Archive: 1970 Convocation Perspectives

Archive: 1970 Convocation Perspectives

Archive: 1970 Convocation Perspectives

Eileen Neely, Easton, Pennsylvania

The Dallas Convocation can by no means be passed over lightly with a descriptive phrase or two. I believe it is one of the most important milestones ever achieved by the Christian Church. It was so refreshing to see the United Methodist Church in action – sensitive to new ideas, and alive and honest about the many frailties in our Church.

For me, it was good just to know that we are not alone. It was good to see 1600 excited evangelicals congregated, knowing that they represented only a percentage of so many more at home. Great things really are happening across the country, and for once, I had a chance to hear about them. It amazed me to see so many people who are genuinely happy and genuinely in love with a God that is alive and doing things!

And the singing! – on the chorus of “How Great Thou Art,” I believe the ceiling of the ballroom and the floor of Heaven parted and became one. Even confirmed monotones were bleating from their toes in the best way they knew how in praise of their Lord.

Yes, this is the key – not that United Methodists have a great faith, but rather a great God! He is a God who deserves more than our second best: the irreverence of our seminaries and sanctuaries, and the apathetic attitude of our congregations towards anything that smacks of self-involvement. How can we dare to sing, “so I’ll cherish the old rugged cross,” when we only act like we cherish it for an hour on Sunday mornings? No wonder we “Christians” are called hypocrites! Christianity is not a church or a fellowship or a religion alone – it is a way of life. One of the speakers put this thought beautifully. He said, “Religion is only something that man made for God. But salvation is what God made for man.”

Before the Convocation, it was the common feeling that no real impact would ever be made on the world by the Church – things were just moving too slowly. But now, after hearing what is actually going on and seeing things brought into proportion, evangelicals all over are realizing that they had better jump on board or be left behind!

This, I think, is what appealed most to me and the other youth present. Things have to be “happening” to appeal to the “now” generation. Well, things are happening! People are changing! Love is abounding! And Jesus Christ reigns over all, just as He always will.

Someone once said that if you feel you have gotten far away from God, just remember – He hasn’t moved. And that’s the way I think He sees it now. His prodigal Church is finally realizing the real business at hand. A preacher can’t be boring when he has something exciting to talk about, and a church can’t stand still if it has somewhere to go.

This is where it’s at. Christianity is no fake or cover-up. It doesn’t run from the world. It faces the attacks and puts on the whole armor of God, brandishing the sword of Jesus Christ, and standing ready to defend its cause at all costs. It is worth the battle.

You know – this army has a great General, but some of the soldiers don’t know which side they’re fighting for! God needs soldiers who will say, “I’m with you, Lord. You’re fabulous!”


Donald R. Tichenor, Pastor United Methodist Church, West Point, Illinois

I wish I could put into words what I experienced at the Convocation at Dallas. I am still rejoicing at what God did for me there.

I had not planned to attend, but some friends invited me to go and my wife thought it would be good for me. So I went along. How glad I am that I did!

In 1968 I was refused my deacon’s orders because I insisted on attending a conservative seminary. As a result of all the pressure put on me by the conference, I had a nervous breakdown. For two years I have been under the Juniper tree (I Kings 19). I lost confidence in myself and also in the United Methodist Church.

When I went to Dallas and saw 1600 preachers and laymen who believe in the things of God and who seemingly are fed up with all of the intellectual skepticism streaming from our pulpits, literature and seminaries I began to realize I was not alone in this thing. Because of the Convocation at Dallas, I have a renewed confidence in the United Methodist Church and consequently a renewed confidence in myself. It is kind of like being saved all over again.

I have felt like leaving the church many times and have had numerous offers from other denominations. But God would not let me out. He always reminded me that outside of the church I could do nothing for it, so why not stay in it and try by His help to change what I could? I believe that if all the people who have left The Methodist Church would have stayed in it, we might have a more evangelical church.

I praise God for the Good News Movement because I believe it is of God. And if it is of God, no man will stop it; not even the devil. I do not know what Dallas did for the other people. But I will be eternally grateful for what God through it did for me.


Rev. John Collier, Tulsa (Okla.) University

As a Christian at ease around the Billy Graham – Oral Roberts type preaching and the Mark Hatfield-George McGovern politics, it was good to feel at home at the United Methodist Convocation for Evangelical Christianity in Dallas.

First of all, the theology was solidly Christian from orthodox perspectives. At Dallas, nobody doubted that the Christ of faith is the selfsame Jesus of history and the New Testament documents. The bones of Jesus Christ are not to be found in Palestine, for He is risen! The holy Scriptures are trustworthy records of divine revelation concerning the encounter of God with men from Adam to Paul. The coming of Jesus Christ tells us that man is in need of being rescued from his rebellion against God. And the crucifixion of Jesus Christ tells us that, to God, the divine rescue mission was so urgent and necessary that it was worth Creator facing the spittle of creature, and Father the death of His Son. At the Convocation, no one thought it absurd that the death and blood of Jesus Christ could effect new possibilities in man’s relationship with God.

In Dallas, words about theology were filled with life and relevance. Evangelist Tom Skinner performed open-heart surgery on every white man as he spoke plainly and prophetically about the contradictions of evangelical thought and evangelical living concerning the hellish plights of the black man in America. Dr. Gallaway’s challenge for Christian involvement and self-sacrifice wherever the world is hurting, was strong medicine for some of us who spend a few too many hours griping about the liberals rather than in getting with it in the ghetto.

Nashville and Riverside Drive were addressed from Dallas. Christians did speak out on things bugging the souls of hundreds of thousands of United Methodists. They spoke loudly concerning the crisis in the Church over literature, to name one example. To this observer, these forthright criticisms were essential. Some, perhaps, will call this kind of open talk “divisive” or “too negative.” Others of us, however, see it as being fundamentally healthy to expose our own institutional weaknesses and to call for reform in strong and prophetic tones. To fail to vigorously attack our weakness as an institution is to fail to be either progressive or responsible. To this observer, addressing the institutional hierarchy was constructively done in Dallas.

The Convocation seemed to experience the power of the Holy Spirit. New spiritual life, conviction of sin, and genuine unity were all signs of His presence, manifested during the meetings. Many of us were encouraged, and returned to our vineyard fields freshened by the challenge to deny ourselves, to take up our cross and follow Him.


Dr. Paul Wright, Grand Forks, North Dakota

Most people at the Good News Convocation were convinced that something very significant took place – the Holy Spirit moved in a mighty way. Those who felt His power left the Convocation loving to live and living to love in the name and for the sake of Jesus Christ. We may never know how many people felt the leading of the Holy Spirit in a very specific way. I, for one, did.

It seems that when God reveals Himself, everything falls into place – including past trials, disappointments, “coincidences” and failures. And as everything falls into place, each event takes on new significance. This makes it difficult to make a long story short, but I must try.

For me – and many others – the Good News Movement has been a shining hope for renewed spiritual vitality and effective Christian outreach in the United Methodist Church. For somewhat more than a year, my involvement in Good News has been my most concentrated and satisfying avenue of Christian endeavor. Yet, in spite of opportunities to contribute my “widow’s mite” to this effort, I have been nagged by a sense of inadequacy and incompleteness. I have not been doing an effective job of witnessing for Christ in my own back yard, especially in my local congregation. Gradually, my turmoil over this became almost unbearable. I began to question whether God really wanted me to remain in my position as a university professor, or whether He was calling me to some more “definitely Christian” field of service.

My answer unfolded in an indirect but unmistakable way in Dallas. Early in the Convocation I saw that some teenaged girls had written on their name tags, “God loves you, and I love you.”

That’s real nice, I thought; then went my busy way. But as time went on, that beautiful phrase kept resounding through my heart and mind. I couldn’t get away from it – God loves you … and I love you. I wanted to say it to everybody I met. I t’s true! God loves YOU! And by the grace of God, perhaps for the first time, I could honestly say that I love you too-no matter who you are, what you look like, or how you spell your name. Then, seemingly out of nowhere, came a plan. I decided to have some calling cards printed saying, “God loves you … and I love you. (Inquiries invited),” followed by my name, address and phone number. The idea was to put one of these cards in all my mail and to give cards out according to the leading of the Holy Spirit to the people I meet in daily life.

Furthermore, I decided to have my artistically-talented wife letter a large sign for my office bearing the same inscription as the calling card.

Then came the startling revelation! Such a sign hanging in my office would compel me to give my Christian testimony to anyone who wanted to inquire. This would mean witnessing for Christ to spiritually indifferent – often hostile – colleagues and students. Did I want to take that chance? Did I really want that sign in my office?

But then I realized that my office was one place where I did not carry my Christian witness-it was one corner of my life that I refused to commit completely to Jesus Christ. No wonder I was dissatisfied with my Christian witness! No wonder I was not effective in my local church! How could God bless my Christian outreach the way I desired if I refused to surrender to Him the part of my life that takes more of my time and brings me in contact with so many people?

To decide to undertake a ministry for Christ is one thing. To have the ability and “guts” to do it is quite another. But the Holy Spirit imparts power and ability as well as guidance. He will not send anyone to a task without providing everything it takes to do the job.

My “ministry of the calling cards and sign” is well under way. People know where I stand and they are willing – sometimes eager – to hear about it. I no longer fret over whether I should be in some “more definitely Christian” field of service. God has given me a small but important ministry right where I am, and I am confident that He will bless it. If He calls me to something different, I am ready to go. But in the meantime, there is too much to do “here and now” to worry about whether I should be doing something else in His name and for His sake. “For I know whom I have believed and am persuaded that He is able to keep that which I’ve committed unto Him …” And as my wonderful wife says, “Yes. And the more we commit to Him, the more He has to keep for us.”

I’ve discovered something important in the past three weeks. People are deeply moved when they hear a person say sincerely that he loves them. “God loves you, and I love you.” Try saying it to someone. You will be surprised!


Dale Bittinger, Pastor, Rockwood, Tennessee
Editor, Good News Newsletter

After the dramatic happenings of the Dallas Convocation, very few doubted that the fledgling Good News Movement had begun to “increase in stature and in favor with God and men.”

The above statement expresses my strong conviction after listening to the major addresses, evaluating the workshops and seminars, talking to hundreds of registrants and listening to a number of spirited conversations. In the ensuing paragraphs I purpose to share other impressions I received as I listened to the beat of the Convocation – both as a leader and as a concerned U.M. evangelical.

