn against God’s word so we forget what Jesus told us to go do.

    • I think you’re right, there is no way for the Methodist church to survive this struggle. The progressives will destroy yet another denomination. God will preserve a righteous remnant but this is going to get far uglier before it’s done.

    • Fred Richmond says

      You are correct. Unfixable.

    • Randy Kiel says

      I disagree. The church can be fixed, just not by humans. God will do what is right, and if that means repairing what is broken this time, so be it. If not, again, so be it. Let us not, though, make determinations on what God can/will do.

    • Jeff lucas says

      One issue to consider is what effect the demise of the UMC would have on Christian witness. Very little. If the UMC ceased to exist then the progressives would join UCC, EC or ELCA and conservatives would join the Baptist Church. In so doing the evangelicals would evangelize and the progressives would match in the streets for social justice. In the meantime the Africans would continue to flourish as God has ordained. More money would be available for evangelism in the US since the massive UMC bureaucracy would vaporize (which needs to happen anyway since the bishops and their staffs and the boards and agencies are a waste of time and money),

      • Joe Shoop says

        As a successful Traditional UM pastor in a 55% progressive conference, I must say that I am done fighting. The UMC is going through a divorce, and the leadership is fighting over who gets the house and who has custody of the children. If our separation is ugly (as it was in the 2019 GC), the winner will get an empty house and half the children will head toward the non-denominational churches.

        • In the words of Rev. Keith Boyette

          “For the sake of its continued existence and effectiveness, the UM Church needs to make a decisive decision on that which has divided us. We cannot afford to be double-minded any longer. Persons of integrity and sincere conviction inhabit conflicting positions on that which divides us. At a minimum, let us find a way to bless one another in the process of moving to a decision. Abraham and Lot found such a way. Paul and Barnabas achieved such an outcome. In our own history, John Wesley and George Whitefield found such a path. May our story be added to theirs!”

      • FYI- traditional believers in the umc are generally not in line with baptists. They are, not surprisingly, most in line with traditional methodism. Baptists wouldn’t even accept their baptisms- and most traditional methodists do not have an experience of being “saved”- although they are much more comfortable with that language than progressives.

  6. K Karpen says

    Rob,
    Thank you for your thoughtful article. Like my conservative UMC friends, I also grew up in the Methodist tradition, although it was perhaps a tradition that emphasized different aspects of our great faith. So it was that as a young person I found myself engaged in work that I felt mirrored my Savior’s concern for the marginalized and ostracized, becoming involved in civil rights, women’s rights, the rights of immigrants, human rights in places like South Africa, the struggle for peace, and so forth. One could claim those as ‘progressive’ concerns; but many would see these as ‘Christian’ concerns. And very Wesleyan. So I don’t see our collective problem as being whether or not to follow a traditional path, but rather which aspects of our tradition ought to be primary. For me, LGBTQ rights flow from this great tradition of ours; obviously my conservative friends do not see it that way. But I do think it’s a mistake to claim that ‘progressives’ (for want of a better label, assuming we need these labels at all) do not value our common tradition, or our scripture, as much as ‘traditionalists’. We just, in my opinion, take a broader view of that tradition, and a less literalist approach to scripture.

    • Joan Wesley says

      The problem is not whether or not we value our common tradition and history. The problem is to what extent do we allow that history and tradition influence and inform our thinking right here right now and on that we do not agree. That difference alone in understanding means we are each living out distinctly different brands of Christianity that cannot share a common name because we are nowhere close to being the same thing. Would you call an apple an orange just because they both belong to the fruit family?

    • Randy Kiel says

      You say, “For me, LGBTQ rights flow from this great tradition [of human, civil rights] of ours.” The trouble with this idea is that it makes the assumption that persons who identify themselves as LGBTQ are speaking of an in-born, immutable trait that is different from the trait to sin in any other way that all humans are born with in our fallen existence.

