Hard to Admit I’m Wrong

Hard to Admit I’m Wrong

By B.J. Funk —

You and I are cofounders of the “Can’t Admit When I’m Wrong” club. One of us realized its truth first, but I can’t recall if it was you or me. It’s almost unfair how we were selected because, at the time, both of us were terribly young and in control of most things in our lives, so much so that if “you’re wrong” ever dared to challenge us, we rebelled and stomped on the thought immediately. We were too young and immature to understand its implication and too self-centered to actually jump inside of that accusation and allow it to grow us up, soften us, mold us, and bring character and integrity into us. Pride kept us on the peripheral of contentment, and our bodies warmed that spot so often that we felt that’s where we belonged. That cozy nest felt safe. We called it home, but it had nothing to do with a physical space and everything to do with a comfortable place to hide.

As we advanced in age, truth sometimes knocked us down but was never able to keep us down. We only thought we had all the answers that would change the world. Our youth played hide and seek with our soul. We hid when others caught on to our erroneous thinking. We sought another friend, another role model, another anybody who would agree with us, coddle us, side with us and even admire us.

We had to be the biggest and best. Success tantalized our thoughts until we sat down in a big puddle of our broken dreams and idealistic world view.

Now, looking on the other side of broken dreams, we both see life completely differently. The way we acted was an insane search to be noticed, to get that promotion, to be the one that others admired. Do you remember those days?

Somewhere in between carpooling the kids and finishing our degrees, one of us learned to say, “I’m sorry.” That’s huge. It slides into the heart of your opponent with ease and sits down right next to “I forgive you.”

You and I don’t have to be in control. This understanding almost explodes our hearts with joy. We feel free. We don’t always have to be right.

There is one crucial teaching of Jesus that is the hardest for us to accept, even harder for us to do. It’s called dying to self, and it is overlooked by you or me, I can’t recall which. The command rises to the top of the New York Times Best Command List. It is life changing.

One of us, either you or me, tried it for a season, and it didn’t stick. Galatians 2:20 makes it clear that it must stick: “I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me.”

The words of Jesus in Luke 9:23 place an exclamation mark on this command: “And he said to them all, If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow me.”

“When someone ‘spiritually dies to self,’” writes Dr. D.W. Ekstrand, “self ceases to exist – that is, self is no longer the reason for one’s existence. As such, the individual is no longer concerned with ‘his own will or happiness,’ because he is no longer in the picture … he is no longer the center of his own little universe … he no longer continues to arrange the world around himself.”

We cannot admit we are wrong because we have never crucified the old man and died to self. We have continued to be the center of our own universe. Self-love reigns.

“In dying to the self-life,” Ekstrand writes, “we discover the abundant life.”

As Christians, we must do this. If we want our best life ever, we must. If we want to be true Jesus followers, we must. One of us, I’m not sure which, needs to get started.

B.J. Funk is Good News’ long-time devotional columnist and author of  It’s A Good Day for Grace, available on Amazon.

Harbinger? Asbury, Jesus People, and a Timeline of Crosscurrents

Harbinger? Asbury, Jesus People, and a Timeline of Crosscurrents

 

Harbinger? Asbury, Jesus People, and a Timeline of Crosscurrents

Hughes Auditorium at Asbury University in Wilmore, Kentucky. February 2023. Photo courtesy of Suzanne Nicholson. 

By Steve Beard —

After two weeks of an extraordinary spiritual stirring on the campus of Asbury University, The New York Times eventually reported in a lengthy story that “more than 50,000 people descended on a small campus chapel to experience the nation’s first major spiritual revival in decades – one driven by Gen Z.” The student-led round-the-clock public meetings came to a crescendo when the live-video simulcast of the Collegiate Day of Prayer on February 23 was broadcast from the campus in Wilmore, Kentucky.

Interestingly enough, the worldwide premiere of Jesus Revolution – a film about a hippie spiritual awakening of the ‘60s and ‘70s – took place on the following day. In the works for six years and told through the eyes of Greg Laurie, the film features charismatic evangelist Lonnie Frisbee and Pastor Chuck Smith of Calvary Chapel. The Southern California congregation had roughly 30 people in 1966. It grew to 15,000 in less than 10 years. The 200 cribs in the nursery illustrate the age of the new membership wave.

Times change. Culture morphs. But, rolling back the clock, there is a spiritual connection between the Asbury campus in Wilmore and the noteworthy events on the West Coast through the Jesus People.

Fifty-three years ago, also in February, the students at then-Asbury College experienced a similarly lengthy revival in Hughes Auditorium. The 1970 Asbury revival is spoken of in reverent tones for the generation that experienced a “divine moment” that lasted for more than a week. Legions of teams from Asbury testified in churches throughout the country about what had occurred on campus.

“The unusual revival which came to Asbury College early in 1970 and spread to scores of campuses across America is evidence that God is still at work in His world, lifting men and women out of self-centeredness, secularism, and boredom,” observed Billy Graham.

In retrospect, the 1970 Asbury revival was one very unique and distinct aspect of a dizzying array of spiritual touchpoints taking place within a tumultuous era. “With the Lord, it is usually in the worst of times that the best things happen,” observed Graham in the foreword to Robert E. Coleman’s One Divine Moment. “The Protestant Reformation, the Wesleyan Revival, and the Great Awakening in America in the nineteenth century are examples.”

In 1970, Asbury was a heartfelt awakening localized on a college campus that can be seen as a vibrant expression of an unmistakably wider simultaneous and distinct spiritual passion brewing in West Coast coffeehouses, communes, and Pacific Ocean mass baptisms 2,100 miles away.

Completely unique and regionally-oriented, both movements made global impacts and were sparked by the spiritual hunger of young people – from straight-laced students to scruffy hippies.

While the 2023 re-percolating of the historic well of revival at Asbury was broadcast internationally via TikTok and other social media platforms, the chronicling of the Jesus People movement five decades ago was done through the medium of national magazines.

In 1966, Time magazine provocatively probed the question “Is God Dead?” for its cover story. Five years later, Time’s psychedelic cover story reported on “The Jesus Revolution.” In that same year, Life magazine wrote about “The Groovy Christians” and Look magazine declared: “It’s an old-time, Bible-toting witness-giving kind of revival, and the new evangelists are the young. They give their Christian message with cheerful dedication. Turn on to Jesus. He’s coming. Soon.”