One got the impression that he was caught in a strong and irresistible flood: the Good News Movement is an idea whose time had come. The mood of the Convocation had an insistent quality. United Methodist evangelicals are no longer going to be denied or repressed. Neither are they going to be silent. There was a jubilant determination to influence the direction of the United Methodist Church.

A new mood of involvement was clearly evident. Many repeatedly expressed a new desire to confront the social evils of the day with the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Both laymen and ministers seemed ready to become involved in the decision-making processes of the Church. Also evident was a growing sense of the need for laymen to expose their own workaday world to Jesus Christ. Soul-saving must not be confined to secluded sanctuaries and sonorous sermons. The curbstone, the coffee table, the campus, the craftsman’s bench are now to become arenas of evangelism, and pulpits for presenting Christ.

There was a near-explosive concern about curriculum resources, teaching in the seminaries, and the use of United Methodist funds. No one could deny that United Methodist evangelicals felt strongly about these things. However, most of those present seemed to have gone beyond mere reaction and negativism. Loyalty to Christ and the Scriptures superceded loyalty to the institutional church. Time after time, the admonition was heard, “Let’s be positive.” Hundreds were jumping on the Good News bandwagon because they recognized it as more than a “society of soreheads.” We were critical of the Church only when she had failed to exalt Christ. Not many of those present had any “axe to grind” or any “peeve to pet.” Most just wanted a Christ-exalting, soul-saving Church.

Many of those not intimately involved seemed to suspect that the Good News Movement was a political action group or a bunch of “come-outers.” Constant assurance was given that United Methodist evangelicals are not trying to split the Church. Almost everyone present seemed to desire healing for the Church, not schism. The prevailing mood was to save the Church, not further fragment it. It was apparent that many concerned United Methodist evangelicals do heed the perpetual cry of Good News: “Don’t leave the U.M. church – stay and witness.”

The presence of a great number of youth and young adults dispelled any idea that this meeting was the “belated bleating” of senile senior citizens who can’t cope with change. Those who were not young in years had a daring youthful spirit. It was evident that most had prospects for the future; they were not prisoners of the past. (This is augmented by the fact that the Good News Board of Directors is composed mostly of men who are not yet age 50.)

It was apparent that some of the general church administrators and press did not comprehend the message and mien of United Methodist evangelicalism. However, there seemed to be some who really wanted to know. Others just wished the whole thing would go away. Some United Methodist evangelicals are beginning to realize that an untiring effort must be made to make their position clear.

The Dallas meeting was marked by a joy, a sense of liberation, an optimism, an exuberance that at times bordered on euphoria. Hundreds who had scarcely dared hope that such a Christ-exalting, Bible-proclaiming, Spirit-filled meeting could take place in 20th Century Methodism, were now beside themselves in utter amazement and exultant praise. This ecstasy flooded the congregational singing. Stately anthems and liturgic chants could not express the wonder of hearts “strangely warmed.” So, songs of testimony echoed in the halls of the Adolphus Hotel. And the great heart of a great people whose great God could not be contained – even in a great state like Texas – swelled with a great doxology of wholehearted praise.

Seven were present of the nine of us who met in Elgin, Illinois, three and a half years ago to begin the Forum For Scriptural Christianity in The Methodist Church. We stand in wonder at the great things God has done. All of us are virtual unknowns in the church. But it’s not by prestige or by human power “but by my Spirit saith the Lord.” We had little money but “little is much if God is in it.” When we realize the miracle of it all, we cry out, “To God be the glory. Great things He has done.” Then we face the future and we pray, “Lead on, o King Eternal, the day of march has come! ”


Michael Walker, Pastor Greenville, Texas
Chairman, Good News Task Force on National Convocations

For those of us who had the privilege of seeing God at work in the planning and preparation of the Convocation of United Methodists for Evangelical Christianity, it was an even greater thrill to see His faithfulness in the events of August 26-29. I believe it was, unmistakably, the work of God.

The program of the Convocation was so full that it is difficult to point out the high spots. Time and again, I found myself called to repentance and re-commitment to Christ. I was not allowed to concentrate merely on the problems and sins of non-evangelicals. The program was potently personal; I knew God was speaking to me. The emphasis on the necessity of sharing Christ with the world was no surprise. But it was presented with a fresh urgency.

The emphasis on the social responsibilities of the Christian was consistent and potent. No one could have truly participated in the Convocation without getting the message that social responsibility is an evangelical imperative.

The program was Christ-centered rather than problem-centered. While problems were identified and spoken to, the overriding emphasis was on the “Master of the crisis.” I was impressed with the mood of the participants. Worship was wholehearted. The singing was enthusiastic, joyful and, at times, spontaneous. Each session was “alive.” There was a note of real receptivity and openness to a wide variety of speakers and emphases. The persons who came to Dallas did not come to gripe; they came with a real agony in their hearts for the state of the Church in our day. There was ready acceptance of one another – even though we were from many parts of the country and were strangers to one another. Unity and a common commitment to Christ was characteristic. This was no “back-to-the-olden-days” crowd. People showed a real awareness of the particular challenges of today’s Church, and embraced them readily. By the end of the Convocation, a definite “get-with-it” determination was evident in those returning to their homes and churches.

One important result of the Convocation is that now, and for the first time in Methodism of recent years, U.M. evangelicals have a visible symbol of reference. They can point to Dallas and say “That’s who we are!” “Good News” magazine has been a beginning form of this kind of symbol. But now the Convocation has solidified and clarified the image of the United Methodist evangelical.

The Convocation was vital to the future strength of U.M. evangelicalism because there emerged in Dallas persons with abilities for national leadership. The evangelical movement within United Methodism desperately needs national leaders. The Dallas Convocation (and subsequent ones) contributes to the emergence of this kind of evangelical leadership. Likewise, the Convocation brought pastors and laymen in contact with effective resource persons and organizations of the larger Church.

Perhaps we will see that the Convocation was the beginning of the evangelical break-out from captivity … the captivity of “the System,” the captivity of despair, the captivity of silence, and the captivity of indifference. Dallas was only a beginning. We yet have a long, hard road ahead – but we have begun!

The Convocation was evidence of the growing strength of the evangelical faith within United Methodism. Far from becoming weaker, the influence of the evangelical in the Church is much greater than 10 years ago. Furthermore, increasing numbers of those who identify themselves as evangelicals seem to be more firmly and maturely established in the evangelical principles than in recent years.

The Convocation had powerful impact on the personal lives and faith of the participants. Many encountered Christ in a fresh way. Others renewed vows to Him in the areas of sharing the Gospel, social action, local church responsibility, ordination and membership vows. There were tears of repentance. Hearts were open to the filling of the Holy Spirit. It was a life-changing Convocation.


George Curtis, Jr., Portland, Maine

As a member of the Convocation Steering Committee, and in on the planning from the beginning, I view what happened at Dallas with a great deal of awe and wonder. It started out as an “impossible” task for a handful of us. We dared not shoot too high for fear of failure. But the Convocation turned into a gigantic tribute to the power of Almighty God. Surely God’s hand was in this undertaking from the start. We began in weakness with no funds, a small mailing list and only volunteer workers. But a powerful Force seemed to sweep us along, and the myriad difficulties were overcome one after another.

The Convocation itself was successful far beyond expectations. Methodists came together in Dallas from all walks of life, from all over the United States and even as far away as Africa and New Zealand. There was something for everyone. The speakers ranged from college president to bishop, from clergy to laymen. There were scholarly dissertations and stirring calls to action interspersed with simple witnessing to the power of Jesus Christ to change a life. We heard the “Good News” as it applies to the crisis in the world, in the Church, and in our own lives. And we were moved!

Some came to observe, some to participate and some to object. But most everyone left the Convocation changed in one way or another. Even the critics could not ignore the evidence of a Love and a Power that surpassed human understanding. The Holy Spirit was very evident during those days in Dallas. Minds were opened, hearts were filled and lives were changed in a miraculous way.

After a particularly moving prayer session on Friday night, a husband and wife sat up and talked together until almost dawn with new-found insight and understanding.

Many men and women wept openly as Tom Skinner convicted us with his stirring and incisive approach to what Christ has to say about our relationship with blacks.

On Saturday, Dr. Akbar AbdulHaqq openly called for a personal re-committment to Christ and challenged us to turn more of our lives over to His Holy Spirit. Every person knew that God’s Spirit was present!

Several men and women mentioned the great love and fellowship felt among those in attendance. One man said, “I t must have been like this after Pentecost.” Everyone I talked with urged that we have another Convocation next year exactly like this one. They plan to bring others who also want and need the love and strength that comes from being with fellow-Christians who share a like mind about the Bible, Jesus Christ and our United Methodist Church.


H. Ebright, Pastor U.M. Church, Rubidoux, California

There we were, my wife, my two-year-old son, and myself in the middle of Sequoia National Park. We had planned a two-week camping trip and were in the Giant Forest area of the park, where the majestic sequoias tower over you and help provide a setting which is quietly beautiful and inspirational. We had wanted to get away from it all: and here we were. But we were not content.

Prior to leaving for our camping trip we had decided not to go to the Convocation in Dallas. But now we couldn’t get Dallas out of our minds. So that Saturday before the Convocation, we sat on a log and prayed that God would make it clear to us whether we were to stay where we were or to leave for Dallas. We got up from praying and felt certain that somehow we were to go to Dallas. We had no idea how we were to make it. But we decided to take it a step at a time and trust God for provisions. The first step was to leave the park.

We arrived at our home late that night feeling that perhaps there would be a sign from the Lord. I hurriedly looked through the mail but found nothing. Somewhat disappointed, I began to unpack the car. Suddenly my wife exclaimed, “Here it is!”

Sure enough – in a letter I had overlooked was an offer from friends to take care of our little boy if we should decide to go to Dallas. Rejoicing in the clarity of the Spirit’s direction, we repacked our car, left our son with our friends, and departed Sunday afternoon for Dallas.

The drive East was trouble-free. And for our small car, which had already labored over 90,000 miles, we felt that this was another evidence of God’s provision.

And that’s not all – through an anonymous donor we were given, almost to the dollar, the money needed to pay for our hotel room in Dallas.

What have we learned from this experience? We have learned that we can ask for specific guidance and that it will come. We have learned that the Holy Spirit is persistent, even to the interruption of what seems to be very reasonable plans, in order to accomplish His will. We have learned something more of the mercy and grace of God, for there is nothing special about us that He should lead us so clearly. It’s His working: to do His good pleasure. Rejoice! God cares!


