Our cause, our calling, and our commitment

Our cause, our calling, and our commitment

By Liza Kittle

Preparing for a new year of ministry at Renew, I have been pondering “big picture” things. One of the challenges of leading Renew is striking a balance between engaging the spiritual battles of the United Methodist Church and promoting the formation of alternative women’s ministries. Both are important.

Although God has clearly shown Renew that building transforming women’s ministries is our primary focus, we must continue to be involved in reform and renewal of the church. We persevere, knowing that our cause is just, our calling secure, and our commitment steadfast.

Our cause is just. It involves upholding scriptural Christianity and bringing spiritual vitality to our troubled denomination. It means upholding our Book of Discipline and insisting our appointed leaders enforce it. It means standing for biblical truth in the Christian faith and against pressures to abandon or alter it. It means allowing the Holy Spirit to do a “new thing” in our midst.

One doesn’t have to look far to see where the church is growing—in Africa, where the Word of God is preached, scriptural Christianity is upheld, and lives are being transformed. Growing and healthy churches in the United States are also Christ-centered, committed to scriptural integrity, and focused on evangelistic mission outreach. These churches advocate a proper balance between personal and social holiness, key tenets of Wesleyan theology.

Most of our growing, vital churches also have alternative women’s programs. Renew remains committed to encouraging our pastors, bishops, and the General Conference to recognize and support other women’s ministries within the church. Less that 15 percent of the women in the UM Church participate in United Methodist Women, the only officially sanctioned women’s ministry in the church. The time is now for our church to embrace variety in women’s ministry programs—especially in a denomination that celebrates diversity and open-mindedness.

Our calling is secure in the hands God. Renewal and reform within the UM Church is not an easy task. Those called to this task are deeply passionate about the future of our denomination. God has given encouraging signs of affirmation to this calling over the past year. Constitutional changes that would have separated the U.S. and Central conferences were soundly defeated in annual conferences. Changes that would have removed pastoral authority regarding readiness for membership were also defeated.

Many in the church believe these amendments were initiated by liberal groups who continue to promote the acceptance of homosexuality practice. By removing any barrier to church membership and silencing the voice of African delegates, who tend to be theologically orthodox, these groups would have greater success in changing our stance on this issue. By 2012, it is predicted that 30 percent of the delegates at General Conference will be from Africa. (In 2004, the African delegation made up 10 percent of total delegates in 2004 and 20 percent in 2008.) The votes of our African brothers and sisters are critical for maintaining the historic doctrines of Methodism.

Our commitment is steadfast. I have seen firsthand the devotion of clergy and laity called to this noble endeavor of reform and renewal in the UM Church. Renew was privileged to participate in a dialogue between renewal leaders and the Council of Bishops’ Unity Task Force in November 2009 at Lake Junaluska, N.C. (see page 7). I witnessed servants of the Lord speaking up for biblical truth and denominational integrity with humility and grace.

As a church, I encourage you to participate in this movement through several means. One is through prayer—for our church, bishops, and leaders. Another is through knowledge and participation. Stay informed about the issues facing the church, engage in dialogue with church leaders, and be able to clearly articulate your Christian beliefs.

And, very importantly, support renewal groups through generous regular giving. It takes tremendous financial resources to engage our brothers and sisters in Africa, send a renewal coalition to General Conference, communicate with constituents, speak to congregations and groups, and provide resources for the church. There is no greater cause than helping maintain the scriptural integrity and future growth of the United Methodist Church.

For the ministry of Renew—holding workshops, producing Christ-centered materials, planning leadership conferences, expanding our organization, communicating with our network, and participating in renewal efforts—your giving is also essential.

I pray that everyone will join this just cause, seek God’s guidance about your own calling, and be steadfastly committed to reform and renewal. Your participation will bring honor and glory to God. Won’t you partner with us in this just and noble cause? I pray that you will.

Liza Kittle is the President of the Renew Network (www.renewnetwork.org ), P.O. Box 16055, Augusta, GA 30919; telephone: 706-364-0166.

Our cause, our calling, and our commitment

Carrying one another’s hearts

By Liza Kittle

The purpose of Renew has always been two-fold. On one hand, this organization has engaged in a twenty-year spiritual battle for the integrity of the gospel, the historic tenets of Methodism, and the need for Christ-centered women’s ministry within our denomination. But just as importantly, we have been engaged in ministries of love, hope, and healing to the lost and broken.

In his devotional book This Day with the Master, Dennis Kinlaw writes about how Paul’s letter to the Philippians gives a wonderful example of “the attitude Christians ought to have toward those to whom they minister.” This book reveals Paul’s passionate and tender love for others—the love of a father, brother, and friend—even in the midst of great personal suffering. Paul writes, “I thank God upon every remembrance of you, always in every prayer of mine making request for you all with joy” (Philippians 1:3-4). Just thinking of the Philippians brings an indescribable joy and sense of gratitude to Paul due to their kinship in Christ. This bond results in a supernatural ability to love each other. Paul also says, “It is right that I should think this way about you, because I carry you in my heart” (Philippians 1:7). The intimacy of his relationship with Jesus manifested in his relationship with those he was called to serve. Kinlaw challenges the reader to ask, “Are you loving like Paul did? Are you carrying the people God has given you in your heart?”

God has given Renew an opportunity in ministry that I believe has produced this joyful and grateful spirit of love and kinship in Christ. Last summer, a young pastor from Uganda emailed me inquiring about resources for a women’s conference he was holding at his church. As we began to correspond with one another, I was struck not only by his great knowledge of the Bible, but also by his tremendous heart for the women and families of those he served. His name is Paul Mabonga and the church he planted is the Magamamba Healing Centre, located in Iganga, Uganda, East Africa.

Like many local pastors in Uganda, Paul completed a one-year course of study through a ministry of the Nazarene Church, a church with early roots in the Methodist holiness movement. Pastors are equipped through a network of regional training centers, which enable them to be trained locally for Christian ministry. Against incredible monetary and physical constraints, the Lord has blessed this young congregation with fruitfulness and joy. They worship in a room rented from a local school, with a few plastic chairs and a dirt floor. They hold women and youth conferences and all-night prayer vigils, praising God with songs of joy and thanksgiving. The members of Paul’s church have heard the Word preached, accepted the gospel offered, and experienced lives transformed.

I believe this young pastor Paul shares many characteristics with the great apostle Paul—passionately devoted to Jesus Christ and to the souls of the Ugandan people. As Paul’s letter to the Philippians explains, he “carries them in his heart.”

Paul Mabonga also carries Renew in his heart. His family and congregation have “adopted” Renew and pray for this ministry. We are their “spiritual moms” and their love for us in emails Paul writes can be felt across the many miles between us. At the end of each email, Paul always closes with a blessing and a thanksgiving. He asks God to bless Renew abundantly and to expand our borders, and Paul thanks Renew for loving him and his church and “carrying them in our hearts.”

Our partnership with this young church in Uganda is just one of the exciting areas of ministry God is developing for the Renew Network. Initial plans are beginning for a national leadership conference to be held in 2011 where women from all across our denomination will be able to come together for praise and worship, biblical teaching, and leadership training. There is much on the horizon as God enables and equips Renew to “expand our borders.” Please join us as a member of the Renew Network and experience the love, joy, and gratitude made possible through a relationship with Jesus Christ and service to his kingdom. Let’s “carry each other’s hearts” in ministry together.

Liza Kittle is the President of the Renew Network (www.renewnetwork.org), P.O. Box 16055, Augusta, GA 30919; telephone: 706-364-0166.