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The Oct. 10 issue of WORLD, the Christian-based newsmagazine, offers a profile of one of the United Methodist Church’s most influential and controversial figures, Mark Tooley of the Institute on Religion and Democracy (IRD).

Mark Tooley

Mark Tooley

For years, Tooley has been a thorn in the side of UM leaders who have sought to move the church away from orthodox positions on theology and mission. His major weapon: the written word.

As head of UMAction, an IRD sub-group, Tooley began reporting on various United Methodist and ecumenical gatherings in the mid-1990s. His written reports about non-orthodox pronouncements uttered at these conferences and meetings made Tooley a lightning rod for criticism.

In 2008, he recounted his many run-ins with “progressive” leaders in Taking Back the United Methodist Church (Bristol House).

taking-back-umcEarlier this year, Mark Tooley was named president of IRD, which describes itself as “an ecumenical alliance of U.S. Christians working to reform their churches’ social witness, in accord with biblical and historic Christian teachings, thereby contributing to the renewal of democratic society at home and abroad.”

The group was founded in 1981 by United Methodists Ed Robb and David Jessup. Current United Methodist board members include retired pastor Ira Gallaway, Helen Rhea Stumbo of the Bristol House publishing firm, and theologian Thomas C. Oden, author of Turning Around the Mainline: How Renewal Movements Are Changing the Church.

From the WORLD profile of Mark Tooley, authored by Marvin Olasky, the magazine’s editor-in-chief.

Tooley, 44, grew up in what for decades was the Main Street of American Protestantism, a United Methodist church (UM). He went to Georgetown University, known in the 1980s and now as a prep school for the State Department, but that career seemed tame compared to what the CIA had to offer. For eight years he worked as an analyst of data first from Pacific islands such as Fiji (but he didn’t get to go there) and then from Mozambique and Zimbabwe.

But the steady movement to the left of some U.S. clergy kept bugging him, so he left the CIA and in 1994 became head of UMAction with the goal of fighting the church hierarchy’s support of Marxist guerrillas in Central America, violent revolutionaries in southern Africa, and abortionists in the United States….

Now his office at IRD displays prints, paintings, and drawings of George Washington, Andrew Jackson, Abraham Lincoln, and Winston Churchill: He sees them as exemplars of the moral character and tenacity that are needed in his battle to reclaim a Methodist denomination with 8 million members in the United States (most of them are not in church on a typical Sunday) and 3 million abroad (most of them are). Tooley’s office also sports a bust and painting of John Wesley and a print of Francis Asbury, the circuit-riding founder of American Methodism….

He hopes to keep Methodists and Presbyterians from following the Episcopal and Evangelical Lutheran denominations into support of ordination for actively homosexual clergy, but the IRD is not a one-note player: It wants churches to “uphold theological orthodoxy, espouse a responsible political witness, and plead for persecuted religious believers around the world.”

In 2007, several of Tooley’s critics appeared in a DVD release titled, Renewal or Ruin: The Institute on Religion and Democracy’s Attack on the United Methodist Church.

Retired UM Bishop Kenneth Carder accused the IRD of engaging in the practice of intimidation. “Many are afraid to speak out because they don’t want their name to appear in one of the [IRD] articles or websites,” he said. “[N]ot permitting people to express their views…and to take positions on…controversial issues — that is un-American and that is radical, and it’s…also un-Christian.” (It could be argued, of course, that IRD doesn’t suppress views with which it does not agree; rather, through its reporting, IRD gives such views a wider audience.)

A darkly themed trailer for Renewal or Ruin? is here.

The IRD also was heavily criticized in a 2003 book, United Methodism at Risk: A Wake-up Call, published by an ad-hoc group called the Information Project for United Methodists. The group was headed by retired UM Bishop C. Dale White and attorney Beth Capen, now a member of the United Methodist Judicial Council.

United Methodism at Risk was written by the late Leon Howell, a member of the United Church of Christ and the final editor of the now-defunct Christianity and Crisis magazine, which ceased publication in 1993. The book was funded by Hennepin Avenue United Methodist Church in Minneapolis.


