With Christ in the Rockies

With Christ in the Rockies

Archive: a local church adventure . . .

With Christ in the Rockies

By Eddie Robb

Eight grueling days of climbing through snow storms, fording mountain streams and eating freeze-dried food is not what you’d expect for a typical summertime church retreat. But that’s exactly what 18 high schoolers from Park Avenue United Methodist Church of Minneapolis, Minnesota did this past July.

After a 1,118-mile, non-stop bus ride, the youth immediately began two days of intensive training for their alpine odyssey. “We knew the training would be hard,” explains youth leader Art Erickson, “but the kids had to be prepared.”

Indeed they did! One time on the trail, the trekkers were caught in a hail storm. There was nothing they could do except keep climbing. Another time, at 13,000 feet, the group was deluged with ice pellets and blasted by lightning. “It’s sort of eery,” one hiker remarked, “to be in the storm, not below it.”

Days were long and hard. Carrying a 40-pound back pack is never easy. But it was especially difficult for the nine-hour days of steady climbing, and some days were even worse.

“On our next to the last day out,” reported staff photographer Larry Bracken, “we got lost and hiked from 8:00 a.m. until 1:30 the next morning! That’s 15 hours of solid climbing over rugged mountains.”

Not all the kids who go on this mountain adventure are members of Park Avenue UMC—or even Christians. The church uses the summer excursion as an evangelistic outreach, as well as training youth leadership.

Youth are recruited in the Minneapolis high schools and from Park Avenue Church. Since many kids are not from affluent homes, local businesses help pay expenses.

Is the mountain trip worth all the effort?

“Yes!” affirms youth leader Art Erickson. “We’ve seen positive results on each of our three Rocky Mountain outings.”

The hikers agree: the grueling eight days are worth every scratch and aching muscle.

“I have never felt so keenly the presence of God as being Creator-my Creator,” said one worn-out youth.

That’s what an adventure in the Rockies with Christ is all about!

With Christ in the Rockies

A Death to Contemplate

Archive: A Death to Contemplate

By Charles W. Keysor, Editor

Death often leads us to ponder … to reflect upon the earthly life and labors of one now departed. We remember what he or she has accomplished between the terminal points of birth and death. We consider how the world may be different because of this one particular life.

On July 30 this year, Rudolf Karl Bultmann died in Marburg, West Germany. He was 71 years old.

Probably Bultmann was the greatest theological giant of our times. Alongside him in the pantheon of the central 20th century theology, would be Karl Barth, Paul Tillich, and Reinhold Neibuhr. But Bultmann’s influence was surely the greatest. There is little doubt it will be the longest-lasting, for the disciples of Rudolf Bultmann permeated theological education in the Western World. They transmitted Bultmann’s thinking to several generations of highly influential church leaders-preachers, teachers in colleges and seminaries, writers, editors, bureaucrats, and bishops.

Rudolf Bultmann was deep and complex, to say the least. That he was a great mind, none can question. But what matters is not so much his massive intellect as the presuppositions he held concerning ultimate realities.

“It is no longer possible for anyone seriously to hold the New Testament view of the world,” Bultmann declared. “In fact, there is no one who does.”

Christianity Today, in an editorial commenting on his death, offered this cogent summary:

“His presuppositions began with a conscious rejection of theological orthodoxy. [He] did not allow for the presence of a personal, transcendent God who acts decisively and historically to redeem His people and who speaks in an intelligible manner to reveal Himself and His ways to men and women. He excluded the supernatural by definition from his system, as also any real intervention of the living God into the affairs of the world. Therefore [for Bultmann] the concept of miracle was ruled out, including the greatest miracle of all, the resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ. …”

“Wedding his theology to the existentialist philosophy of the early Martin Heidegger, Bultmann assumed the most radical tradition of Biblical criticism. He denied the historicity of all but a few basics of the life of Jesus (the “thatness”) and essentially dismissed the Old Testament and all Jewish elements in the Bible as irrelevant for Christian theology.”

This statement is accurate. It correctly describes Bultmann’s philosophical life-blood, and so it helps us to understand better his powerful influence on three generations of seminary professors and students.

“The tragedy of his influence and the painful burden it bequeathed to us stems from a good intention and a much-needed corrective gone amiss,” explains Rev. Dr. Paul Mickey, Associate Professor of Pastoral Theology, Duke Divinity School, and Chairman of the Good News Task Force on Theology. “His was a concern for the sofa fides principle, salvation by faith alone. This was nobly lifted up by Martin Luther during the Protestant reformation.

“As a Lutheran himself, Bultmann was eager to reaffirm this principle in opposition to 19th century liberalism. He correctly perceived the need to reaffirm that salvation is sola fides, by faith alone. But he went too far. He jumped on a ‘faith bandwagon’ and rode off into existential psychologism, away from history.”

Here is where heresy enters Bultmann’s work, the Duke professor said. “For Bultmann, atonement [i.e., the death of Christ on the cross in payment for our sins] was reduced to ‘self-understanding’ and history was pushed aside. The same principles which whisked away the historicity of the Bible also made history irrelevant for the modern believer.”

What is our faith apart from its history? A cross that may have happened if you choose to believe this. A tomb that was really empty only to those who make it so by believing that “He lives!” A record of early church growth and witness which may be only propaganda that was concocted to sell Christianity as a miracle religion.

If the Bible record of events is not reliable, then those who trust it are really fools and simpletons—as Bultmannians sometimes suggest.

Time Magazine for October 19, 1976, reported a major archaeological find at ancient Ebia in Syria—large number of clay tablets dating between 2400 and 2250 B.C. Describing the first discovery, Time reflected the wide spread assumption that Bibiical events and places are really not historical: ” … it [the discovery] also provides the best evidence to date that some of the people described in the Old Testament actually existed ….

“The Biblical connections appear to be numerous. The tablets contain accounts of the creation and the flood which are strikingly similar to those found in both the Old Testament and Babylonian literature. They refer to a place called Urusalima, which scholars say is clearly Ebia ‘s name for Jerusalem. (If so, it is unquestionably the earliest known reference to the Holy City, predating others by hundreds of years.)

“We always thought of ancestors like Eber as symbolic,” says [ David Noel Freedman, a University of Michigan archaeologist who worked in the excavations], “at least until these tablets were found. Fundamentalists could have a field day with this one.”

