By Rob Renfroe-
It’s a new year. But will it be a new day for the people called Methodist? That’s the question many of us are asking as we look forward to a year that will be instrumental in determining the future of The United Methodist Church.
The called General Conference to discuss the bishops’ proposal to resolve our differences regarding sexual ethics will be held in February, 2019. By this summer at the latest we will know what the bishops will recommend as the best way forward for our divided church. Immediately we will need to determine if their plan is something that evangelical Methodists can support. If so, we will do our part to promote it. If not, we will do all we can to defeat it and to propose a solution of our own.
For fifty years Good News has labored to renew the church and defend the faith within The United Methodist Church. Knowing that there are many factions at work within the UM Church with their own visions and agendas, we want to work for a good outcome next February as the future of the church is determined.
- We will analyze the bishops’ proposal carefully and fairly when it is released. We will make our analysis public for open discussion and debate. The pros and cons of this proposal need to be articulated and made clear so that the people in the pews – those with life-long commitments to the UM Church – can discern and understand all that is at stake in the proposal by the bishops.
- We will survey leading orthodox pastors and theologians for their input. Good News is very aware that we represent hundreds of thousands of faithful pastors and laypersons – in the United States and internationally – who will have many different concerns and points of view. Our job is to educate, organize, and motivate – and we will do our work best when we have listened to others.
- We will travel to Africa and elsewhere to listen to our brothers and sisters there and to share our perspective with them. If United Methodists are to step into a faithful future, it is essential that evangelicals in Africa, Asia, and Europe help craft that future along with us. We are most grateful for the partnership we have with faithful believers in other parts of the world and for their influence upon the UM Church. We value their insights and their leadership, and we will do all we can to maintain and deepen our relationships with those in Africa, Asia, and Europe who have stood boldly in the past.
- We will be speaking at evangelical gatherings in Annual Conferences throughout the United States, educating delegates, pastors, and laypersons about the bishops’ plan and the best way forward. Our team looks forward to speaking at events where the clergy and laity want to become better informed about the options for the future of The United Methodist Church.
- After listening to orthodox leaders in the U.S. and around the world, we will determine the best response to the bishops’ proposal and we will do all we can to educate and prepare evangelical delegates to promote scriptural Christianity at General Conference. This work will begin this year, but will also include educational breakfasts during the General Conference in St. Louis in 2019. We have held these breakfasts at every General Conference for decades. After a time of worship, we have provided the most comprehensive daily legislative analysis to delegates to move forward with one heart and one mind on the floor of the General Conference.
- Finally, we will be prepared with a strategy should General Conference fail to adopt a solution that is acceptable to evangelical United Methodists. It’s terrifying to contemplate but it’s very possible that a solution will be affirmed that we cannot support or, more likely, no solution will be passed. This kind of legislative logjam has occurred at past General Conferences. At that point it will be imperative that traditional United Methodists act together. We will not have the luxury of asking people to hold on and wait for a few months until someone proposes a way forward that we can support. People will start leaving. Some pastors will resign. Churches will make plans to pull out of the denomination. We pray fervently for a good outcome, but whatever happens, we must step into the future smart, strong, and together.
As you can see, there is much to do THIS year, before we arrive in St. Louis in 2019. We are dependent upon the prayers and wisdom of dedicated and committed United Methodists who have supported us for the last 50 years. There is a new day coming for United Methodists. We at Good News will do all we can to make sure that the new day is a faithful future we can step into together.
Rob Renfroe is a United Methodist clergyperson and the President of Good News.