By Rob Renfroe
In the last issue of Good News, we reported that representatives of several renewal and reform movements within the United Methodist Church had met with the Bishops’ Task Force on Unity. The purpose of the meeting was to discuss how we might move forward in mission together as a united church.
We were grateful for the opportunity to share our concerns and thoughts regarding unity with the task force at Lake Junaluska. And we commend our episcopal leaders for addressing our divisions and seeking to resolve them through prayer, dialogue, and understanding.
The Bishops on the task force greeted us warmly, listened carefully, and asked appropriately thoughtful questions. We agreed not to discuss our conversation outside of the meeting. Knowing that we would not be quoted and possibly misquoted in public gave us all a freedom to express our concerns forthrightly and passionately.
However, we do have an agreement with the bishops on the task force that we may share with others the documents that we gave them, expressing our views. Later in this issue of the magazine, you will find the first of two articles containing those documents.
I believe the composition of the team we assembled made it obvious that the renewal and reform groups do not represent some “right-wing, fringe element” within the church (please see the biographical information of team members on page 17). What should be abundantly apparent is that the renewal and reform movements hold and promote the beliefs of the great majority of United Methodists. We are not trying to re-make the United Methodist Church into our own image; we are simply working to keep the church Christ-centered and biblically faithful—exactly what most United Methodists desire.
Those who would marginalize our movements as “fringe” or “extreme” would do well to ask themselves why the most controversial amendments passed by General Conference all failed at the Annual Conference level. It’s because much of the church’s leadership and those who are driven by a liberal agenda are out of the mainstream. The amendments we supported passed. Those we opposed failed. We are not the ones out of touch with the heart and soul of the United Methodist Church.
What strikes those of us who lead the various renewal and reform groups as strange is that we are often tagged as being driven by a single issue—homosexuality. Strange, isn’t it? We are not the ones who force the issue to be debated and voted on at General Conference. We don’t send petitions to change the current position in The Discipline. We are not the ones who wear pins or stoles or who make dramatic protests once the voting is over. We would be more than happy never again to have to spend time, energy, and money on this “single issue.” Yet, the very persons who sing the constant refrain that too much time is spent on this issue and that we should “major on the majors, not the minors”—these are the very persons who have forced us to devote inordinate amounts of time to the same single issue every four years for the past four decades.
As you will note as you read the article on page 12 in this issue about the meeting with the Bishops’ Unity Task Force and the one in the next issue of Good News, homosexuality was just one of many concerns we brought to the task force. Settle this issue and we will still be a divided church and we will still need to work on unity. Resolve the issue of homosexuality the wrong way and it will have the same disastrous effect it has had on the Episcopal Church. So, we had to address that issue in the documents we gave the task force.
But our true concerns are much broader. How do we spread the gospel to a culture that is becoming increasingly secular? How do we bring hope to the billions of people who are living in physical and spiritual poverty around the world? And how do we revive the United Methodist Church so that together we can do the work that God has called us to do?
Rob Renfroe is the President and Publisher of Good News.