Related articles and information
Review of Taking Back the United Methodist Church | Ray Nothstine, Acton Institute Power Blog (April 10, 2008)
United Methodist renaissance? A review of Taking Back the United Methodist Church (PDF) | Matthew May, Good News (September/October 2008)
Faith and Freedom: The Institute on Religion and Democracy | Chapter 5 of Public Pulpits: Methodists and Mainline Churches in the Moral Argument of Public Life by Steven M. Tipton (University of Chicago Press, 2008 — via Google Books)
Methodist philosopher Billy Abraham examines United Methodism’s decline | Mark Tooley, UMAction (Jan. 8, 2009)
African Power: How 192 delegates saved Methodists from madness & other stories from the General Conference | Mark Tooley, Touchstone (November 2008)
Use the audio player below to listen to a radio interview with Mark Tooley about the above-listed article | Issues, Etc. radio program (Nov. 4, 2008)


‘Renewal or Ruin?’ DVD Attacks IRD | Mark Tooley and John Lomperis, IRD (March 7, 2008)
Jim Winkler of the General Board of Church and Society demands Bush impeachment | Mark Tooley, The American Spectator (May 30, 2006)
Who profits from the Methodist Building? | Mark Tooley, Good News (March/April 2004)
The risk of renewal groups (A critique of United Methodism @ Risk: A Wake-Up Call) | James V. Heidinger, Good News (July/August 2003)
Decision to close meeting draws fire for Women’s Division; decision follows request from Mark Tooley to attend as press | United Methodist News Service (Nov. 1, 2000)
The demise of the world’s greatest mission agency | Mark Tooley, Touchstone magazine (November/December 1998)
General Board of Church and Society responds to allegations by IRD | United Methodist News Service (Oct. 5, 1998)
Liberal Methodism of Clintons may explain political positions (a column based on research by Mark Tooley) | Cal Thomas (April 22, 1995)

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The premiere podcast of our fall 2009 season features one of the most influential Methodists of the 20th century: the Rev. Dr. Sir Alan Walker.

Sir Alan Walker

Sir Alan Walker

Born in Sydney, Australia, in 1911, Alan Walker was the 13th person in his family tree to become a preacher. In the 1950s, he became known for leading evangelistic meetings across the Australian continent.

Later, he came the United States to work briefly with the Board of Evangelism of The Methodist Church (a predecessor denomination of The United Methodist Church).

Returning to Australia in the late 1950s, he became the superintendent of the Sydney’s famed Central Methodist Mission (now known as Wesley Mission), a post he held for 20 years. During that time, he founded Lifeline, an innovative telephone counseling ministry that continues today.

In 1978, Alan Walker became the first World Director of Evangelism for the World Methodist Council. In that position, he traveled to more than 75 countries to proclaim the Good News of Jesus Christ.

He was honored with knighthood in 1981. In 1986, he and his wife, Lady Winifred Walker, received the World Methodist Peace Award.

In his 70s, he founded what is now known as the Alan Walker College of Evangelism in Sydney.

The Rev. Dr. Sir Alan Walker died in January 2003 at the age of 91.

This podcast features a recording of Sir Alan Walker from the 1980 United Methodist Congress on Evangelism in Tulsa, Oklahoma. Listen using the audio player below (27 min.) — or download an mp3 file (12.3 MB; on a PC, right click and choose “save as”).


To listen to programs from our spring 2009 season, click the podcasts tab at the top of this page.

You can now subscribe to the MethodistThinker Podcast via iTunes or other Podcast software. Use this link to set up your feed: http://methodistthinker.com/category/podcasts/feed.


Related information
Honoring Sir Alan Walker | Gordon Moyes, successor to Alan Walker as superintendent of Wesley Mission (from an address originally presented in June 2001)
Theologian, leader, champion of the poor: Sir Alan Walker dies aged 91 | Wesley Mission news release (Jan. 30, 2003)
Sir Alan Walker, World Methodist evangelist, dies at 91 | Linda Bloom, United Methodist News Service (Jan. 30, 2003)
Remembering Sir Alan Walker | Sunday Nights radio program (transcript), Australian Broadcasting Corporation (Feb. 2, 2003)
A study in word and deed: A eulogy at Rev. Sir Alan Walker’s Thanksgiving Service | Harold Henderson, author, Reach for the World: The Alan Walker Story (Feb. 11, 2003)

Books by Alan Walker
Standing Up To Preach: The Art of Evangelical Preaching
Breakthrough: Rediscovery of the Holy Spirit
The Whole Gospel for the Whole World (The Wieand Lectures in Evangelism)
The Promise and the Power (The 1980 Harry Denman Lectures)

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The Mission Society, launched in 1984 as The Mission Society for United Methodists, hosted a “Celebration of God’s Faithfulness” Friday, marking the mission-sending agency’s 25th anniversary. Hundreds friends and supporters gathered at the First United Methodist Church in Norcross, Georgia (near the Society’s headquarters) to celebrate with missionaries, staff members, and current and former leaders of the agency.

