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Liza Kittle

This post is by Liza Kittle, president of RENEW Network, the women’s program arm of Good News, the United Methodist Church’s oldest renewal ministry.

She writes about the Operational Assessment (executive summary | full report | appendices—all in PDF) submitted in late June to the UMC’s Call to Action Steering Team.

The assessment was conducted by Apex HG LLC, a firm that helps not-for-profit organizations resolve “critical issues.”

This commentary first appeared in a longer form on the RENEW website. Links below have been added by MethodistThinker.com — Ed.

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An independent Operational Assessment report released in June 2010 warned that the United Methodist Church “is confronting a ‘creeping crisis’ of relevancy with an accompanying acute crisis of an under-performing economic model.”

The assessment was commissioned by the Call to Action (CTA) Steering Team, a body set up last year by the UM Council of Bishops and Connectional Table.

The task of CTA team is to bring forth “a plan that [will] lead to reordering the life of the Church for greater effectiveness and vitality in 1) the mission of making disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world, and 2) addressing the Four Areas of Focus as distinctive ways we live into that mission together.”

The Steering Team’s final report and recommendations will be released in November. Many of the recommendations likely will come before the next United Methodist General Conference, to be held April 24-May 4, 2012 in Tampa, Fla.

Although the current economic climate was factor in commissioning these studies, the main impetus for the Call to Action project is the need to address the persistent decline in U.S. membership (PDF), baptisms, and professions of faith over the past four decades. Related issues include the steady increase in the average age of the UMC’s clergy and laity and the denomination’s general failure to attract younger members.

An April 2010 meeting of the Call to Action Steering Team (UMNS photo)

The assessment report, together with a companion report on “Congregational Vitality” (PDF), provide a good start toward addressing several of these key problems.

Regrettably, the reports are lacking in certain key respects.

For example, there was no input from “people in the pew” for the Operational Assessment and little input from local-church clergy. Only two current pastors were included in the formal interview process — one from a small church in the Western Jurisdiction and one from a medium-sized church in the Northeastern Jurisdiction. Adam Hamilton, pastor of Church of the Resurrection, a large UM church in Kansas City, was selected but wasn’t available for an interview. (The small-church pastor chosen was the Rev. Rich Lang, a self-described “liberation theologian” at Trinity UMC in Seattle.)

It is also disappointing that neither the growing secularization of United Methodist seminaries nor the convoluted legislative process of General Conference was mentioned. Furthermore, the Call to Action studies largely ignored the significant social/political issues that have created division in the UMC and have been a contributing factor to membership loss.

Another glaring omission of the assessment report is the lack of any mention of the UMC’s Women’s Division, the governing body of United Methodist Women that continues to monopolize women’s-ministry choices within the denomination while promoting a radically feminist political/social agenda around the world in the name of United Methodism.

Despite these obvious shortcomings, the Council of Bishops and the Connectional Table should be commended for creating the Call to Action Steering Team and placing most levels of the United Methodist Church under scrutiny.

Methodology

The Operational Assessment Project is based on: (1) an independent analysis of the UMC’s leadership and governance structures; (2) financial and demographic information from the General Council on Finance and Administration (GCFA); (3) 50 hours of formal interviews with church leaders; and (4) more than 400 written survey responses from church leaders.

The formal interviews mentioned above were conducted with 34 U.S. and Central Conference bishops, as well as top leaders of the Council of Bishops, the Connectional Table, and the Judicial Council. In addition, 11 general agency secretaries were interviewed, as were four UM seminary deans/presidents, three district superintendents, three Annual Conference leaders, two pastors of local churches, two active lay leaders, and three (as described by the report appendices) “wise thinkers.”

The demographic breakdown for the written survey (423 respondents) is as follows:

41% District superintendents 4% GCFA members
14% Bishops 2% General agency secretaries
9% Conference treasurers 2% General agency treasurers
9% Board officers of general agencies 2% Deans/presidents of UM Seminaries
7% Directors of connectional ministries 2% Call to Action Team members
6% Connectional Table members 1% UM Judicial Council members

General findings

The Operational Assessment project concludes that the UMC’s crisis of relevancy is attributable to:

  • A sense of loss of mission clarity and identity, both nationally and globally;
  • A tension between the institutional and missional purposes of the church;
  • Values and culture manifestations (see below);
  • Structure and process manifestations (see below);
  • Declining U.S. membership/attendance trends;
  • Generation-bound demographics of both membership and clergy; and
  • The difficulty of attracting younger members.

