Evangelicals respond to Mississippi controversy

Evangelicals respond to Mississippi controversy

Mississippi United Methodists are still reeling from the controversial testimony of a lesbian couple during a planned worship service at the June 12 Annual Conference session. The presentation by the two women was reported in both newspaper and television reports. It has been widely viewed on the Annual Conference website, as well as YouTube.

“We have no doubt that God embraces who we are and blesses our relationship,” the women told the Annual Conference worship service, “that God’s doors are open even when the churches’ doors sometimes aren’t.”

In the wake of the controversy, Bishop Hope Morgan Ward has held meetings with concerned clergy, stating that she would uphold the Book of Discipline’s stance on homosexuality, and pledged that a same-sex witness in a worship service would not be repeated. In the flurry of statements being issued and meetings being convened, many evangelicals find themselves frustrated and disappointed that an apology has still not been issued.

Shortly after the Annual Conference, the Mississippi Fellowship of United Methodist Evangelicals (MSFUME) issued a statement pointing out that the presentation “during the worship service appeared to condone and even commend a sexual activity that the UM Book of Discipline deems ‘incompatible with Christian teaching.’” They believe that “great harm” was done at the event because “many people were blindsided by this disregard for the Bible and our Discipline.” The group also expressed regret that the two women who testified “and others in the gay and lesbian community could mistake as condemnation the vigorous call to our leaders to uphold church teachings.”

In their statement, MSFUME protested that the “witness” was presented in the context of a worship service—allowing “no recourse to those who strongly object to this unbiblical witness.” Although the evangelicals welcomed Bishop Ward’s pledge to uphold the Discipline, they point out that “she did not explain how the lesbians’ testimony during worship could be interpreted as support for the position of the Discipline.” In response by some to abandon the denomination over the controversy, the evangelical renewal group urged church members to remain in the UM Church and called for a Day of Prayer and Fasting on July 29.

On July 21, retired Bishop Clay Lee convened a meeting between Bishop Ward and the Mississippi delegation to General Conference. That group issued a statement acknowledging that Bishop Ward “was not involved in the planning of this worship service. There was no conspiracy to change or attempt to change the United Methodist Church’s position or influence the vote on the Constitutional Amendments.”

The delegates testified that the “worship service was planned by a worship committee of the Annual Conference as is our tradition” and that the “placement of these witnesses was not appropriate in the worship service.” The statement concluded by affirming both the bishop and the United Methodist stance on homosexuality.

For her part, Bishop Ward issued a second pastoral letter. “In our most recent time together, I received with you the gifts of the planning teams for each of the worship services at Annual Conference,” she wrote. “On Friday night, I heard personal stories when you heard them. They were not pre-read or approved. The intent was not to challenge or defy the Discipline. The intent was to lift up the conference theme of Biblical doors and to expand our desire and energy to reach out to persons God loves who are often beyond our churches. The expansiveness of the gathered assembly and the reality of the internet increased the potential for controversy. I deeply regret the chaos that has arisen among us.”

This was not what the evangelical renewal group was hoping for or expecting.

Three of the members of the evangelical renewal group also signed the General Conference delegate statement with the understanding that Bishop Ward “would issue a letter taking responsibility for the testimony that was presented.” That is an action they believe she has yet to accomplish. The Revs. Ginger Holland and Mike Childs, as well as layperson Anne Harrington found the bishop’s statement inadequate and described themselves as “deeply saddened when Bishop Ward’s only expressed regret…was over ‘the chaos that has arisen among us.’”

By Steve Beard, editor of Good News.

Evangelicals respond to Mississippi controversy

Speaking the truth in love

By Rob Renfroe

The Apostle John introduces us to the beautiful life of Jesus with words that are at the same time simple and profound: “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.” Later in chapter one, he writes: “The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the One and Only, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.”

Grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. Not one instead of the other; not one more than the other; but both together. That’s what we see in the beautiful life of Jesus and that’s what he expects to see in us.