Responding to the 1970 experience at Asbury, Graham pondered: “Perhaps the eruptions of revival which swept through a segment of our college youth in the early months of 1970 are harbingers of what the Holy Spirit is ready, able and willing to do, throughout the world, if Christians will dare to pay the price.”

Some modern day church leaders are left wondering the same thing.

********
When Time reported on the nationwide spiritual movement in the early 1970s, it featured three groups: the Jesus People, the “straights” (non-hippie young people), and charismatic Catholics. “The movement, in fact, is one of considerable flexibility and vitality, drawing from three vigorous spiritual streams that, despite differences in dress, manner and theology, effectively reinforce one another.”

For Good News readers, the following timeline attempts to put broad cultural movements – both good and bad ­– within an ecumenical faith-based context of the era of 1960-1974.

Timeline

1960 – YWAM (Youth With A Mission) founded by Loren Cunningham (Fall). More than 60 years later, YWAM is considered the largest mission-sending agency in the world.
• John F. Kennedy is the first Roman Catholic elected as President of United States (November). Amongst supporters, his administration was dubbed “Camelot,” a literary reference to the legend of King Arthur and his court.
• Teen Challenge is launched by David Wilkerson. His mother helped found two coffeehouses in Greenwich Village (The Lost Coin and The Living Room).

1961 – Dr. Gabriel Vahanian publishes The Death of God: The Culture of our Post-Christian Era (January)
• Christian Broadcasting Network (CBN) is launched by Pat Robertson (October)

1962 – Marilyn Monroe dies at age 36 (August)
• The Second Vatican Ecumenical Council is launched to renew and reform Roman Catholicism (October)
• Cuban Missile Crisis (October)
• James Meredith becomes the first Black student to study at the University of Mississippi, also known as Ole Miss. (October)

Martin Luther King Jr. National Historical Park, photo by Steve Beard.

1963 – David Wilkerson writes The Cross and the Switchblade. It sells 11 million copies in the first 10 years. (January)
• In August, the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. delivers the “I Have a Dream” speech in front of 200,000 on the Washington Mall (August)
• In September, A Ku Klux Klan bomb kills four African American children at 16th Street Baptist Church in Birmingham, Alabama (September)
• C.S. Lewis, author of Mere Christianity, dies on same day that President Kennedy is assassinated (November)

1964 – The Beatles appear on the Ed Sullivan show in front of 70 million viewers (February)
• Methodist Bishop Gerald Kennedy is on cover of Time (May)
• Civil Rights Bill of 1964 is signed into law (July)
• John Sherrill, a reporter for Guideposts magazine, publishes They Speak with Other Tongues (August) about the widespread charismatic movement
• Dr. Martin Luther King wins the Nobel Peace Prize (December)

1965 – Dr. Harvey Cox publishes his book The Secular City. “The age of the secular city, the epoch whose ethos is quickly spreading into every corner of the globe, is an age of ‘no religion at all.’ It no longer looks to religious rules and rituals for its morality or its meanings.” (January)
• First American combat troops enter the Vietnam War (March)
• In its article, “The God is Dead Movement,” Time quotes Dr. Thomas Altizer, associate professor of religion at Emory University: “We must realize that the death of God is an historical event, that God has died in our cosmos, in our history, in our existence.”
• The Presbyterian Lay Committee is launched to work for renewal and reform in its denomination.
• Dr. Martin Luther King and Congressman John Lewis, also a clergyman, attend President Lyndon Johnson’s signing of the Voting Rights Act of 1965 into law. (August)

1966 – John Lennon states: “We’re more popular than Jesus now; I don’t know which will go first – rock ‘n’ roll or Christianity.” (March)
• “Is God Dead?” is the cover of Time on April 8, 1966. The provocative 5,600 word essay was written by Time religion editor John T. Elson. “In search of meaning, some believers have desperately turned to psychiatry, Zen or drugs. Thousands of others have quietly abandoned all but token allegiance to the churches, surrendering themselves to a life of ‘anonymous Christianity’ dedicated to civil rights or the Peace Corps.”
• Anton LaVey launches the Church of Satan. “This is a very selfish religion,” LaVey said in an interview. “We believe in greed. We believe in selfishness and all of the lustful thoughts that motivate man because this is man’s natural feeling.” (April)
• Charles Keysor writes “Methodism’s Silent Minority” in the Christian Advocate, the journal for Methodist clergy (July). “Within The Methodist Church in the United States is a silent minority group. It is not represented in the higher councils of the church. Its members seem to have little influence in Nashville, Evanston, or on Riverside Drive. … I speak of those Methodists who are variously called ‘evangelicals’ or ‘conservatives’ … A more accurate description is ‘orthodox,’ for these brethren hold a traditional understanding of the Christian faith.”
• World Congress on Evangelism sponsored by Billy Graham and Christianity Today’s Carl F.H. Henry held in Berlin (October)

1967 – Timothy Leary urges 30,000 hippies at the “Human Be-In” held at Golden Gate Park in San Francisco to “Tune in, Turn on, Drop out!” (January)
• Elvis Presley releases his album, “How Great Thou Art” (February)
• Catholics from Duquesne University (Pittsburgh) experience a Holy Spirit encounter at a Episcopalian retreat. Subsequently, the “First International Conference” of the Catholic Charismatic Renewal is held at the University of Notre Dame in South Bend, Indiana. (February)
• Evangelical United Methodists publish the first issue of Good News magazine (March). The lead article by Los Angeles Bishop Gerald Kennedy was titled “The Evangelicals’ Place in The Methodist Church.” The issue also included the sheet music and lyrics to the hymn “God Is Not Dead” by the Rev. M. Homer Cummings.
• The Beatles release Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band (May 26)|
• Six-Day Arab-Israeli War (June 5-10)
• “Summer of Love” draws 100,000 hippies to San Francisco’s Haight-Ashbury to hear rock music, experiment with hallucinogenic drugs, and hear anti-war and free-love speeches (June)
• At an inter-denominational gathering hosted by Billy Graham and Christianity Today in Washington D.C., three of the Methodist delegates were Charles W. Keysor, editor of Good News; Dr. Frank Stanger, president of Asbury Theological Seminary; and the Rev. Philip Worth, chairman of the board of Good News and Methodist clergy from New Jersey (September)
• The Living Room, a Christian hippie outreach/refuge, is launched in Haight-Ashbury