The crisis of an under-performing economic model is largely attributable to the fact that church entities haven’t matched their expense structures to membership/attendance trends. For example, on average, about 70% of the estimated expense structure of local churches consists of salaries and benefits for clergy and lay staff, building maintenance and improvements, and mortgage principal/interest.

A graph from the Operational Assessment Project's executive summary

Mission, values, and culture findings

“Mission, values and culture of an organization interact and create the fundamental forces that define and drive its purpose and identity,” the Operational Assessment report notes.

The report identifies the root causes of the UMC’s lack of mission clarity and understanding as (1) leadership shortcomings, and (2) the absence of consistent and inspirational communication of the church’s mission.

These dynamics have led to a situation in which entities within the church tend to create their own mission interpretations, thus diluting a clear and unified mission focus.

A fundamental finding of the study is that having common church-wide mission clarity, understanding, and congruence are crucial for a vital connection and vision for the 21st century.

The report focuses on four themes related to the culture and values in the UMC: trust, leadership, accountability, and inclusivity/diversity. The findings in this area include:

  • A general lack of trust is pervasive with the UMC, both personally and institutionally, and is one of the greatest challenges to the future vitality of the denomination. Protectionist agendas, lack of accountability, and reluctance to collaborate were cited as underlying examples of distrust among church leadership;
  • “Effective leadership” is poorly defined at all church levels, leading to a lack of measurement and accountability. While there are many talented leaders in the UMC, leaders were consistently described by interviewees and survey respondents as being more effective as individuals than as a leadership team;
  • Broad accountability structures are missing on a church-wide basis. Creating a “culture of accountability” would significantly improve the effectiveness, vitality, and efficiency of the UMC;
  • A “big tent” philosophy that stresses diversity and inclusivity has created an increased polarization in beliefs.

Structure and process findings

From an analysis of the UMC’s complex structural and procedural processes (leadership, governance, management) and interview/survey responses, the assessment report identifies two specific areas needing positive change: (1) the system of connectional ties has grown far too complex; and (2) the UMC lacks an effective management and leadership structure.

As the UMC has grown in structural complexity, a great “distance” has developed between and among the people of its foundational units (i.e., local church, annual conference, general church), weakening the denomination’s connectional integrity.

Based on its series of formal interviews and written responses, the assessment report researchers found that:

  • Smaller annual conference and/or district sizes have a positive effect on creating a healthy and productive connection between the laity, pastors, district superintendents, and bishops.
  • The benefits of having Jurisdictional Conferences are not worth the cost necessary for their existence. They were determined (by certain respondents) to be “too remote” with “meetings too infrequent.” In addition, “delegates [are] not adequately informed” and the “role and goal clarity [of Jurisdictional Conferences is] ill-defined.”
  • The agencies of the general church were found to have too much individual autonomy and often fail to collaborate. Further, agency boards are too large and meet too infrequently to provide oversight. The report stated (summarizing the views of many respondents) that the agencies are “a cacophony of voices — their ‘brands and communications compete with one another,’ resulting in confusion and dilution of impact at the annual conference and local church levels.”

The assessment report also notes that a decision-making vacuum exists between sessions of General Conference, the primary legislative body of the Church where power and authority reside. The report suggests strengthening the UMC’s existing leadership structures through the Council of Bishops and the Annual Conference.

The report also concludes that “the Church’s reliance on management through legislation (at General Conference) is leading to an increasingly rigid and rule bound culture during a period of time when the Church is attempting to adapt to a changing environment.”

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Conclusion

The Operational Assessment Project report is worthy of reading, study, and discussion. It is important for church members and leaders to have a clear understanding of the findings and suggestions.