MissionSociety25Among the speakers was The Mission Society’s founding president (and president emeritus), H.T. Maclin. He led the then-fledgling agency from 1984 to 1991, after having completed a 31-year career with The Methodist Church’s Board of Missions and the United Methodist’s Church’s General Board of Global Ministries (GBGM).

Dr. Maclin described how The Mission Society was formed as a “supplemental mission agency” by a group of 34 United Methodists who had grown concerned that the GBGM flagging in its commitment to Christ-focused missions and had embraced leftist political causes and non-Wesleyan theology.

Even though he was appointed to The Mission Society directorship “without hesitation” by Bishop Joel McDavid, episcopal leader of the Atlanta Area, Dr. Maclin said the General Board of Global Ministries was not at all pleased with the creation of the new agency, perceiving it to be a threat.

The Board…circulated a letter…[saying] that this new organization could be “disruptive of the administrative order of the Church.” There was only me and a part-time secretary with a desk made from an inner door in our basement! [But] what was meant to disparage the new Society could not have been more helpful. Thank God for that!

Within a short time, we began to receive hundreds of responses from across our church, nearly a hundred of them asking me to send an application for missionary service. From around the world came a flood of letters of support, with requests from four bishops in as many nations to send missionaries….

And the following May, the Society commissioned its first 10 missionaries…. Since then, 460 additional men and women have been trained and sent out for ministry in 32 nations around the world. There, they introduce individuals to Christ.

Use the audio player below to listen to Dr. Maclin’s full remarks (7 min.).


Other speakers at the 25th anniversary celebration included: Florencio Guzman, one of the agency’s first missionaries, who — along with his wife and children — continues to serve in Monterrey, Mexico; former Society president Al Vom Steeg, who led the organization from 1994-2000 and now serves with a Mission Society offshoot organization, the International Leadership Institute; and outgoing president Dr. Phil Granger, who has been The Mission Society’s president since 2001.

Dr. Bill O'Brien delivers the keynote address

Bill O'Brien delivers the keynote address

The keynote address for the 25th anniversary event was presented by Mission Society board member, Dr. William O’Brien, former president of the American Society of Missiology and co-author of Choosing A Future for U.S. Missions.

To listen to Dr. O’Brien’s address, use the audio player below (16 min.) — or download the 4MB mp3 file (on a PC, right click and choose “save as”).

Dr. O’Brien begins by quoting portions of Psalm 19 and Psalm 8 as rendered by Eugene Petersen in The Message. (NOTE: The audio includes a brief introduction by Jim Ramsay, The Mission Society’s senior director of field ministry.)


Praying for Dick and Pam McClain

H.T. Maclin leads prayer for Dick McClain

Toward the end of the evening, current and former leaders of The Mission Society participated in a prayer of consecration for the agency’s new president, Dick McClain, who officially took office during the anniversary event.

McClain is the longest-tenured member of The Mission Society’s staff, having served 23 years, most recently as executive vice president and chief operating officer.

In a just-released Mission Society podcast, Dick McClain discusses the changing face of world missions and talks about his vision for The Mission Society. Click here to listen.

WorldMissionThe Society’s 25th anniversary celebration coincided with the release of the book, World Mission in the Wesleyan Spirit (Providence House, 2009).

Twelve of the 31 authors whose work is represented in the new book were on hand for anniversary event, including Gerald Anderson, Luis Wesley de Souza, Howard Snyder, and Bishop Robert Aboagye-Mensah of the Methodist Church Ghana.

Other contributors include William J. Abraham, David B. Barrett, Timothy C. Tennent, and Hwa Yung, a bishop of the Methodist Church in Malaysia.

As noted above, the formation of The Mission Society as a “supplemental mission agency” was controversial among some the United Methodist Church. Archival audio related to that controversy is below.