Our United Methodist Church has always excelled at grace. “Open hearts. Open minds. Open doors.” That’s our motto and it’s all about grace. And that’s a good thing—unless we forget that just as much as they need grace, people also need truth. That’s what the life and the ministry and the words of Jesus tell us. “You shall know the truth, and the truth shall set you free.”

If we fail to give people both grace and truth, we will fail to be like Jesus, and we will fail to be the church.

Jesus said that we need the truth to be “set free” of the lies and the misconceptions and the sins that entangle us. When I look back on my life, I am grateful for the people who graciously showed me grace and acceptance. But I am just as grateful for the persons who had the courage to speak truth into my life when it was not easy for them to speak it or pleasant for me to hear it.

And in the name of grace, the church must never fail to proclaim the truth that people need to hear—even when it’s easier not to speak it. Why? Because Jesus said it’s the truth that sets us free to experience abundant life in this world and eternal life in the world to come.

There are ways of truth-telling that do not set people free, bring life, or allow for the Spirit’s blessing. We have all seen harmful examples. That kind of truth-telling is not what we see in Jesus. And it’s not what people should see in us.
Still, we need the grace of truth. We need the truth about our sin and our desperate condition without Christ. And we need the truth that Jesus is the Savior and that his blood can make us whole.

In other words, people need what Wesley would call scriptural Christianity. Proclaim it and live it, and the church will prosper. Change it, make it acceptable to the spirit of the age, take away the “offense” of the gospel that all have sinned and that Jesus Christ is the name by which we must be saved, and the church will lose its power and fail to thrive.

For over a century now, this is what liberal theology has been doing to the United Methodist Church—in the name of grace, removing the “offense of the gospel”—and the results have been disastrous.

By liberal, I don’t mean people who see things a little differently than I do. I don’t mean people who have a slightly different understanding of the inspiration and authority of the Scriptures.

I’m referring to views that are unorthodox on matters that John Wesley would say “strike at the root”: The Trinity, the uniqueness of Christ, the physical resurrection, salvation by grace alone, the need for and the possibility of sanctifying grace transforming our lives, and the continuing validity of the witness of the Scriptures for matters of faith and practice.

When radical liberal theology comes to dominate a denomination or a geographical region within a denomination, it is destructive. How could it not be?

Failure to reproduce
What makes us effective as the church of Jesus Christ is not how clever we are, or how sincere we are, or even how hard we work. What makes us effective is the power and the anointing of God. And how can God grant his power or his anointing to those who proclaim a gospel “which is no gospel at all” (Galatians 1:7)?

I know correlation does not imply causation, but I’m not naïve either. There is no doubt that as United Methodism drifted further from orthodoxy, we lost the power to have an impact upon our culture and to make disciples for Jesus Christ. Nearly half of our United Methodist churches in any given year do not receive a single member by profession of faith. Since our merger in 1968 we have lost the numerical equivalent of the entire Evangelical United Brethren Church.

In 38 of the 50 United States, United Methodism has seen a decline in membership during the past 40 years. During this time the country’s population has increased by 100 million. That’s a 56 percent increase, but our membership has suffered a 21 percent decrease.

In 1940, the average Methodist was 30 years old. Today, the average member is almost 60 years old. Since 1985, the number of elders under the age of 35 has dropped from 3,219 to less than 1,000. Today, less than seven percent of our elders are under 35.

Is it any wonder that we cannot attract young people to the ministry? What young person wants to spend his or her life trying to save a church on life support when they know that the church is supposed to save the world?

The premise of Children of Men, P.D. James’s novel that was adapted into a film by the same name, was that the human race has lost the power to reproduce itself. As the human race grew older and watched itself perish, people became cynical and hopeless—and they cherished their memories of how things had once been. We as a church are approaching that reality. We have lost the ability to reproduce ourselves at a healthy rate.