Let us hope that when the Call to Action Team releases its final report to the Church in November, it will outline a useful strategic and financial plan for the UMC.

Still, reorganizing church structures and processes, however much needed, cannot save the United Methodist Church. Unless the core foundational and theological beliefs of the denomination are addressed, all the restructuring in the world will be in vain.

For reformation and renewal of the UMC to occur, we must return to the historic doctrines of the Christian faith, stand on the foundations of our Wesleyan heritage, build on the teachings of the Word of God, and engage in active mission “to make disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world.”


Related posts
Riley Case: ‘Operational Assessment’ shows UMC has lost its way
Renewal & Reform Coalition releases letter to Council of Bishops
Riley Case: The future of the United Methodist Church is at stake

Related articles and information
The United Methodist Church faces a financial and relevancy crisis (PDF) | Liza Kittle, RENEW Network (Sept. 22, 2010)
Call to Action: Reordering the Life of the Church | Website of the UMC’s Call to Action Steering Committee
The complete “Operational Assessment” report (PDF) and Appendices (PDF) | Call to Action Steering Committee (June 29, 2010)
Tone deafness and the Call to Action | Rob Renfroe, Good News (September/October 2010)
United Methodist ‘Call to Action’ finds 15% of UM churches highly ‘vital’ | Mark Tooley, UMAction—IRD (July 17, 2010)
Call to Action offers signs of crisis and hope | Heather Hahn, United Methodist News Service (July 13, 2010)
Momentum builds for major church change | Bishop John L. Hopkins, United Methodist News Service (April 12, 2010)
Call to Action seeks to increase church vitality | J. Richard Peck, United Methodist News Service (April 9, 2010)
Church leaders seek consensus on plans for change | Kathy L. Gilbert, United Methodist News Service (Nov. 12, 2009)
Connectional Table OKs new plan to study church | J. Richard Peck, United Methodist News Service (Nov. 9, 2009)
Committee assesses life of church | Linda Green, United Methodist News Service (July 22, 2009)
Bishop Palmer says church is in ‘sweet spot’ for change | Kathy L. Gilbert, United Methodist News Service (May 14, 2009)
Why Methodist seminaries are becoming irrelevant and dying | Riley B. Case, Confessing Movement Within the United Methodist Church (July 2009 — via Methodist Examiner)
Methodism’s coming death spiral | Donald Sensing, WindsOfChange.net (Nov. 15, 2007)
40 years of vision for United Methodist Renewal (PDF) | James V. Heidinger II, Good News (November/December 2007)

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The premiere podcast of our fall 2010 season features Methodist theologian Dr. Billy Abraham, the Albert Cook Outler Professor of Wesley Studies at SMU’s Perkins School of Theology

Dr. Billy Abraham in 1992

Born in North Ireland in 1947, William J. Abraham was educated at Queen’s University in Belfast, Asbury Theological Seminary in Wilmore, Kentucky, and the University of Oxford in England.

After teaching several years at Seattle Pacific University, Dr. Abraham moved the Perkins School of Theology at Southern Methodist University. At Perkins, he served as the McCreless Professor of Evangelism and Professor of Philosophy of Religion before becoming the Outler Professor of Wesley Studies in 1995.

Billy Abraham is also an ordained clergy member of the UMC’s Southwest Texas Conference, and he serves on the advisory council of the Confessing Movement Within the United Methodist Church.

Dr. Abraham’s books include Waking from Doctrinal Amnesia: The Healing of Doctrine in the United Methodist Church (Abingdon, 1995); Wesley For Armchair Theologians (Westminster John Knox Press, 2005 — also available in an audio edition); and Aldersgate and Athens: John Wesley and the Foundations of Christian Belief (Baylor Univ. Press, 2010 — also available in a Kindle edition).

With James E. Kirby, he served as co-editor of The Oxford Handbook of Methodist Studies, published in 2009 (a Google Books preview is here).

This podcast features a 1992 lecture, edited for length, on “The Renewal of United Methodist Doctrine and the Revitalization of Evangelism,” recorded at an evangelism symposium held at UM-affiliated Emory University in Atlanta.