Such is the common assumption: Biblical places, people, and events probably did not actually exist. Bultmann has done more than any other, in our time, to increase this distrust in the Bible’s historicity.

“If history is at best irrelevant theologically,” Dr. Mickey observed, “if not untrue, then the atonement, the idea of God as Creator and the notion that we have social responsibilities in obedience to God—all these are lost and gone forever! Bultmann’s heresy was not his affirmation of sofa fides, but his exclusivism which rejected history and good works.”

Everything was reduced to subjectivism, or to purely personal judgment and opinion, Dr. Mickey said. Under Bultmann’s thinking there was “no need or power for good works and a lively social witness. Without history there is no social order.

“Thus the epithet, ‘Faith without history and good works is dead heresy’ may be the final judgment of Christian history on Professor Bultmann.”

Rudolf Bultmann tore the very heart out of Biblical Christianity, and this same characteristic is widely evident in our church today. Shortly after Bultmann’s death, a tribute was given by Dr. F. Thomas Trotter, staff executive for the UM Board of Higher Education and Ministry (in charge of our colleges and seminaries). UM Communications circulated a story about this tribute. It reported that Dr. Trotter had said that the church, if it is to survive and compel the attention of modern persons, will need theologians like Bultmann. Why? To keep the church thinking about its mission and its gospel, Dr. Trotter declared. He also observed that Bultmann’s legacy to the church is his care for the authority of the Word of God, spoken in modern situations and in speech direct I enough that the personal meaning will not be missed.

“Such scholar-prophets [as Bultmann] will have their detractors and they will risk our displeasure,” Trotter confessed. “But what they have to say to us is this: if our language is archaic, our response to the Gospel is merely formal, and our preaching is vacuous, then the power of God’s possibilities for men and women will be absent from the world.”

“The world does not require so much to be informed as reminded,” Hannah Smith once said.

The church is reminded, upon the death of Rudolf Bultmann, that men die in a few swift years, but the truth of God survives. In Eternity, when a final accounting is made, belief will be judged more enduring than doubt. That is why Paul wrote to young Timothy: “The time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own likings, and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander into myths ” (II Timothy 4:3, 4).

With Christ in the Rockies

The Calling of E. Stanley Jones

Archive: The Calling of E. Stanley Jones

by H. C. Morrison, Methodist Evangelist

Condensed from his book “Remarkable Conversations, Interesting Incidents and Striking Illustrations”.

Many years ago I had been engaged by a group of devout people to conduct a holiness convention in one of the Methodist churches in Baltimore. The pastor of the church cooperated with the people and we were all looking forward to a gracious time of blessing.

The presiding elder of the Baltimore District, however, decided that such conventions would not be for the best interest of the church and community. He notified the pastor that the church must not be used for any such gathering. They wrote me the circumstances and regretfully cancelled the engagement. …

There was a little mission conducted by holiness people in the city of Baltimore. When they heard I would not be allowed to preach in the Methodist church, they wrote asking me to give them these few days. I assured them that I would be there. This was not in the spirit of lawlessness. I have a profound conviction that God would have me preach full redemption from sin, here and now, through faith in our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. And always when church officials sought to use their authority to prevent my preaching this full salvation to the people, I have felt compelled to listen to the voice of the Spirit and obey the higher law.

I remember hearing a prominent preacher say, “The voice of the church is the voice of God to me.” That sounds to me very much like Roman Catholicism. … Certainly there is much talk going on by various church officials today that thoughtful and devout men would not dare to believe God has anything to do with!

I went and held the convention in that little Baltimore mission. The people were frightened; the attendance was not large. Some seemed to think I had committed a great sin in daring to come into a city over the protest of the Methodist elder. But there was earnest prayer, hungry hearts were fed, and we were all blessed together.

I have found that when we meet together with sincere hearts, under the strong opposition of the opposers of the doctrine of full salvation, we are blessed in a most signal and gracious manner. Somehow, when we are cut off from human sympathy and help, it drives us to God in deep humility, earnest prayer, and humble trust.

In Baltimore sinners were converted, backsliders were reclaimed, and believers were sanctified. There was some abiding fruit. One evening after the meeting a very handsome boy, with an unusually classic and pure face, came to me. Looking up with an eagerness that profoundly impressed me, he said, “I feel that I am called to preach the Gospel. … ”

In due time the young brother showed up on the campus at Asbury College, was enrolled, and turned out to be an excellent student. At first, he was not favorably impressed with some of the joyful manifestations of other students, but in due time fell under deep conviction for full salvation and received a gracious baptism with the Holy Ghost in sanctifying power.

At once he took front rank in the spiritual life of the school, and felt a call to the mission field. He was a good speaker and was often heard on the college platform. Frequently he went out into the community to preach and speak on the subject of missions.

Immediately after graduation this young man went out to the vast mission field of India. Later when I was making my tour of the world, I found him laboring successfully among the Hindu people. He had acquired the language in a remarkable degree. He was a sort of John Fletcher among the missionaries. Though quite young, his spiritual influence was being felt, not only among the Methodist people but among the devout missionaries of all churches. He was a modest man, with saintly appearance, beautiful voice, and a courtesy and kindness that won the respect and confidence of all. It was frequently whispered to me that he was wielding a wider and more profound spiritual influence than any other man in India.

During the several furloughs to America, this brother has been able to wield a wide and powerful influence on the home church. In fact, he has become one of the best known and most loved men in Methodism. He has been enabled to arouse thousands of people, not only to more liberal giving, but to a better understanding of the whole spirit of missions, and a deeper consciousness of their obligations to spread the Gospel of our Lord Jesus throughout the world. He was a member of the General Conference at one time. His brethren would have thrust upon him the office of bishop, but after earnest prayer, he positively refused. He much preferred to remain an evangelist in India, where God had given him open doors and the open hearts of a countless multitude of people.

I claim no credit whatever, for the splendid character and remarkable ministry of this man. But I have asked myself what the results might have been had I not disregarded the orders of the Methodist presiding elder and instead obeyed the higher order—the voice of God in my soul. The young man called to preach during that Baltimore meeting was E. Stanley Jones.