Virginia W. Law, Director of Family Worship Upper Room Section
U.M. Board of Evangelism

The legend of the king’s clothes may have a parallel in the Dallas Convocation. This king was so vain that he constantly demanded of tailors that they produce something new, at the risk of their Iives if they failed. When every imaginable cloth and design had been exhausted these men became desperate. Then one tailor suggested that they create an invisible cloth. With flattery they sold the king a costume made from this cloth which was like nothing anyone had ever seen.

As the king rode before his obedient serfs, they, accustomed to paying unquestioned homage, joined the tailors in shouting praise of the king and his clothes. Then in the midst of this tumult, one little boy looked up and in a weak voice said, ” Look, the king is naked.” Only one person heard him, but that person realized the truth. He added his voice until the entire population saw that truly the king’s invisible cloth was not there.

Proud of our United Methodist Church, we have been guilty of demanding new and better programs. Pressure is upon our leadership to change the structure, change the program, become relevant, get outside the church, get involved – until, in the midst of all this activity, we suddenly hear a few weak voices saying, ” Behold we are undone.” The important question is, who has heard this cry?

Certainly the large number who actually came to Dallas were persons who heard and felt that we had sacrificed our Best Message for some good programs. They heard in Dallas that much of the fault was ours: ” If people don’t care how their money is being spent, who can really blame the church agencies for spending our dollars as they see fit?” (See Dr. Keysor’s second address).

Many people came to Dallas with one great motivation. They wanted our Church to hear their fears and concerns that our United Methodist Church was losing our basic commitment to Jesus Christ as Lord. Across our land many of them have voiced this concern. Too long their voice has been heard but discredited. Contempt for their views has added insult to their distress. Intellectual snobbery has closed the ears of many who should have heard. Using social action concerns as their defense, these unheeding ones have posed as prophets of conviction and accused the evangelicals of simply airing their prejudices. The contemptuous attitude that if we were only informed or had enough mental capacities, we’d know better, has often silenced timid people. Somehow we seem to have come to the point where it takes more brains to question our faith and peddle our doubts than to affirm our faith. Now, from lonely isolated points, a multitude of voices is demanding to be heard.

Will they be heard?

I believe they will. As I have traveled extensively for the past months, I have seen the attitude of many church leaders change from, ” If we ignore them, they’ll go away,” to a much more open “What are they really up to?” In serious dialogue with a group of editors I was asked, “What are they saying that we don’t hear?” I felt this was a sincere question.

I have heard on good sources that evangelicals are being considered for active involvement in the curriculum committee for our Sunday School materials. Certainly here is a place where evangelicals have been crying to be heard. As the voice of evangelicals is courageously lifted, many people who despair of being heard will take heart and speak out.

I really have no fear now that we will not be heard. I’m more concerned that our voice do credit to our Lord. One zealous friend who was NOT at Dallas has reported extensively that, “We got ’em told at Dallas.” This was not the reason nor spirit for the Convocation. If anyone ” was told,” it was the evangelicals, as our sins of white racism, segregated churches and social inaction were graphically brought to our attention. If we now take our opportunity to be heard as a chance to tell anyone off, we will have lost our battle. To continue to be heard we must speak responsibly. Our facts must be checked-our information accurate. We must also listen to others. We may not agree with what we hear but we can not speak to be heard unless we hear.

I am convinced we are at a crucial point. We ARE being heard. Let us speak courageously with care.


Spurgeon Dunham III, Editor, Texas Methodist

Are the “Evangelicals for Scriptural Christianity within the United Methodist Church” a divisive force aimed at tearing Methodism apart? This was one of many suspicions voiced by church leaders in anticipation of the unofficial national Convocation held in Dallas …

The suspicion was not without some historical foundation. Traditionally, evangelical or conservative Christians have tended to do a lot of good preaching about spiritual matters to the neglect of human physical need. They have been very concerned with social issues such as the use of alcohol and tobacco, drug abuse, and adultery, but silent – or sometimes supportive – on the issues of racial segregation, poverty and nation-worship. And responsible churchmen are rightfully fearful of any return to fundamentalism and its corresponding heretic hunts for those who do not conform to a rigid, unloving and unchristian type of orthodoxy.

Fortunately, these suspicions regarding the “Good News” Convocation were, for the most part, unfounded. Convocation leaders admitted that some of those attending the Dallas meeting may have been seeking a shelter for the preparation of racial prejudice. They found no comfort, though, from the speakers who consistently affirmed the Biblical imperative of universal human brotherhood under God.

Some may have come hoping to hear a gospel of “Christianity and America” proclaimed. Instead, the word of the evangelicals is that God loves people of all nations, and that America, despite all its positive attributes, is in dire need of God’s judgment and His forgiveness for the wrongs done in its name.

Some may have come hoping to be a part of the founding of a new sect. They were disappointed. The commitment of the vast majority of evangelicals is to a reformation within the structure of Methodism, not a copout.

The question which remains is: are the evangelicals a divisive force within the church? Yes, they are divisive. Divisive in the same way Jesus was to first century Judaism. Divisive in the same way Martin Luther was to 16th century Catholicism. Divisive in the same way that John Wesley was to 18th century Anglicanism. And, strangely enough, divisive in the same way that many liberal, “church renewalists” are to Methodism in our own day.

A survey of Methodism in America today reveals these basic thrusts. One is devoted primarily to the status quo. To these, the institution called Methodism is given first priority. It must be protected at all costs from any threat of major changes in direction. No one could correctly question the loyalty or the good intent of the institutionalists.

The other two forces do question the theological soundness of institutional loyalty for its own sake. The progressive, renewalist force has properly prodded the Church to take seriously the social implications of the Christian Gospel. At times, their zeal for social action may have clouded their vision of the faith’s foundation.

Now the more conservative, evangelical force is accepting the social implication of the Gospel, but is also prodding the Church to take with renewed seriousness its commitment to the basic tenets of our faith: our belief in a transcendent God, our faith in Christ as personal Lord, and our mandate to proclaim Him so that all men have the opportunity of Christian discipleship.

No one can correctly question the intent or the institutional loyalty of the vast majority of renewalists or evangelicals. Each is trying to say something terribly important about what it means to be a distinctly Christian person in the year 1970. Both are pursuing their convictions precisely because of their loyalty to Christ and His Church called United· Methodist.

Each of these two forces should listen to the Christian truth which the other is expressing. Those of us who are fearful for the institution should listen to both of them. If we really believe in a God who continues to reveal Himself in human history, then we may discern that He is working through the diverse forces within Methodism to recreate His Church: “truly catholic, truly evangelical and truly reformed. ”

Reprinted by permission from “The Texas Methodist. ”

Archive: 1970 Convocation Perspectives

Archive: Jesus Christ: Master of the Crisis

Archive: Jesus Christ: Master of the Crisis

Condensed from an address by Dr. Akbar Abdul-Haqq, Associate Evangelist with Billy Graham

The Lord of the Church calls us to repentance. We fail to love and serve Him above all.

I would be belaboring the obvious if I were to say that the world in which we live is already in the midst of perhaps the deepest crisis in human history. And the crises of the world around us strangely have found their way into the Church.

What is happening today is not something which would surprise the Lord of the Church. He knew it all along. Actually, almost from the very beginning there have been crises. And as Master of all crises He also dealt with them, in His own way.

The first great crisis in the I ife of the Church was the incident of Ananias and Sapphira (Acts 5:1-11). Here, the Church right at its very birth, would have gone wrong. But the Holy Spirit, under the orders of the Master of every crisis, acted quickly. And Ananias and Sapphira were eliminated – without much notice!

Another crisis in the early Church was due to some people called Nicolaitans (Revelation 2: 6). We don’t know much about these people. Scofield tells us the Nicolaitans were a group of people who began to introduce the pernicious distinction between the clergy and the laity – the beginnings of the secular power structure in the Church. And the Lord Jesus Christ says, “I hate them.” He didn’t say, “I dislike them.” Jesus said, “I hate them.”

Brethren, the Lord Jesus Christ has a place for hate and love, both. Even psychologically, it is unsound to say that you love, love, love, and nothing else. There has to be someplace for hate. Because we have a capacity to hate, and if we don’t express it in the right way, it will find expression the wrong way. And the right way has got to be the way of Christ. He got angry when he cleansed the Temple. Now if He could get angry, am I more Christian than Christ to say, “Oh, no, I don’t feel any anger. I’m just a lamb.” (Even a lamb feels angry if you kick it hard.)

The zeal of the Lord has to consume a Christian. Not the zeal of my ambition. Not zeal in terms of what somebody has done to me, insulting me and so on. But if the House of God is being contaminated, I have to get angry. It has to be cleansed, according to the ways of the Lord.

He says, “I hate” these Nicolaitans, who are trying to build up a power structure. Because the way of the kingdom of the world is being smuggled into the Kingdom of God. They had built up quite a power structure by the time Constantine comes on the scene (312-337 AD). Read in that part of Church history how the bishops and the patriarchs were fighting against each other tooth and nail.

By the time you come to the 7th century appearance of Islam, Mohammed, the prophet of Islam, started his search after God. He was looking for an experience of God, and he came to Christians. The Christians had nothing to tell him except the ecumenical discussions in those days. And Mohammed left a record of those Christians in his book called the “Koran.” He said in one place, these Christians speak about the Messiah, but no sure knowledge have they about him, only an opinion. And so Mohammed turned against Christianity.

And after his death, the armies of Islam moved out of the cradle of Arabia and devastated the organized Church over much of the known world. It was the judgment of God upon a degenerate Church. Are we going to say that God will spare His judgment from our kind of Church today? It is already there – in terms of the world outside just ignoring the Church.

The Lord’s ways are not our ways. He doesn’t think the way we usually like to think. In the second chapter of the Book of Revelation, for example, He addresses Himself to all those in the Church at Ephesus. He says to them, I know your works. You are suffering for Me. You have patience when you suffer. You have capacity to distinguish between the right prophet and the wrong prophet. You have some of the great qualities that any church would love to have, any time in history. But then, in spite of all your great qualities, the Lord says, I have something_ against you also.

And what that something might be? In the fifth verse of the second chapter He says, “I have this against you, that you have abandoned the love you had at first.”

If you go to the 19th chapter of the Book of Acts you learn there that Ephesus began as a church of born-again people. And yet the Lord had a serious complaint against them.

Many of us say we love the Lord. That’s good. But do we love the Lord first? Many of us say we live by the experience we had of the Lord. Are you living by the experience, or by the One whom you experienced?

