Hard Things

Apr 26, 2022

By Rob Renfroe

When I speak to churches about the problems dividing the United Methodist Church, I begin by saying, “If you are not aware of what I am about to tell you, it will be hard for you to believe. I’ll sound like an ancient astronomer trying to convince you the earth revolves around the sun when everyone is certain it’s the other way around. I’ll come across like the ‘lunatic’ of an earlier era proclaiming the world is round when everyone ‘knows’ it’s flat. Some things are hard to believe even though they are true.”

Then I describe to them the deeper issues that divide the UM Church. I tell them we are divided about the Bible. Over the years, there have been UM pastors who’ve made statements about how the Bible cannot be trusted to tell us God’s will and how they scoff at those of us who believe the Scriptures are the inspired word of God. I recount our differences about the work of the Holy Spirit and how many UM pastors have told me the Spirit is revealing new truths that contradict and override what the Bible teaches. 

I tell them about my conversation with a highly respected tall-steeple pastor who told me, “Rob, the Church created the Bible. So, we can re-create the Bible.” I tell them that worst of all we are divided on Jesus. Some of us believe Jesus is the way, the truth, and the life for all humankind. But we have a bishop who has warned us not to make an idol (a false God) out of Jesus. We have a UM seminary professor who told me, “God is wholesale; Jesus is retail,” meaning Jesus is just one of many religious teachers, not really different from Mohammad or Buddha. We had a UM seminary president who said if you feel a need to tell persons of other religions about Jesus, you don’t understand Jesus.

These are hard things to believe if you have been in your local church with a pastor who is faithful to the Scriptures, where you repeat the historic creeds and mean them, and where you pray for your nonbelieving neighbors to come to faith in Jesus. These are hard things to believe, but they are true.

Now, there is another hard truth we must accept. The Commission on General Conference delayed General Conference for political reasons. The Commission did not simply disappoint us by deciding not to hold General Conference. They chose not to hold General Conference and they chose not to do the work that could have made it possible.

Trusted members of the Commission report that the international delegates who spoke up during the deliberations concerning General Conference argued that it could be held and that delegates from around the world could find a way to travel to the United States. Those who argued otherwise were primarily white, American, and liberal (see article on page 16). 

It’s hard to believe that a desire to sabotage the Protocol of Grace and Reconciliation through Separation was the reason many Commission members voted against holding General Conference. But it’s even harder not to. The Episcopal Church, the Lambeth Conference of Bishops, the United Methodist Women, and the Wesleyan Covenant Association are all holding large in-person meetings this spring and summer with delegates coming from around the world. 

Where there is a will to meet there is a way. Where there is a will to undermine the one solution that would have led to a just and orderly resolution of the problems that divide us – well, the institutional members of the Commission found a way. Ironically, the Commission announced at its March meeting the formation of a task force to explore the possibility of a hybrid General Conference in 2024. This change of heart comes too late and shows what the Commission thought impossible could have been done a year ago.  

Again, I know that’s hard to believe for persons in their local churches who assume all church leaders are honest, fair, and well-meaning. But the truth is the earth revolves around the sun, the world is round, and power politics led to the postponement of General Conference. 

Here’s something else that will be hard to believe. There will be some bishops who will mislead the church and many pastors who will deceive their congregations in the coming months about the future of the UM Church. As local churches consider their options for leaving, they will be told they are overreacting. Some bishops and pastors will tell United Methodists in the pews that “there is no reason to depart because nothing will change – the UM Church will continue to be a big tent denomination that respects all persons and all points of views. You and your church will never be made to do anything you do not want to do.” If it’s hard for you to hear this, I’m sorry. But statements claiming there will be no change in the local church are untrue. And many who say these things know they are.

If you believe the progressives (who will be in control of the denomination when many traditionalists leave) will allow you to deny “justice” to same-sex couples who want to be married in your church; if you believe liberals will permit your annual conference to discriminate against partnered gay persons who feel called to be pastors; if you believe a bishop will never send a progressive pastor to your congregation to make you into “a real Methodist church,” then you are in denial. 

The progressives have told us who they are. They have been open about their agenda. And after the Commission’s decision to cancel a General Conference that could have allowed us to go our separate ways in peace, it is obvious that some church leaders will do anything necessary to reach their goal of a woke liberal denomination, even if it means harming traditional churches.

It’s time to believe hard things. And it’s time to do a hard thing: Prayerfully consider leaving the UM Church. I hope you and your congregation will join other traditional Wesleyans in the Global Methodist Church. It may take time to do that. We have hard decisions in front of us. My prayer is that traditionalists will step into a better day with others who believe in the Lordship of Jesus, the truth of the Scriptures and the transforming work of the Holy Spirit. 