With Christ in the Rockies

Brother Stanley

Missionary to India, evangelist extraordinary, founder of the Christian Ashram Movement, author whose books number in the millions, the late E. Stanley Jones wrote an unforgettable chapter in the annals of world Methodism. Yet he liked to be known simply as

Archive: Brother Stanley

by Eddie Robb, Associate Editor, Good News Magazine

TIME magazine, Oct. 20, 1948—”A grand old man among U.S. missionaries is a rugged Methodist preacher named Eli Stanley Jones. Baltimore-born Missionary Jones went to India in 1907, and his 35 busy years there made him one of India’s best known and respected Americans. His preaching has converted many a Hindu and Moslem to Christianity; his 14 books (best known: The Christ Of The Indian Road) have quickened the faith of Christians all over the world.”

Little did the Time editors realize how rugged this “grand man among U.S. missionaries” really was! What was apparently intended as a career epitaph report, wasn’t. His “35 busy years” stretched to 61. His “14 books” increased to 27. And the number of his converts swelled dramatically.

Dr. Jones—”Brother Stanley” never seemed willing to quit. He often said, “When I die and get to heaven, I will take the first 24 hours to rest, the next 24 hours to seek out and talk with my friends, then I think I will go to Jesus and say, ‘Lord, do you have any other lost worlds where you need an evangelist? Please send me!’ ”

E. Stanley Jones—energy extraordinary! But it wasn’t always that way. In fact, he almost died of appendicitis in 1914. Only an emergency midnight trip from Sitapur to Lucknow in an army truck saved him—and even then he almost didn’t make it because 10 days after his operation tetanus set in. It looked as though Jones’ missionary career was over.

Somehow, he survived. Later, Brother Stanley recounted, “I had no intention of dying.” But within a few months the young missionary suffered the first of several nervous breakdowns. Eight years of strain in India had taken their toll, and so he was furloughed back to America for a year of recuperation.

Then he returned to India—and collapsed again. He later wrote, “I went to India with a deepening cloud upon me. Here I was beginning a new term of service in this trying climate and beginning it—broken.

“I saw that unless I got help from somewhere, I would have to give up my missionary career, go back to America and go to work on a farm to try to regain my health. It was one of my darkest hours. At that time … while in prayer, not particularly thinking about myself, a Voice seemed to say, ‘Are you yourself ready for this work to which I have called you?’

“I replied: ‘No, Lord, I am done for. I have reached the end of my rope.’

“The Voice replied, ‘If you will turn that over to Me and not worry about it, I will take care of it.’

“I quickly answered, ‘Lord, I close the bargain right here.’ That moment was the turning point of E. Stanley Jones’ missionary career—indeed, of his whole life!

The Voice was nothing new to Brother Stanley. He had been listening to it since college days … and it had led him to India.

He later wrote, “At the close of four years here [Asbury College, 1906], I was perplexed and needed guidance as to where I should spend my life. At that particular moment I received a letter from the college president saying, ‘It is the will of the townspeople, it is the will of the faculty, it is the will of the student body, and we believe it is the will of God for you to come and teach in this college.'”

At that same moment he got a letter from a friend saying, “I believe it is the will of God for you to go into the evangelistic field here in America.”

He then received a letter from the Methodist mission board saying, “It is our will to send you to India.”

“Here was a perfect traffic jam of wills!” he recalled. “I had to get my way out, to find my way into clearness. I … knelt down in my room, spread [the letter] out before God, and said, ‘Now; my Father, my life is not my own. Anywhere you want me to spend it, I will go.’

“Just as quietly the inner Voice said, ‘It is India.’ I arose from my knees, sure it was India.”

And so, E. Stanley Jones went to India at a critical period in its history. The country was in a great flux. The India which he saw was fascinating, alluring, but paradoxical. He described it:

“The Indian Road! The most fascinating Road of all the world. Every Road seems tame alongside this Road. There is no sameness here; and hence no tameness. A surprise awaits you at every turn.

“On this Road you will find the world’s most beautiful building—the Taj Mahal—cheek by jowl with the world’s most miserable hut. Here men disdain the world as evil and money as base, and yet on certain days will worship their own account books. … Here you will find the gentlest souls of the world … alongside of which you will find an explosive mentality. …”

In 1907, young Jones landed in Bombay. His first impressions struck him like a blow. “People were lying on beds in the day time under trees, or they moved about very slowly. I was used to life keyed up and energetic. Here life seemed to be run down and tired. Its poverty seemed to be accepted and life had adjusted itself to that fact.”

Though respected as a missionary, it was Jones’ prolific writing which brought him into world prominence. Since publication of his first book in 1925, he averaged authoring a book every two years. In addition he wrote scores of magazine articles.

After his death in 1974, his daughter, Eunice, and son-in-law, Bishop James Matthews, wrote, “Some of his books have become modern Christian classics … translated into more than 30 languages. ” Strangely enough, “It was almost by chance that E. Stanley Jones became a writer. It developed from his preaching. Dr. Ralph E. Diffendorfer of the Methodist Board of Missions suggested in 1925 that he incorporate into a book the addresses he had been delivering all across America the previous year. These were based on his missionary work among the intellectuals of India, with whom he had developed an unusual rapport. The unexpected result, a month later, was The Christ of the Indian Road, an immediate best seller.”

At age 83, Stanley Jones began his third autobiography. (He had scrapped the other two.) When asked why he chose to write his own biography, Stanley Jones characteristically replied, “If anyone else writes it, they’ll talk only about E. Stanley Jones, but if I do it, it will be about Jesus. ”

In spite of his writing success, until his death Jones insisted, “I am not a professional writer. I have not written for the sake of writing, nor for the sake of material gain. Rather, I have seen a need and have tried to meet that need.”

Brother Stanley wanted to be known not as an author—but as a witness for Jesus Christ. Since the beginning of his long ministry, this was his sole goal.

He once wrote, “I think the word ‘evangelist,’ the bearer of good tidings, is the most beautiful word in our language descriptive of vocation. I have been tempted to desert the name, for it has fallen on evil days and has a bad odor, but I have never been able to let it go, for it would not let me go.”

At one point in his ministry, Jones came near to missing his way as an evangelist. While home from India attending General Conference, he was elected a Methodist bishop, though he had earlier withdrawn his name from consideration. After a restless night Jones decided, “A mistake had been made and I knew it. I was headed in the wrong direction.”

“Bishop ” Jones was miserable but he revealed his doubts to only one man, a trusted and loved bishop. His reply was, “You’ve got to go on, no matter how you feel.”