Our denominational DNA has become defective and we are not reproducing ourselves in the form of converts or young leaders who see something in the United Methodist Church that speaks to their passionate hearts and says, “Give up lucrative careers and exciting futures, and join us because we are about things that really matter. We are changing the world in ways that business and government and even education cannot.”

And the statistics clearly show that our decline in attendance, our inability to add new members, and our failure to cultivate young leaders is worst where the church is most liberal.

Divided and disturbed
“I am not afraid that the people called Methodists should ever cease to exist either in Europe or America,” wrote Wesley. “But I am afraid lest they should only exist as a dead sect, having the form of religion without the power.”

While knowing full well there is such a thing as dead orthodoxy—being right in your beliefs but wrong in your spirit—it is still necessary to ask what will happen to the UM Church if we fail to keep the church orthodox and true to the grace God has given to us to impart to the world.

We could easily become a dying sect as the United Church of Christ is and the Episcopalians are fast becoming, where the ministers still dress up and play church on Sundays, but where the Spirit of God is absent, and the power to transform lives, much less a society, is gone. The church—its health, its witness, its ability to make disciples: that’s part of what is at stake here.

There is one other element that is at stake if we fail to speak the truth in love: our own spiritual integrity. “The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy,” as the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. said.

Contending for the apostolic faith within United Methodism these days is not for the faint of heart. We are stewards of this most magnificent treasure that we call Wesleyan orthodoxy. God gave us this gift of grace and you and I are its trustees. If we fail to fight for it, we have failed our trust.

Our response
Although there are many different ways to work for the renewal and reform of the UM Church, we all must do our part. If you believe in the faith once and for all delivered to the saints and believe it is the hope of the world, you must be willing to stand up and fight for it.

We need to ask what will make the United Methodist family whole, and what we can do.

First, we must be connected and engaged. When the opportunity arises within our denomination, listen to opposing opinions with sincerity and with a desire to learn. Dialogue with openness and honesty. But be sure to listen for the issues beneath the issues and dialogue about the matters that matter—the deeper issues that truly divide us.

For example, there is a widely-held misconception that homosexuality is the issue that divides our denomination. If it were, that would be enough of a challenge. However, it is only the presenting issue. As I pointed out in the last issue of Good News, the deeper issues deal with the nature of moral truth, the authority of the Scriptures, the revelatory work of the Holy Spirit, and the uniqueness of Christ. These are not small matters that can be ignored or denied for the sake of unity. They must be addressed or true unity will be impossible.

In the midst of dialogue, some United Methodists have been told that they take the Bible too seriously to be considered Wesleyan. How could this be? Wesley said he was “a man of one book.” After all, it was Wesley who said “the people called Methodists…have but one point in view: to be altogether Christians, scriptural, rational Christians, for which we well know, not only the world, but the almost Christians, will never forgive us.”

Of course, people can disagree with us and not be “almost” Christians or nonchristians. But Wesley was attacked by those outside of the church and inside the church when he promoted and defended scriptural Christianity. He came to expect it. And so should we.

In the midst of denominational dialogue sessions, some United Methodists have been told that their position was mean-spirited. Let me be very clear about this. Those of us in the renewal movements do not believe in speaking ill of anyone because of ethnicity or gender or sexual practice. We do not believe that any one sin is worse than any other. We stand firm on the belief that all persons are of sacred worth because each one is created in the image of God and Christ died for all.

In the midst of dialogue, some United Methodists have been told their perspective was radical, right-wing, or part of the fringe. But since when is it right-wing to believe that the Bible is God’s Word? When was it declared radical to affirm the United Methodist Book of Discipline? When did it become extreme to want our covenant to be honored and upheld? When did fidelity and faithfulness to the Scriptures become anything but mainstream Wesleyan?

Second, pray. This is a wonderful moment in the United Methodist Church.

