Archive: 1970 Convocation Perspectives

Eileen Neely, Easton, Pennsylvania

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Rev. John Collier, Tulsa (Okla.) University

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

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

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

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

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


Dr. Paul Wright, Grand Forks, North Dakota

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


George Curtis, Jr., Portland, Maine

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

Will they be heard?

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

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

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

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


Spurgeon Dunham III, Editor, Texas Methodist

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Reprinted by permission from “The Texas Methodist. ”


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