I can look back into my own life. When I was in college, the Lord Jesus Christ met me for the first time. I had been seeking God for seven long years, in my own ways. But He came upon me a day when I least suspected. There were four or five other college students who had a similar experience, and it was as if we were drunk with new wine. A day before that we used to run after girls, we used to have gang fights, and all those things that carnal people may want to do. But within a few hours, we found this strange change: our only preoccupation was the Lord Jesus Christ.

I have known human love. I have known the love of my wife. My children. It is no critIcIsm or rejection of that love when I say that it does not begin to compare with the grand intoxication of falling in love with Christ.

After I had this first romance with the Lord, I entered the ministry of The Methodist Church. I was considered a pretty good minister. Even my wife thought that I preached good sermons once in a while.

Everything was going fine and one of the great evangelists of our age invited me to participate in a crusade – ostensibly to help him. And so I arrived in America. In this crusade, my first contact with him, I sat on the platform. The first evening he was beginning to speak to about 22,000 people in Louisville, Kentucky. He started by giving the first message on the Ten Commandments.

I sat there throughout his message and tried to improve upon his entire sermon. (I don’t mind telling you now because I have told this to him already.)

The second day the same thing. And on the third day I also was trying to just glorify myself. But around the fourth evening, as the evangelist was drawing to a close, all of a sudden I felt that I was there alone by myself. And I heard Someone speak to me exactly in terms of the first five verses from the second chapter of the Book of Revelation. I knew it was the Lord. He said to me, “Akbar, I know your works. I know you have preached here; you have preached there. I know once in a while you have suffered for my Name’s sake, but not with much patience. I know you have had some privations, but still you complain. I appreciate it all. Nevertheless, I have something against you.”

At this I pricked up my inner ears to hear what that might be. And the message came clearly across the horizon of my being! “You have forsaken your first love. Remember that day, from where you have fallen.”

I realized that the grand intoxication of the first love of my Lord had been dissipated. I still loved the Lord. But I did not love Him with the first love.

I want to thank God again that at this crisis in my life, the Master of crisis gave me the capacity to repent. I felt broken down. The most unworthy person. I hardly could control myself.

By this time the evangelist had finished his message. I followed him to his private room and as soon as we arrived there I broke down, in tears and crying. Perhaps for the first time in my life I did that.

The evangelist was completely taken by surprise. He tried to console me, and wondered what had happened. Then I told him what the Lord had spoken to me about. I knelt down and confessed to God my sin of this reduction of my devotion and dedication to the Lord of my life. I asked His forgiveness. Then the evangelist prayed for me.

I got up beginning to feel a new man. That was the beginning of another chapter which the Lord of life is still writing, in the book of my life.

I have given you just an illustration. I don’t know what you are going to call it theologically, backsliding or what. But the question is, how about our first love for Christ? Is it still the same as it used to be when we began with Him the first time? Or even more?

If so, God bless you. You are going to be a firebrand in the hands of the Lord. But if not, the Lord Jesus Christ says, “He who has ears to hear, let him hear what the Holy Spirit has to say to the churches.”

The Lord says, you have to repent. And if you don’t repent, then tragedy. Jesus warns, “I am going to come to you quickly and will remove your candlestand from his place.” Which means Jesus is going to reject you completely. (See Romans chapter 1 – Editor.)

The Book of Acts tells how Peter and John were taken to task by the Sanhedrin and the political powers in those days. And told not to preach Christ’s Gospel. They were the first evangelicals who felt helpless in the face of a formidable opposition. What did they do? Just discuss it? Talk about their trouble and then disperse?

No, they went on their knees to the Lord. They said, Lord please see what is happening here. They didn’t know what the Lord was going to do. They only said, “Lord please give us the boldness to proclaim this Gospel, to be evangelicals in the teeth of this great opposition. ”

What happened? A second Pentecost came. The whole place was shaken, and they were filled with the Holy Spirit once again.

And I think a second Pentecost is needed here before this Convocation disperses. Because the Lord Jesus Christ said, “If you being evil know how to give good things to your children how much more your Heavenly Father will give the Holy Spirit to them who ask it.”

You see, it’s just a matter of asking. But is there some impediment between the Lord and us which would keep us from a grand experience of a second Pentecost? If so it has to be within us. Some lack of repentance. Some lack of confession. Some lack of brokenness before the Lord, which would keep from us the outpouring of the Holy Spirit.

Now this is a simple matter isn’t it? If there is a confession or an acknowledgement to be made … a praise to be given which we have not given … any missing of doing the right thing – why don’t we do it right now? Ask God the Father, according to His blessed promise, to pour out His Holy Spirit once again upon us so that we can face the opposition within the church and without, with holy boldness.

That is exactly what we want to do before this great Convocation comes to an end. It would be a pity, wouldn’t it, that we talk about the need for renewal, we talk about the need for repentance, we talk about the need to be filled by the Holy Spirit, but never do anything about it?

First, we are going to have a session of prayerful waiing upon God our Lord. A few minutes where we are going to pour ourselves out personally and individually before the Lord, whatever our situation might be, whatever our confession might be. Just make that confession before Him. If you feel impelled by the Holy Spirit to lift up your voice and pray aloud, do so. But just please remember, just pray a sentence prayer. And after th is prayer session is over, I’ll conclude it with a brief prayer myself. Then we go into the next time of another few minutes duration, when we will ask God to pour out His Holy Spirit upon us. And I shall lead you in that prayer, as all of us would offer ourselves to Him.

Therefore let us go into the first part of our engagement with God at this time. We are going to pray quietly, silently, in the privacy of our own being. Let the Spirit of God lead us. God bless you, as we pray.

Oh Lord of crisis, do Thou receive our offering of ourselves, as we have poured ourselves out in Thy presence. And then, oh Father, do Thou bathe us afresh in the blood of the Lamb. Cleanse us of everything that might hinder the free work of Thy Holy Spirit. And thus, oh Lord, prepare us for the outpouring of Thy Spirit and Thy presence in a fresh anointing, in a second Pentecost. We pray these petitions oh Lord, to Thy glory, in Thy holy and blessed name. Amen.

A second Pentecost occurred in the closing moments of the Convocation. Heartfelt prayers came from everywhere. Quiet tears of repentance flowed freely. Then tears of joy as the Spirit of conviction brought a sense of cleansing and forgiveness to many layman and pastors – Charles W. Keysor, Editor.

Archive: 1970 Convocation Perspectives

Archive: Strategies for Solution of the Church Crisis

Archive: Strategies for Solution of the Church Crisis

Part Two

Condensed from an address by Dr. Leslie H. Woodson
Chairman, Good News Board of Directors
Pastor, Memorial United Methodist Church, Elizabethtown, Kentucky

We must “fight on for the faith” by growing in faith … by praying much in the Spirit … and by seeking to save the lost.

“But you, beloved, build yourselves up in your most holy faith; pray in the Holy Spirit; keep yourselves in the love of God; wait for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ unto eternal life. And convince some, who doubt; save some, by snatching them out of the fire; on some have mercy with fear, hating even the garment spotted by the flesh” (Jude 20-23, RSV).

Not long ago, a United Methodist pastor from the State of New York said to me in a discussion of biblical inspiration, “The Letter of Jude has no message for today.” Many contemporaries must agree with the New York minister, since it is rather obvious that Jude’s writing is a neglected letter. If the modern reader knows anything at all about Jude, it is probably limited to the magnificent doxology at the end of the epistle.

And yet, it may be that Jude is one of the most relevant books in the New Testament for the end of this millenium. Moffatt calls it “a fiery cross to rouse the Christians.” Barclay refers to it as “a trumpet call to defend the faith.” The letter was written to combat the heresy of gnosticism and antinomianism within the Christian fellowship-and to exhort believers to faith, hope and love. This brother of our Lord, as some believe Jude to have been, suggests three basic ways to “contend for the faith once delivered unto the saints.”

The Church of Jesus Christ must contend for the faith through personal integrity built on apostolic faith. Jude believed passionately in a creed. There is a move afoot today to scuttle the creedal statements and reduce the dogma of the faith. Jude would have been incensed at such a suggestion. The Christian life is founded on a holy faith. That faith is revelatory in nature. It was “delivered” once and for all to the early Church. That faith is authoritative and binding on all who name the Name of Christ. It is not manufactured by man, but given by God. Thus, it is unaffected by opinion, current fads in theology or currents in sociology, anthropology and psychology. It has always been true that correct belief determines good character. Orthodoxy lays the groundwork for orthopraxis.

Teachers of heresy tear down the fellowship and wreck the Church which Christ built. Believers, on the other hand, must build up the fellowship. According to Jude, Christians are not to criticize the Holy faith revealed to us by God, not to amend it to suit our wishes, not to correct it where it does not agree with human wisdom. Rather, the faith of the Apostolic Church, centered on Christ, must regulate our lives.

No life can be soundly constructed unless it has a definite point of reference. Something has to be absolute or everything becomes relative. We grow as we bring ourselves into line with the “faith once delivered unto the saints.”

Now, there are three ways of “building up” one’s life. First, by praying in the Spirit. Heresy is impossible when one is guided by the Holy Spirit through prayerful communion with the Eternal. B. Reicke says, “The success of the Church in the world is to come through holy prayer and not through sly tactics.” Today the Church is long on tactics and short on prayer.

Second, we build up our lives by staying in the love of God. Knowledge of His love is a bulwark against despair in troubled times. As United Methodists, we still believe that our security is conditional, that it rests on fellowship with God.

Third, we build up our lives by hoping for the parousia, or the second coming of Jesus Christ. Though there is little talk about this consummating event, the parousia is the crowning glory which will finalize the coming Kingdom. We must keep prepared.

The first way to contend for the faith, then, is by personal integrity built on apostolic faith. What we believe is basic to what we do.

Another method of contending for the faith is by evangelistic witness based on a compelling urgency. We must not give up on the Church or the world. It is not easy to keep one’s faith alive in an alien culture. The Hebrews discovered this in the land of captivity when they wept, “How can we sing the Lord’s song in a strange land?”

Today there is an alarming mass exodus from the United Methodist Church. Multitudes of our people are leaving because they have seen strange fire upon the altar. It is not holy fire.

We cannot evade our mission, however, by running away. There is no possible monastic insulation in the twentieth century. Thomas Carlyle, deeply disturbed about his own times, wrote to Emerson, “A man has no right to say to his own generation, turning quite away from it, ‘Be damned.’ It is the whole past, and the whole future, this cotton-spinning, dollar-hunting, canting and shrieking, very wretched generation of ours. Come back into it, I tell you.”