Nevertheless, “Bishop ” Jones listened to another voice—The Voice. Jones recounts: “I went straight to the chairman, Bishop Johnson, and said I had a matter of high privilege. … He had to let me go on. I read my resignation, thanked them for the high honor … walked straight off the platform, out of the building at the back and down the street to my train. I did not wait to see if my resignation would be accepted. I was hastening to get back to the Indian Road—as an evangelist.”

Stanley Jones had learned the importance of being a witness (an evangelist) during his very first sermon. He had prepared for three weeks, feeling that he should act as God’s lawyer and plead His case for Him.

The little church was filled with relatives and friends, all anxious that the young man should do well. All went smoothly until he used the word, “indifferentism.” A young college girl smiled and put down her head. This unnerved him so much that he went blank. “I stood there clutching for something to say.” Finally he blurted out, “I am very sorry, but I have forgotten my sermon.”

On his way back to his seat, Jones heard the inner Voice say to him, “Haven’t I done anything for you? If so, couldn’t you tell that?”

Young Jones stepped down in front of the pulpit and said, “Friends, I see I can’t preach, but you know what Christ has done for my life, how He has changed me, and though I cannot preach, I shall be His witness the rest of my days.”

At the close of that service a youth was saved. Jones had learned a lesson—God wanted him as a witness, not a lawyer.

Brother Stanley was a faithful witness. He was fond of saying, “My theme song is Jesus Christ.” And He was. Long before the Jesus Revolution popularized the “One Way ” sign of Christian faith, Jones used a three-finger sign of Christian discipleship. He would smile, hold up his right hand with three fingers extended, symbolizing one of the basic facts of his life: “Jesus is Lord.” (The picture at the beginning of this article, taken at the Good News Convocation in 1970, showed Brother Stanley in this characteristic pose.)

Christ was the focal point of Brother Stanley’s faith—and his life. “I will have to apologize for myself again and again,” he would say, “for I’m only a Christian-in-the-making. I will have to apologize for Western civilization, for it is only partly Christianized. I will have to apologize for the Christian church, for it, too, is only partly Christianized. But when it comes to Jesus Christ, there are no apologies upon my lips, for there are none in my heart.”

Stanley Jones was especially gifted in adapting new methods to present his constant message—Christ. One such example is the Ashram (ah’ shrum) movement, which he brought to America.

Ashram is an Indian Sanskrit word, meaning “a retreat.” In India, an Ashram is a place where a guru, or spiritual leader, and his disciples go apart for disciplined spiritual growth. Jones combined this ancient Indian format with the Christian Gospel, and the result was an overwhelming success. (About 150 Christian Ashrams now meet annually around the world.)

One of the reasons for Ashrams’ popularity is their openness. “When we come into the Ashram as members,” Jones explained, “we lay aside all titles. There are no more bishops, doctors, professors—there are just persons. We call each other by our first names. …” Hence, the Rev. Dr. Eli Stanley Jones became known to millions around the globe simply as “Brother Stanley.”

Above all, Brother Stanley was a disciplined person. His son-in-law, Bishop Matthews, characterized him as “the most disciplined man I have ever known, so much so that at times he seems in this respect almost an anachronism in this century.”

Disciplined, indeed! Every night at 9:30 he would excuse himself to exercise and pray. He prayed one hour every morning and evening—regard less. Bishop Mathews said of him: “He is constantly reading; constantly writing; constantly replying to his extensive correspondence; constantly traveling. …”

But in spite of his relentless pushing, Brother Stanley is remembered by many as a “fun” person. For example, Rev. Dr. J. T. Seamands, Professor of Missions at Asbury Theological Seminary, and long-time colleague of Jones, shares the story of the time he and Dr. Jones were eating at a Japanese inn. Their repast was revealed to be octopus feet, two sparrows, raw fish, and seaweed. Upon examining the meal before them, Dr. Jones exclaimed: “Where He leads me I will follow; what He feeds me I will swallow!”

Brother Stanley was full of life—because he walked with the One who said, “I am Life.” He knew the Source of his indefatigable strength. Jones frequently said, “One day you’ll pick up the newspaper and read that Dr. E. Stanley Jones is dead. Don’t you believe a word of it. I’ll never be more alive than at that moment; and should you look into my casket with a glum face, I’ll wink at you.”

TIME magazine, Jan. 23, 1973—Died: Dr. E. Stanley Jones, 89, Methodist clergyman from Maryland, who became one of the world’s best known evangelists; in Barielly, India. …

With Christ in the Rockies

Prayer Made All the Difference at the 1976 General Conference

Archive: Prayer Made All the Difference at the 1976 General Conference

By Charles W. Keysor, Editor, Good News Magazine

“Wisdom is better than weapons of war,” wrote the author of Ecclesiastes long ago.

What wisdom can we gain from the 1976 General Conference?

Above all, Portland demonstrated that amazing things do happen when many believers pray. The right people are placed on the right committees. The right information is supplied at the moment of need. Those obstructing Gospel principles are wondrously moved aside. Ordinary men and women are given supernatural wisdom to speak, strategize, and cooperate. They are silent at the right time and they speak at the right time. All this, and more, is the result of God answering the prayers of His people.

The day before General Conference began, we noticed a woman praying in the empty auditorium. For hours she sat alone in the semidarkness above the ground floor where workmen were busily setting up desks and microphones. Later we learned that she had prayed over each of the 1,000 desks. She had prayed for each person who would be sitting and voting in that vast auditorium.

This was symbolic. She was one of untold thousands across the country and around the world … United Methodists who love their church, who were deeply concerned, and who lifted these concerns to the Throne of God. They prayed that His will would be accomplished in Portland. That the UM Church would be strengthened. That the Holy Spirit would rule and overrule. That precious time and talents would be used to God’s glory. That God’s people would be wise and bold in upholding His truth. Perhaps this was the first time such a massive prayer barrage had been focused on a recent General Conference.

Perhaps this kind of saturation prayer would have changed history over the last 50 years … certainly this kind of prayer can shape the future in God’s way! For General Conferences yet to come, for annual conferences, for local churches, for pastors, and for church members.

It seems strange that we have only now begun to unite through prayer for positive changes in the church. Perhaps the admonition of James applies to us who have so long lacked influence in our denomination: “You do not have because you do not ask …” (James 4:2b).