Listen using the audio player below (22 min.) — or download an mp3 file (10.2 MB; on a PC, right click and choose “save as”).


Dr. Abraham’s full lecture is available in print in Theology and Evangelism in the Wesleyan Heritage (Kingswood Books, 1994).

For previous MethodistThinker Podcasts, click the “podcasts” tab at the top of this page. To subscribe via iTunes or other podcast software, use the “Subscribe to Podcasts” link near the top of the right column.


Related posts
Billy Abraham on United Methodism: ‘There is no common faith among us’
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Bill Bouknight: What I wish the Council of Bishops would say
Podcast: Bishop William R. Cannon on ‘The Whole Gospel for the Whole World’
Podcast: Sir Alan Walker — ‘Christianity at the Crossroads’
Podcast: John Wesley on ‘The New Birth’
Why the United Methodist Church cannot condone homosexuality

Related articles and information
Canonical Theism: Thirty Theses (book excerpt — via Google Books preview) | William J. Abraham — from Canonical Theism: A Proposal for Theology and the Church (Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing, 2008 )
Wesley for Armchair Theologians (excerpts — via Google Books preview) | William J. Abraham (Westminster John Knox Press, 2005)
Methodist philosopher Billy Abraham examines United Methodism’s decline | Mark Tooley, UMAction (Jan. 8, 2009)
Judicial Council Decision 1032 and Ecclesiology (PDF) | William J. Abraham — presented at a February 2007 consultation sponsored by the United Methodist General Board of Higher Education and Ministry re: the implications of UM Judicial Council Decision 1032, issued in October 2005 (text of decision)
The end of Wesleyan theology (PDF) | William J. Abraham, Journal of the Wesleyan Theological Society (Spring 2005)
United Methodists at the end of the mainline | William J. Abraham, First Things (June/July 1998) (via Leadership U)
C. S. Lewis and the conversion of the West | William J. Abraham, Touchstone (March/April 1998)

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The following commentary is by Riley B. Case, associate executive director of the Confessing Movement Within the United Methodist Church.

Dr. Riley B. Case

He writes below about the “Operational Assessment” of the United Methodist Church submitted in late June to the UMC’s Call to Action Steering Team.

The assessment (executive summary | full report | appendices—all in PDF) was conducted by Apex HG LLC, a firm that advises not-for-profit organizations on resolving “critical issues.”

This commentary was published in a slightly different form in the Confessing Movement publication, “Happenings Around the Church.” Links below have been added by MethodistThinker.com — Ed.

The Call to Action Steering Team, using the “Operational Assessment” and other data, will make recommendations to the UMC’s Connectional Table for the restructuring and refocusing of the United Methodist Church.

Statistics testify to the need for reform. Ever since the radical and destructive restructuring of 1972, the UMC has been on a downward spiral (to be sure, other reasons besides restructuring account for the decline, but the way the church reoriented itself as a result of the radical 1960s must be seen as one contributing factor). Since 1972, the United Methodist Church has lost 3.2 million members.

During the period from 1998 to 2008 alone, membership declined 7 percent and attendance 9 percent (see statistics from the General Council on Finance and Administration here—Excel file). The number of UM churches declined by 6 percent.

As a percentage, United Methodists have twice as many members over 65 years of age as there are seniors in the general population. At the same time, the percentage of UM members in the 18-44 age bracket is half that of the general population. During the decade mentioned above, the average age of a United Methodist member has increased from 49 to 54.

Professions of faith declined 25 percent in that 1998-2008 period. The number of baptisms declined 13 percent.

Yet the United Methodist Church continues to do things in the same way year after year — evidently believing that what we’ve been doing for 40 years will eventually work if we just try harder, introduce new programs, and have better public relations.

It is time to acknowledge the sickness at the core of our denomination. Revival and renewal are needed.

These will come through a new movement of the Holy Spirit — but first there must be repentance: we have failed to be the church God wants us to be. We have lost our way theologically, morally, spiritually, and organizationally.

The Operational Assessment report is a good place to begin a discussion of why, when, and where we have lost our way, and what must be done for the future. Not surprisingly, the findings reflect many things evangelical groups have been concerned about for decades.