We cannot be leaven unless we are in the meal. We cannot be light unless we function in the darkness.

The need for evangelism has never been greater. “Convince some who doubt,” exhorts Jude.

The time is ripe for a return to the kerygma* of the New Testament. We must let in the light on the confusion of our time. When Robert Louis Stevenson was a small child he was attended by a nurse due to his frail condition. One night, as he stood at the window with his nose pressed against the pane, the lamplighter was making his rounds lighting the lamps one by one. Suddenly, Robert cried out, “Nurse, there’s a man out there punching holes in the darkness!”

Never has the darkness been deeper nor the need for evangelists to punch holes in it been greater than now. Certainly, we have no desire for an evangelical “fuss-box.” But we must challenge our pagan society and secular church to rethink its philosophy.

When Einstein was asked how he discovered the theory of relativity, he said, “I challenged an axiom!” It is our duty as a Church to challenge the axioms of our secularized world.

But Jude goes farther. “Save some,” he cries, “snatching them out of the fire.” The Church must again proclaim divine judgement upon sin. Ours is a soft age, an age without discipline. The prophetic voice is nearly dead. Must it be 400 years before we hear it again?

The world and the Church are flirting with falsehood and, therefore, playing with fire. We must confront the world with the reality of divine judgment – but we must do it in love.

A church was looking for a new pastor. On two consecutive Sundays the guest preachers preached on hell. One was called in preference to the other. When asked how they made their decision, the pulpit committee replied, “One man told us we were going to hell and seemed to be glad of it. The other told us we were going to hell but it broke his heart.”

And this brings me to the third and final way of contending for the faith once delivered to the saints. We must take care to have a perspective balanced between truth and love. Evangelicals have often been accused of lovelessness. In our stringent defense of Truth we have been guilty of neglecting the individual. It is possible to become so intent on our Father’s business that we have no love for people who are not likewise employed. The elder brother in the parable of the prodigal son was faithful to his father but loveless toward his brother. And that annulled all his goodness. There is a little quatrain which sobers me,

To dwell with the saints in Heaven

Will be bliss and glory;

To live with the saints on earth

Is often another story!

Far too often we have been like James and John in wanting to call down fire upon those persons who refused hospitality to our Lord. This is not in keeping with His Spirit. And because of this harshness, we have been accused of bigotry, hostility, and unbrotherliness.

Some of us act as though we belong to a spiritual aristocracy which is characterized by snobbery and Pharasaism. This must not be! The Church is engaged in its own brand of civil war and everyone is sensitive and suspect. In 1861 William Pitt Fessenden, U.S. Senator from Maine, wrote to his wife, “When a man feels as if he could cut everybody’s throat and that everybody wants to cut his, he is in a pretty bad condition.” This attitude must not be found among us.

Some evangelicals are like jabbing needles, dulled from much use! We must be on guard not to display a jungle mood where only the fittest are allowed to survive. We must not become sarcastic, bitter, abrasive and caustic. It is not good when our more liberal brethren insist that they c1nnot tolerate us without novocain!

Tennyson once expressed the desire to take the “hiss” out of the English language. At least, we ought to remove it from the Christian vocabulary.

A bitter dispute once developed between Newman Smith and Robert Hall. Smith was the author of a widely read pamphlet entitled, “Come to Jesus.” In his dispute with Hall, Smith wrote a bitter pamphlet against Hall. Unable to think of an appropriate title, he asked a friend to read it and make a suggestion. After having read it, the friend said, “Why don’t you call it ‘Go to Hell’ by the author of ‘Come to Jesus’?” Evangelicals must learn that we cannot verbally invite men to Jesus while at the same time self-righteously consigning them to hell!

Truth and love must not be polarized. There is much fear of polarization today. I have no alarm whatsoever about much polarizing. Man has to choose which side he is going to be on. We cannot be spineless like a jellyfish. But, I am afraid of polarity between truth and love. We are enjoined by Jude to “hate even the garments spotted by the flesh.” That is, we must expose heresy and resist falsehood wherever it is found. We cannot condone evil. There must be moral distinctions. But, while we “contend for the faith” we must beware lest, in the process, we become contentious!

I am not afraid of atheists or secularists, bishops or kings, persecution or death. But I am terribly afraid of losing my love in the intensity of the conflict. Retaining the balance between truth and love is hard!

While Jude exhorts us to “hate the garments spotted by the flesh” he also enjoins us to “have mercy.” There must be a personal warmth and love in all we do. Thomas Merton once said, “Do not be too quick to condemn the man who no longer believes in God; for it is perhaps your own coldness … that killed his faith.” There are far too many orthodox icicles among us. We must “defend the faith,” but we must do it with a magnanimous spirit. Paul was right, “If I … have not love, I am a noisy gong!” We can make a lot of racket and still get nothing done because we lack love as the primary motivation.

Heywood Brown once accused Christians of using their shepherd’s crooks to beat one another over the head. Sometime ago, in the “New Yorker,” there appeared a cartoon depicting two seminarians walking inside the cloistered walls of the seminary. One of them was saying to the other, “The thing that gets me about this place is that they expect you to love people you don’t even like!” Exactly! That is what God expects, too. My task in this troubled world is not only to “contend for the faith” but to do it in love. That is, I must “love my crooked neighbor with all my crooked heart.”

Some polarity is needful. If I did not believe that, I would not be here today. Nor would I be involved with the cause which “Good News” represents. But there must not be any polarization between truth and love. Truth without love is cold and bigoted. It produces only isolates who fail to communicate with the world. Love without truth is sentimental and weak. It produces a flabby fellowship like we can see among many in the Church.

I know of no better way to conclude these remarks than by reading from one of John Wesley’s moving sermons. Let the founder of Methodism speak for himself:

“Beware of the most distant approach to disdain, overbearing, or contempt. With equal care avoid all appearance of anger; and though you use great plainness of speech, yet let there be no reproach, no railing accusation, no token of any warmth, but that of love. Above all, let there be no shadow of hate or ill-will, no bitterness or sourness of expression; but use the air and language of sweetness as well as gentleness, that all may appear to flow from love in the heart.”


*Kerygma: The heart of the Gospel message about salvation effected by Christ’s atoning death for sinners.

Archive: 1970 Convocation Perspectives

Archive: Strategies for Solution of the Church Crisis

Archive: Strategies for Solution of the Church Crisis

Part One

Condensed from an address by Dr. Charles W. Keysor
Editor, Good News
Pastor, Grace United Methodist Church, Elgin, Illinois

We must “contend for the faith” by yielding ourselves to Christ, so that He can fight for truth through us.

The New Testament Letter of Jude was written to a Church in crisis, back sometime in the First Century. The Church, then, was plagued with apostacy; Christians renouncing beliefs they once professed … teachers presenting falsehood in the guise of truth.

Church history has a strange way of repeating itself. The old illnesses of the early Church come back to plague us – dressed, of course, in new clothes and speaking in contemporary accents. But underneath they are the same old heresies. Always they grow out of some deficient or perverted understanding of the Word of God.

From the Letter of Jude, Dr. Woodson and I shall each lift up one short passage as a kind of “hook.” Upon each hook we will hang several suggested strategies for solution of the Church crisis.

I call your attention to Jude, verse 3: “My dear friends! I was doing my best to write to you about the salvation we share in common, when I felt the need of writing you now to encourage you to fight on for the faith which once and for all God has given to his people.

This obscure verse holds an important key to constructive action for solving the Church crisis.

“Contend for the faith,” or as J. 8. Phillips paraphrases it, “put up a fight for the faith.”

What does it mean for Christians to “fight on “? How shall we United Methodists fight on? Like Carl McIntyre? Like the Ecumenical Institute? Like Billy James Hargis? Like the political infighters in United Methodists for Church Renewal?

I believe that the “Good News” emblem offers a clue to how God expects us to “fight on” for the faith.” The emblem is, first of all, a fingerprint, symbolizing humanity. Each individual is a unique and special creation of God.

That fingerprint stands for our humanity, and over that fingerprint we have superimposed a cross. Because the Cross of Jesus Christ redeems our humanity – makes it what God intends it to be. By faith, the sinful self is nailed to Christ’s cross, where the fallen, carnal “me” is crucified with Christ. So it is not I who live, but Christ who lives in me, as the inspired Apostle Paul wrote to the churches in Galatia. “And the Iife I now Iive, I Iive by faith in the son of God … who loved me and gave Himself for me” (Galatians 2:20).

We can only fight in the right way when our humanity has been set right through the Cross of Jesus Christ. If we fight in the carnal spirit of the self un-crucified, then our fighting cannot possibly honor God. In that case, we would deserve to lose. But if we fight as redeemed men and women, then it is not we who fight. Then it will be Jesus Christ who fights or contends for the faith through us.

So let us prepare to do battle by making full surrender to Jesus Christ. Let every motive be purged clean of desire for power, prestige, or self-glory. Let self be nailed to the cross.

What will combat be like as we fight on to restore a greater degree of faithfulness to Jesus Christ and to those great Wesleyan principles of Scriptural Christianity (principles which we promised to uphold, as laymen and as pastors)?

Take the matter of church school literature. I thank God for one great principle upon which the local church rests in United Methodism. When the merger came in 1968, the new church plan of union emphasized greater freedom for the local church to be in mission — “to do its own thing” for Jesus Christ. Long experience had proved the sterility and futility of a bureaucratic structure where people in church agency offices, remote from the reality of the local church, hand down wisdom from on high … wisdom often given ex cathedra. This system has proved its futility. And so the 1968 merger wisely set the local church free from subservience to bureaucrats in faraway places. I thank God for the wisdom of General Conference, at this point.

I have heard two top officials from the curriculum-producing portion of our Board of Education say the United Methodist Discipline does not compel United Methodist Churches to use Nashville’s literature. I heard a bishop say that he would not force any church to use official literature – providing that church had made thorough and intelligent study of its mission and of the literature.

Brothers and sisters, we have been set free! Liberated from bondage!

In places, there is pressure to conform. And I wish that the Board of Education would send a letter to all District Superintendents explaining what has been said privately that use of Nashville literature is not mandatory.

Let us contend for the faith, in this matter, simply by following common sense and our Discipline, which opens wide the doorway to responsibility for the local church.

Let each church make a serious study of its educational needs and resources. Then let the Holy Spirit direct each church in making a thorough investigation of the various curriculum materials. And when you do this, please do not overlook the Bible. As far as I know, the Bible is “approved” literature for United Methodists.

How shall we put up a fight for the faith in the matter of money?