      • K Karpen says

        Hi Randy, No, I believe that LGBTQ persons are just as prone to sin and sexual immorality as the rest of us! It’s just that I do not believe that the core of their identity as sexual (or, in some cases, asexual beings has anything to do with that sin and sexual immorality. It’s sometimes assumed that progressives don’t care about sexual ethics, but I find that to be not at all the case. We care a great deal about the aspects of sexual sin that go against Jesus’ admonition to love our neighbor as ourselves and Wesley’s admonition to avoid doing harm. And so sexual abuse, child abuse, trafficking, assault, unfaithfulness to one’s partner, sexism and the like are very clearly sin in my mind. And I’m sure in yours as well. I would personally add anti-LGBTQ acts and policies as being also sinful, though I assume we might disagree there. As Wesley says, ‘Though we may not think alike, may we not love alike?’ That’s the challenge. Maybe that’s expecting too much from all sides.

        • But you miss the primary disagreement. Homosexual sex is unfaithfulness to your partner because sex is only permitted between a married couple. And a christian marriage is only between a man and a woman. There is no way around this dilemma; either the umc continues to affirm christian teaching on sex and marriage or it doesn’t.

          • Angela Blocker says

            Well stated, td! Either UMC teaches according to scripture, or it gives into man’s teaching!

  7. Chet Klinger says

    While both sides are digging in, stubbornly standing their ground, facing off opposingly, many are quietly leaving the battlefield for greener pastures. Many are wondering why this discussion needs to keep going on. With so many of biblically orthodox Christian churches around, will it matter whether the United Methodist Church will continue to exist as a Biblically based church unable to fend off the arrogant progressives or as a loosey goosey socialist church under to shake off the stubborn traditionalists. Many would rather go to church to worship God and celebrate communion and support charitable mission and be done with this rather than remain part of this slugfest to see who wins. Meanwhile all across American conferences, the UMC will see another huge decline in church attendances and memberships. Better to split up now. Create two new denoninations, new names, separate the sheep from the goats, and start over with new and separate baseline numbers and see which of the two new denominations will grow and make disciples to xhange the world without being encumbered by the other. Time for Paul and Barnabas to part ways. Let the Great Harvester separate the tares from the wheat.

    • Mary Meier says

      I understand, but the church needs to have some definitions on what it does accept and what it doesn’t. As the saying goes, if you don’t stand for something, you’ll stand for anything, which I honestly believe the UMC has been doing for a while – standing for anything, mostly in the name of “unity”. Biblical lessons need to be taught at UMCs, not milque toast religion.

  8. Carleene Hubbard says

    Thank you for your consistent voice of reason and commitment! May our Lord continue protecting you and your ministry.

  9. Gary Bebop says

    Rob is right to proclaim “we’re not leaving.” If The United Methodist Church was worth building, it is worthy of defending. Yielding to the clamor now would be foolish and craven. Was something born only to meekly surrender it to the wolves? The wolves will pass up old sheep to get at the lambs.

  10. In any encounter, the side that has the most force will eventually win. To diminish the forces of the Progressives, enforcement of the BoD is a must for the long haul. Also, if it is true that the Progressives have the force edge in appointing new Bishops, they in the long run will win. The best is to lose a battle now and win in the long run. The Exit Plan is the common denominator. The amicable separation is depending upon this lynch pin for both sides. Grant and Lee decided for the Country. Each side was allowed to retain certain rights in the departure. Great leadership is required for GC2020.

    • Parker W. says

      In any encounter, God will decide the results. And here we are, fighting among ourselves rather than redoubling our efforts to seek God’s will. I do believe the Bible is God’s word to us, and I do believe it is clear that homosexual practice is sin. Is it, or is it not? The charge that persons who not identify as LGBTQ are not loved is bogus. We are all sinners, but the cross proves that Christ still loves us. Can’t we shift this toward seeking to more clearly understand God’s position together?

