Archive for November, 2010

The latest MethodistThinker Podcast features an address by the Rev. Rob Renfroe, president of Good News, the flagship renewal ministry of the United Methodist Church.

The Rev. Rob Renfroe

Robert Lane Renfroe earned a B.A. magna cum laude from Rice University in 1977 and an M. Div. summa cum laude from Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary in 1982.

After graduating from seminary, he was appointed to be the associate pastor at The Woodlands United Methodist Church in The Woodlands, Texas, north of Houston.

In 1988, he was named pastor of First United Methodist Church in Atlanta, Texas. Four years later, he moved to Mission Bend UMC in Houston.

In 1998, Renfroe was named executive pastor at Houston’s First United Methodist Church, serving alongside Dr. Bill Hinson (PDF). After three years in that role, he returned to The Woodlands UMC as the pastor of adult discipleship, a position he continues to hold.

From 2007-2009, Rob Renfroe also served as president of the board of the Confessing Movement Within the United Methodist Church. He is also a past member of the United Methodist General Board of Church and Society.

Renfroe became the leader of Good News and publisher of Good News magazine in the summer of 2009, following the retirement of the ministry’s long-time leader, James V. Heidinger.

“The Deeper Issues of United Methodist Renewal” is a presentation Renfroe has delivered at various renewal gatherings. The four issues he discusses are:

  • The nature of moral truth;
  • The authority of the Scriptures;
  • The revelatory work of the Holy Spirit;
  • The uniqueness of Jesus Christ.

The particular address heard on this podcast was recorded in June 2007 at a gathering of the Arkansas Conference Confessing Movement.

To listen, use the audio player below (28 min.) — or right click (Windows users) to download an mp3 (12.6MB).

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
Renewal & Reform Coalition releases letter to Council of Bishops
UM renewal leader: ‘The UMC is worth fighting for’
Podcast: Charles Keysor—‘How then should UM evangelicals fight?’
Podcast: Dr. James Heidinger on ‘United Methodist Renewal’
Podcast: Bill Hinson on ‘The Making of a Minister’
A salute to James Heidinger of Good News

Related articles and information
The deeper issues of United Methodist renewal | Rob Renfroe, Good News (via The Sundry Times)
Good News moves ministry to Houston, Texas area | Good News (November/December 2010)
Your life, God’s gift | Rob Renfroe, Good News (November/December 2010)
Believe, experience, and increase | Rob Renfroe, Good News (June/July 2010)
Grace and truth | Rob Renfroe, Asbury Seminary Chapel podcast (April 13, 2010)
Health care and the most vulnerable | Rob Renfroe, Good News (November/December 2009)
Speaking the truth in love | Rob Renfroe, Good News (September/October 2009)
For the cause of Christ (PDF) | Rob Renfroe, Good News (May/June 2009)
I wonder if you’re like me (PDF) | Rob Renfroe, We Confess (January/February 2007)
Defining the issues: A Methodist witness | Albert Mohler (Nov. 1, 2006)
United Methodism in crisis: Scriptural renewal through the Good News Movement | Chapter 4 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)
Turning Around the Mainline: How Renewal Movements Are Changing the Church (ordering info) | Thomas C. Oden, Baker Books (2006)
40 years of vision for United Methodist Renewal (PDF) | James V. Heidinger II, Good News (November/December 2007)
The story of Good News: A recollection by Charles W. Keysor (PDF) | Good News (March/April 1981)
The Junaluska Affirmation: Scriptural Christianity for United Methodists (PDF) | Forum for Scriptural Christianity (Good News) (July 20, 1975)

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This post is by the Rev. David Fischler, a church planter in the Evangelical Presbyterian Church and the founder of The Reformed Pastor blog.

David Fischler

A New Jersey native, David was born of Jewish parents and became a Christian in college after reading the Bible for the first time.

He holds degrees from Rutgers University and Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary (Wake Forest, N.C.), and he is currently a Doctor of Ministry student at Trinity School for Ministry near Pittsburgh.

This post appeared in a longer form at The Reformed Pastor and is used here by permission. — Ed.

The first to present his case seems right,
till another comes forward and questions him.
                                                                 (Proverbs 18:17)

An article in Faith in Action, an online publication of the United Methodist Church’s General Board of Church and Society, highlights the recent release of a study guide on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict prepared by the “Palestine-Israel Justice Project” of the Minnesota Annual Conference.

The guide is one of the most appalling things on the subject I’ve ever seen come out of a mainline church.

In the foreword, Bishop Sally Dyck offers this justification for her annual conference developing such a guide:

The curriculum raises the voices and concerns of Palestinian Christians. Why wouldn’t we listen to the voices of our own Christian brothers and sisters, even if their perspectives might be different from ours or challenge us to see this part of the world from their eyes?