There is no issue that generates more consternation than this. But it is a very real issue today. I would not be realistic in speaking about “strategies for the Church in Crisis ” if I ignored this – even though it’s like grabbing hold of a red hot frying pan.

I do not like that term “withholding.” For when we talk of holding back money, this sounds to me like waging war on the carnal level, the level of unregenerate power politics. Just because our Board of Missions resorts to economic boycott as a means of pressure to gain its way, this does not mean that you and I have any right to do so. Even if General Conference approves the Board of Missions’ boycott technique.

I suspect that we may be letting the devil fight through us, not Christ, when we talk of withholding. I do not see how anyone can reconcile the idea of boycott, withholding, when our Lord says, “When someone asks you for something, give it to him.

How then, should we fight on for the faith, as far as church giving is concerned? Is the only recourse to send in our money, no matter how strongly we disagree with how that money is used?

There is another way … a more excellent way.

Let’s face it, we have been lazy stewards. Most of us do not bother to learn how our money is being used. We just give it. It isn’t a matter of trust; no, it is plain old-fashioned laziness. We just don’t take the trouble to study our Conference and World Service budgets.

This is sluff-off stewardship. It has laid the groundwork for our present money trouble. For if people don’t care how their money is being spent, who can really blame the church agencies for spending our dollars as they see fit?

The need is for responsible stewardship. This means believing that every dollar you give to Jesus Christ is a sacred trust. We had better care where every dollar goes. We had better care very much! Because our Lord, who multiplied the loaves and fishes to feed a hungry multitude, can use each dollar or dime to advance His eternal Kingdom. Remember how harshly Jesus condemned stewards who were careless about handling the Master’s money?

Let us contend for the faith with our dollars, yes. Let each United Methodist know whether or not dollars from the local church are being used in a way that agrees with the principles of Holy Scripture, conforms to our United Methodist doctrines and with our United Methodist Discipline.

It is simply a matter of responsible, practical stewardship. Each Christian must invest God’s money wisely, where it will really serve Jesus Christ.

The opposite side of this truth is that a good steward will not invest God’s money where it is not doing God’s work.

Let us fight on for the faith, in the financial arena. But let us go into this combat as crucified men and women whose single desire is to use every resource to the best advantage of our Lord and Savior.

I want to mention one final way in which we may fight on in the Spirit of Christ. Please notice that I said one way, not the way. This involves politics. It is strange what ambivalent reactions that idea of political action seems to stir up when we evangelicals start talking about it! On one hand, the social activists condemn us because we are not enough interested in the politics of Washington, D.C., the state capital, or city hall. But let any evangelical mention the need for political action in the church, and we are immediately branded as polarizers, troublemakers, boat rockers, disloyal Methodists!

There is nothing inherently wrong or sinful or un-Christian about the political process. At this point I happen to agree with some of my friends in United Methodists for Church Renewal. They are very candid in saying that politics is the practical way things get done in an organization. I agree. The way politics are practiced and used may be wrong. The methods. But not the politics, per se.

There are two kinds of church politicians, that I have been able to identify. One is the unregenerate and carnal church politician. Such was a ministerial brother who led a skillful campaign to defeat another United Methodist minister’s bid for election to the 1968 General Conference. Later the defeated candidate met the victor in the hallway. Said the winning United Methodist minister to the losing United Methodist minister, “We shot you down, you S.O.B.” Such is the mood, the method, of unregenerate church politics.

The second sort of church politician is one whose politics have been redeemed by Jesus Christ. This church politician believes that United Methodism’s system guarantees to all the right of fair representation. That each group within the church is entitled to fair representation, proportional to that group’s membership constituency.

This church politician sees nothing wrong in seeking fair representation for a point of view that is solidly anchored in Methodist doctrines and Discipline. He believes it is part of his duty as a loyal Methodist to increase by the political process, (among other ways) the influence of historic Christianity, and those who uphold it.

Let us not talk of another caucus. But let us not shrink from claiming our rightful representation as United Methodists within the United Methodist system. It is simply a matter of treating other people the way we want other people to treat us.

I, for one, never want to deny representation to any group, even though it may not agree with me. But under God, I am compelled to put up a fight against the wheeler-dealers who demand not only their representation, but mine as well.

I have mentioned three areas of combat, three theaters of warfare, where we are able to serve God by fighting on for the faith, as Jude’s letter puts it so relevantly: church politics, money, and church school literature. These are only three of many opportunities that you and I have to serve our God, by fighting for His truth in ways that will reform, serve and strengthen our beloved Church.

But hear me well – we must do it by letting our Lord do the fighting in us and through us.

Archive: 1970 Convocation Perspectives

Archive: Social Reform: An Evangelical Imperative in the Crisis

Archive: Social Reform: An Evangelical Imperative in the Crisis

Condensed from an address by Dr. Claude Thompson
Professor of Systematic Theology
Candler School of Theology

The Gospel demands involvement in social change as a crucial dimension of obedience to Jesus Christ.

The subject assigned is: “Social Reform: An Evangelical Imperative.” But I should like to restate it: “Evangelism for Revolution!” I prefer revolution if it can become sufficiently radical – and Christian. I would even say we require a violent revolution, to shake the old forms of religion into a shambles and rebuild them according to New Testament faith.

It needs to be as world-shaking as that revolution inaugurated by Jesus of Nazareth 20 centuries ago. The time has come for the Church to “put away childish things” and get with the revolutionary tide of the time – with Christ as the Great Revolutionary.

There are two ways to come to this revolution. One is by judgment. The shortcomings of the Church can be so accented that condemnation gets major attention. But this is not the mood needed today. Rather, we need to come to this revolution in repentance and humility. It will require that we hold before the Christian community the opportunity, the open door, the glad romance, the day of privilege of entering joyously into our task. This is the day for a revolutionary faith. The ’70’s demand a revolution big enough to match the glamor of the Gospel!

We really should note that this theme has already been given by Leighton Ford at the Congress of Evangelism. He said: “Revolutionary evangelism will mean earning the right to speak to lives bruised and battered by social upheaval. Can the Gospel win a hearing, for example, in the urban ghettos, where militants wear buttons saying, ‘I hate Jesus,’ and where the Black Muslims say that Christianity is ‘”whitey’s” religion’?

I find myself in a strange dilemma. I have deep sympathy for the social revolution. But so often it lacks any Gospel! And I have a deep commitment to evangelical Christianity. But so often it is defective in its vision of human need! I find myself standing in a no-man’s land between the misguided humanism of the Ecumenical Institute or the MUST program on the one hand, and on the other inept evangelism that is out of touch with human degredation.

Thus I am disturbed because of two groups in the Church. The radical activists put all the emphasis on social action but have little Gospel. We are thus willing to promote voter registration, march in protests, conduct study classes, fight racism, struggle for the rights of migrants, agitate against the war in Viet Nam, and all the rest. And all these ought to be done! But – there is little concern for forgiveness of sin, the new life of faith, and a joyous and vibrant relation to Christ alive.

On the other hand, I am equally disturbed because of evangelicals – especially conservative fundamentalists of the Bible-belt – who are gung-ho to get people converted but who have little social vision and less social action. They say: “Preach the Gospel but stay out of politics,” meaning: “Don’t disturb things in our community.” “No race-mixing,” meaning: “Keep the Negroes out of our schools and our lily-white churches.” “Poor people are just lazy,” meaning: “We don’t want to pay our maids and janitors honest wages. ” “People in the slums just don’t want anything better,” meaning: “We don’t care if people rot in the inner-city cesspools while we live in suburbia.”

Believe me when I say I have prayed earnestly that I speak here in terms of urgent love. I want both the activists and the pietists to see the failure of their half-gospels. Elton Trueblood is right: intense social action without a life of devotion produces damaging results, “one of which is calculated arrogance. ” But he also says that concentrated attention upon devotion, evangelism, piety, may lead us to focus upon the love of Christ, but we “may easily forget those whom Christ loves. ”

I do not want to be misunderstood: We may provide the most effective social revolution possible and still have a pagan society. Recently I wrote in the “Christian Advocate”:

“I get the impression that we often conclude that if we establish daycare centers, tutoring classes, recreation for juveniles, half-way houses for alcoholics, counseling opportunities for confused adults, minister to hippies, operate coffee-houses, live in the inner city, engage in protest rallies, promote open housing, and all the other needed activities to heal the hurt of people-that the kingdom is thereby established. “The fact is: we can do every single one of these things, and do them perfectly, and still never be the people of God nor proclaim the Gospel.”

But on the other hand, if we engage in evangelism of the traditional brand, but fail to become participants at the disease centers of society, we will still have a pagan culture.

Let me illustrate.

We are happy that the Salvation Army rescues drunks and prostitutes. But suppose they come to our adult Sunday school classes?

We tend to reject long-haired hippies. But do we hear the creative words they may be speaking to us?

We take pride in Methodism’s ministry to black people. But what if one moves on our street? One church with a half million dollar plant moves to a white suburb rather than admit one little Negro girl to membership.

We boast of our adult classes – birthday banks, flower funds, friendship circles, “opening exercises,” and all that goes to keep us from adequate Christian education. But do we ever DO anything?

We are disturbed at our dirty and cluttered city streets. But what do we do to encourage adequate paving, regular trash collection, street lights and clean-up campaigns?

We are shocked at the crime waves rolling over our communities. But are we willing to get involved to promote civic righteousness, adequate police protection and an educational program to correct the condition?

We are confused at the conduct of protesters against war. But what do we do to stop it – even to writing letters to Congress?

These are but some examples of the current dichotomy between evangelism and social action bedeviling our Church.

Traditionally, the women of Methodism have been the thrust of a great missionary and evangelical appeal. From reports which I have had and read from the 1970 Assembly at Houston, and from the emphases which I find in the official periodicals of our General Board of Missions, the “New World Outlook” and “Response,” I wonder if we are moving too far in the direction of endorsing the philosophy of the New Left in social activism?’ls there a danger that, even in our concern for social reform, we shall surrender our basic purpose to lead people to Christ?

We are in a world of revolutions. I t is part of the climate of the times.

There is the Marxist Revolution. I watched a CBS report from Canton, China. As I heard the children excited and joyously singing the revolution of Mao Tse-Tung, I wondered why we haven’t taught our children to sing the revolution of Christ.

There is the “hippie” revolution. We may want it to go away, but it won’t. It may have a new name, tomorrow, but the demand that every person “do his own thing” will remain.