1968Christian Life magazine’s January cover proclaims: “Psychedelic Christians: Where and How They Live.” The story, “God’s Thing in Hippieville,” is written by Maurice Allan. “They are by all conventional standards, a weird mob. I like to think of them as a kind of evangelical Robin Hood and his merry men. With their different costumes, communal ghetto-style living, and anti-authoritarian ways, they outwardly resemble the mythical English folk-hero. Also, like him, they are essentially on the right side of what is righteous and good. Sideburns, para-military jackets, thigh-high dresses, red Indian motifs –they dig these and/or other tell-tale marks of the interstitial culture of the psychedelic scene. Strongly pacifist, not unduly patriotic, yet they love Jesus Christ, and their allegiance to him is undeniable. They stroll like medieval mendicants along Haight street, strumming autoharps, playing harmonicas and passing out day-old doughnuts.”
• Johnny Cash records “At Folsom Prison” (January)
• Evangelist Oral Roberts becomes a member of Boston Avenue United Methodist Church in Tulsa, Oklahoma (March)
• At “His Place,” a coffeehouse rescue mission on Hollywood’s Sunset Strip, Arthur Blessitt urges addicts and runaways to try “getting high on Jesus.” (March)
• Dr. Martin Luther King is assassinated (April)
• The Methodist Church and the Evangelical United Brethren Church merge to form The United Methodist Church (April)
• Senator Robert F. Kennedy is assassinated (June)
• Calvary Chapel pastor Chuck Smith meets “Jesus People” evangelist Lonnie Frisbee in Costa Mesa, California. Together, they launch House of Miracles communal house.
• On Christmas Eve, the crew of Apollo 8 read in turn from the Book of Genesis as they orbit the moon (December)

Chuck Smith and Lonnie Frisbee baptize young people in the ocean.

1969 – The Christian World Liberation Front (CWLF) is established by Jesus People in Berkley, California, by former Campus Crusade for Christ staffers (April)
• The Byrds record Art Reynolds’ gospel song “Jesus is Just Alright with Me” (June)
Right On, put out by the Christian World Liberation Front, was the first of the underground published Jesus newspapers, appearing in Berkley (July).
• Chuck Smith and Lonnie Frisbee baptize thousands of young Jesus People converts in the Pacific Ocean at Pirates Cove in Newport Beach, California
• The Woodstock music festival attracts more than 400,000 young people to Bethel, New York (August)
• The Hollywood Free Paper is launched in Los Angeles as a Christian response to countercultural underground newspapers. Published from 1969-1978, it had print runs that sometimes exceeded more than one million copies per issue. (October)
• Billy Graham preaches at the 1969 Miami Rock Music Festival from the same concert stage as Canned Heat, the Grateful Dead, and Santana. Graham actually donned a disguise to get a feel for the festival the night before he would preach. “My heart went out to them,” he wrote. “Though I was thankful for their youthful exuberance, I was burdened by their spiritual searching and emptiness.” (December)

Students pray at Asbury College in 1970. Screenshot.

1970 – The students at Asbury College in Wilmore, Kentucky, experience an unusual revival beginning on February 3. Classes were cancelled for a week. “The young people in this movement have been the key,” Dr. Dennis Kinlaw, president of Asbury, wrote in Good News. “Faculty and administrators have been chauffeurs and guides while the Spirit has used the young to open closed doors and storm the enemy’s bastions.” An estimated 2,000 witness teams went out to churches and at least 130 college campuses around the nation.
• Professor Bob Lyons and students from Asbury Theological Seminary (also in Wilmore, Kentucky) host the first Ichthus music festival in May. It would be held in Wilmore from 1970-2015.
• Good News publishes the testimony of a transformed drug addict named Coni, republished from Right On, the Jesus People newspaper in Berkeley. “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,” confessed the young woman. “I don’t believe in anything and I don’t have anything. And since I am cursed to live, I want a reason to live. I’ve hit bottom and can’t seem to get out.”
• The Cross and the Switchblade film released nationwide starring Erik Estrada and Pat Boone (June)
• Good News hosts the first convocation for evangelical United Methodists in Dallas. Speakers include E. Stanley Jones, Bishop Gerald Kennedy, and Tom Skinner. (August)
• “Some call it an ‘underground’ movement. Others describe it as the closest thing to New Testament Christianity this country has ever seen,” reports Rita Klein in Christianity Today. “But those involved – thousands of bearded, long-haired, rather unkempt former hippies – term it a ‘spiritual revolution.’”
• The Rev. Dennis Bennett, an Episcopal priest, publishes Nine O’Clock in the Morning, about experiencing the baptism of the Holy Spirit and speaking in tongues.
• First Baptist Church of Houston sponsors SPIRENO (“Spiritual Revolution Now”) youth rallies featuring evangelist Richard Hogue.
• The Word of God covenant community is launched for charismatic Catholics in Ann Arbor, Michigan
• Judy Collins includes “Amazing Grace” on her “Whales and Nightingales” album
• Rick Griffin, a leading designer of 1960’s psychedelic posters and closely identified with the Grateful Dead, became a born-again Christian.
• Time publishes “Street Christians: Jesus as the Ultimate Trip” in August. “Jesus freaks. Evangelical hippies. Or, as many prefer to be called, street Christians. Under different names – and in rapidly increasing numbers – they are the latest incarnation of that oldest of Christian phenomena: footloose, passionate bearers of the Word, preaching the kingdom of heaven among the dispossessed of the earth.”
• Hal Lindsey publishes end-times best-seller The Late Great Planet Earth
• Inter-Varsity Christian Youth Conference has 12,000 participants at the University of Illinois (December)

Jesus Christ Superstar black light poster.