    • Yeah, you are generally right. The real division we have is that our clergy have radically different beliefs from the laity. In the end, the clergy will win because they have all the real power. They will win, but will probably preside over an empty church.

      • The clergy will not win. You forget that the Laity hold all the cards. We laity pay for everything in the UMC. Our Laity need to remember that and start making their voices heard, at the local level and at the national and global levels.

  11. David C. Wold says

    I find it shocking that the whole UMC are accepting that people, remain our payroll, are doing everything they can do undermind the doctrine/ understanding of God’s word ? Why can we not admit that we judged and trusted them with our best human trust, but we have been proven to be wrong and we now must strip them of our trust ??
    Nobody is saying ‘leave your faith and our Church’, we are only saying do not say and appear to represent our doctrine any longer, when you clearly have decided to belong somewhere else.

  12. Marc a Thompson says

    Our Father and our God… I pray that the UMC will soon be reunited under, within and for You… our One holy and righteous God. Father may Your will be accomplished in all of its works to align it to the truth of Your word and purposes. May they stand firm in You… speak Your truth as absolute… reject and remove all false teachers and their doctrinal teachings. I pray God… that You will reestablish the UMC as a congregation where understanding the vertical relationship with You is utmost; it is inseparable and it is confirmed in in spoken truth horizontally to their fellow man! Amen

  13. Mary Meier says

    Honestly, this is the first thing I’ve heard or read since GC 2019 that has given me a feeling of peace in regards to the UMC. I have actually been advocating for our church to leave, but this inspires me to want to stay.
    I will say that Methodists need to be a little more forceful when stating this, and that includes during sermons. I understand the need and desire to pastor to all, but it needs to be made plain that the UMC will NOT support this, period. And if your church is going to disobey the BOD, then you need to leave, either as a church or as individuals.
    Feel-good religion is no religion, and I don’t think it’s what Jesus had in mind when He said to love everyone.

  14. Kevin Ross says

    Select new conservative Bishops to replace the disobedient ones.

    • Bishops who did not do their jobs according to the BOD and BIBLE should have been replaced years ago… and we will suffer until they are.

  15. John Newsome says

    The sad truth is that if The Discipline is upheld in 2020 and centrist and progressive openly rebel without any consequences then we will have a “not-so-slow” departure of members who are orthodox and want no part of the UMC. The money will begin to dry up as well. Independent and other orthodox churches will be the ones who benefit from this.

  16. In my annual conference, within 300 yards of a local, struggling, empty parking lot UMC, is one of the nondenominational community churches, with parking lot overflowing, that is presently in the middle of a huge revival as hundreds are coming to Jesus each month. Ironically, it cites Wesleyan evangelism as its model, even employing small groups for the building of holiness for its converts.

    As we fight and dwindle in America, there are those picking up the original Wesleyan movement and carrying in forth.

    There is no way to measure the depth of harm that this conflict has inflicted on the UMC. Satan just renewed his season ticket to this spectacle.

    • In addition, reading this UM News article on Annual Conferences in America this summer is like reading an article on a political convention or some social activist rally. Obviously in numerous places the Bible been archived or tossed and UMC people are consumed in worldly affairs at the expense of the Good News Gospel of Jesus Christ. Christ has been transformed into a social activists and a worldly conforming figure to be referenced when convenient in advancing an agenda. Have we fallen this far? Are we really a Christian church any longer?

      https://www.umnews.org/en/news/conferences-mull-denominations-future

  17. Louise Parker says

    From my observations, people are quietly leaving week by week. Most of them have been dedicated leaders and workers and givers in the church I attend. They are tired of the inaction and putting off of the inevitable. By the time Good News decides to separate, they may discover that the “church “ has already gone. Now is the time to stand up and not continue the debate. Few churches have the membership found in Rob’s location. Take a look at the empty pews please. No. I do not agree with Good News anymore.