There is the ecological revolution. Painfully, we learn that we can’t survive in the filth with which we fill our world. It is an evangelical imperative to clean up our environment – just in order to live.

There is the ecumenical revolution. If Protestants are hesitant here, the Roman Catholics will teach us. I tell my Roman Catholic friends that they shouldn’t be surprised at the revolution in the Church – Pope John was the first Protestant Pope we have had since St. Peter.

We live within a refugee revolution.

In five years the number of refugees has more than doubled. There are more than 17 million of them! That is a column of marchers – three feet apart – reaching around the world more than 7 times! Only many of them are too weak from hunger and disease to march at all.

There are the freedom and racial revolutions. Millions of non-whites have been emancipated. The white man will not control the world of tomorrow. The people down under are rising to new freedom, and most of them are non-white. About 3 out of every 5 persons on earth are non-white, and soon it will be 4 out of 5. Methodism has been tardy in moving into racism within our own ranks as well as into the problem nationally. We must see that black people can never be content to live in substandard housing, be denied jobs because of their color, crowded into ghettos, mistreated in the courts, given second-class education, kept in poverty, and denied the rights of American citizens.

And there is revolution in evangelism. It used to be said if you weren’t converted the first two weeks in October (or was it August?) you had to wait until next year. The pattern was largely the revival meeting.

But today Billy Graham reaches millions via television, radio and through the films. The Fellowship of Christian Athletes goes into high schools and universities – to lead people to Christ. The Campus Crusade turns multitudes of laymen into personal witnesses for Christ and His Way. Dave Wilkerson promotes a redemption center in New York’s ghettos. Alan Walker, as well as our Board of Evangelism, establishes Contact, a telephone ministry. A theological student begins a lakefront ministry and reaches masses of vacationers. Oral Roberts has college youth sing the Gospel around the world. Folk singers, often with rock music, get a hearing among dissident youth on the beach, in jazz festivals, in the hippie colonies and even among the drug addicts. A college revival “breaks out” and spreads across the nation. The list is endless. The Gospel does go forth

Revolution is not optional! We are all in it! We live within the climate of many revolutions. Our only options are the ones to which we give our devotion. Unless and until we are committed to the certainty that the Revolution of Christ is the most radical of all, we shall miss the golden opportunity of our time. Let me repeat: The ?O’s demand a revolution big enough to match the glamor of the Gospel!

In my struggle with this theme, some convictions have emerged:

(1)  In the future, less and less evangelism will be done at the church building. There will be less emphasis upon the church as a place to go and much more emphasis upon it as a crusade in which we participate. No place is out of bounds for him who is mastered by Christ alive.

I understand the comment of the half-drunk woman in a pub who saw a minister come in to sit among the drinkers. She said: ” I know why you are here. You are here to represent Jesus. ” The Gospel from a drunk!

(2)  More and more the idea of the church sending missionaries and evangelists will be modified. Now the Church must see itself as the Gospel in mission. To become a Christian is to become an evangelist. As someone says: “Every man is either an evangelist or he needs one.”

(3)  Evangelism must be structured around the needs of people in the world. We are called to an invasion for Christ any place where there is sub-Christian living. As Oral Roberts so often says: “A need exists to be met.”

For example, it must not be said that the Black Muslims are more concerned with education of Negroes than are the evangelicals. It must never be said that the SDS agitators on campuses are more concerned for peace than evangelicals. It must never be said that labor unions and the Coca-Cola Company are more concerned for migrants than are evangelicals. Wherever there is a human need – that is where we belong.

(4)  There must be a simplification of our message and mission. We must confront people in their confusion and suspicion clearly with Christ and His Way. We may have to apologize for the failure of organized Christianity. But we never have to apologize for Christ.

(5)  There must be the same urgency in social revolution as was evident in the camp meeting. Let me bring it even more up to date. We must have the same vibrant note of victory as that found in the crusade led by the late Martin Luther King, Jr. Two themes will forever be insistent calls for action: “I have a dream! “We shall overcome – some day! But that “some day!” must not be pushed into such a dim future that it is beyond our vision now.

Finally, I make these suggestions:

(A)  Each local church should give adequate time for a depth study of the needs of the community: drugs, crime, slums, hippies, migrants, pornography, racism, family life, unemployment, housing, disease, poverty, affluence, recreation – what have you. Three questions ought to be asked and answered: What are the concrete facts? What ought WE do about them? When do we begin – and how?

(B)  Plan for some person or persons in each church to see at first-hand what is happening in overseas missions and ai home. We must be stirred by conditions and actions now taking place. Nothing, absolutely nothing, equals the impact of meeting concrete situations. My wife and I will forever remember Viet Nam villages as we walked among the masses of refugees in Quang Ngai.

(C)  Give careful study of Part Ill of the 1968 Book of Discipline of the United Methodist Church, entitled “Social Principles.” This could become the outline for the social revolution in any community in America. It is both theologically sound, socially relevant, and evangelically exciting.

(D)  Youth and adult classes should be converted into centers of evangelical social revolution. At this point I should like to say that I am far more concerned about the kind of teachers we have than I am about the kind of literature they use.

(E)  We should take a new look at theological seminaries. They may be doing more harm than good. What can we expect from our pulpits when men are trained under teachers who profess no faith in God; who doubt His existence; who regard Jesus as only a good man – not a Savior; who have no place for prayer; who minimize the authority of the Bible; who have dismissed any idea of spiritually transformed lives under the Holy Spirit; who do not believe in life after death; and who have long since come to regard our Wesleyan heritage – both theologically and evangelically – as out of date?

I do not suggest that seminaries become Bible institutes – though, at present, worse things may be happening. But if there is little hope in giving major attention to the Gospel in our seminaries (which I suspect may be true) at least the fairness doctrine ought to provide evangelicals with equal time. Even the government would approve this. And, unfortunately, it seems to be more and more difficult to secure evangelicals as faculty members.

(F) Some experimental enterprises might be attempted: Witness centers at shopping areas, perhaps store-front churches, reading rooms with counselors available, community- wide action for social improvement, “house-churches,” task forces for civic action, coffee-houses or “hippie-havens,” recreation programs, etc.

But remember: there is a dimension of concern which the evangelical Christian has which goes beyond the ministry of secular organizations. It is to lead people to Christ as Savior and Lord. There must be planning and prayer – actually prayer and planning-to see to it that persons are joyously confronted with the claims of Christ.

(G) Some method should be devised to utilize the methods and dynamic of various evangelical movements. While this Convocation is essentially Methodist, we can learn from all groups seeking to make the Gospel meaningful for our time. No one has a monopoly on how to do it – and surely not on the Gospel. Perhaps at other convocations, or in smaller assemblies, it might be possible to have presentations from various perspectives as to how we may reach America for Christ. Included would be, of course, our own Board of Evangelism, and Campus Crusade, Alcoholics Anonymous, Young Life, National Council of Churches, United Christian Ashrams, Lay Witness groups, World Vision International, Laubach Literacy movement, Christian World Liberation Front, ghetto workers, the Key Bridge leaders, International Fellowship of Prayer, Fellowship of Christian Athletes, Billy Graham, Oral Roberts, Ford Philpot –anyone committed to Christ and His mission. This is a call to unite in a crusade to turn America and the world toward the Cross.

(H) We need an evangelism of ideas-conversion in attitudes. It is not sufficient to secure commitments to Christ unless there are substantial changes in the ways we think: attitudes of superiority, greed, racism, apathy, deadly routine religion, the status quo and all the rest need to be brought to the altar to be changed. We must go to our knees in Godly sorrow and repentance for the sub-Christian attitudes which possess us.

(I) We need a new grasp of the Bible in social revolution. What of the picture of the final judgment in Matthew 25:31-46? Blessedness and lostness both were directly related to ministry to concrete needs of people-hunger, clothing, loneliness, illness and captivity. Is anything more contemporary? If I read this correctly, it is a call to an evangelical revolution for the ministry of servanthood, the Gospel in action, when the “word becomes flesh.”

(J) But, of course, there is one supreme secret of it all: Everything done in evangelism for revolution must be born in prayer. Were I to name the number one need in evangelism today, it would be a need for prayer. Billy Graham is right: the total secret of his ministry lies in the consecrated prayer of vast numbers of people. I do not attempt to explain it. But I believe in some strange way beyond our understanding, “effectual, fervent prayer” still availeth much. It is not “To your tents, 0 Israel.” It is “To your altars, 0 Methodism!”

I close with words from Leighton Ford: “God’s revolution is going to go on, with or without you and me. But I don’t want to get left behind. So this is my prayer: Lord, start a revolution, and start it in me!”




Archive: 1970 Convocation Perspectives

Archive: Unity Among Dis-United Methodists

Archive: Unity Among Dis-United Methodists

Condensed from an address by Dr. C. Philip Hinerman
Vice Chairman, Good News Board of Directors
Pastor, Park Avenue United Methodist Church, Minneapolis, Minnesota

Our ultimate hope is Jesus Christ, rather than human wisdom, plans, organization and programs.

Isn’t it ironic that we’ve formed a new denomination and chosen for a title the United Methodist Church? That would be funny, if it were not so tragic.

Here we are, a group of evangelicals, and we can’t even agree among ourselves. About 150 points of view are represented here tonight among all of us. Every one of us has a different idea, and a different approach. If we tried to get a resolution passed here, if it had any teeth in it at all, it would fail to pass muster.

There is just one thing holding us together, and that is our love for the Lord Jesus, and our great desire to see His Gospel proclaimed to a whole world.

Let me say two or three things about what I think is going to happen or not going to happen. I see several things I think are already happening.

First, I do not see any great spiritual awakening happening in the immediate future in America. Nor do I see a great conservative or evangelical renewal taking place in Methodism. I’m not worried about being charged with being a pessimist when I say this.

I’m not worried about being charged with being the carrier of bad news or one who depresses the people. What I am concerned about is to make sure that I’m reading the signs of the times correctly.

Nothing could be more wonderful than for a great spiritual awakening to break out tomorrow, to come and save America and the world in this sad and mad hour when we’re about to destroy ourselves. And I pray that out there somewhere in the tomorrows there is a new Wesley, a new Luther, a man of God’s appointing about to be raised up for just such an hour as this. But I’m only reporting to you that tonight I do not see this happening, as of this hour.

I think a rather overpowering case can be made for the exact opposite of spiritual awakening in our time. Instead, you and I are seeing the most terrible falling away from faith and Christian morals that has ever happened anywhere, in any land, at any time in the whole Christian Era. The spirit of antichrist fills our land.