1971 – Billy Graham uses index-finger gesture while riding in the Tournament of Roses parade on New Year’s Day and acknowledges the Jesus People chanting “One Way!” along the parade route
• Look magazine’s February cover proclaims: “Today’s Kids: Turning to Jesus, Turning from Drugs.” In his story, “The Jesus Movement is Upon Us,” Brian Vachon reports: “It’s an old-time, Bible-toting witness-giving kind of revival, and the new evangelists are the young. They give their Christian message with cheerful dedication. Turn on to Jesus. He’s coming. Soon.” The now-defunct Look was a national bi-weekly with a circulation of about six million. “It was unquestionably the most remarkable week of my life,” wrote Vachon. “They had the best sounding music I’ve ever heard. Everyone wanted me to accept Christ, too. I haven’t decided yet, but I’m thinking about it.”
• With a circulation of seven million, Life magazine publishes “The Groovy Christians of Rye, N.Y.” – a 3,500 word feature by Jane Howard about newly-converted teens and their befuddled parents. “They don’t see their new faith in terms of rebellion, or of fundamentalism, but as the dazzlingly simple cure for a ‘hunger’ for absolute truth – a famine … as acute in Westchester County as anywhere else. … the growing band of new Christians have been looking intently backward, all the way to the first century A.D., and are clearly transfixed by what they find.” (May)
• The musical Godspell is first performed off-Broadway in the East Village of Manhattan (May)
• With a circulation of four million, Time‘s cover proclaimed “The Jesus Revolution.” The provocative 5,600-word essay was written by Time religion editor Mayo Mohs, with reporting from Richard Ostling, Barry Hillenbrand, and Margaret Boeth. “Jesus is alive and well and living in the radical spiritual fervor of a growing number of young Americans who have proclaimed an extraordinary religious revolution in his name. Their message: the Bible is true, miracles happen, God really did so love the world that he gave it his only begotten son.” (June)
• “Youth are turning to Christ on a scale that perhaps we’ve never known in human history,” Billy Graham tells the crowd gathered at the Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum. The Christian World Liberation Front arranged for busses from the University of California campus in Berkeley, luring curious onlookers with the bold letter message on the side of the busses: “People’s Committee to Investigate Billy Graham.” (July)
• Donald M. Williams writes “Close-up of the Jesus People” for Christianity Today. “Up until now, youth evangelism has been inaugurated by adults. Now it comes by youth. The same hip teen-ager who last year turned his friends on to drugs may now be turning them on to Jesus.” (August)
• Billy Graham publishes his book, The Jesus Generation. “Tens of thousands of American youth are caught up in it. They are being ‘turned on’ to Jesus.” Other books in the genre published in 1971 included The Jesus Movement in America, by Edward E. Plowman; Jesus People Come Alive, edited by Walker L. Knight; House of Acts, by John A. MacDonald; Turned On to Jesus, by Arthur Blessitt; The Jesus People Are Coming, by Pat King; Jesus People, by Duane Pederson; The Jesus Trip, by Lowell D. Streiker; and The Jesus Kids, by Roger C. Palms.
• Associated Press names “Jesus People” one of its top ten stories of 1971
• People of Praise, an ecumenical intentional community begun by charismatic Catholics, is begun in South Bend, Indiana
• Andrew Lloyd Weber’s rock opera “Jesus Christ Superstar” is first performed on Broadway (October)
• Kenneth N. Taylor’s personal paraphrase The Living Bibleis published
• J. Benton White, coordinator of the religious studies program at San Jose State College in California, writes “New Youth Revival Exploits Feelings of Powerlessness” about the Jesus People for the Christian Advocate, the journal for Methodist clergy. “How do we respond? How do we get involved? I’m not certain we need to. Perhaps as some of these youth mature in Christian faith, they will find that the established churches will meet their needs. In the meantime, the professional role should include trying to understand young people while at the same time preserving the essentials of faith as we have experienced it. And we need to ask ourselves why this religious revival had to take place outside the confines of established denominations?” (December)

1972 – Congresswoman Shirley Chisholm announces her run as the first African American woman for the U.S. Presidency from Concord Baptist Church in Brooklyn (January).
• The United Methodist Council on Evangelism was held in San Francisco. According to the February 3 issue of the Christian Advocate, there was heckling and debate between a contingent of Jesus People from Berkeley and the controversial pastor of Glide United Methodist Church. The booing occurred after the Rev. Cecil Williams claimed that evangelism was “theologically abstract, irresponsible, and unchristian.” The session was “quickly overshadowed by a verbal confrontation between the Berkeley group, Mr. Williams and his friends.” Speaking at the Council on behalf of the Jesus People was Dr. Jack Sparks of the Christian World Liberation Front.
• Explo ‘72 was an event organized by Campus Crusade for Christ and held at the Cotton Bowl stadium in Dallas. Tens of thousands of young people attended the event. “The Rev. Billy Graham, the evangelist, says it’s a ‘religious Woodstock,’” reported the New York Times.“In any event, a meeting under way here is the largest religious camp meeting ever to take place in the United States.” Special guests included Roger Staubach, quarterback of the Dallas Cowboys, and Johnny Cash. (June)
• Life’s cover story, “The Great Jesus Rally in Dallas,” covered the Campus Crusade event (June)
• Dr. Jack Sparks of the Christian World Liberation Front speaks in St. Louis at the Good News Convocation for United Methodists. He shares about his counter culture ministry in Berkeley, California, and challenges the young people in attendance to abandon the hotel and witness for Jesus in a park. According to Christianity Today, the following day, sixty young people and fifteen adults shared their faith with strangers at the St. Louis Zoo. (August)
• A Time to Be Born, a book documenting the Jesus People movement in Southern California, was published by Brian Vachon with pictures by Jack and Betty Cheetham. The three had worked together on the February 9, 1971, feature for Look magazine.
• “Surely we can extent the hope to Jesus People that in spite of our dissimilarity, change can and will take place within the established church,” wrote the Rev. Ralph Bailey in an article titled “Both Generations Needed to Bridge the Spirit Gap” for the Christian Advocate, the magazine for Methodist clergy. “In so doing we would be helping them to see the possibility that they may be able to ‘put it together spiritually’ with that context. We could, but will we? The old questions come back to haunt us. ‘Why bother? Do we want them here?’ How we deal with these questions and their attendant fears may determine whether thousands of Jesus People decide to ‘do their thing’ in or outside the church as we know it. Hopefully we can both reach out across the Spirit gap and then cross over to iron out some of the other kinks in our relationship.”
• The Doobie Brothers release their version of “Jesus is Just Alright with Me” (November)

1973 – Jesus People USA, an intentional Christian community, sets up base of operations in Chicago’s North Side
• Larry Norman releases his album, “Only Visiting This Planet”
• The Rev. Dennis Bennett helps start Episcopal Renewal Ministries, soon renamed Acts 29, to promote the charismatic renewal movement within his denomination.
• Key ‘73 was launched as an ambitious nationwide pan-denominational evangelistic campaign. According to its Congregational Resource Book, the program had the “vision of every unchurched family in North America being visited by someone who comes with loving concern to share his faith in Christ.”
• Johnny Cash releases film Gospel Road: A Story of Jesus, a project he and his wife June fully financed. “It’s my life’s proudest work,” Cash told the Nashville Tennessean. “John came up with the idea of doing the crucifixion in lots of places to show that Christ died for people all over the world,” said documentary film director Robert Elfstrom, an agnostic. “We ended up doing it once at Jericho in Israel, on the waterfront in Brooklyn Heights, on the Strip in Las Vegas, at the Hollywood sign in Los Angeles, and in Death Valley.” While they were filming in Death Valley, reports Robert Hilburn in Johnny Cash: The Life, “a VW minivan filled with hippies drove up, and they stopped to watch. They got out, smoked some dope, and then returned to the van. As they sped off, the driver yelled, ‘Good luck with the resurrection!’”