  18. Rob, I agree that we should not leave but the laity are already leaving. My traditionally orientated church has already lost most of the liberals, even though I have kept the issue very low key. One of them is on a district committee and thinks the church will go conservative so a small but important group of my church now worships at an ECLA church. However they are maintaining their membership so they can vote if it comes to that. My traditionalists are fed up with the squabbling and name calling and are holding on by a thumb nail. They are willing to see what happens at GC2020 but if there is no resolution, I expect to see many of my key leaders leave for a more peaceful denomination. The majority of my church would prefer to be part of none of above. They have had it with denominational churches and all the stupid expenses and rules. One of my other appointments felt the same way. By the way I am not encouraging any of this but if the OCP wins or it is status quo I will either change to another denomination after the 2020-2021 appointment year or retire from ministry.

  19. Gary Bebop says

    Much of the discouragement and disgust expressed by commentors appears to be reaction to being left alone to cope with the quagmire. One feels “left alone” if there is no continual stream of information and nurture from leadership. My contention is that when Rob tells us he’s not leaving, he has an obligation to provide supportive conversation in the wake of such a declaration. That conversation cannot be limited to publishing infrequent articles. That’s too “old school” and too slow for this transformational moment.

    • Gary,
      I could not agree more. For a number of years I have been a supporter of GN and especially of Rob and staff, as they’ve led us through deep and troubling times. Rob’s infrequent articles have been even more infrequent and raises the question as to whether GN is spending greater time/resources caucusing with progressives than supporting and maintaining their traditional base. I’m not attempting to rally an anti-GN splinter group; God has used GN mightily in the UMC and I pray that He will continue to direct their efforts (as well as the WCA and more allied groups). However, even GN needs to hear the occasional rebuke from time to time. We need ongoing communication, not just denominational “puff pieces” that allude to UMC ministries outside the US or the meetings of progressives, who continue to disobey and mock the BOD and scripture. When I see more references to Adam Hamilton’s positions in social media and GN than those of Rob Renfroe or WCA, we are loosing the battle of influence among our own supporters.

    • Charles Armour says

      Amen Gary! As we have discussed before, Traditionalists are getting slaughtered in the social media war. And it is just not this latest controversy but rather the entire mindset of the larger church. Good folk have been silently leaving for years over such issues as abortion, gun control and other things. And now, I know of a family with a member in the Border Patrol who just left over the most recent immigration statements issued by UMCOR. They asked why should they stay when the church now puts the life of their family member at risk? As I tried to find some answer to give them solace, they looked at me and asked, “And why do YOU stay?”

      All the positions issued over the years by the larger church have now become so compounded that, when added to this current debacle, they are beyond the last straw. So they just pray about it and go to some evangelical church down the road. I cannot blame them, and wonder to myself, “When does it reach such a point that the damage is beyond repair?”

      Now of course God will maintain His Providence in good time, but one must also remember that in days of old Israel became so repeatedly rebellious that He eventually Left them alone until such a time that they perished. With the Jurisdictional Conferences, which elects Bishops, soon to be totally controlled by the Left, I see no way out but for traditionalists to eventually join the diaspora. The UMC appears hell bent on self destruction. 2020 may well be too late.

      • Gary Bebop says

        This is exactly the kind of candor and ongoing conversation we need at this time. The outflows you describe should be addressed by traditional leaders, especially the social media campaign being waged against historic understandings of marriage and sexuality. A gloating, gleeful, militant Left has seized the initiative. Good News and WCA must staff and prioritize this as a crisis of messaging.

        • How to fully and accurately communicate the crisis to the laity is the challenge so that they’re presented with a clear, unequivocal choice. There is no middle ground. That’s a classic ruse.

          At my church, NOTHING has been communicated about the specifics of the schism by the staff. The silence is deafening. There was a brief, rather vague statement printed in the weekly newsletter about the 2019 General Conference. Any attempts at communication with the staff about this is met with the proverbial startled response to an overreaction followed by the usual patronizing reply. They appear to be in abject fear in that they’re under a liberal bishop.