First, an excerpt from the Episcopal Address at the 1984 General Conference in Baltimore. Speaking on behalf of the Council of Bishops, Bishop William R. Cannon (North Carolina Conference) acknowledged legitimate concerns about certain United Methodist boards and agencies, but noted that “[w]e support General Board of Global Ministries as the sole sending agency of missionaries and disapprove the organization of another agency in competition with it” (1:35).


Next, two excerpts from a legislative committee at the 1984 General Conference. A resolution to approve The Mission Society as “an alternative mission sending agency of the United Methodist Church” met with a vote of “non-concurrence” (:50). (The full General Conference, however, mandated that the GBGM maintain a series of conversations with representatives of The Mission Society.)


During a workshop at the 1989 UM Congress on Evangelism in Atlanta, then-Mission Society President H.T. Maclin discussed the role that “unofficial” groups such as The Mission Society fill within the church (:42).


Bishop Emerson Colaw (retired—North Central Jurisdiction), speaking at the 1990 UM Congress on Evangelism in Pittsburgh, cited the furor of The Mission Society as an example of “misplaced energy” and “paranoia.” He said the controversy demonstrated how heirarchical organizations tend to become “more concerned with maintaining the structure than getting on with the mission” (1:26).


On May 2, 2008, the General Conference of The United Methodist Church passed a resolution affirming the work of The Mission Society and encouraging the General Board of Global Ministries to “develop new conversations and liaisons with the Mission Society for new and ongoing partnerships in areas of mutual concern.”

Last October, for the first time, GBGM and The Mission Society jointly sponsored a missions conference (in concert with several other organizations). The “Beyond These Walls” conference was hosted by McEachern UMC in the Atlanta area.

Another such conference will be held next year, also at McEachern. Details here.


Related posts
Dick McClain named president of The Mission Society
Happy Birthday to The Mission Society
‘Refocused on our divinely appointed mission’: The GBGM and The Mission Society co-sponsor missions conference in Atlanta

Related articles and information
Going worldwide: For 25 years the Mission Society has helped the church discover its mission | Dick McClain, Good News (September/October 2009)
Report on The Mission Society’s 25th anniversary celebration | Mission Society News (Sept. 17, 2009)
Podcast audio of all speakers at the 25th anniversary celebration | The Mission Society media library
Timeline of The Mission Society
Built to last: A look at The Mission Society after 25 years of building for God’s Kingdom | Interview with Dr. Phil Granger, Unfinished (Winter 2009)
Report on the October 2008 Mission Society ‘visioning’ gathering in Prague, Czech Republic | Jim Ramsay, The Mission Society (Dec. 2, 2008)
There must be more: Mission Society ‘campus missionaries’ are helping feed the spiritually hungry at several U.S. colleges | Anna Egipto, Unfinished (Spring 2009)
The Faith that compels us: The Mission Society celebrates 20 years of service | H.T. Maclin, Good News magazine (March/April 2004)
The demise of the world’s greatest mission agency | Mark Tooley, Touchstone magazine (November/December 1998)
An open letter to the United Methodist Church from The Mission Society | The Mission Society, via the UM Confessing Movement (May 8, 1998)
Methodists in flap over independent mission agency | David E. Anderson, UPI (June 1, 1985)
New Mission Society for UMs opens for business in Atlanta | Good News magazine (March/April 1984)
Struggling for soul and purse: Disgruntled Methodists challenge their biggest agency | TIME magazine (Jan. 30, 1984)
Methodist critics form own mission agency | David E. Anderson, UPI (Jan. 27, 1984)

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A sex-education column in the latest issue of the United Methodist General Board of Church and Society’s Web-based publication, Faith in Action, argues that persons can have “a moral, ethical sexual relationship” outside of the covenant of marriage — a position that stands in opposition to both historic Christian teaching and the language of the UM Book of Discipline.

Debra Haffer on 'The O'Reilly Factor' in 2007

Debra Haffer on 'The O'Reilly Factor' in 2007

The column was written by Unitarian minister and “sexologist” Debra Haffner, executive director and co-founder of the Religious Institute.

According to the Institute’s web site, the group’s mission is “to change the way America understands the relationship of sexuality and religion.”

Haffner is the former president and chief executive officer of the controversial Sexuality Information and Education Council of the United States (SIECUS), a strong opponent of abstinence-until-marriage policies.

