Archive: Good News Serves as a Forum

By Charles W. Keysor, Editor, Good News Magazine

The following editorial was written by a frequent contributor, Riley Case, pastor of Wesley UM Church, Union City, Indiana, a member of the Executive Committee, Good News Board of Directors.

Good News, the Forum for Scriptural Christianity within the United Methodist Church, comes into its share of criticism. In recent weeks we have not only been accused of literalism, fundamentalism, racism, ageism, sexism, intolerance, witch-hunting, McCarthyism, and scholasticism (whew!), but also of being connected with the new Far Right, and dedicated to negating the church’s commitment to social justice.

For a movement whose stated desire is to exalt Christ and promote Scriptural Christianity, that hurts. It gives cause for self-reflection as to who we are, and what we are really about.

It is admitted that Good News does take a conservative stand on many issues. That is to be expected, since a great part of the constituency of Good News is conservative in nature (and it could be argued that so is a great part of United Methodist laity). Where else in the church can a conservative voice be spoken? Therefore, part of what Good News does is to supply balance. It is hard to imagine that “official” church magazines (such as response, New World Outlook, or engage/social action) would ever allow a fair case to be made for a limited use of capital punishment, for abortion as morally offensive (a view not inconsistent with the UM Social Principles), or for the idea of a limited free market as a strategy for development in third world countries. Part of our purpose for being a forum is to offer a place where United Methodists can express some opinions which simply are disallowed by boards and agencies of the church; (we are not nearly as pluralistic a denomination as we claim to be).

At the same time, it should be stated emphatically—to both friend and critic—that Good News was not called into being to promote any social agenda. We do not exist today for that purpose.

Good News people are united by the deep desire for “Scriptural Christianity,” a phrase borrowed from John Wesley. It suggests an appreciation for the rich heritage that is ours through the historic Wesleyan understanding of the faith as being first and primarily defined by the “plain truths” of Scripture. Since 1966, the heart of the Good News concern has been our conviction that this church has lost its theological moorings, and, therefore, in many instances has strayed away from its own rich heritage.

“The Junaluska Affirmation,” created by Good News, is the attempt to clarify officially what we understand today to be the essence of that rich heritage. “The Junaluska Affirmation ” states clearly the official position of Good News. Therefore, we ask that any who want to criticize the Good News movement start first of all with that statement.

Beyond a basic theological unity at the heart of our faith, there is a great deal of diversity within Good News. There are not many issues on which Good News people can easily and accurately be categorized. In the magazine and within the Good News constituency we discuss freely, and sometimes vigorously argue, subjects such as speaking in tongues, healing, methods of evangelism, inerrancy, and the nature of the second coming. That is another purpose for being a forum. We are often reminded that much of this kind of discussion does not take place in areas of the church’s official life.

The same is true with social issues. While a great part of the constituency of Good News is conservative in nature, we see no necessary links between evangelical theology and conservative politics. We do not have an official position, nor is there consensus within Good News, as to what that position might be on many of the current social, political, and economic issues. There is part of the Good News constituency that is quite liberal—perhaps even “radical” (in the sojourners sense)—on these issues. Social conservatives, on different occasions, have been challenged from Good News platforms to examine the basis for their convictions.

Some say our stand for racial and economic justice has not been strong enough. That may be true. God is our judge. Perhaps it needs to be emphasized—both to friend and to critic—that we do not believe apartheid is the will of God, that racism is too much a part of all our lives, that oppressive political, economic, and ecclesiastical systems, whether of the right or of the left, are inconsistent with the Gospel. Our argument with some of the church is not over the goal of justice, but rather over the strategy used to achieve that goal, and the theology on which some social justice advocacy is based.

An example is the quota system. We are not sure that the church at large, or groups that are being represented by quotas, are best served in the long-run by a legalistic system of quota representation. We believe a case can be made that this communicates legalism, paternalism, and tokenism-the very attitudes that we are trying to overcome in the church. We hope it is still possible to discuss such issues without being accused of un-Christian motives. And we are convinced that the UM Church will be healthier because Good News has created a forum where views lacking in the official church can be honestly aired and discussed.


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