          Bottom line. Somehow, someway the laity must be presented with the clear two choices facing the church.

          Check one and drop in the offering plate:

          ——Do you want this church to be a BIBLE BELIEVING church?

          Or

          ——Do you want this church to be a BIBLE QUESTIONING church?

  20. Please address and rebut some of the misleading stats being pushed by mainstreamumc. Most areas with the largest UMC membership and financial giving do not support jettisoning 2000 years of Christian teaching on sexual ethics. The mainstreamumc meme tries to give the opposite impression.

  21. A Retired U.M. Pastor says

    I am most appreciative of Pastor Rob Renfroe, and this Good News website that allows us to express our understanding of God’s Call on our lives. There is one aspect of our Faith that I would like to mention, and that is the issue of temptation. It is present throughout the Bible, which in my estimation is THE Christian Guidebook. It is there in the early pages of Genesis when the serpent said to Eve: “You will not surely die.” (Genesis 3:4). It is there in 1 Peter 5:8 when the Apostle Peter warned: “Be self-controlled and alert. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour.” And when our Savior, The Lord Jesus Christ, was tempted in Matthew 4:4, Jesus replied: “It is written: Man does not live on bread alone, but on EVERY WORD (my emphasis) that comes from the mouth of God.” If our Lord Jesus was tempted, and not just by things or desires, but also through people, so too will we be tempted. The Apostle John, in 1 John 4:1 admonishes us: “…do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, because many false prophets have gone out into the world.”. I urge us all to take seriously these words from John. We are not playing a game here; we are involved in a battle that involves our very souls. With humility and kindness the United Methodist Church must stand strong in the Faith for the countless millions of non-leadership members (the all-important Laity) who rightly believe that The Holy Bible, from cover to cover, all of it, is to be taken seriously if we are ever to find our way to the Throne of God.

  22. Rob,
    Are you and John in dialogue? His 7/19/19 report here seems to point to General Conference 2020 as the conference to entertain formal division since we’re already in de facto schism. Yes, he points out that our some of our liberal brethren are admitting schism. Now the talk of departure of liberal conferences from the UMC — this is certainly new ground that does not seem to be the understanding of what they’re contemplating across traditional UMC land. What is going on here? Are our liberal brethren ready for a formal separation or not? Who is speaking for them? The WCA is the well organized entity for traditionalists as the fall back with the mechanics in place for a new denomination should worse come to worse for traditionalists, and ready to negotiate a peaceful separation. Liberals are talking of forming a like body for themselves, according to ths article.

    Hopefully liberals will form their own organization and get together with the WCA, again which is ready to negotiate, and bring a plan of separation to Minneapolis endorsed by sufficient numbers so as to assure its passage. That should be our prayer.

    https://juicyecumenism.com/2019/07/19/liberal-conferences-explore-separation-united-methodist-church/

  23. steve mann says

    Thank you for the reassurance. I need it. I’ve been struggling with how the Western NC Annual conference could vote 10 progressives to GC.

    For several years, it’s been my fear the UMC will take the same approach that Academia (University and Primary/ Secondary) has taken to eliminate most Conservatives. Hire a Liberal/ Progressive Dean who selects a Liberal/ Progressive hiring committee who only hires Liberal/ Progressive professors.

    Would it work the same in a church? Liberal/ Progressive Pastor –> Lay Leadership –> Annual Conference delegates –> General Conference delegates

    • Laura H Threlkeld says

      I am right there with you, Steve Mann. Somehow this entire fiasco has turned into a conservative/liberal show! When I read “Sacred Witness WNC: An Open Letter from Pastors and Laity in the WNCC UMC” I knew we were doomed as far as our church went. All of our staff signed it, with no voice or vote from our congregation. We have decided to leave with much grief instead of attending on Sundays, tithing to a church who has deserted us and find another church who still preaches from our HOLY Bible and does NOT pay heavy salaries to a conference that operates with no regard to the Bible!