Steve Beard is the editor of Good News. 

Medieval Illuminiation

Medieval Illuminiation

By Steve Beard —

Dublin was still rubbing sleep from its eyes. It was the crack of dawn. Well, not literally – it just seemed that way. The sidewalks along historic statue-lined O’Connell Street were largely empty as I paced toward Trinity College on the south side of the Liffey River. In just hours, tourists would once again be shoulder to shoulder up and down the popular thoroughfare.

But for the moment, it was a crisp and peaceful morning. For a city known for its literary superstars such as James Joyce, Oscar Wilde, Jonathan Swift, and Seamus Heaney, the most celebrated and valuable book in town is a Latin text created around 800 A.D. by a team of obscure monks on a tiny wind-whipped island 200 miles north of the Irish capital. This was my opportunity to see the mysterious and captivating book.

Believed to have been developed in a monastery on the island of Iona off the coast of Scotland, the Book of Kells is a 1,200 year old “illuminated manuscript” of the Four Gospels of the New Testament. “You can imagine the monks inside their beehive-shaped stone huts, battered by sea winds with squawking gulls outside, bent over their painstaking work,” observed Martha Kearney, a British-Irish journalist, for the BBC.

Within historical context, Johannes Gutenberg would not create the printing press for another six centuries. The mere existence of the Book of Kells is remarkable.

Surviving an assortment of vicious Viking raids on Iona, the sacred text was moved to the monastery of Kells in County Meath, northwest of Dublin. The magnificent volume measures 13 x 10 inches and contains 340 folios (thus 680 pages) made of calfskin vellum. The collected manuscript – created by a team of scribes and artists – was eventually sent to Dublin for safe keeping at Trinity College in 1661.

There is kind of a bittersweet irony that the elegant scribes of the world-famous Book of Kells are known simply as Hand A, Hand B, Hand C, and Hand D. The artistic collaborators – probably three – produce portraits and scenes that are simply otherworldly. Some of the mind-boggling precision can only be fully appreciated with a magnifying glass.

Weeks prior, I had signed up with a private early morning lecture group to learn more about the treasured medieval book. It was also a crass move on my part to skip the legendarily lengthy lines to see the masterpiece. One couple in my group was from Hawaii, another from Texas, still yet another family was from Italy. We joined millions of previous tourists that have filed past the heavily-secured manuscript in order to be within close proximity of such an utterly unique combination of sacred text and enigmatic art.

More than a thousand years ago, it was described in The Annals of Ulster as the “chief relic of the western world.” It was also reported that it had been stolen from Kells in 1006 and later discovered – without its richly bejeweled cover – and possibly buried under ground.

Today, the same engineers who designed the protective cases for the Crown Jewels and the Mona Lisa were assigned to the Book of Kells. In his book Meetings with Remarkable Manuscripts, Christopher de Hamel reports that the security surrounding the Book of Kells is “as complex as presidential protection undertaken by the secret services of a great nation.” In order for him to view the manuscript personally, he sat at a “circular green-topped table, prepared in advance with foam pads, a digital thermometer, and white gloves.”

He was granted truly privileged access. Nevertheless, to those without the white gloves, the luster of the treasure still shines through as a testimonial to faith, devotion, and imagination. The sacred and exotic art includes the first full-page portrait of the virgin Mary and Jesus in western manuscripts, intertwining snakes, eucharistic chalices, intricate knotwork, a stunning Chi-Rho (Greek monogram for the name of Christ), vivacious peacocks, tightly coiled spirals, knotted ribbons, Christ tempted by the devil, and a portrayal of the gospel evangelists as the “four living creatures” (a tetramorph): Matthew as the man, Mark as the lion, Luke as the ox, and John as the eagle.

The colorful palette includes black, red, lilac, pink, purple, and yellow ink.

The 12th century historian Gerald of Wales is assumed to have been describing the Book of Kells when he wrote: “Fine craftsmanship is all about you, but you might not notice it. Look more keenly at it and you will penetrate to the very shrine of art. You will make out intricacies – so delicate and subtle, so exact and compact, so full of knots and links, with colours so fresh and vivid – that you might say that all this was the work of an angel, and not of a man.”

Even modern day scholars have a hard time hiding their astonishment. “The writing, in huge insular majuscule script, is flawless in its regularity and utter control,” writes de Hamel, an expert on medieval manuscripts. “One can only marvel at the penmanship. It is calligraphic and as exact as printing, and yet it flows and shapes itself into the space available. It sometimes swells and seems to take breath at the ends of lines. The decoration is more extensive and more overwhelming than one could possibly imagine. Virtually every line is embellished with color or ornament.”

We will never know the names of these saints of quill and ink with a mindfulness for bewildering detail, righteous pizzazz, and fantastical beasts. The ancient Scripture teaches that we are “surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses.” In that number are the artists and scribes who painstakingly stretched their imaginations and devotion to create the Book of Kells. To those saints, with all gratitude, thank you. 

Steve Beard is the editor of Good News.

Bishop Mark Webb Joins Global Methodist Church

Bishop Mark Webb Joins Global Methodist Church

 

By Walter Fenton, Global Methodist Church

United Methodist Bishop Mark J. Webb, the former leader of the UM Church’s Upper New York Episcopal Area, has resigned from the episcopacy and withdrawn from the denomination. Webb has joined the Global Methodist Church.

The GM Church’s Transitional Leadership Council (TLC) announced it has hired Webb as a bishop in the GM Church. Its Transitional Book of Doctrines and Discipline provides that UM Church bishops may be received as bishops in the GM Church to serve until the latter’s convening General Conference; Bishop Webb has been received in this capacity. Initially, he will serve as one of the general superintendents of the GM Church and will not be appointed to a specific residential area.