Wisdom at the point of focusing our prayers is, indeed, “better than weapons of war.” It is, in fact, the believer’s ultimate weapon in the arsenal of spiritual warfare. Somehow, we must learn to use this weapon more effectively than we have done in the past.

A practical opportunity lies close at hand. On July 13-15 the five UM Jurisdictional Conferences will meet. The most important business at four of these will be electing bishops—the future spiritual and pastoral leaders of our church. Now is the time to begin praying that this great honor and responsibility will fall upon mature Christians. Pray that God will thwart the ambitions of political manipulators and mere guardians of the status quo.

The dates of July 13-15 should be entered on the prayer calendar of each United Methodist who believes that “prayer changes things.” The five conferences will be held:

Northeast, Bridgeport, Connecticut
Southeast, Lake Junaluska, North Carolina
North Central, Sioux Falls, South Dakota
South Central, Lincoln, Nebraska
Western, Salt Lake City, Utah

Prayer targets are also close to home. Your annual conference meets once each year in May or June. It deserves intense intercessory prayer. So do the various meetings of your own local church. Your pastor. Your fellow church members.

Indeed, “More things ARE wrought by prayer than this world dreams of.” Portland proved it. Portland shows us that every United Methodist can help to bring about constructive change in our church—at  upper levels. The question is: do we care enough to pray enough?

A New Politics Dawns in Portland

The 1976 General Conference showed that effective political action under the Holy Spirit, is a real possibility for UM evangelicals. This is something new! “Evangelical politics ” has a strange and unfamiliar sound.

Since the early 1900s, when evangelicals lost control of Methodism, we have suffered one defeat after another. Unfortunately, our most common response has been to retreat from combat and lick our wounds. This has been made easier because of our deep, natural preference to be preaching the Gospel, leading people to Christ, and building up the Body of Christ. Not politicking!

The great evangelical political withdrawal, part by intent and part by naivete, has left non-evangelicals in many places of decision. They have been calling the shots on church school literature … on missions policy … on choosing bishops … on colleges and seminaries. Our role has seemed to be just writing the checks and wringing our hands in helpless frustration.

The worm has turned.

A new day is dawning.

The time has come, evidenced by Portland, when evangelicals will vigorously and creatively “contend for the faith” where the votes are counted. We intend to be where the decisions are made-when they are made. This is a necessary part of our determination to work within our church. For to fail in church politics is to fail our Lord at a crucial point. He does care who makes the decisions in His Church!

The housekeeping activity of the church, which we tend to downgrade as routine and political, is, in fact, very necessary. (A house where housekeeping chores are ignored is a messy place!) Politics is an important part of our living together as Christians in the church.

Portland proved that evangelicals can be effective politically. It also proved that the various non-evangelical power blocks are not so formidable nor so unbeatable as they once seemed. They are faltering. They lack fresh vision. Often they are simply a replay of the “Old Left,” vintage 1964-1970.

The news is that yesterday’s progressives have become today’s reactionaries, guardians of the ecclesiastical machinery which they now control. It is the evangelicals, long disestablished, who now represent the potential for constructive change, reform, and wholesome church renewal. Those who once languished in the United Methodist rear guard are now becoming the vanguard.

Nobody expected this. Portland was something of a blitzkrieg. It left various power blocs confused, angry, and fighting among themselves. In the last hours of the 1976 General Conference they vowed to counterattack. They have determined to regain full dominance of the UM Church.

One church leader likened Portland to a parenthesis … a mere “bogey” on the radar screen … a brief aberration, after which the church would return to uninhibited secularism. He attributed the “conservative” trend in Portland to nostalgia kindled by America’s 200th birthday. By 1980, he predicted, it would be his “business-as-usual” for the UM Church.

Perhaps. But we believe that Portland represents something deeper and more significant. The sands of time are running out on the heirs of liberalism. Portland was a discreet, but clear, call for greater sensitivity and creativity on the part of UM leaders. Portland served notice that the church is impatient about continuing hemorrhage of membership loss, the dwindling church school, the secularization of our colleges … the faddism of our seminaries … the erosion of basic Biblical doctrines … and the condescension of church bureaucrats who through their insensitivity fan the flames of discontent and divisiveness.

Recently the Interpreter published an in-depth survey which revealed that many United Methodists are unhappy about such trends. It became apparent in Portland that Good News is no longer an eccentric voice in the wilderness. Thoughtful people were listening—and voting positively. Their voting patterns revealed a concern similar to what Good News has been expressing for the last 10 years.

What happens now? After the tumult of Portland has faded into history, will we settle back in complacency? Or will we move ahead? Will we capitalize for Christ on the momentum which God granted in Portland?

The Swinging Ship in Portland

The Willamette River port area of Portland, in the shadow of Memorial Coliseum, is about 80 miles from the Pacific Ocean. Almost every day foreign freighters dock behind the Coliseum to load cargoes of grain.

During odd moments we watched several of these ocean-going ships maneuvering into the Portland docks. We were impressed by the ships’ powerful forward momentum. Sometimes several sturdy tugboats were needed to swing the huge ships around, so strong was their forward thrust. Always, the turning was gradual.

The UM Church resembles a freighter. Our denomination moves forward with strong accumulated momentum in the direction it has been traveling for many years. General Conference, the top policy-setting authority, provides primary thrust. It also can turn the church in new directions.

To understand what happened in Portland, one must recognize both the beginnings of a turning … and also the powerful continuing thrust in a direction the church has been moving. Portland was neither a complete reversal, nor an uninterrupted continuation of the past direction.

Signs of a turning include these:

1. Voting down proposals by the UM Board of Church and Society to condone homosexual practice and fornication.

2. Rejecting various proposals for a four-year, churchwide study of human sexuality. Instead, the initiative is left with local churches.

3. Prohibiting any agency of the church from spending money to promote homosexual practice, or on organizations which do.

4. Strengthening the expressed official disapproval of so-called “marriage” between persons of the same sex.

5. Considering matters of ordination, inserted this portion of the Social Principles’ statement: we “do not condone the practice of homosexuality and consider this practice incompatible with Christian teaching.” This safeguard made unnecessary an explicit disciplinary prohibition against ordination of professing homosexuals.