  24. Lighten up on Rob and Good News. They have been meeting with bishops of the central conferences and progressive leaders. They have agreed to write a solution. Without the central conferences support nothing can happen. While social media takes they have quietly been working for a solution. Criticize less and pray for them. They are our best bet.

  25. The quote attributed to Dostoyevsky is “If there is no God all things are permitted.” That is the path we seem to be on with LGBTQI. Any there more letters to add? Is this a Christian movement such as the abolishment of the slave trade, Wilberforce et al? Or a follow through of the worldly, mostly US sexual liberation movement? And the progressives seem so quick to reject our brothers and sisters outside of the United States. Those generally less affluent and closer to agricultural based economies. Simple folk. These churches often had to overcome great obstacles and persecution in their home culture for the sake of the gospel. Now when confronted with our own cultural challenges in the US, the progressives seem to disown world Methodism and praise other US denominations that do not have the yoke of such connections. They essentially tell their liberal mostly non-Christian associates, “we would be right with you if it were not for these associations with backwards cultures. Don’t worry, we will soon colonize them” Who do you choose to be with? And without a blink of the eye, progressives feel they have been so magnanimous in offering the One Church Plan which changes the definition of marriage, the most basic foundation of the human family, from a union of male and female as described in the Bible, to a union of two persons. This new changed definition for the entirety of world Methodism. And that is not a problem? And the traditionally Methodist influenced seminaries at Duke, Vanderbilt and Emory also seem intent on abolishing all gender distinction. Is this listening to God or does it fall in the category of “all things are permitted”. In one breath we say thank God we rejected the Enlightenment thinking on the issue of the resurrection, but on this sexual issue we must live in cultural context. Adam Hamilton is “almost” four-square on the 5 fundamentals of the Fundamentalists a la R.A. Torrey. According to Hamilton, he comes in at 4.5. Alas, it is that missing .5 that is bringing Methodism to ruin.

  26. eric pone says

    Its kind of funny both sides right now are fighting from ego and not from the Spirit. I keep reading that we need to follow more closely with scripture. But a close study of that scripture yields example after example of humans living and acting out of ego and not in our eternal spirits, our true selves before God and basically screwing up over and over and over and YET God is patient and calls us back. We need to remember that our Spirit is liberal or conservative, gay or straight it just is before God. How different would the Church be if saw each other first as a spirit living a human experience with God in creation? How would our discussion change as a result of dealing with eternal spirits interacting with each other and a Triune and common hope? Our bodies will eventually rot away and so will our denomination eventually. We should focus on God and Him crucified and the Holy Spirit. Less fighting more worship and let God sort things out in eternity.

    • Eric, your last few sentences move in teh direction of Docetism or Gnosticism. “Our bodies will eventually rot away” – yes, but they will be resurrected and we will have bodies that are just as real as those we have now.

      Remember Jesus’ post-resurrection interaction with his disciples? He asked them if they had something to eat; he appeared to them in a very real body; he even says, “See my hands and feet, that it is I myself. Touch me, and see. For a spirit (or “ghost” in older translations) does not have flesh and bones as you see that I have” (Luke 24:39).

      So we cannot just see each other as spirit first: we are whole beings of spirit, mind and body – we cannot be reduced to anything less or we would not be as God created us. We will be raised with a very real “flesh and bones” body like Jesus continues to have – different than our human bodies, no doubt, but Jesus was very much a real physical being after the resurrection.

      Our bodies matter; what we do with our bodies matters – what we do with our bodies is a SPIRITUAL issue. We cannot separate our actions from our faith or spiritual beliefs. Human sexuality, and how we express it, matters to God. So we DO have a very real difference in understanding and practice from progressives; we therefore do not find their beliefs and behaviors to be aligned with Christian discipleship.

