By Steve Beard
It is with great confidence and humility that I pass the mantle of leadership to Jonathan Dow. I pray that God will give him a double portion of the anointing that has been upon my life as he leads this ministry into the future, said the Rev. Gary Moore as he marked the transition at Aldersgate Renewal Ministries (ARM) during a March 7 gathering. Moore had been executive director of ARM for the last 20 years. His work with ARM will continue as Networking Ambassador, as well as launching a new preaching and teaching ministry called Fan Into Flame.
I willingly take that mantle, greatly humbled by the divine mission before us, deeply grateful for the willingness of the Board to entrust the responsibilities of this role to me, said Dow. I step into this role with a passionate understanding: The empowerment of the Holy Spirit is essential to carry on the ministry of Jesus. Individuals and churches who are moment by moment filled, gifted, empowered and led by the Holy Spirit will be used by God to minister to the worldwhether right next door or across the globe. The Holy Spirit, Gods divine power, has given us everything we need to pray, to worship, to share our faith journey, and to heal the sickcarrying on the ministry of Jesus. Dow is only the third executive director in ARMs 32-year history.
The summer of 2009 has turned out to be a season of transitions for a number of United Methodist-related ministries and institutions. In addition to Good News and ARM, changes in leadership have also been announced at The Mission Society, The Institute on Religion and Democracy, The Confessing Movement, and Asbury Theological Seminary.
Mission Society: On May 19, The Mission Society Board of Directors elected the Rev. Dick McClain as the organizations next president. McClain will become the fifth president of The Mission Society since its inception in 1984. He follows in this office the Rev. Dr. Phil Granger, who has served as The Mission Societys president/CEO since December 2001, and will retire the end of this year.
Of McClains nomination, Granger commented, I firmly believe that the experience God has given him was in preparation for the challenges that lay ahead in this rapidly changing world. I am excited about the future of The Mission Society with Dick at the helm!
McClain began his career with The Mission Society in 1986 as director of missionary personnel. The son and grandson of missionaries, McClain was born in China and grew up in India and Hong Kong. An ordained United Methodist minister, he served pastorates in West Michigan for 11 years. (There will be fuller coverage about McClain and The Mission Societys 25th anniversary in our next issue.)
IRD: Mark Tooley has been appointed the new president of the Institute on Religion and Democracy (IRD), an organization Tooley has been with since 1994, directing its program for United Methodists. Retiring IRD President Jim Tonkowich plans to remain with IRD as a scholar.
Tooley is a lifelong United Methodist from northern Virginia andhas been active in United Methodist renewal for over 20 years. Over the last 14 years at IRD, his commentaries have appeared in Good News, The Wall Street Journal, The Weekly Standard, and The American Spectator, among others. Previous to IRD, he was employed with the Central Intelligence Agency.
The IRD advocates that churches uphold theological orthodoxy, espouse a responsible political witness, and plead for persecuted religious believers around the world. The chair of IRDs board, Mrs. Terry Schlossberg, commented: The board of directors is pleased with Mark Tooleys acceptance of this appointment. Mark brings to the position a level of intelligence and Penergy that have been characteristic of the IRDs impact on the church and the world.
More than ever before, the IRD is needed today to continue to challenge Americas churches to be faithful to their great traditions and to shun liberal fads that always spiritually and culturally marginalize once great churches, said Tooley. The IRD will continue and expand its critique of the Religious Left while urging churches to uphold their great doctrines and to offer America a responsible social witness.
Confessing Movement: With the Rev. Rob Renfroe becoming the president and publisher of Good News, the Confessing Movement announced that the Rev. Gregory McGarvey will become President of Board of Directors of The Confessing Movement, the office that Renfroe filled. McGarvey currently serves as the 1st Vice-President of the board, having served on the Board of Directors since 1999.
Greg McGarvey has been a part of The Confessing Movement from the beginning, observed Dr. Maxie Dunnam, co-chairman of The Confessing Movement. I am excited about his leadership. He knows the issues and he loves the church. Senator Patricia Miller, Executive Director of The Confessing Movement, stated, I know Greg as a strong and compassionate leader, who is faithful to our Lord and Savior and lives out that faith in his daily life.
A six-time delegate to General Conference, McGarvey has been the Senior Pastor of Carmel United Methodist Church, Carmel, Indiana, since 2001. He was instrumental in starting the renewal movement in the South Indiana Conference and developed the Bloomington Declaration, modeled after the Houston and Memphis Declarations. Part of Gregs continuing concern for the United Methodist Church is the need for ongoing discussions of the role of the church in America in a global strategy of missions.