The major findings are detailed below, in some cases along with my additional comments:

Finding: A general lack of trust exists within the United Methodist Church, leading to a loss of connectionalism and an under-functioning of the processes of the church.

The report specifically mentions a lack of trust within the church with respect to 1) leadership and 2) boards and agencies.

One reason for the lack of trust, the report says, is a general lack of accountability on the part of boards and agencies.

Comment: These findings mirror several of the major concerns of UM evangelical renewal groups ever since the first of the renewal groups, Good News, was organized more than 40 years ago.

The lack of trust the report refers to is result the way curriculum materials have been developed without sensitivity to evangelical churches, in the independent ways of the superboards without regard for people in the pews, in the lack of accountability in the seminaries, and in the actions of many of the bishops.

UM agencies have often functioned as if local churches exist to serve the agencies rather than the other way around. This is not a problem easily fixed. There will need to be a new way of thinking, managing, visioning, and serving. In other words, the UMC will need to develop a new “corporate culture” (i.e., its way of thinking and doing things).

Gaining the confidence of the people will take time. But things cannot continue as they have been. For starters, the present structure of the church adopted in 1972 will need a major overhaul.

Finding: The denomination suffers from a loss of mission definition and relevancy — and an accompanying sense of loss of identity.

Comment: This too has been a major theme of UM renewal groups. The stated mission statement of the church shouldn’t be difficult to understand: “…to make disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world” (UM Book of Discipline ¶120). Unfortunately, large segments of the church are unrelated to the mission statement.

An example: for many United Methodists, an obsession with “inclusivism” has effectively served as an alternative (and sometimes competing) mission. Some groups act as if they have fulfilled the mission of the church when they achieve a certain arbitrary mix of ethnic groups, ages, and gender.

Another example: the UMC supports many colleges that are basically secular institutions that have no interest in “making disciples of Jesus Christ.”

Finding: The church’s way of recruiting ministers is problematic. The Church does not have “birthing places” for call. The process for ordination is far too long. Boards of Ordained Ministry have wide variations in practice. Sometimes the boards serve as advocates, sometimes they serve as adversaries

The Call to Action
Steering Team

Jorge Acevedo
Lead Pastor
Grace UMC
Cape Coral, Fla.

Neil Alexander
President and Publisher
United Methodist Publishing House
Nashville, Tenn.

Amy Valdez Barker
Minister of Families with Youth
Athens First UMC
Athens, Ga.

Judy Benson
Conference Lay Leader
Oklahoma Conference
Frederick, Okla.

Ben Boruff
Member of the Connectional Table
Indianapolis, Ind.

Judy Chung
Pastor
Placentia UMC
Placentia, Calif.

Larry Goodpaster
Bishop — Western North Carolina
President — Council of Bishops
Charlotte, N.C.

Erin Hawkins
General Secretary
Gen’l. Commission on Religion & Race
Washington, D.C.

John Hopkins
Bishop — Ohio East
Chair — Connectional Table
North Canton, Ohio

John Innis
Bishop — Liberia Area
Monrovia Liberia, West Africa

Scott Johnson
Conference Lay Leader
Western New York Conference
Buffalo, N.Y.

Kent Millard
Lead Pastor
St. Luke’s UMC
Indianapolis, Ind.

Fred Miller
Consultant
The Chatham Group, Inc.
Chatham, Mass.

Gregory Palmer
Bishop — Illinois Area
Springfield, Ill.

Abel Vega
Director of Connectional Ministries
Rio Grande Conference
San Antonio, Texas

Rosemarie Wenner
Bishop — Germany Area
Frankfurt Germany

Comment: As noted above, many of the UMC’s colleges are United Methodist in name only. They once were “birthing places” for call; they are no longer. (The whole meaning of “church-related educational institution” needs re-evaluation.)

The church’s youth ministry was torpedoed in the 1960s and 70s and likewise is not an effective “birthing place” for call. In fact, major responsibility for the church’s inability to reach and sustain its youth members lies with the failure of an effective youth ministry.