There is a new breeze of the Holy Spirit blowing. There are new bishops who display moral courage and are open to the leading of the Holy Spirit. Pray that they will continue to change what it means to be a bishop in the United Methodist Church, and that being a bishop in the United Methodist Church will not change them.

Pray for the members of the Judicial Council, that they will continue to interpret the Discipline fairly.

Pray for faithful souls to be encouraged. Pray that God will not let them walk away or give up.

Pray that those who lead renewal and reform movements will be worthy of those who look to us for leadership.

Most importantly, pray that God will revive and unite the Body of Christ.

Third, we must proclaim the truth. In what you say, in what you do, and in how you say and do it, proclaim the truth. There is power in the grace of the truth. There is power to convert the lost. And there is power to change the minds of those who deny the clear teaching of the Scriptures and the uniqueness of Christ. So proclaim the truth humbly but confidently, winsomely but boldly.

In his book Jesus Rediscovered, Malcolm Muggeridge states that with every great book even while you are learning something new, your heart is telling you that you already knew this to be true.

There are people dying to learn that God is who they always suspected he was—a God of love and acceptance and a God of power and transformation. Tell them the truth. Show them the truth. Be not ashamed, “it is the power of God unto salvation.”

Fourth, we must be part of the change. I know politics (secular and ecclesiastical) can be a dirty business, but it shouldn’t be, and it doesn’t have to be. Politics can be just the process by which people organize themselves and agree upon their priorities. General Conferences are critically important in determining the direction of our denomination. And we elect a Judicial Council that will interpret and enforce what we have agreed upon. We must get involved, learn how the system works, and use it to make a difference for the cause of the gospel.

Finally, we must be willing to pay a price. During the era of apartheid, one noted South African clergyman wrote that the final judgment will be different than we imagine. He wrote that when we stand before God, he will ask us, “Where are your scars?” And we will look at ourselves and then back at God, and we will tell him, “We have no scars.” And God will ask us, “Was there nothing worth fighting for?”

It’s not our place to scar others. But we must be willing to be scarred.
We’re not concerned with trivialities, but about the faith once and for all delivered to the saints. It is our time to be faithful and, if necessary, to pay a price. Our Lord Jesus could not fulfill his mission without being scarred. In fact, after his resurrection, the only part of himself he insisted that others view were his scars.

When Methodism began in the New World, it began with heroes who were willing to be scarred. Of the first 700 Methodists to die in the colonies and then in the newly formed United States—facing pestilence and disease, the elements, the rigors of the open road, and physical attacks—nearly one-half of them died before the age of 30 and nearly two-thirds died before they had served 12 years.

Every year they would gather at Annual Conference and sing the words we take for granted, “And are we yet alive and see each other’s face….” And they would look around the room to see who was yet alive and who that year had given their lives in the service of God. They were heroes. And they expected to pay a price and to be wounded and scarred in their service to Christ.

In the last century as the church drifted further from its biblical core and Wesleyan heritage, there were those such as Chuck Keyser, David Jessup, Ed Robb, Diane Knippers, and Bill Hinson who joined the ranks of departed heroes, faithful in getting the ship back on course. And now it’s our turn.

Although the Holy Spirit does not need us to do his work, for some reason God has chosen to work through people like us—if only we are willing. And if you are faithful and if you are scarred, be grateful and count it your greatest privilege. This is how the work of grace and truth has always been served and we can expect nothing else in our time.

Rob Renfroe is the new president and publisher of Good News. He is the pastor of adult discipleship at The Woodlands United Methodist Church in The Woodlands, Texas, and is the former president of The Confessing Movement within the United Methodist Church.

Evangelicals respond to Mississippi controversy

The garden of His delight

By Liza Kittle

One doesn’t often think of lush, colorful gardens when thinking of Africa. Most people think of barren lands with little vegetation, intense heat, and roaming wildlife. I think of the beautiful dresses I have seen on the African women I have met. They remind me of a beautiful garden—bursting with patterns and colors reflective of the richness and diversity of this massive continent. I have thought many times over the past several months about our fellow Methodists in the African church in light of the constitutional amendments being voted on at annual conferences that would have separated the American church from these faithful witnesses. A devotion I was reading the other day again brought them to mind in a powerful way.

