July-August 2012

How to shut down a conversation

By Rob Renfroe
Unfortunately, in writing about General Conference 2012 some of our bishops are using the kind of language that is guaranteed to shut down trust, respect, and future conversations that might bring healing to The United Methodist Church. And, strangely, they are some of our bishops who most tout the virtue of tolerance, mutual respect, and “holy conferencing.”

Time to move beyond church protests

By Thomas A. Lambrecht
Another General Conference, another protest by pro-gay groups. Since the 1992 General Conference in Louisville, Kentucky, every General Conference session has been disrupted by some form of protest activity. On one occasion, protesters pounded their feet on the bleachers to prevent the conference from carrying on business. In each of the last four General Conferences, protesters invaded the floor where the delegates were seated in order to stop the business of the conference from continuing. In 2000, a number of the protesters were arrested and fined. In the years since then, some form of accommodation with the protesters al- lowed the protest to happen without arrests being made.

You might be Jeff Foxworthy if …

A. You are the Mark Twain of redneck jokes.
B. You were the long-time host of Are You Smarter Than a 5th Grader?
C. You helped launch the Blue Collar Comedy Tour.
D. You are about to host The American Bible Challenge.
How about all of the above?

What happened in Tampa? Reflections on General Conference

In the avalanche of post–General Conference analysis, here is a sampling of excerpts — from extremely varied perspectives — that caught our eye. Just to be doubly clear, while we agree with some and disagree with others, we believe all these public comments are noteworthy in understanding the struggle for the heart and soul of The United Methodist Church.

United Methodism’s un-occupy movement

By Andy Nixon
United Methodism is experiencing an epic un-occupation. Where once upon a time our churches were standing room only with more worshippers than church members and an advancing evangelical message, today Methodism is becoming unoccupied — a vacant shell of what once was. Forty-four years of decline in a world that has grown exponentially in population, United Methodism is a breathtaking Christian collapse.

Restating for Clarification

Restating for Clarification
In his highly readable assessment of the 2012 General Conference published in The United Methodist Reporter, Bishop Will Willimon expresses his frustration at the failure of the General Conference to support the Call to Action plan touted by the Council of Bishops. “The bishops’ accomplishments? The Methodist Federation for Social Action received new life, the Board of Church and Society went home unscathed by reform, and Good News and an unlikely clutch of agitation groups united against the bishops.” It was that last snippet that had us scratching our heads. As we made crystal clear before and during General Conference, Good News did not endorse any of the restructuring plans.

What will our legacy be?

By Liza Kittle
I have been pondering this question over the last few weeks as I’ve “unpacked” the happenings of General Conference 2012, experienced the loss of a beloved uncle, and read the most extraordinary book about a Methodist missionary family serving in central Congo.

Mission field is local and foreign

By Stan Self
During a recent Mission Society Global Outreach Weekend, a young woman observed that the presentation seemed to be as much about missions as evangelism. The instructor responded by telling her that in this training missions and evangelism were not separated given that all outreach should contain the element of evangelism.

Old Testament law and the charge of inconsistency

By Timothy Keller
I find it frustrating when I read or hear columnists, pundits, or journalists dismiss Christians as inconsistent because “they pick and choose which of the rules in the Bible to obey.” What I hear most often is “Christians ignore lots of Old Testament texts — about not eating raw meat or pork or shellfish, not executing people for breaking the Sabbath, not wearing garments woven with two kinds of material,and so on. Then they condemn homosexuality. Aren’t you just picking and choosing what you want to believe from the Bible?”

From Islam to Christianity

By Phileas Jusu
For the Fulani tribe in West Africa, religion or becoming Muslim is not a matter of opinion or open to debate. A Fulani child is born Muslim and observes Islamic tradition from birth until death. Any deviation from the tradition endangers the relationship with tribe and family.