Nor do I see any great swing back theologically or spiritually in the United Methodist Church, in the decade or in the immediate future.

Look at the power structure of our denomination. You must if you’re going to understand the realities of power and political force and the prevailing ideology in the church that exists today.

I know fellows that are very optimistic about the future and about our church. These friends attempt to put the very best connotation possible on every little event that happens at their annual conferences. If it’s a little bit more conservative this year than it was last year, that’s a source of hope. Or if there’s an evangelical or neo-evangelical article that appears in “Together Magazine,” that seems to imply a great trend is taking place. Or if a mild evangelical gets employed in a great bureaucratic office in Nashville, that seems to give you hope. Maybe we’ll be saved by the bureaucracy after all!

But these are not the realities of power politics in the church. These hopeful signs are not affecting the men and the ideas that control budgets and control boards, and control agencies.

To know what’s really happening in the church today you need to read the various journals. For instance, “New World Outlook,” the official publication organ of the socalled Board of Missions. You need to read the latest social pronoμncement of the Board of Evangelism. You need to note the radical social action of some of our theological seminaries. You need to read that sociological document called the Episcopal Address. But above all these things, if you want to know where the church is, and where we’re going, and what kind of politics prevail, then you must study the budgets of the church. These show where Methodism’s heart and mind really is!

These all show one thing: these all show the real spiritual condition of the United Methodist Church today. They show the intellectual ideology of the power structure of the denomination. It is no longer to save the souls of men and women. The prevailing ideology of the church is no longer to rush out with importunity to reach men possessing eternal souls and bring them in their lostness to the Lordship of Jesus Christ, and into the eternal relationship with God that’s possible only through His shed blood.

I’ll tell you what the prevailing ideology is in this church that I love, this church that I was born into and have been a servant of all the days of my life. It is total dedication to the improvement of men’s social and physical conditions.

It is a church dedicated to providing better housing, better lighting, better streets, better air to breathe. I heard of a fellow who has just been appointed to be Chairman of Water, Sanitation and Garbage for his annual conference. In this polluted environment of ours, that’s a job devoutly to be sought! It is a church dedicated to fairer employment practices, to better race relationships, to better international relations. (And that, of course, is contingent always upon the international and political prejudices of the particular board or agency.)

I don’t have any trouble saying all of this. This is the church that I read about today in all of our journals. I think without hesitation it is possible to say that this is the central thrust of our boards, our agencies, the episcopacy, our college faculties, our theological seminaries.

I read an amazing document by one of the evangelism leaders of a large American denomination the other day. He said that we are not to convert the souls of men in America in the name of evangelism – because 80% of the Americans have already been converted to Christ! So social action, social involvement, improving the bodies, and the physical conditions of the men constitute evangelism today.

For 20 years I’ve lived in an interracial community and served in an interracial church situation. I think if anybody in this room cares about the bodies of people, I care. If anybody in this room cares about living dangerously, I care. If anybody in this room cares about changing the structures of society, for the human betterment of the people of this country, I care about that.

But that’s all secondary, if you’re a Christian man! If you believe men have souls, and that they are alienated and estranged from God (that’s a nice way of saying that they are lost) then I’ve got to fight for something better than better plumbing, better housing and better race relations – long overdue as some of these civic and cultural and social issues are. I must become a man possessed to pluck brands from the burning, as John Wesley said. That’s terribly old hat, terribly old fashioned. And it is utterly antiquated as an ideology in our church and in our time.

But if it is true, and I have neglected it, then in that hour when I stand before the living God in judgment I must give an accounting of the deeds that I have done, and the kind of trumpet that I have sounded. I do not see any great revival coming. And I do not see any evangelical turning in the United Methodist Church in the near future. But one thing I do see happening in the future is the rapid emergence of COCU as a great ecclesiastical and political reality. This, I believe, is coming with fantastic speed. It may well be an institutional reality in this decade. And it is coming, as you all know, from the top down, rather than from the bottom up. But it is coming none the less. And we are all going to be swept into this great debate in the next quadrennium, about whether we want in or whether we want out. We shall all be driven to decide whether we want to belong to a great super denomination with junior and senior bishops controlling the political realities of the church. And it will be a church with a creed that is surely the lowest common denominator of a doctrinal statement, written so very carefully so as to offend the fewest possible people.

The COCU planners are having a great deal of difficulty deciding whether to let us out if we want to get out. That is, local congregations. That’s rather interesting, isn’t it? I think they’ve already changed their mind two or three times. I rather feel boxed in already!

I read in the “Christian Century” a report of one delegate who was at the committee writing up the proposed plan of union. And when they were debating whether to let local congregations vote to get out, one of the fellows, according to the “Century,” said: “Absolutely not! Don’t give any local congregation this option. Else, all those conservatives will leave us.”

So apparently, at least some of the delegates want us all to stay in COCU’s bosom. That surely ought to make for the happiest fellowship this side of Pentecost.

Recently Dr. Donald Bloesch, who teaches at the United Presbyterian theological seminary in Dubuque, Iowa, wrote an amazing prophecy about all of this. He said “I hesitate to predict the future course of the ecumenical movement, but I can suggest one possibility on the basis of present trends. Instead of one church, there might be very well two churches emerging in the not too distant future. One of these will be Hierarchal, Monolithic, and Syncretic, concerned with worldly power more than biblical truth. The other will be Evangelical, Spiritual, Charismatic, and authentically Catholic. This spiritual church will be a church under the Bible intent on bringing the world under the dominion of Christ; the worldly church will be a church that practically deifies its own tradition and external forms. The spiritual church will be missionary minded: it will see its mission as going out into the world and upholding Jesus Christ as the Savior of the lost. The worldly church will seek to promote dialogues with the world religions as well as with Marxism and other forms of secular humanism, in order to discover a common unity. The spiritual church will be intolerant, and exclusive in matters of faith, but its intolerance will be based upon the love of Jesus Christ that goes out to all men. The worldly church will seek to advance itself, and therefore will be preoccupied with correct forms of ministry and polity. The spiritual or charismatic church will gladly die for the advancement of the Kingdom of God and for the conversion of the lost.”

There will be a noticeable tension between the spiritual church and the secular culture, whereas the worldly church will tend to reflect and embody the values and the goals of the culture.

Dr. Bloesch concludes: “True ecumenism does not deny structural unity, but it does seek to bring all things in subjection to Jesus Christ and His Gospel. It does not even rule out the papacy. But as Bonhoeffer has affirmed, only a Pope who submitted unreservedly to the Word of the Bible could be the shepherd of a united Christendom.”

Now please hear me clearly. I do not say that we are not to trust men. I do trust people. But I will not put my ultimate trust into the hand of any man, any institution. I want to belong only to One – to entrust myself only to that Terrible and that Awful and that Saving Name.

I was preaching in a Western conference, this last year, and I was talking about the Good News Movement. I got through preaching one day, preaching about like I have here tonight. Various people came up and made good comments or critical comments. And after a while, a young fellow that I’ve known for some time came up to me. He’s been out of seminary about eight years. He’s gone from a little tiny church to a great big church, and to a number of very prominent political positions in his annual conference. He knows the right people and knows how to say the right words.

He came up to me and he said, “Hinerman, you know what you are? You guys with Good News are a bunch of losers.”

I said, “You mean I’m a loser?”

He said, “Oh no, Phil, I didn’t mean you. I meant all your friends are losers. They’re just not smart. They just don’t know how to play the game. They’ve lost out. They lack expertise. They lack sophistication. They just don’t know how to make it in today’s church, and in today’s world.”

That’s what I like about the new breed – their modesty, their humility, their never-failing self-effacement. It’s beautiful.

The sad thing is he really believes that. But I want to tell you that it doesn’t take very much brains to be political in today’s church. And it doesn’t take a great deal of personality to get ahead in today’s church. What it does take is a thing called loyalty. You join up. You belong to the Machine. And you don’t make your criticisms of the great denominational monolith in public, or on the printed page.

I believe the committed evangelical will work for true ecumenism, seeking fellowship with evangelicals in all the denominations. I think Bloesch is probably right: God is preparing His Church, His elect, that company of believers. You are not self-righteous, my brothers, when you believe that Christ died for your sins and when you know that you are a sinner who has been saved by grace, and that you could go to hell even yet if you lose contact and fellowship with Him. To declare this is not being self-righteous.

I believe God is raising up in all denominations a band of His own, a band of believing people who are willing to die for Jesus’ sake. I don’t believe it matters much what label is over the door anymore. When people leave my church and tell me they’re moving to Chicago, or to Duluth, or to Dallas, and they say “Do you know anybody down there? Do you know a good Methodist church there?” I say, “You find some place where your soul is fed, out of the Word of God.”

I believe that the committed evangelical will work harder than anybody else in the church for real human justice. I believe that we evangelicals will work harder for the alleviation of human suffering and for the changing of all corrupt and prejudiced social structures. This canard that the evangelical has never been socially involved has been put to the lie and it is by scholars like Timothy Smith who magnificently point out that it was the revivalism of the 19th century that produced many of the great social institutions of the 20th. If we do have a revival today in America, out of that revival will come more human justice, more compassion for our brothers, whatever the color, than out of all the social pronouncements of the church to this hour.

The evangelical will do something more than be born again. He will do something more than just get converted. He will put his total trust and make his surrender totally to Jesus Christ as the Son of God, and as the Son of Man, The Savior of the world. He will continue to work within the denomination, and within the denominational structure as long as possible, until he is driven out or led out. But he will not make his commitment to any man or to any Machine. He will get rid of that terrible fear, in the visceral areas of his life. He will stand up, Luther-like, God’s free man.

I grew up in the South, and I grew up in the evangelical tradition. I remember that great old southern prophet, of the early half of this century, Henry Clay Morrison. I will remember one thing he said after I have forgotten all the other things. Henry Clay Morrison had been a Methodist all his life. When he was 80 he was still saying, “I don’t belong to the Methodist Church. I am a member of the Methodist Church. I belong only to God!”

The true evangelical man has a mighty faith, he has a victorious hope. He isn’t a pessimist; he is God’s supreme realist.

Because his hope is in the Lord of history. The lord who speaks. And he trusts the Lord who acts in man’s time and in man’s history.

His hope is in the Parousia*, the hope of His blessed appearing. The world’s darkness deepens all about us. Times become more venal, and men more evil, and institutions more corrupt. But this man of faith looks up, because his redemption and his salvation draws nigh.

*Parousia: the physical return of Jesus Christ, as prophesied in the Bible.