The song of the vineyard written in Isaiah 5 describes the pleasure God has in his people, described as “the garden of his delight,” and his expectation that they follow his law and bear fruit for his kingdom. The devotion described how God has given the law to his people as a revelation of his character and a blueprint for a lifestyle that is pleasing to him. Psalm 119, the longest chapter in the Bible, is 22 stanzas and 176 verses written as a hymn of praise for the law of God and the joy we receive when we choose to obey his Word.

Many find the law of God burdensome and restrictive, without grasping its intended loving purpose of providing freedom and joy to all who choose to receive it. This is so true in America where many, even Christians, possess a worldview that sees any encroachment on their “rights,” particularly religious interference, as an assault on their freedom. One doesn’t have to look very far to see the name of God being wiped out of our institutions, traditions, and way of life.

As Christianity—including United Methodism—explodes in Africa, one can see that the hearts and minds of these believers truly grasp the divine purpose God intended through the revelation of his Word. They believe what the Word of God says, they are passionate about their freedom in Christ, and they exhibit a supernatural joy that can only come from him.

I have seen it at General Conference as African delegates stand up boldly proclaiming the truth of Scripture in face of the endless time spent debating the acceptance of homosexual behavior. One delegate testified that many Africans ceased the practice of polygamy when our missionaries brought them the gospel and expressed dismay that, with all the challenges facing the world and the church, we were spending so much time “talking about sin.”

I have seen it through the words of the Rev. Jerry Kulah, the Monrovian district superintendent of the Liberian Annual Conference, who presented an “African Declaration” before General Conference 2008, calling for the church to return to scriptural faithfulness.

I saw this joy passionately displayed at the North Georgia Annual Conference this past June in Athens, Georgia, and at the 2008 General Conference in Ft. Worth by the Hope for Africa Children’s Choir. These children are the epitome of a garden of God’s delight! The joyful exuberance and praise coming from these 23 children was such a testimony to the love of God and the freedom we receive when we allow Jesus into our hearts.

The story behind these children is remarkable. The children were rescued by the United Methodist Church of the East Africa Annual Conference under the leadership of Bishop Daniel Wandabula from horrific displacement camps established by the Ugandan government during the country’s 20-year civil war. Many of the children in the camps have lost their parents, are infected with HIV/AIDS, have been traumatized and maimed by war, and live under deplorable conditions where sickness, hunger, and despair are a part of everyday life.

Once selected, the children go and live at the United Methodist Hope for Africa Academy in Nasuti, Uganda, where they receive care, love, and education. Eleven adults work with them, daily teaching them how to pray and sharing Bible stories.

The choir was started in 1984 by Ray Barnett and has gained international acclaim, performing all over the world. The current director, Tonny Mbowa, was himself a child who suffered under the brutal regime of Idi Amin, the “Butcher of Uganda” who ruled the country during the 1970s. At nine years old, Tonny witnessed the murder of his unarmed father, a pastor who begged to say the Lord’s Prayer before he was shot to death in front of his family.

Left to care for his four siblings after his mother died of cancer, Mbowa learned at an early age the importance of prayer. He was later selected for the children’s choir, which he said saved his life and gave him a new hope for the future. Now Mbowa shares the same hope and love with the children under his charge as he had received. He composes, sings, and plays the piano and drums for the choir and is never short of inspiration for material. With a life touched by so many stories of God’s love for him, he says it is “easy to come up with a wonderful song.”

Mbowa says the children “have gained a desire to do what is right and pleasing to our Lord Jesus Christ. They have been so good in picking up values of Christianity, and they all want to walk in the perfect ways of God.” What a delightful offering to the Lord, a psalm of praise for their Savior and King. What a garden of delight for our God.