6. Decision to study effects of the “quota system.” This was underscored when delegates refused to endorse a quota for at least 40% executive staff leadership to be women. (The Judicial Council ruled that EUB quotas, established at 1968, will not apply at the 1980 General Conference.)

7. The legislative committee on finance resisted powerful pressures to apportion millions of dollars for various minority-group causes. This committee action seemed to reflect what an Interpreter magazine survey has revealed as a growing disenchantment with high-priority emphasis on minority concerns.

8. Required clearer accountability by boards and agencies as to their political activities. Such information must be provided to churches on request.

9. Evangelism was included among the three top “missional priorities” for 1977-1980.

10. Took action to stem the loss of membership which will, by the end of this year, probably exceed 1,000,000 since 1968.

11. Ordered a four-year emphasis on local church education, “Decision Point: Church School.”

12. Evangelicals emerged as a viable political force.

13. Diminished “clout” of several caucuses which had previously been very influential.

14. Delegates did not respond in Pablovian fashion to the kind of guilt-generating rhetoric which has so powerfully moved recent General Conferences. Delegates listened openly but voted independently.

15. Adopted a $600,000 per year program in “mass communications” to influence the media. This will offer support to the quadrennial emphasis, so it should include evangelism on radio and TV.

16. The theme for 1977-1980 will be, “Committed to Christ-Called to Change.” This offers great possibilities for the Gospel!

17. Insisted that our bishops be significantly involved in setting priorities for the church between General Conferences. This was a checkrein upon the power of boards and agencies.

18. Ordered continued study of a proposal to relocate the headquarters of the Board of Global Ministries. This would break up the denomination’s largest entrenched bureaucracy, separating it from proximity to the World and National Council of Churches in New York City.

19. Recommended that representatives from “small membership churches” be considered for membership on annual conference boards and agencies. This would help insure a fuller representation, since about two-thirds of all UM churches have 200 members or less.

20. Eliminated the UM Council on Youth Ministries which had acted as the spearhead for pro-homosexual advocacy. Debate showed that it had failed to fairly represent the opinions of youth of the church. The new youth structure, to begin in 1977, will be more accurately representative and accountable through the Board of Discipleship.

21. Adopted “guidelines” for charismatics and the UM Church. National Courier commented, “In effect, the guidelines tell UM preachers and laymen who are charismatics to deal gently and lovingly with those in the congregation without such experience. The guidelines also attempt to speak to non-charismatics by suggesting that they be more tolerant and understanding.”

22. Ordered that all staff executives be United Methodist—an effort to relate the bureaucracy more closely to the church which it serves.

23. Recommended abstention from alcoholic beverage. Some called this a stronger statement than adopted in 1972.

24. Condemned the spread of state-sponsored gambling.

25. Rejected a proposal for a publicly administered, universal health care plan.

26. Continued the life tenure for bishops. This defeated further weakening of the episcopacy and thwarted caucus domination in selecting bishops. Eight years was set as the maximum time a bishop may serve in one episcopal area. (Someone asked, “What do you do with a used bishop?”)

27. Established a new “Diaconal Ministry” for people not ordained, who are serving the church on a “full time professional basis.” Required each annual conference to establish a Board of Diaconal Ministry, as a counterpart of the Board of Ministry. These measures move toward equal recognition of the laity as servants, though unordained, of Jesus Christ.

Considered together, these actions of General Conference comprise an obvious turning of the Good Ship United Methodist. But other actions of the Portland General Conference indicate that the Ship still continues moving in the direction of recent years:

1. Voted a 19.8% increase in apportionments for 1977-1980. This seemed to indicate a greater sensitivity to pressure groups than to the realities of local church mood and capability.

2. Allotted evangelism $125,000 per year in apportioned funds. Allotted black colleges $6,000,000 yearly in apportioned funds; $2,000,000 apportioned yearly for world hunger; $2,000,000 apportioned yearly for strengthening ethnic minority churches.

Evangelism, which many United Methodists believe to be the first business of Christ’s Church, languishes as an under-budgeted stepchild.

3. Voted to increase yearly apportioned giving to both World and National Councils of Churches, after an effort failed to reduce this by 50%. NCC was allotted $470,000 per year during the present quadrennium: it will be allotted $500,000 per year from 1977-1980. And WCC, which was allotted $230,000 annually, will be allotted $300,000 per year from UM apportionments during the new quadrennium.

4. Accepted in principle the Council on Church Union (COCU) proposal for mutual recognition of membership among Christian denominations. COCU, widely considered dead, is evidently very much alive.

5. Delegates created more bureaucracy. They made permanent the temporary Commission on Role and Status of Women, with a budget of $200,000 per year from World Service. That this new bureaucracy could not be assimilated into the existing structures for women suggests that the Commission on Role and Status of Women will become an official base of operations for promoting “Women’s Lib” within our church.

6. Mandated a Commission on Religion and Race to be set up in every local church. This adds complexity to the local church organization, which is already difficult for churches with limited working personnel available to operate committees.

7. Approved gun control, Equal Rights Amendment, and eventual independence of the Panama Canal—issues on which United Methodists disagree sharply. These official endorsements guarantee four years of abrasion that will result when church boards and agencies make public pronouncements, join coalitions and spend church money promoting these causes which are not essential to salvation, as specified in Scripture.

8. Exhibited much greater “openness” toward homosexuality than either the Scriptures or the convictions expressed in thousands of petitions. Two UM bishops, Wheatley (Rocky Mountain) and DeWitt (Wisconsin) were listed as participants in a noon hour worship service sponsored by the homosexual caucus.

Mr. Keith Spare, homosexual caucus leader, was invited to speak briefly to the General Conference in the midst of a debate involving homosexuality. Equal time was not provided for advocates of the Biblical viewpoint.

On this issue, it was as if the Bible and the people had spoken in thunder but the General Conference heard only a whisper.

9. The bureaucracy exercised powerful influences, often protecting their vested interests.

10. This General Conference made it somewhat more difficult to remove inactive members from local church rolls. This restricts disciplinary initiative by local churches and may help to minimize membership loss figures during the next four years.

11. Refused to require a UM Men’s unit for each local church. Also refused to establish a division of men’s work within the General Board of Discipleship. General Conference seemed thus to minimize the importance of men, while maximizing the empowerment of women.

Yes, the Good Ship United Methodist has begun to turn. Change has started occurring. We need to recognize this and give thanks to God for every constructive sign of new directions! We need to push hard to accelerate every constructive change.