In the Faith in Action column, adapted from her book, What Every 21st-Century Parent Needs to Know, Haffner writes that “based on my more than 30 years as a sexuality educator and now as a minister, [I believe] that a moral, ethical sexual relationship — whether one is married or single, 16 or 35 or 80, gay, bisexual or straight — is defined by five criteria: It is consensual, non-exploitative, honest, mutually pleasurable and protected, if any type of intercourse occurs.”

Last month, in a column published on another Web site, Haffner argued that non-married clergy should not be expected to remain celibate.

“I’ve long believed that the major sexuality problem denominations face is that they are unable to acknowledge that celibacy until marriage doesn’t apply to most single adults,” she wrote in an article posted on the Huffington Post site.

“It makes sense to require that clergy not engage in sexual relationships with congregants,” Haffner wrote. “[I]t does not make sense to ask them to give up adult sexual lives outside of the congregation.”

gbcs-sex-and-the-church

Also in that Huffington Post column, Haffner noted that the Religious Institute — the group of which she is the executive director and co-founder — “has long called for a new sexual ethic to replace the traditional ‘celibacy until marriage, chastity after.’ This new ethic is free of double standards based on sexual orientation, sex, gender or marital status.” (That “ethic” is outlined in the “five criteria” mentioned above.)

In the Church-and-Society-published article, Haffner argues that “[t]hese [five] criteria are more ethically rigorous than abstinence until marriage because they apply to intimate relationships both before as well as after marriage.”

Haffner’s views in the Huffington Post and, more importantly, in the Church and Society article, run counter to the long-held views of the church, which are rooted in Scriptural injunctions, and to the official teaching of the United Methodist Church — teaching that was clarified and strengthened only last year.

The ethic of Scripture, as expressed in 1 Corinthians 6, is that believers should “[r]un from sexual sin!”

No other sin so clearly affects the body as this one does. For sexual immorality is a sin against your own body. Don’t you realize that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit, who lives in you and was given to you by God? You do not belong to yourself, for God bought you with a high price. So you must honor God with your body. (1 Corinthians 6:18-20 NLT)

Further, Titus 2:11-14 teaches that the ability to resist all manner of temptations is a gift of God’s grace.

For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation for all people, training us to renounce ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in the present age, waiting for our blessed hope, the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ, who gave himself for us to redeem us from all lawlessness and to purify for himself a people for his own possession who are zealous for good works. (ESV)

The United Methodist Book of Discipline, in ¶161F, states that “[a]lthough all persons are sexual beings whether or not they are married, sexual relations are affirmed only within the covenant of monogamous, heterosexual marriage.”

That language was adopted by the 2008 General Conference to clearly express the church’s stand on sexual relations outside of husband-and-wife marriage.

The Faith in Action column by Debra Haffner is the latest in the web-based publication’s series, “Sex and the Church.”

In announcing the series in February, Bishop Deborah Kiesey (Dakotas Conference), president of the General Board of Church and Society, and Jim Winkler, the board’s chief executive, issued a joint statement saying the series would “help provide needed education to our children and ourselves. We anticipate it may restore relationships, create new healthy ones and perhaps move people to act.”

The “Sex and the Church” series is overseen by Linda Bales Todd, director of the Louise and Hugh Moore Population Project at the General Board of Church and Society.


Related posts
Sexuality resolution not at variance with Discipline, bishop rules
In Mississippi Conference, testimony from lesbian couple stirs controversy
‘Church and Society’ urges repeal of ‘conscience’ rule for healthcare workers
Update on the ‘Church and Society’ court case
‘Church and Society’ withdraws support for Freedom of Choice Act
‘Church and Society’ to Obama: End protections for unborn
Bill Bouknight: The good news from General Conference ‘08

Related articles and information
Adolescent sexuality: What every 21st-century parent needs to know | Debra Haffner, GBCS’ Faith in Action newsletter (Aug. 31, 2009)
Sex and the single minister | Debra Haffner, The Huffington Post (Aug. 24, 2009)
Will clergy lead the way on LGBT equality? | Debra Haffner, The Huffington Post (April 30, 2009)
An open letter to religious leaders on adolescent sexuality (PDF) | The Religious Institute (2007)
SIECUS redefines humanity (includes a quote from Haffner’s 1989 SIECUS report, ‘Safe Sex and Teens’) | Jane Jimenez, Agape Press (May 9, 2005)

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