“I am humbled to be a part of a fresh expression of Methodism that seeks to capture and live the fullness of our Wesleyan DNA and equip individuals and congregations to boldly and urgently live out God’s call to offer the good news of Jesus Christ to a desperate world,” said Webb regarding his new role with the GM Church. “I’m also grateful for the leadership and gifts faithfully offered by so many in the formation of this movement and look forward to becoming a part of all that God is doing and will do in and through the Global Methodist Church.”

Webb served as the bishop of the Upper New York Annual Conference of the UM Church for over 10 years. Prior to his role as a bishop, he pastored three local churches and served as a district superintendent in Pennsylvania for 23 years. His clergy colleagues elected him as a delegate to General and Jurisdictional Conferences in 2004, 2008, and 2012. He received the Harry Denman Evangelism Award in 2002, and in 2018 he was named as one of the top 100 leaders by the John C. Maxwell Transformational Leadership Award.

“We are honored to have Bishop Webb join us and to immediately assume leadership responsibilities in the Global Methodist Church,” said Cara Nicklas, Chairwoman of the TLC. “His humble spirit, his courageous witness, and above all, his fidelity to the core confessions of the Wesleyan expression of the Christian faith are inspiring. I am confident his creative leadership will contribute to the growing health and vitality of our Church.”

A graduate of Shippensburg University (Shippensburg, Pennsylvania) with a Bachelor of Arts in Sociology, Bishop Webb also holds a M. Div. from Asbury Theological Seminary (Wilmore, Kentucky) and a graduate certificate in nonprofit management from the University of Connecticut (Storrs, Connecticut). He currently serves on the Board of Trustees of United Theological Seminary (Dayton, Ohio).

“What has impressed me most serving under and alongside Bishop Webb has been his keen ability to use his gifts of leadership and discernment to cast vision and work with others to implement that vision in often complicated situations,” said the Rev. Steven Taylor, Lead Pastor of Panama UM Church (Panama, New York). “He unapologetically proclaims that hope and salvation are found only in Jesus Christ as revealed in the Bible and through the presence and power of the Holy Spirit.”

Former United Methodists who have already transitioned to the GM Church and United Methodist hoping to follow them have long regarded Bishop Webb as a courageous and gracious leader, willing to speak up on their behalf. He was very warmly received at the Wesleyan Covenant Association’s 2022 Global Gathering in Indiana, where he offered the closing devotion and served as the celebrant for Holy Communion.

“The entire staff is excited to welcome Bishop Webb to the team and is looking forward to working with him,” said the Rev. Keith Boyette, the GM Church’s Transitional Connectional Officer. “His experience, and the gifts and graces he brings to us will bless and increase the GM Church for years to come. We praise and thank God for his willingness to serve among us during the denomination’s critical transitional period.”

Just launched on May 1, 2022, hundreds of local churches in Africa, Europe, the Philippines, and the United States have already aligned with the Global Methodist Church, and many more are hoping to do so over the next few years.

“Many people are coming to the Global Methodist Church with a passion to follow Jesus and be the Church, but also with a deep weariness and pain from past experiences and struggles. We are a broken and wounded people, called to offer Jesus to a broken and wounded world. We will need to help one another heal,” said Bishop Webb. “We must choose to trust and encourage one another, while fully depending upon the power of God’s Spirit in this new journey. I strive to give thanks for the formation my past provides, but I also know that the Gospel message invites me to lay the past behind and focus on the vision and hope God is birthing today. The battles of yesterday are no longer our battles. There will be new struggles, but I know God will be faithful, and I trust that God has already equipped us to be faithful to the glory of God and for the increase of His Kingdom.”

Bishop Webb lives in Lititz, Pennsylvania and is married to Jodi. They have two sons, Tyler, who is married to Lyndsay and Benjamin, who is married to Mary.

The Rev. Walter Fenton is the Global Methodist Church’s Deputy Connectional Officer. Link to original story HERE.

Photo: Bishop Mark Webb, formerly of the Upper New York Conference, gives the closing devotional at the May 7 Global Gathering of the Wesleyan Covenant Association. (Photo by Sam Hodges, UM News.)

Faith in a Time of Transition

Faith in a Time of Transition

By Thomas Lambrecht

This is the final week of Advent, a season of preparing to celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ and preparing for his coming again. Advent reminds us that we are in the time “between the times.” We are in the time between Jesus’ first and second Advents (comings). As Professor George Eldon Ladd reminded us, we are in the transition between the already and the not yet.

God’s Kingdom has already come to earth in the form of King Jesus and in the hearts and lives of Jesus’ followers, including us. But God’s Kingdom awaits its full realization when Jesus comes again “to judge the living and the dead.” The book of Revelation and other Scripture passages paint a glorious picture of what the fullness of God’s Kingdom will mean.

But it is uncomfortable to be in between, to be in transition. We have an idea what is coming, but we are not there yet.

Some of my grandchildren have a problem with transitions. It is hard for them to stop doing one thing in order to do a different thing. My daughter has to prepare them for the transition by warning them, “We are going to stop playing and get in the car in five minutes.” That warning enables them to adjust their minds and expectations to what is coming next.

We are in a transition time in The United Methodist Church. At last count, over 2,000 congregations have disaffiliated from the denomination. That represents 6.6 percent of all United Methodist churches in the United States. It is estimated that about that many more are in the process of discernment toward disaffiliating next year before the opportunity to disaffiliate ends on December 31, 2023.

Those remaining in The United Methodist Church are in the process of revisioning what the church will look like and how it will operate with 10-15 percent fewer members and churches.

Those joining the Global Methodist Church are in the process of constructing new annual conferences in various parts of the U.S., as well as in countries overseas. Critical decisions have yet to be made, such as how to elect and assign bishops.

Those churches becoming independent are figuring out how to operate without the support of a denominational structure.

In all cases, we are leaving behind what is familiar and heading into uncharted territory. We have some idea what the future might look like, but there are also many unknowns.

It is tempting to want to stay with what is familiar, even though that world of the past is no longer available to us. The Israelites in the Wilderness longed to go back to slavery in Egypt, at times. Yet the slavery they would have gone back to would have been different from the slavery they left. There is no such thing as going back to what we once knew.

That is why Paul reminds us, “We live by faith, not by sight” (II Corinthians 5:7). Often, we cannot see the pathway to the future God has for us. However, we can trust the One who leads and guides us each step of the way. We can stay stuck in the past, or we can follow the living Lord into the incredible future he has for us. Each day, we can take the next step God has for us, knowing it will eventually lead us to our true home with him.