Rob Renfroe is the president and publisher of Good News. 

27 Comments

  1. Each TRADITIONAL-ORTHODOX METHODIST who elects to REMAIN in the future United Methodist Church ………

    🔺would at minimum have complicity with a liberal, pluralistic understanding of Biblical Authority and Scripture including being in association with those not believing in the the virgin birth, the deity of Jesus Christ, the Trinity, the bodily resurrection of Jesus Christ, or the miracles, and the categorization of Scripture, consisting of (1) Scriptures that express God’s heart, character, and timeless will, (2) Scriptures that expressed God’s heart, character, and will for a particular time but no longer binding, and (3) Scriptures that neverexpressed God’s heart, character, or will,

    🔺would at minimum have complicity with same-sex marriage and other types of LGBTQ+ marriages with the marriage ceremonies officiated by UMC ministers inside UMC sanctuaries,

    🔺would at minimum have complicity with welcoming into church pulpits those practicing sexual immorality, especially homosexual clergy, other practicing LGBTQ+ clergy, and, together with their partners, occupancy of the church parsonages,

    🔺would at minimum have complicity with full inclusion of LGBTQ+ identified persons with their unrepentant sexual lifestyles and relationships affirmed, even celebrated, thus exempting such from the call of REPENTANCE,

    🔺 would at minimum have complicity with the welcoming into full inclusion LGBTQ+ candidates for licensing and ordination who are in LGBTQ+ sexual relationships,

    🔺 would at minimum have complicity with church literature —- including children’s – grandchildren’s literature —- that includes LGBTQ+ advocacy and gender identity advocacy,

    🔺 would support the TRUST CLAUSE continuance whereby the annual conferences, instead of the local congregations, own the local church buildings, furnishings, grounds, all assets, and financial accounts to do with as they deem necessary for the benefit of the conferences and collective institution,

    🔺 would help underwrite this institutional bureaucracy with continued donations as more would be needed from each local church in order to cover apportionment funded costs from fewer congregations, with

    🔺 all of this under the pretense that the UMC would not change.

  2. Thank you for speaking the truth. It makes me sad to think that pastors and leaders are keeping the truth from their members but I know it is true. Our church will be leaving the UMC soon and have the task ahead of us to decide our next step. I feel as if a weight has been lifted from us since we made the decision to leave and I also feel it is what God wanted us to do. I know there are others who are grappling with this decision as we speak. We finally decided that we had to take action or we were going to be part of the problem and we know that God will take care of us as we do what He is asking us to do. Praying for all who are facing this decision!

  3. Thank you for speaking Truth. May God empower church leaders to be strong and courageous in the face of evil. The Lord is exposing the wickedness of those who do not honor nor believe the scriptures. Hopefully the split will be done as quick possible with the least damage to all. ✝️

  4. What would Jesus want? Love your neighbor as yourself.

  5. And It sounds like it’s time for you to leave.

  6. Jack, I guess you didn’t read the article. We would be willing to leave for a new denomination if the terms of departure were not punitive in some places. Where they are able to depart, traditionalists are doing so. But the “stuckness” comes from places that are trying to coerce traditionalists into staying, or at least penalize them for leaving.

    Tom Lambrecht

  7. Exactly! We implore United Methodist leaders to treat us as they would like to be treated. We hope they will love us as they love themselves.

    Tom Lambrecht

  8. I appreciate the heart and soul invested in this piece. Thank you. As I considered the hard things named in it, my thoughts turned to an even harder thing demanded in all of this. To be vibrant, the hard thing the next version of Methodism will need to do is grow a new culture. New culture forms only as old cultures die – and old cultures are resilient. The dominant culture present in the UMC in both traditionalist and progressive circles is the “culture of against.” Combat is our default mode. No matter what forum I read, progressive, centrist, traditional, it’s not long before the knives come out. Jesus said something about that. We need a huge dose of humility, vulnerability, and contrition particularly in leaders. We will never know who threw the first stone in all of this, but we can acknowledge the stones we are gripping right now. And put them down, for Christ’s sake.

  9. An extremely one sided article. A bit disappointing.

  10. Bishop Cynthia Fierro Harvey in her final address as president of the Council of Bishops on April 25 stated — “I also realize that it might be time to bless and send our sisters and brothers who cannot remain under the big tent.”

    BLESS and SEND. Stop. Nothing was said after this as to HOW the bishops were planning to “bless and send sisters and brothers”. These few words would indicate generosity, cooperation, amiability, compassion, neighborly love, and to do unto others as they would have others do unto them.