  27. Bill Alston says

    Entire general conferences will leave. Entire progressive annual conferences will leave. Universities are already disaffiliating. What does it matter who stays in the end?

    • Bill, I think you mean entire *Annual* Conferences will leave – we’re ALL part of General Conference.

      Even so, entire Annual Conferences won’t leave, because there are evangelical / traditional / orthodox churches in every AC; they will find a way to stay and either be United Methodist, or whatever the new orthodox iteration of Methodism becomes.

  28. I guess I don’t understand the problem. If you are a church member and don’t like the beliefs of the church go find a church/denomination that shares your beliefs … and if you are a Methodist minister and refuse to follow the book of discipline you should resign and find a church/denomination that shares your beliefs. If an entire church feels like they can’t continue as Methodists there is an exit plan.

  29. Jim Wolfgang says

    As I read all these comments to Rob’s article, I sense many of the traditional minded responses show a growing impatience with the current impasse between “traditionalists” and “nontraditionalists.” I feel this frustration too, but my better voice tells me to be prayerfully patient, proclaim the biblically based understanding of Christianity found in traditional United Methodism, and hold fast to the good doctrine found in our Book of Discipline. We need to see this through till the May General Conference. I believe the Holy Spirit will guide HIS church into a better future than our frustrations and fears allow us to see. It helps me to remember my local church will meet this Sunday, just as yours will wherever in the world you are, and that is where that congregation and you and I do the real ministry with our Lord for His kingdom. The denomination’s conflict then doesn’t seem so large. For those considering joining a nondenominational, independant, “Bible believing” church, I would like to know where in the New Testament church that was ever an authentic model of the Church as the intrinsically joined together “body of Christ”? The Bible knows of no independant church just as it knows of no individual religion. The Jerusalem Council, led by the Holy Spirit guided the greater church and sent the apostles to their ministries.This is a call to be faithful; impatience makes that difficult but faithfulness call us to persevere to the end. When we get through this impasse, Methodism (whether called “United” or not) will again be the most authentic present example of the New Testament church on earth. Lest we forget, the United Methodist Church in the Central Conference is dynamic and growing through the Holy Spirit and faithful disciples. Surely that indicates which “side” to be on, I want to be on the Lord’s side, don’t you? I suspect the progress of the “progressive” side will be like the ever dwindling Episcopal, Evangelical Lutheran, Presbyterian Church U.S.A., United Church of Christ, and other “progressive” churches. “But as for you, teach what befits sound doctrine.” (Titus 2:1) That is what “traditional” United Methodism is. “Don’t give up the ship.”

  30. Paul Morelli says

    I read this from the preface of “The Heavenly Man” the story of Chinese Christian Brother Yun:
    …………………………………………………………………………………
    For more than one thousand years the gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ has spread its influence across
    China, through many ups and downs, victories and trials.
    In 1949 persecution of God’s people commenced and the churches have suffered from all kinds of
    attacks since. By 1958 the government had closed all visible churches. Mao’s wife, Jiang Qing, told
    foreign visitors, “Christianity in China has been confined to the history section of the museum. It is dead
    and buried.” In the 1970s a visiting Christian delegation from the United States reported, “There is not a
    single Christian left in China.”
    At the start of the Book of Genesis we read that the earth “was formless and empty, darkness was
    over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God was hovering over the waters”. Genesis 1:2. This
    was also the state of the Chinese church at this time. The church in China, at least on the visible surface,
    was dead. In those days nobody dared to proclaim, “Jesus is Lord.” The church was stripped from top to
    bottom, and for all intents and purposes, had died.
    “And God said, ‘Let there be light,’ and there was light. God saw that the light was good, and he
    separated the light from the darkness.” Genesis 1:3. Thankfully we serve a God who knows how to
    raise the dead! I believe God allowed the atheist government to destroy the old structure of the Chinese
    church so that he could rebuild it according to his own purposes. He started with little and has made it
    much!
    The simple fact that the Chinese church has grown into a force tens of millions strong today is a sign
    not only of God’s existence but also of his matchless power.
    ………………………………………………………………………………………….
    I wonder if we are experiencing a purging and or pruning of the church to prepare us for a new supernatural ministry that may be beyond our wildest dreams?
    If so, I am excited to be a part of the new thing that grows out of the ashes (if necessary) built on faith in the savior and faithfulness to the historic gospel….