There is no way that “inclusion” of youth as part of the quota system of the church should be seen as related to youth ministry or related to the church’s mission of making disciples for Jesus Christ. (The church should learn from para-church ministries at this point.)

Finding: In many areas, our Wesleyan theological focus has been lost. One part of the report speaks of a lack of engagement and inability to find common, powerful, uniting beliefs.

Comment: This, too, has been a major theme of the renewal groups in response to a downplaying — and sometimes outright dismissal — of United Methodist doctrinal standards. The emphasis on inter-faith dialogue (and even outright denial of Wesleyanism at institutions such as Claremont School of Theology) has been a direct challenge to Wesleyan theology.

The challenge to Wesleyanism on the one hand is “Reformed” theology, but on the other hand, the challenge comes from “progressive” ideology. The UMC cannot be all things to all people.

Finding: There has been an uncoupling of social holiness and vital piety.

Comment: Frankly, the problem here is not just in the uncoupling, but in the fact that the church isn’t doing either social holiness or vital piety very well. We have lost the accountability function of the class meeting.

Further, the Wesleyan term “social holiness” is lifted from its context and is interpreted by progressives to justify an agenda committed to liberal political views.

Finding: The “big tent” approach to being a church — with its emphasis on inclusivity, free expression, and diversity (i.e., where many different and diverse views exist together) — is celebrated, but carries with it many problems, not the least of which is an increasing polarization in beliefs on key issues.

Comment: The so-called big tent concept of the church, in its extreme form, feeds two of the problems listed above — namely, the loss of identity and the loss of theological focus.

The church has diluted its doctrinal heritage in an attempt to enlarge the tent to include all, even those with a questionable commitment to Jesus Christ.

The present emphasis on “no standards” (evidenced by those who sought to rewrite the constitution of the church by amending Paragraph IV of the UM Book of Discipline) can only lead to further polarization. At a time when the church needs boundaries, some wish to do away with all boundaries.

Further, the proposal that on matters such as the practice of homosexuality we should officially agree to disagree would not lead the UMC to unity but to division.

Finding: The general agencies are judged to be “below average” in almost every area of their operation (“below average” might also be described as “flunking”). Specifically, they are “below average” in decision-making and effectiveness of the church’s programs and ministry functions in the areas of “making disciples” and the Four Areas of Focus.

The agencies do not cooperate or collaborate. They operate independently from the rest of the church.

There is much too much “distance” between them and annual conferences and local churches. Sixty percent of all respondents in the study ranked agencies “below average” in accountability for outcomes.

Finding: A major reason for this “below average” rating is that the church generally has been mismatching its legislative role and its operative (or governance) role. It often seeks management through legislation.

The boards and agencies are way too large and do not meet often enough to provide oversight and governance. The General Board of Global Ministries, for example, has 89 members. The cost simply to meet cannot be justified. Most effective non-profit boards operate with somewhere around 12-14 members.

Comment: Because of the confusion (and perhaps for other reasons), staff tends to dominate agency activities. Because the agency boards themselves are so tied up with matters such as quota systems and other concerns unrelated to the church’s mission of making disciples, and because the denomination offers no effective accountability structures, there is a disconnect between the agencies, the annual conferences, and the local churches.

And because the agendas of some agency staff are ideologically driven (with a propensity toward liberal causes), there is disenchantment, distrust, and sometimes downright hostility on the part of ordinary church members toward some of the agencies.

The church would be served better if boards and agencies were drastically downsized, combined, or, in some cases eliminated.

Finding: The General Conference is evaluated as “below average” in such areas as decision-making effectiveness, process effectiveness, decision-results effectiveness, and financial stewardship effectiveness.

One of its main problems is that conference seeks to manage through legislation. In addition, there is no accepted authority to oversee the actions of General Conference in the four years between General Conferences.

Finding: There is no good reason why the UMC in the U.S. continues to have Jurisdictional Conferences. Their purpose  is unclear; their cost cannot be justified.

The Operational Assessment report has made a sobering evaluation of the present state of the United Methodist Church. This report will be used it as a basis for the recommendations the Call to Action Steering Committee will make to the denomination’s Connectional Table.