It is true that among the materials used is Kairos Palestine (PDF), which was written by Palestinian Christians. But the primary voices heard in this guide aren’t those of Palestinian Christians, but of radical, far left-wing American Christians, anti-Israeli Muslims, and even known anti-Semites.

The introductory session (of eight) demonstrates where the authors are headed.

It is an introduction to the Kairos Palestine document, itself a theologically flawed, historically obtuse, and morally one-sided statement that offers no recognition of either the legitimacy of Israeli self-defense or the reality of terrorism.

Session 2 has to do with United Methodist responses to the conflict (resolutions, agency statement, the Social Principles, etc.), so I’ll let Methodists deal with them.

Session 3 has to do with the “application” of Scripture to the conflict. It lists a slew of verses, broken out into six groups, without offering any context or explanations as to what the connections are.

It is Session 4 and Session 5 that have me really shaking my head. These two are on the “history” of the conflict, and they are extraordinarily bad.

The first problem is a timeline put together by Churches for Middle East Peace (created by the National Council of Churches). This timeline contains several inaccuracies and demonstrates a pronounced bias, both by what is included and what isn’t. For example:

  • 1929: “Arab-Jewish riots in Hebron and elsewhere left nearly 250 Arabs and Jews dead and the Jewish community of Hebron ceased to exist.” Actually, the riots were by Arabs against Jews. A total of 133 Jews were killed in Hebron, Safed, and elsewhere — almost all by Arabs — while 116 Arabs were killed, most by British security forces trying to restore order.
  • 1949-1950: “Jews from Arab countries begin migration into Israel.” Why this happened is left mysterious. The majority of Jewish migration to Israel from Arab nations was the result of forced expulsions — what today would be called “ethnic cleansing.”
  • 1973: “Yom Kippur War — Egypt and Syria attack Israel. No territorial change.” No mention is made of the aim of the Arab nations: to destroy Israel.
  • 2002: “Reoccupation of Palestinian areas begins. Arafat placed under house arrest. Occupation of Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem.” This makes it sound as if it was the Israelis who “occupied” the Church of the Nativity. In fact, it was members of Hamas, the Al Aqsa Martyrs Brigade, and the Tanzim (PLO militia) who held priests and nuns hostage and trashed the church before their evacuation was negotiated.

The timeline is flawed, to be sure, but is hardly the worst thing about these sessions. The worst thing is use of the heavily biased film, Occupation 101, as the primary source of information regarding the history.

Among those who appear in the film:

  • Noam Chomsky, MIT linguist and far left ideologue who for years has been an apologist for some of the world’s most thuggish regimes.
  • Ilan Pappe, Israeli revisionist historian who accuses Israel of “ethnic cleansing” (despite Israel’s population being 20 percent Arab).
  • Rashid Khalidi, Columbia University professor who advocates replacing Israel with a single Palestinian state and claims that Israel is a “racist” state.
  • Richard Falk, former Princeton University professor who has likened Israel to Nazi Germany and Israeli treatment of the Palestinians to the Holocaust.
  • Alison Weir, founder of If Americans Knew, narrates the film; she has denied that Israel has a right to exist and suggested that Jews control the American media.

The Committee for Accuracy in Middle East Reporting in America (CAMERA) has reviewed this film and summarizes its flaws this way:

Occupation 101‘s worst offense is its twisting of the history and facts of the conflict in order to equate the Palestinian cause with celebrated civil rights struggles around the world. Viewers are led to see the situation of the Palestinians as parallel to black South Africans under apartheid or southern blacks [in the U.S.] during the civil rights era.

To pull this off, a decade of unprecedented terrorism directed at Israelis in their homes, cafes, vehicles and religious festivals is made nearly invisible, severing the connection between Israeli measures — like house demolitions and sweeps through Palestinian villages — and the Palestinian attacks that precipitated them. This is essential to the film’s portrayal of Israeli actions as colonialist aggression rather than as a response to terrorism.

The hate indoctrination that permeates Arab society and produces cadres of young Palestinian suicide bombers groomed in hatred, intolerance and rejection of peaceful coexistence is swept under the carpet.

CAMERA’s review mentions some of the egregious falsehoods of the film:

William Baker, head of Christians and Muslims for Peace, asserts the “first converts to the teachings of Jesus were Palestinians.” The first converts to Christianity were, of course, Jews, just as Jesus himself was Jewish, along with most of his close associates and early followers.

Richard Falk…bizarrely contends that Israel “receives as much foreign economic assistance [from the U.S.] as all the countries combined in the world.”

[Episcopal] Bishop [Allen] Bartlett implies that Israel flattens Palestinian towns to establish settlements on top of them, claiming that settlements are built on “whatever is there, whether it’s roads, whether it’s villages or homes — they’re bulldozed and new town is built.” This is complete invention; Israeli settlements have never been built on top of Palestinian homes and villages.