Mary and Joseph did not know what the future held when they agreed to become the human parents of the Savior of the world. No father or mother knows what the future will hold on the day their child is born. Yet, we have children in hope for the future and in faith that God will lead and guide us into and through that future.

The decisions we are making now in our churches, whether to disaffiliate from The United Methodist Church or remain, are decisions guided by faith and hope in a future held by God. They are decisions that should not be guided by fear or a desire to cling to the past, but are decisions based on a confidence that God will not let us down.

Transitions remind us we are not in control. The wisest saying I have ever heard is, “God is God, and I am not!” That saying has become a mantra for me, acknowledging my life is not my own, but God’s. He is in control. My role is to respond to his leading and be faithful to what he is calling me to be.

Yes, transitions are uncomfortable. Journeying into an unknown future can be intimidating. We can walk through this transition with confidence by adjusting our expectations. Things will not be like they once were. In this season, there is no way to keep what once was. Our only course is to walk into a future we choose, guided and empowered by God, just as Mary and Joseph did. All the rest is up to the Lord.

I pray you experience a blessed and rich Christmas celebration, filled with the joy and peace of Christ.

Thomas Lambrecht is a United Methodist clergyperson and the vice president of Good News.

An Incoherent Judicial Council Decision

An Incoherent Judicial Council Decision

By Thomas Lambrecht

This week, the United Methodist Judicial Council (the equivalent of our church supreme court) handed down Decision 1451 regarding the processes to govern the 2024 meeting of the General Conference. This decision responded to requests from the Kenya-Ethiopia, Western Pennsylvania, and Alaska Annual Conferences.

The Judicial Council decided that the 2024 meeting of the General Conference will be considered a postponed session of the 2020 General Conference, rather than the regular 2024 General Conference session. As a result, all legislation already submitted to the 2020 General Conference remains to be considered by the 2024 session. Additional legislation may be submitted by September 2023. More importantly, there is no need to elect new delegates to serve at the 2024 General Conference. Delegates elected for 2020 will continue to serve.

This decision and its rationale reinforce the idea that the Judicial Council appears to have lost its moorings to church law and is making up its own rules as it goes along. The advent of the Covid pandemic and its resultant meeting and travel restrictions has created a situation not envisioned or provided for in our Book of Discipline. The Judicial Council appears to be taking advantage of that situation to create church law and make decisions based on the whims of the Council, rather than holding to precedent and providing consistent interpretation and guidance of the Discipline, which is their job.

Readers not interested in the technical analysis to follow may skip to the last section on Fallout from the Decision to see its practical effects.

New Delegates

The crux of the matter is whether new delegates needed to be elected for the 2024 General Conference (whether that conference is called a postponed 2020 session or a regular 2024 session). The Discipline is clear. Par. 502.3 requires, “Delegates to the General Conference shall be elected at the

session of the annual conference held not more than two annual conference sessions before the calendar year preceding the session of the General Conference.” At face value, this means that delegates elected before 2022 could not serve at the 2024 session of the General Conference. Delegates for the 2020 General Conference were elected, for the most part, in 2019 and therefore should not be able to serve in 2024.

However, the Judicial Council disregards the plain meaning of Par. 502.3 and states, “Under this disciplinary paragraph, elections conducted at either the 2018 or 2019 session of annual conference would be valid and operative for the 2020 General Conference.”

The Judicial Council ignores its own precedent in previous decisions. In Decision 1429, the Council asks, “Hence, the issue boils down to one question: Does ‘opening session’ of the General Conference mean (a) the original date or (b) a future scheduled event?” The decision goes on to find that “it clearly describes the term [opening session] in a way indicating an event, not a date.” The decision cites the Plan of Organization and Rules of Order of the General Conference. “Here too, ‘opening session’ is understood to be an event composed of various segments such as worship and call to order. We cannot find anything in The Discipline or the Plan that would suggest otherwise. The textual basis is sufficient to support the interpretation (b) above.” The effect of this interpretation in Decision 1429 was, “The deadlines for petitions submission in ¶ 507 are based on the date of the postponed General Conference and reset with each postponement.”

Under Decision 1429, the “session” of the General Conference is the “future event” when it actually convenes and is reset with each postponement. In line with that precedent, the election of delegates “more than two annual conference sessions before the calendar year preceding the session of the General Conference” would be illegal. Yet, that is precisely what new Decision 1451 allows. It now defines the “session” as the originally scheduled date. The Judicial Council wants to have it both ways, depending on which outcome it desires.

Why a Postponed 2020 Conference?

The rationale given by the Judicial Council for why the 2024 session of the General Conference should be regarded as the postponed 2020 Conference is very weak.

Decision 1451 states, “The Constitution further establishes the minimum frequency at which the General Conference must convene, not the actual year when this occurs. ‘The General Conference shall meet once in four years at such time and in such place as shall be determined by the General Conference or by its duly authorized committees.’ Constitution. Par. 14. A cancellation would cause the number of General Conference sessions to drop below the quadrennial minimum and violate this constitutional mandate.”

I have news for the Judicial Council: the postponement of the 2020 General Conference until 2024 already causes “the number of General Conference sessions to drop below the quadrennial minimum and violate this constitutional mandate.” We were in violation of the constitutional mandate in 2021 when it had been more than four years since the previous General Conference. Exigent circumstances prohibited the conference from meeting in 2020 or 2021, but not (we would argue) in 2022 or 2023. By postponing the conference until 2024, we are already dropping the number of General Conferences below the quadrennial minimum. The Judicial Council is not requiring the church to hold two General Conferences in 2024 to restore the correct number of General Conferences.

Decision 1451 finds “no basis in Church law” for “cancelling or skipping the 2020 General Conference and requiring new elections to be held.” There is no basis in church law for postponing the General Conference beyond the fourth year after the previous conference, either. Yet, the Judicial Council has allowed that postponement. By postponing the 2020 General Conference until 2024 and not holding two General Conferences in 2024, the church is already skipping a session of the General Conference. Fear that church law does not allow skipping a General Conference is therefore not a valid reason for requiring the postponed 2020 General Conference to be held in 2024, since such a postponement already skips a General Conference.

Decision 1451 states, “Viewed from the last regular session of General Conference in 2016, the  postponed 2020 session falls squarely within the time window of ¶ 14.” Except that it does not. The time window of Par. 14 requires General Conference to meet “once in four years.” In 2024, it will have been eight years since the previous General Conference met – clearly outside the four-year time window.