  31. John Cobil says

    “Barring a change in the church’s position, traditionalists will not leave the UM Church”

    That may be true for pastors and church leaders who understand the issues surrounding pensions, buildings and other church assets, but not for most church members. The Methodist church in which I grew up has lost over half of its members over the last 15 years. Their departure was due to a series of horrible pastors being foisted on them by a district that seems to be clueless. My point is that most people want to be involved in a church that allows them to worship and serve God as they feel they are being called. If their current church doesn’t do that, Tradition, Discipline, and other capitalized terms are irrelevant and they will leave.

    Christianity and Wesleyan principles flourished prior to the existence of the United Methodist Church, prior to the construction of our current churches, and prior to the birth of our current pastors. “Our denomination” is not worth fighting over if the fight takes away from the mission of “the church,” e.g. spreading the Gospel. Traditional Wesleyans might just serve God more effectively from a cheap metal building with an enthusiastic and united church, even if it is called something else.

    I hope that CG2020 resolves this issue and the United Methodist Church can go back to being the witness it was prior to this fight. If not, though, I’m ok with “losing” and walking away from a denomination that teaches flawed ideology even if that means leaving with nothing. Individual members are doing it already.

  32. Ken Quattlebaum says

    I thought that the 2019 General Conference voted on the way forward. The vote reaffirmed the wording in the Book of Discipline. The vote provided consequences for those who defy the Book of Discipline. The vote provided an exit path for those who can’t abide with the Book of Discipline. That seems to be the way forward.

    Am I missing something?

  33. My wife and I were members at an ELCA church for the first four years after we were married. We left our ELCA congregation in 2017 because of the liberal theology and a few key issues (homosexuality being one of them). We joined a church that is part of a Bible-based Lutheran group, Lutheran Congregations in Mission for Christ, mostly made up of former ELCA churches. Here, we have experienced the Savior in a whole new way. I am beginning to see every book of the Bible as pointing specifically to Jesus. We are surrounded by others who have a genuine desire to grow closer to the Lord and be a community of faith rather than simply a social club. Leaving our church was a very difficult decision which left some wounds that are still not fully healed, but Jesus is using that experience to form us into the disciples that He wants. We are now leaders of a small study group where young families gather to share a meal, read God’s Word, and discuss it together. This experience has been a true blessing in our lives.
    My wife grew up in the UMC and her parents are members. My mother-in-law is the youth ministry director at their church. My wife and I were married there as well. So, the UMC is near and dear to our family. Whatever happens, know that we are praying for the UMC during this difficult time; that God would reveal Himself in a powerful way, that lives and hearts would be changed by the Holy Spirit for eternity, and that believers would focus first and foremost on what unites them: their faith in Jesus Christ.
    Sincerely,
    a Millennial from Minnesota

  34. Larry Wiggins says

    Rob: would appreciate knowing your take on the Bard-Jones plan, Indianapolis Plan. It appears that Traditionalists are the losers, or the second tier expression of United Methodism. I for one have had enough. I have been patient for 2 years hoping and praying for a just resolution that preserves the BOD positions which are Biblical and based on 2000 years of church tradition. I will give this till the end of the year, then I will make a decision based on who the likely successor, if any to the United Methodist name and doctrine will be.
    I have no stomach to wait until GC 2020- enough if enough.

Speak Your Mind

*

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.