We as a people of faith have much to learn about being filled with joyful praise and humble obedience to “the perfect ways of God.” Let us look to our African brothers and sisters as examples, join them in ministering to their people, and tend this beautiful garden of God’s delight.

Liza Kittle is the President of the Renew Network. In addition to visiting their website (www.renewnetwork.org ), you can write to the Renew Network at P.O. Box 16055, Augusta, GA 30919, or call them at 706-364-0166.

Evangelicals respond to Mississippi controversy

Aiming at four

By Duffy Robbins

I’ve never been much of a golfer. I think if the holes were bigger, it might be more fun. But, it detracts from the beauty of a golf course when there are moon-sized craters on every green. I don’t shout “Fore!” as a warning to the golfers in front of me; I yell it to keep count of how many times I have to swing my club to get the ball off the tee! Golf just isn’t my game.

But what I do appreciate about golf is that absolute intention required to keep the ball in play and land it in the cup. And it’s not unlike the challenge that any youthworker faces standing in front of a group of teenagers hoping to share with them the good news of Jesus. You have to begin with a solid approach, follow up with a shot that keeps the message in play, and, no matter where the course takes you, you always aim for the goal.

In the last few issues of Good News we’ve been thinking about how to speak to teenagers, and specifically how to speak to the needs of the students in your youth group or congregation. It is the critical goal of effective communication. But what are those needs?

Shouting “Four…” Of course, in one sense, the answer to that question is going to vary from student to student, from place to place, and from season to season. Every young adult is different.

On the other hand, every kid is made in the image of God, and as human beings we’re all wired the same way. Missionary anthropologist Eugene Nida identifies four basic longings that are common for all people groups across all cultures and all generations. What is striking is how vivid these questions are in the teenage years.

1. The quest for Community. Our students have a basic longing to love and be loved. At our core, all of us long to be loveable and love-able. Every statistic about sexual promiscuity, every story about broken families and scarred lives, every teenage clique and cluster—all of it is rooted in a deep, God-given desire to know and be known. Ultimately, it is a desire to know and be known by God himself.

2. The quest for Character. Another word for this is integrity—a uniquely human desire to integrate the parts with the whole, the inner person with the outer, the private with the public, the world outside the heart and mind with the world inside. Character integrates the aspirations of who we think we are, or who we wish we could become, with the reality of who we know ourselves to be.

3. The quest for Calling. Standing beside the grave of his mother, Forrest Gump said longingly, “I don’t know if we each have a destiny, or if we’re all just floating around accident-like on the breeze.” With those simple words, he struck a chord that resonated deeply with all of us who have, in one way or another, asked “does my life really matter?” Deep at our core is a desire for a calling, a part to play, a role in the story of life. At the end of the day, we need to feel that it mattered that we were here.

4. The quest for Communion. The most basic of all of humanity’s longings is a longing for God. As Augustine put it, “Our hearts find no peace until they rest in You.” The multiple expressions of this longing are rampant. Whether it be in the latest Hollywood blockbuster about life after death, the seminar that promises “spirituality coaching,” the Oprah author whose book promises that “faith can make a difference,” or the crystal dangling from the rearview mirror—human beings are inherently seekers.

Just think of how many songs, movies, magazine ads, television shows, and internet sites speak to one of these four longings. Why? Because this is where our youth are; they live in the midst of these yearnings.

What does that mean in practical terms? It means that every effective message to teenagers will begin with someone taking aim and saying, “How can I address one or more of these four questions?” With any luck, we might just hit a hole-in-one

Duffy Robbins is the “Next Generation” columnist for Good News.

Evangelicals respond to Mississippi controversy

Aldersgate provides spiritual renewal and recharging

By Frank Billman

“I couldn’t believe I was in a room of Methodists. I’ve never seen us so alive. I want others from my smaller church to experience it!” “The highlight for me was watching the people we brought experience Aldersgate and the presence of God. Every face was lit up—every heart filled with fire!” “Aldersgate has been a life-changing event for me as a pastor of 33 years.” The conference “refreshed my call—rekindled my faith—refined my vision!”