Jeff Halper, a fringe detractor of Israel, contends that Israeli policy is meant to ensure “most of the land is free for Israeli settlement” and “to make the Palestinians leave the territories… it’s a kind of ethnic cleansing.” In reality, Israeli communities comprise only a small percentage of West Bank land and the supposedly “ethnically cleansed” Palestinian population has increased from 947,000 in June, 1967 to over four million today.

Session 6 and Session 7 in the United Methodist study guide focus on a selective reading of international law, including documents such as the Fourth Geneva Convention (only excerpts of which are included).

Finally, in Session 8, participants are encouraged to join activist groups. All of the groups listed, not surprisingly, come from the same perspective.

It is regrettable that the Minnesota Annual Conference of the United Methodist Church has produced a study guide on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict seems to be little more than a propaganda piece that attempts to indoctrinate participants in a leftist, anti-Zionist view of Middle East politics.

Any United Methodist who cares about Israel — as well as about equity, justice, and truth — should speak up about this resource. Let the Minnesota Conference (and the General Board of Church and Society) know what you think of their efforts.

Related articles and information
Targeting Israel | Mark Tooley, Front Page Magazine (via IRD) (Oct. 29, 2010)
Christians bankroll Palestinian liberation | Mark Tooley, Front Page Magazine (Dec. 3, 2008)
Religious Left did not always despise Israel | Mark Tooley, Christian Post (July 29, 2008)
United Methodist church groups targeting Israel | Institute on Religion and Democracy (March 4, 2008)
Film Review: Occupation 101 | Committee for Accuracy in Middle East Reporting in America (Jan. 5, 2008)

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Bill Bouknight

This post is by Dr. Bill Bouknight, associate director of the Confessing Movement Within the United Methodist Church.

Sunday, Nov. 14, is the International Day of Prayer for the Persecuted Church.

This post first appeared in a slightly different form on the Confessing Movement website. Links below have been added by MethodistThinker.com. — Ed.

More Christians were martyred in the 20th century than in the previous 19 centuries combined. As the persecution of Christians continues — and increases — the persecution-related death toll in the 21st century may even exceed the martyrdoms of the 20th .

Consider the following: Two young Iranian women, Maryam Rostampour and Marzieh Amirizadeh Esmaeilabad, were arrested last year and spent several months in Iran’s notorious Evin Prison on charges of “apostasy” (leaving Islam). Before being acquitted earlier this year, there also faces charges of “acting against state security” and “taking part in illegal gatherings.”

The women “faced repeated interrogations, weeks in solitary confinement, and unhealthy prison conditions,” according to a statement released by Iranian-focused Elam Ministries. “Both became seriously sick during their imprisonment and did not receive the treatment they needed which greatly increased their suffering.”

In August, 2009, a judge pressured them to recant their faith and return to Islam. They refused, saying, “We love Jesus. We will not deny our faith.”

Before the charges were finally dropped and the two women were freed, they had spent 259 days in prison. (Some in the Iranian parliament had wanted to add a mandatory death penalty for “apostates” to the country’s penal code, but that proposal apparently was withdrawn last June.)

In April, 2010, in the Egyptian coastal city of Marsa Matrouh, an enraged mob of 3,000 Muslims gathered after Friday prayers. Their imam had exhorted them to cleanse the city of its infidel Christians, known in Eqypt as Copts. The toll was heavy: 18 homes, 23 shops, and 16 cars were destroyed, while the Coptic Christians barricaded themselves inside their church.

More than a dozen similar attacks have occurred across Egypt. On January 6 of this year, a drive-by shooter fired at random into Christians leaving a Coptic Christmas service. Seven were killed and 26 seriously wounded.

Christians in the West Bank and the Palestinian territories are leaving the area because of widespread persecution by Muslims. Christians represented about 80 percent of Bethlehem’s population 60 years ago. Now their numbers are down to 20 percent.

Often we are reminded that the majority of Muslims are non-violent, peace-loving people. The problem is that the extremists intimidate the majority into silence.

In Egypt, for example, the majority of Muslims certainly do not hate Christians but their fear of the extremists causes them to tolerate the intolerable. Al-Azhar, the world’s preeminent Sunni Islamic institution, has published a pamphlet declaring the Bible a corrupted document and Christianity a pagan religion. Al-Azhar’s textbook for its high school students states that if a Muslim kills a non-Muslim, he is not subject to capital punishment since the superior cannot be punished for killing the inferior.

Representative coffins at a Jan. 2010 demonstration in Australia honoring Christians killed in Egypt.