Begging the Question

Another reason the Judicial Council gives for treating the 2024 session of General Conference as the postponed 2020 General Conference is the fact that, “From the beginning, the Commission on the General Conference – the body authorized to fix the time and place of General Conference – understood its action to be postponement, not cancellation.” But that simply begs the question. The purpose of the requests for a Judicial Council decision was to determine whether the Commission was correct in styling the 2024 conference as a postponement, rather than a cancellation. The fact that the Commission did so does not form a legal basis for its being right.

Decision 1451 further argues, “Likewise, the Judicial Council adhered to this understanding by consistently referring to ‘the postponement of the 2020 General Conference’ in JCD 1409, 1410, and 1429.” Again, this begs the question of whether this remains true regarding a session held in 2024. The earlier decisions were issued before the conference was postponed until 2024 for the third time. That third postponement fundamentally changed the situation and the facts of the case. The first two postponements were required by government actions restricting travel and meetings due to Covid. The third postponement was discretionary, not required by government actions.

Negating Annual Conference Rights?

Finally, Decision 1451 argues that “the members of an annual conference have not only the constitutional duty but also right to vote ‘on the election of clergy and lay delegates to the General and the jurisdictional or central conferences.’ Const. ¶ 33.” But requiring new elections for delegates does not nullify the right of the annual conference to vote to elect delegates. It simply insists that, due to exigent circumstances, new delegates need to be elected by those annual conferences.

Any number of delegates who were elected in 2019 are no longer able to serve for the 2024 conference. Tragically, some have died. Some were elected bishop and are no longer eligible to be delegates. Some laypersons have since been ordained clergy and can no longer serve as the lay delegates they were elected to be. Some have moved away from the annual conference in which they were elected and transferred their membership, making them ineligible to serve. And recently, some delegates have disaffiliated from the UM Church, making them ineligible to serve. The Judicial Council cannot seriously maintain that it is “essential to open and fair elections, the cornerstone of our connectional and democratic polity” that all those delegates originally elected in 2019 must serve in 2024. The passage of time and changing circumstances have made that impossible.

Decision 1451 goes on, “Cancelling or skipping the 2020 General Conference and requiring new elections to be held would be tantamount to overturning the results of the 2019 elections and disenfranchising the clergy and lay members of an annual conference who voted in good faith. It would also deprive delegates of their right to be seated and serve at the session of General Conference for which they were duly elected.”

It is not this Judicial Council decision that “deprives delegates of their right to be seated and serve.” In the first instance, it was Covid and resulting government actions that caused the postponement of the conference. And it was the decision of the Commission on General Conference not to meet in 2022 or 2023 that then “deprived those delegates of the right to be seated and serve.” Jurisdictional and central conferences have met in 2022. General Conference could have, as well. That was the Commission’s decision.

Further, the Judicial Council’s decision not to require new delegate elections deprives the current annual conferences of the right to vote to elect delegates and for delegates who might have been elected for 2024 to serve in that capacity. They now must wait until 2028. That is just as unfair, and to quote the decision, “There is no basis in Church law for such course of action” of skipping elections for 2024 delegates.

Fallout from the Decision

One might wonder why this decision matters. Why spill so much ink dissecting a decision that only a small percentage of United Methodists would be passionate about?

The primary fallout from Decision 1451 is to disenfranchise United Methodist members in Africa. The number of delegates is based on the number of clergy and lay members in each annual conference. The 2020 delegates were based on 2016 numbers. The 2024 delegates would have been based on 2020 numbers.

The 2020 delegation included 278 from Africa and 482 from the U.S. African delegates hold 32 percent of the delegation, and the U.S. 56 percent.

Based on preliminary calculations, a new 2024 delegation would have included 322 from Africa and 440 from the U.S. That shift of 42-44 delegates would have taken African representation to 37 percent and reduced U.S. representation to 51 percent. That five-point shift is a very significant shift in representation and power that the African church will be deprived of. (Through a quirk in the delegate formula, although African members now comprise 52 percent of the global church membership, they would only have 37 percent of the delegates, a separate and further injustice. African membership in 2020 stood at 6.8 million, and the U.S. had 6.2 million.)

It is unconscionable that our African brothers and sisters are being systematically deprived of equal representation in the church by this decision. Now they will not be allocated the number of delegates to which they are entitled by the formula. One cannot escape the impression that this was one of the motivating factors for the Judicial Council decision. The desire to hang on to progressive U.S. representation at the expense of fair African representation bodes ill for the future of the church. It provides a “raw power” explanation for an otherwise incoherent Judicial Council decision. One wonders if the African members of the Council were unaware of the implications of this decision, or they would surely have spoken up against this injustice against their part of the church. In an era when people are rightly concerned about voter suppression in secular elections, one could hardly come up with a better example than what the Judicial Council decision does.

A second and more far-reaching fallout of this decision is to potentially delegitimize Judicial Council decisions. In all the rationales put forward by the Council for its decision, as analyzed above, there is not one solid church law basis for the decision. Instead, the Council twists the Discipline to accommodate its desired outcome and disregards previous recent decisions when they are inconvenient.

A Judicial Council that makes its decisions based on church politics rather than the Discipline is dysfunctional. It joins a Council of Bishops that is dysfunctional and a General Conference that has not been allowed to function (through postponement). All the major institutions of our church government are unable to give consistent, principled leadership to the church. Instead, they have been usurped by an inability to provide stability and legitimacy to denominational processes. The result is chaos, with different parts of the church and different leaders doing what is right in their own eyes, sacrificing any sense of a unified approach. The Covid crisis has given an excuse for different parts of the church to make exceptions to following the Discipline where they want to, while in other instances holding to the extreme letter of the church law. This failure of consistent, principled church leadership is why many lay and clergy members do not trust the institutional United Methodist Church or its governing processes. It provides yet another compelling reason to seek separation, rather than continue in a denomination that has run amok.

###

Update of Last Week’s Perspective

In last week’s survey of various Methodist denominations, an error was made regarding Free Methodist bishops. They do not serve until retirement once elected. Instead, they serve four-year terms and may be reelected. The online version of the article has been corrected. The one-page comparison chart has also been corrected, which gives it a new link. The corrected chart may be accessed HERE.

Some have wondered why other Methodist denominations were not included in the comparison. There would not have been space to include the dozens of U.S. Methodist denominations, most of them fairly small. It would also have increased the confusion. Those denominations that have attracted some interest from disaffiliating United Methodists as a potential landing spot were included.

Thomas Lambrecht is a United Methodist clergyperson and the vice president of Good News.