These are just some of the testimonies from Aldersgate ’09, a national family conference on Spirit-filled living sponsored by Aldersgate Renewal Ministries (ARM), an affiliate of the General Board of Discipleship through The Upper Room. More than 1,100 children, youth, and adults, from 36 states and several foreign countries, gathered in Greensboro, North Carolina, July 1-5.

“I believe the strength of the conference is that it not only teaches about the person of the Holy Spirit, but also allows participants of all ages to immediately take steps to implement what they are learning,” observed Jonathan Dow, newly-appointed executive director of ARM. “Aldersgate is as it says: a conference on Spirit-filled living.”

More than 380 people attended a 24-hour pre-conference session under the theme of The King is Coming—Prayer that Invites an Encounter with the Living God. A Concert of Prayer model for the pre-conference provided opportunities for personal, small group, and corporate prayer interwoven with times of worship and praise. Along with a message from Margie Burger, ARM Director of Prayer Ministries, an 8-year-old boy testified to the power of God to heal.

Greetings were brought to the conference from both Bishop Larry Goodpaster of the Western North Carolina Annual Conference and Bishop Alfred Gwinn Jr. from the North Carolina Annual Conference. On Sunday morning, Bishop Eben Nhiwatiwa from Zimbabwe served as the celebrant for Holy Communion.

Highlights from the plenary sessions included:

• Pastor Suzette Caldwell, associate pastor for Windsor Village United Methodist Church in Houston, teaching on the person of the Holy Spirit and challenging participants to surrender their agendas and to allow the Holy Spirit to lead them to make God-honoring decisions in every area of their lives. “If you’ve got dry places, dry situations, dry relationships in your life,” she said, “then speak what God has already said, watch the word of God.”

• The Rev. Rudy Rasmus, co-pastor of St. John’s United Methodist Church in downtown Houston, calling on United Methodists to reach out in God’s love to the hurting and those who are different from us with the love of Jesus Christ;

• Evangelist Craig Marsh from New Zealand testifying to being healed from cancer and having a new stomach miraculously created within him at a United Methodist pastor’s meeting in Florida; and

• The Rev. Dr. Scott McDermott, lead pastor at The Crossing: a United Methodist Congregation in Washington Crossing, Pennsylvania, praying for a new anointing of the Holy Spirit to fall on the crowd and for a breakthrough for the pastors in attendance. “God has not called the church to be a museum for yesterday’s miracles,” he said.

Along with participatory worship, times of ministry were offered through prayer teams, a prayer path, prayer stations, and in prayer circles. Testimonies of inner, physical, and relational healings came from the prayer ministry and workshop sessions.

Nearly 300 children and youth participated in specially-designed, age-appropriate events at Aldersgate. Along with receiving teaching, ministry, and worship at “The Gate,” the youth were sent out in groups at the conference site and into the surrounding community to minister to people. Two girls that were witnessed to at the mall came to The Gate on Saturday night, and two other people gave their lives to Christ right in the middle of the mall.

One adult participant commented that the youth prayer she received was an “awesome experience—one I’ll never forget! I’m at a loss to describe the power of its impact.”

“I have now found hope for the Methodist Church,” testified Marilyn Lipscomb, a conference participant. “I have prayed for so long for renewal through the Holy Spirit and I have seen his presence in this group this weekend. There is hope for our denomination and for our individual churches! Praise God! Keep the flame burning! Oh, Lord. May it burn with such intensity that it ignites churches all around the world!”

Frank Billman is director of church relations for Aldersgate Renewal Ministries. Aldersgate 2010 is set for the Civic Center in Charleston, West Virginia, July 14-18. Visit www.AldersgateRenewal.org or www.gateyouth.org for more information.