But we need also to be realistic about powerful forces which continue propelling United Methodism in directions which lead to shrinkage, spiritual impotence, and loss of Biblical distinctives.

A Macendonian Call in Portland

General Conference ended at 2:00 a.m. Saturday, May 8. At 10:00 a.m. May 8, some Good News leaders met to assess what had happened. On a wind-swept hilltop overlooking Portland, we were suddenly reminded of Revelation 3:8, “Behold I have set before you an open door, which no one is able to shut.”

Did not God open a door in Portland? Is He not beckoning us to move through this door, into a future which He is even now preparing?

Is He not Lord of the future? Doesn’t His sovereign power tread down all His enemies, open pathways through impenetrable wilderness, feed His people, and proceed before them in cloud and pillar of fire?

Yes, a door has been opened! The initiative for church renewal and reform is being handed to those who believe the Gospel unhesitatingly, and who are prepared to act boldly because their belief is more than just God-talk.

Another thought came to us just after General Conference adjourned. We remember the Apostle Paul’s “Macedonian Call,” recorded in Acts 16:9, 10. In a dream, Paul heard a Macedonian man calling, “Come over … and help us.” In obedience, Paul went. He carried the Gospel into a new continent and a beachhead for Christ was established in Europe.

In Portland we sensed the cry of a great church, shorn of its spiritual power, weak as Samson bound before Delilah. We heard that church—our church—calling, “Come over … and help us. Help us to find the resurrection power of Jesus Christ!

“Come—set us free from the clutches of dead formalism and triviality in worship!

“Come—liberate us from perpetual piddling with church organization!

“Come—help us proclaim Jesus Christ to lost billions around the world!

“Come—help us teach children, young people, and adults the great, enduring truths of Holy Scripture!

“Come—and help us convert mil- lions of unsaved who mistakenly think that church membership is salvation.

“Come—drive out the awful apathy which strangles our praise, repels our youth, and makes our churches mausoleums rather than redemption centers.

“Come—and help us find the Holy Spirit’s power by which each United Methodist Church may become a transformer of our pagan culture.

“Come—and rescue us from the world around us which is squeezing us relentlessly into its own mold.

“Come—and help us place the Name of Jesus Christ above every other name in our worship, our programs, our meetings, our institutions, our publications.

“Come—and help us recover our first love for Jesus Christ, the love grown tragically lukewarm, the passion without which we perish.”

Heeding that Macedonian call is our task as evangelicals in the UM Church.

This cannot be done in our own strength. We are scattered. We are sometimes demoralized and timid. Too often we have a defeatist attitude, complaining that the problems are even larger than our God’s strength. Too often we retreat when we should advance, sidestep when we should engage falsehood with the weapon of divine truth.

No less than an outpouring of the Holy Spirit’s power can lift us in our weakness and thrust us through God’s open door into the future He has planned.

In Portland this began to happen. By God’s grace and power it can happen also in our churches. And in us.

With Christ in the Rockies

Coni

Archive: Coni

The Story of a Seeker

Seven years ago—when I was 17—I was with the “in crowd” in high school. But things didn’t move fast enough for me. I was bored and looking for something that was more exciting. As the pressures of school grew, and the uncertainties of what lay ahead increased, my social drinking habit turned into an everyday crutch.

I remember one morning pulling myself out of bed. I took a few steps, and then suddenly my body started to tremble. It wouldn’t stop until I had that first drink. I reached into the cupboard but it was bare. I couldn’t even find a drop in my “stash” places. I turned the apartment inside out like a wild animal. The need became like a fire spreading through my whole body.

I ran out of the apartment and knocked on the other tenants’ doors, begging for some booze. Finally I called a friend on the phone. He brought half a fifth of liquor. I drank it to steady my nerves, and it lasted until I got to my “second home,” a bar. A so-called friend came over and sat down by me and said, “Coni, you can’t live without it.” These heavy words made me realize I was an alcoholic.

My mental processes started to fall apart, and my body looked more like the body of a 40-year-old woman than a 22-year-old girl. I decided to ask my parents if I could move back home after being away for four years. They said it was o.k.—on the condition that I wouldn’t drink and that I would get a full-time job. I agreed.

Things were going all right until the third day. Then I had my first taste of withdrawals. I just could not go through with it, so I ran to my only comforter, the bottle. I went on a two-week trip with the bottle and then returned home. I couldn’t see any way out. So I downed 14 thorazines (pills). Somehow I lived through it and after four days of recovering, my father hit me with one of his lectures. I remember only one sentence: “Get out of this house, Tramp.”

I really wanted help. So I decided to visit a “headshrinker” once a week. After three weeks the doctor and I agreed that we were getting nowhere. I knew that I couldn’t go on like this, so I committed myself to a state hospital as a “manic-depressive alcoholic.”

I spent the first month in solitary confinement. During this time I went through the most agonizing changes as my body and mind were trying to function without alcohol.

During my second month I was able to live in the ward like a human with other patients. They were mostly there because of drugs. I became friends with Greg. He had pleaded insanity in court after being “hassled” for possession of dangerous drugs. After being released, he was allowed to come back and visit me. He always brought “pot” (marijuana). I shared it with fellow patients. One day Greg brought a surprise for me—a tab of “acid” (LSD).

I decided to take it. An hour passed and nothing happened. So I went to a birthday party for three wards at which I was supposed to be master of ceremonies. When I was reading off the names of people who were getting birthday presents, I suddenly became speechless. Everything became distorted and I started seeing beautiful rays of many colors. That was my first taste of acid—but not my last.

Shortly after my release I decided to go out and really try to find myself. I moved to a section of town where the hippies and beatniks lived. I thought this would be a place where I could really do, say, and think like I wanted—be myself. After moving into a nice, but old, apartment, I discovered that I was living in an area occupied by criminals, junkies (dope addicts), and prostitutes. But as long as I had my “acid” I wasn’t worried.

It wasn’t too long before I found myself in a reeking, filthy house, surrounded by about 15 guys with a pile of white, powder—methedrine. They called it “speed.” They asked me if I wanted a “hit” and I found myself sitting with my sleeve pulled up. I was pumping my arm with a closed fist and a dirty rag tied tightly around my upper arm. The needle pierced my skin—it missed the vein and hit the muscle. It stung like 12 wasps had converged upon my arm at the same time! Before I knew it, my body was filled with the most titillating sensation. I bounded out the door—overflowing with new life.