    In the absence of the Protocol, this obviously cries out for them to ACT on these words and bring forth a SISTERS and BROTHERS plan that would actually be a blessing to them as they depart.

  11. Each member of the united Methodist church can take a stand for truth. President Zelenskyy said it well: “karma Is mean.”

  12. Rob Thanks for having the courage to speak the hard facts

  13. How many pastors will enter their pulpits May 1 still holding credentials in the UMC? Said another way, how many will have relinquished their credentials by May1 to join the GMC?

  14. Grateful for Rob Renfroe!

  15. If you haven’t known this day was coming, your head has been in the sand for 25 years.

  16. It’s disappointing that the several articles I’ve seen so far from GMC adherents seem to follow the same basic tenor: a defensive and somewhat angry posture focused on judging the most extreme elements of their soon-to-be-former denominational brothers and sisters, rather than focusing on objectivity. At least this one didn’t mention the paganism slant.

  17. I do not understand the wringing of hands about whether congregations/churches should leave the UMC. If a person feels the denomination does not fit their views, there are a lot of other denominations around. Any individual has been and is absolutely free to leave the UMC whenever they want, no penalties, no questions, no drama. Just leave your church and join another in your community that is in better alignment with your personal views. Absolutely nothing is preventing unhappy individuals from leaving the UMC today. I don’t think anyone one any side is enjoying this situation.

  18. Thanks, Rob, for speaking out in “such a time as this.” The Left Behind church continues to demand outlandish departure fees that arise from depths of spite like that of the (proverbial) evil stepmother. All the while they coo like wounded and confused doves about love. But it’s too late for the melancholy and the petulance. The vineyard has been ruined by the tenants.

  19. The Global Methodist Church is so out of tune with our enlightened world, so homophobic, and so reactive. I refuse to be part of any Church that oppresses and does injustice.
    If my church goes with the GMC, I’m done with formal religion.

    Do you accept the freedom and power God gives you
    to resist evil, injustice, and oppression
    in whatever forms they present themselves?

    I do.

  20. Jesus gave us but one commandment….”Love one another”. Excluding the marginalized, the poor, the homeless, the aliens…..thats NOT what Jesus told us to do. He simply said…”Love one another.” The GMC seems to want to do the exact opposite.

  21. Yes you can leave for another denomination but you can say that the liberals are free to leave. They want us to leave and keep all the church property.

  22. David,
    Your Words “Any individual has been and is absolutely free to leave the UMC whenever they want, no penalties, no questions, no drama. Just leave your church and join another in your community that is in better alignment with your personal views. Absolutely nothing is preventing unhappy individuals from leaving the UMC today.” Apparently you did not read your own comment. Had the progressives followed your advice and joined another church more in line with their beliefs, NONE of this would be happening. So now the Bishops want to quote the book of discipline. IF they really believe that it should be enforced to the letter, then some of them are going to be in trouble. This is a catastrophe that should have never taken place had we stood up for what we believed. We have destroyed our own church and our country as well in the name of tolerance and peace. Even Jesus got angry and turned the money changer’s tables over. Maybe it’s time for us to do the same. May God bless us all.

  23. Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it – Jesus (Matthew 7:13-14).

  24. James is right. I have said all along that the progressives are running us out of our own church. Why didn’t they just quietly remove their membership and make their own rules for whoever wanted to believe them. I feel abandoned! Leadership as a whole has let us down by allowing us to be run away and form another denomination.

  25. This is how it all began with Southern Baptist Churches–a decrying of the evils of women in leadership, homosexuality, etc. etc. Ultimately the split destroyed the outreach of the SBC, which became more a political instrument than a religious organization, and the men (such as Paige Patterson) who launched the campaign were exposed by personal scandal. Jesus never mentioned LGBTQ issues but he did say that the foundation of all of the law was love (for God and each other).

  26. Rob is a godsend. Unfortunately, there are fewer and fewer like him willing to say what needs to be said. Woke churches will lose many members, just as woke businesses continue to lose customers. Time to find another church for many of us.

  27. Why do we equate love with acceptance? I love my children, but I do not accept their poor behavior when they display it. While taking a human form, Jesus did love everyone, but he did not accept their sinful behavior and try to justify it. God’s Word is truth, and blurring the lines of truth is exactly what Satan seeks to do. Divide and conquer is his motto and the UM church, along with this country, has fallen prey to his will. But I know God’s Word WILL prevail! His truth is prophesied in His Scriptures. Apparently many leaders of the UM Church have forgotten this fact. Continual prayers for the deceived, the lost, and those seek to divide God’s people.

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