Eventually, legislation will be proposed to the 2012 General Conference that will (hopefully) reform, restructure and refocus the United Methodist Church.


Related posts
Renewal & Reform Coalition releases letter to Council of Bishops
Riley Case: The future of the United Methodist Church is at stake
Riley Case: Approval of Amendment XIX a ‘positive development’ for evangelicals
Podcast: Randy Maddox on Methodist ‘doctrine, spirit, discipline’
Podcast: Dr. James Heidinger on ‘United Methodist Renewal’

Related articles and information
Call to Action: Reordering the Life of the Church | Website of the UMC’s Call to Action Steering Committee
The complete “Operational Assessment” report (PDF) and Appendices (PDF) | Call to Action Steering Committee (June 29, 2010)
Tone deafness and the Call to Action | Rob Renfroe, Good News (September/October 2010)
United Methodist ‘Call to Action’ finds 15% of UM churches highly ‘vital’ | Mark Tooley, UMAction—IRD (July 17, 2010)
Call to Action offers signs of crisis and hope | Heather Hahn, United Methodist News Service (July 13, 2010)
Momentum builds for major church change | Bishop John L. Hopkins, United Methodist News Service (April 12, 2010)
Call to Action seeks to increase church vitality | J. Richard Peck, United Methodist News Service (April 9, 2010)
Church leaders seek consensus on plans for change | Kathy L. Gilbert, United Methodist News Service (Nov. 12, 2009)
Connectional Table OKs new plan to study church | J. Richard Peck, United Methodist News Service (Nov. 9, 2009)
Committee assesses life of church | Linda Green, United Methodist News Service (July 22, 2009)
Bishop Palmer says church is in ‘sweet spot’ for change | Kathy L. Gilbert, United Methodist News Service (May 14, 2009)
Why Methodist seminaries are becoming irrelevant and dying | Riley B. Case, Confessing Movement Within the United Methodist Church (July 2009 — via Methodist Examiner)
Methodism’s coming death spiral | Donald Sensing, WindsOfChange.net (Nov. 15, 2007)
40 years of vision for United Methodist Renewal (PDF) | James V. Heidinger II, Good News (November/December 2007)
From the margin to the mainstream: United Methodism’s renewal movement (PDF) | Riley B. Case, Good News (November/December 2007)

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September 1, 1957: At a massive rally in Times Square, Billy Graham concludes his 16-week evangelistic crusade in New York City, attended by nearly two million people (video).

thoscokeSeptember 2, 1784: John Wesley consecrates Thomas Coke (right) as the first “bishop” of the Methodist church in America. An indefatigable itinerant minister, Mr. Coke crossed the Atlantic 18 times — all at his own expense.

Always deeply interested in missionary work at home and abroad, he traveled widely to establish Methodism in the West Indies.

September 14, 1814: Episcopal layman Francis Scott Key, co-founder of the American Sunday School Union, is inspired to write “The Star-Spangled Banner” during the bombardment of Fort McHenry in Maryland (left below).

francisscottkeyThe poem’s final verse includes this lyric: “Blest with victory and peace, may the heaven-rescued land praise the Power that hath made and preserved us a nation.”

September 23, 1857: Layman-turned-evangelist Jeremiah C. Lanphier holds a weekly lunchtime prayer meeting for businessmen in New York City. By the program’s third week, 40 participants requested daily meetings.

Soon capacity-crowd prayer gatherings were being held throughout the city. Other cities begin similar programs, and a revival — sometimes called “The Third Great Awakening” — catches fire across America. (A brief 1894 New York Times story about Mr. Lanphier is here—PDF.)

billofrightsSeptember 25, 1789: Congress amends the U.S. Constitution to prohibit establishment of a state church and to prohibit governmental interference with the free exercise of religion.

September 30, 1770: Having preached his last sermon the evening before, English revivalist George Whitefield dies.

In his lifetime, Whitefield preached at least 18,000 times to perhaps 10 million hearers.

Adapted with permission from ChristianHistory.net.

Related posts
August in Christian History
July in Christian History
June in Christian History
May in Christian History
April in Christian History

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