“Speed” became my love, the only thing I wanted around. Soon my apartment was open to anyone.

After being “high” for 14 days without rest I “split” to California. After two weeks I returned and found my apartment filled with “speed freaks,” (methedrine addicts). Across the room a pair of dark eyes met mine—it was Shane.

Somebody told me he was married. I also learned that he was the biggest dealer in Portland, the sole supplier for pushers and street dealers. He started coming to my apartment to “do his thing.” Shane gave me two large “hits” for letting him use my apartment. From then on my soul belonged to the dealer.

As my escapade with “speed” continued, I began to lose contact with reality. Once I sat for four days staring into space. I couldn’t move or speak. I spent 24 hours on my stomach in a house, paranoid, thinking that the “pigs” were outside my door and windows look-in. One day I hid myself in a closet, standing on my head for a half hour. Twice I took an overdose of “reds” (second pills). But always I survived.

Shane moved to the coast and I had to look for another contact. In order to get drugs, stealing, cheating and lying were necessary. Twice I attempted to kill. I lived in smelly, cockroach-infested rooms. I slept in hallways, porches, and rooftops of apartments. I experienced barbiturate poisoning, desoxin poisoning, mass hallucinations and “freak outs.” I turned into an animal. I couldn’t reason, think, understand, read, or speak except for making noises.

I didn’t take drugs to find myself or to find God, just to get away from facing the fact that I was trapped.

In January I just couldn’t stand it anymore. I didn’t have any reason to live. So I took two bottles of yellow jackets (pills). Shane found me and took me to the hospital. For four days they tried to keep me alive. My heart stopped beating but it started again.

Shane came and got me at the hospital. He took me to a motel where he said I could stay. But a soon as he left, I went out t “score” again. I was going to make it. I wanted to die and that was all. So I got some more barbiturates and decided to “mainline” them, which would kill me for sure.

I was walking around in the snow with this dope in my pocket, looking for a place where I could “shoot up.”

Then Shane found me. He had come back to the motel and found me gone. He knew what I was going to do so he went out looking for me. Having no other place to take me, Shane took me to my parents.

By that time I had extensive brain damage. My mental processes were all messed up. I could hardly even talk. The state gave my parents two weeks to make a choice: either they would hire a 24-hour-a-day nurse to take care of me or commit me to a hospital.

The only person I wanted to see was Margaret Hansell. She had been my closest friend in high school. She and her husband, Bill, were working with a Christian organization in California. It had been three years since we had seen each other. My parents were pretty desperate so they contacted Margaret and Bill, who invited me to come and live with them.

In early February I arrived at Bill’s and Margaret’s apartment. After 15 hours of sleep and some food, Margaret and I sat down to talk. I pulled up my sleeve to show her what had happened since I last saw her. Both my arms were covered by meshy yellow and black bruises. My veins had collapsed from “shooting up” heroin.

The sight was too much for Margaret. She burst into tears and she told me that I didn’t have to go through all that. She said that God had a much better life for me if I would just take it.

Then I thought, here comes the big pitch about Christianity! My mind was made up that Margaret and Bill weren’t going to preach Christianity to me. When I heard the word “Christian,” I thought of church, rules, confinement, and authority, which turned me off. I threw the whole thing out before they could even tell me about it. I told her that I’d been to church and had tried it. I said Christianity might be fine for them, but it wasn’t for me.

What she said then caught me off guard. She replied that Christianity isn’t a religion—it’s a Person, Jesus Christ.

So I listened for the next 20 minutes as Margaret shared with me about her personal relationship with Jesus Christ. This was new to me. I thought God was distant and inaccessible. But Margaret talked as if she knew God … as if He were close to her.

The next day I spent trying to put the puzzle in my mind together. Margaret had given me a small pamphlet which told about God’s love for the world. But it also said that we are separated from His love and need to come back to Him. The pamphlet told the story of Jesus Christ who was the Son of God and who had actually come to this earth to bring us back into relationship with Him.

On the fourth day, Friday, Margaret asked me to go with her and Bill to another meeting. I wanted to stay home and it took a lot of convincing to assure them it would be safe to leave me alone for the evening.

After they left I went to the phone to make a long distance call to Shane. But as I passed the hall mirror, a strange thing happened. I expected to see the ugly reflection I had seen before—my eyes with deep circles under them, and my body scrawny and sickly. But what shook me up more than ever was what I saw inside me. It stood out at first glance. Even after leaving the mirror I couldn’t get it out of my mind.

What I saw in myself was utter despair. I realized that I needed help. I was desperate, so I picked up the pamphlet Margaret had given me.

I wondered whether I felt this way because God wasn’t part of my life. He seemed to make a difference to those other kids I’d met recently—and certainly to Margaret and Bill! They had the most beautiful marriage.

But I didn’t want to jump into anything. So I checked every verse in the pamphlet with a Bible. Near the end was a verse from Revelation where Christ was saying, “Listen, I stand at the door of your life and knock. If any man will hear my voice and open the door I will come in to him” (Revelation 3:20).

After I read this verse, my feelings came bursting out. I said, “Jesus, they call You God. They say You can change people’s lives. Right now I can’t dig life. Living in this rotten world is a bummer. All I can think about is nodding out forever. But for some outrageous reason, life wants me anyway. I’ve tried to end it three times but every time I came through.

“I don’t believe in anything and I don’t have anything. And since I am cursed to life I want a reason to live. I’ve hit bottom and can’t seem to get out.

“Christ, You said that if I ask You into my life You will give me something worth living for. So now, Christ, please come into my life. I want You as my Savior and God. I want a meaningful life and most of all peace of mind.”

The first thing I felt was a deep sense of forgiveness–like everything I’d done before didn’t count anymore.

Within the next few weeks one thing stood out—I lost my appetite for drugs. Two months later I began to see deeper results: reality began to replace fantasy. I felt a new inner strength which enabled me to face life in a way I never had before. Self-concern began to win over self-destruction. For the first time in my life I could move unselfishly.

Christ became real to me—not just as something Margaret talked about, but in my own life. The amazing thing was that all this happened without any conscious effort on my part. I wasn’t making it happen—it just was. (Reprinted from Good News, 1970 ).