In the last issue of Good News, it was announced that Dr. Tim Tennent would be the new president of Asbury Theological Seminary.
Steve Beard is the editor of Good News. Information for this story was provided from assorted news sources.
Though accurate statistics are hard to assemble, one can state with some certainty that few annual conferences in the United States have started more than 20 new churches in the last 20 years. The most active conferences may start upwards of 20 over a decade, with a very few doing better than that. Best estimates are that the entire UM Church in the United States starts between 80 and 100 per year.
In contrast, consider one United Methodist pastor working in another country who started 100 churches there in the last 8 years, with most being within the last 4 years. The Rev. Vang is a native of the noted country, but has lived most of his adult life in the United States. He has been a lifelong Christian and active UM layperson as an adult. He has served in various volunteer ministry professions over the years prior to becoming a full-time GBGM missionary in 2006. His church planting efforts began in 2001 on a short-term mission trip and continued over the years until his deployment in 2006. As of today, 77 new churches have gained official status and 38 more have been started but are not yet recognized. Approximately 6,000 people are now part of these churches. This has taken place despite restrictions on religious practice unfamiliar to the United States context, making the accomplishment all the more remarkable.
When asked how he has done this, the Rev. Vang responds in a way that does not immediately connect with a U.S. audience looking for the next model, method, or technique. In fact, he insists that he does not have any such thing to share. An outside observer, however, can see similarities with some approaches that should be familiar. One is found in Luke 10 as Jesus sent out the 70. The other finds commonality with some aspects of the early days of Methodism, both in England and America.
The Rev. Vang does share some observations about his work. He says it is essential that the planter be really called by God and that this person respond with the Here I am. Send me. This reflects his belief that this work is of God and he or she is just the tool that has had the courage to be used. While he is humble and does not expound on the personal cost of this work, circumstances are much more difficult than U.S. church planters are accustomed to. For example, he and his wife had to move very frequently over safety concerns in their field of service. They have both had severe health issues since going to the field. (As of this writing Mrs. Vang is under medical care in the U.S. Please keep her in prayer.)
Another observation the Rev. Vang makes is the need to be a leader in community involvement and in the spiritual realm. When starting a new work, a team is sent to a village and then starts by contacting officials and letting them know they are there to help needs. As they do this, they are very careful to live exemplary lives befitting the gospel of Jesus Christ. The big impact upon the community well-being opens doors on many occasions. Sometimes after churches are established, local officials will watch the new Christians to see if they are living up to the standards they claim to follow.
Additionally, quality training contributes to the church start success, notes the Rev. Vang. The planting teams sent out are grounded in Bible doctrine, since many of them have never seen a Bible before. They are also taught basics of UM structure, polity, and other disciplinary items. The Rev. Vang is also quick to point out that prayer is essential to the new church planting work. Before someone goes to a new location, they participate and are bathed in prayer.
The new congregations vary in size, from a group of families up to 400 persons. They worship in homes, under trees, and in a variety of settings. Wednesday gatherings are mainly prayer times.
The Rev. Vang describes his ministry in this way: As a missionary to my country, I sow the seed of the gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ, sharing life with the people, church planting, training lay preachers, lay leaders, women, and youth from over 70 congregations up from the ground, organizing training programs to support poor families, self-sufficiency projects, clean water, women/children prenatal care, counseling the broken-hearted, heal the sick by Gods power, feed the hungry, and bring the lost to God, teaching Gods words and Gods love to the people. I strongly believe that Jews and Gentiles have the right to receive Gods grace through Christ, under just and equal umbrella of Gods wonderful words, and will worship God, will send out my countrys missionaries all over the land to sow the seed of the gospel, saving souls and establishing the living water, the Fresh of the Son.
One delightful work project is hand-making beautiful ties, complete with cross and flame. These are sold in the U.S to support the ministry.
The Network of Congregational Developers recently met for their annual meeting and was privileged to have the Rev. Vang speak to them. Following his presentation, the developers heard a suggestion that as their conferences started a new church, they could partner with a new start in a developing country through the GBGM. It is clear that this new church movement in the Rev. Vangs country is able to happen because the churches reproduce themselves. There is a vital DNA which is passed on. A new U.S. church start partnering with a church like this helps infuse missional DNA in the U.S. church from the very beginning and thus increasing the likelihood that it will be a reproducing church as well. This concept was well received by those present and may start a new connection that brings life and vitality to both the U.S. and abroad.
John H. Southwick is the editor of Background Data for Mission. This article was adapted with permission from the April 2009 issue of Background Data for Mission 2009. Published by the Office of Research of the General Board of Global Ministries.