Though Egypt’s Christian Copts constitute 12 percent of the population, they are excluded from the intelligence and security services because they are deemed to be security risks.

The Copts are treated a “dhimmis” — the age-old inferior status of Christian and Jewish minorities in Muslim lands.

One is reminded of the plight of Jews in Germany prior to World War II. The majority of Germans did not persecute Jews. But the Nazis intimidated the majority into silence and complicity.

Most German pastors were afraid to disagree with the Nazis. However, some 800 courageous clergy, led by Martin Niemoller and Dietrich Bonhoeffer, dared to defy the Nazis. They were sent to concentration camps.

The danger of tolerating evil was spelled out by Niemoller in a 1946 address to the Confessing Church in Frankfurt:

First they came for the communists, and I did not speak out —
because I was not a communist;

Then they came for the socialists, and I did not speak out —
because I was not a socialist;

Then they came for the trade unionists, and I did not speak out —
because I was not a trade unionist;

Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out—
because I was not a Jew;

Then they came for me —
and there was no one left to speak out for me.

American mainline churches have been remarkably silent about the persecuted church. Some leaders are afraid to state publicly that Islamic extremists are the primary persecutors for fear of antagonizing mainstream, peaceful Muslims. Some liberals believe that it is politically incorrect to criticize any religious group (except evangelical Christians).

The time for timidity has passed. The plight of persecuted Christians must move to the top of everyone’s agenda, including the United Methodist Council of Bishops, the Connectional Table, and the General Conference.

We must pray daily for these front-line citizens of the Kingdom, and we must demand that the governments of the world take all necessary steps to stop the persecution of any and all persons because of their faith.

William R. Bouknight retired from the pastorate in 2007 after more than 40 years of serving United Methodist churches in South Carolina and Tennessee. He became an associate director of the Confessing Movement in August 2008.

Dr. Bouknight is the author of The Authoritative Word: Preaching Truth in a Skeptical Age (Abingdon, 2001), and If Disciples Grew Like Kudzu (Bristol House, 2007). He was educated at Duke University, the University of Edinburgh, and Yale Divinity School.

Related articles and information
Website of the International Day of Prayer for the Persecuted Church
A prayer for persecuted Christians | Safiyah Fosua, United Methodist General Board of Discipleship
A service of prayer for persecuted Christians | Daniel Benedict, United Methodist General Board of Discipleship
Resources for the International Day of Prayer for the Persecuted Church | Dean McIntyre, United Methodist General Board of Discipleship
Let’s all join in prayer for persecuted church | Bill Bouknight and Bill Mefford, UM Reporter (Nov. 10, 2010)
The Beloved Community of Christ: A letter from the United Methodist Council of Bishops (PDF) | (November 2010)
The 50 countries in which the worst persecution of Christians exists | Open Doors International
Office of International Religious Freedom | U.S. State Department
Marketing the ‘religion of peace’ | Tony Woodlief, WORLD (Nov. 12, 2010)
Baghdad attacks on Christians prompt archbishop’s call for mass exodus | The Guardian (Nov. 10, 2010)
Christian woman sentenced to death in Pakistan ‘for blasphemy’ | The Telegraph (Nov. 9, 2010)
Egypt’s persecuted Christians | Mohem Zaki, Wall Street Journal (May 18, 2010—via Coptic Assembly of America)
Global restrictions on religion | The Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life (Dec. 17, 2009)

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Arguing that the District of Columbia Superior Court’s ruling “constitute[s] legal error,” the D.C. attorney general has taken the usual step of asking the court (PDF) to “alter and amend” its ruling in a case involving endowment funds held by the United Methodist General Board of Church and Society (GBCS). The attorney general’s office represents the public interest in District of Columbia cases involving charitable trusts.

Last month, Superior Court Associate Judge Rhonda Reid Winston ruled (PDF) that a 1965 Declaration of Trust (PDF) that restricted much of the board’s endowment for use in temperance-related ministry was based on “mistakes of fact” and that the GBCS should have essentially unrestricted use of the endowment funds.

The endowment money came to the GBCS via its predecessor organizations in The Methodist Episcopal Church and The Methodist Church, including the Board of Temperance and the Division of Alcohol Problems.

Based on legal advice it received in the 1970s, the board has been operating for more than three decades as though the endowment funds were virtually unrestricted.

In 2007, following repeated inquiries from the Audit and Review Committee (PDF) of the UMC’s General Council on Finance and Administration about how the endowment funds were being used, the General Board of Church and Society petitioned the Probate Division of the D.C. Superior Court, seeking a “reformation” of the 1965 trust (GBCS is headquartered in the United Methodist Building in the District of Columbia.) That reformation was granted last month, with the court striking a dozen clauses in the trust document that referred to restricting funds to temperance-related ministry.

According to a source close to the case, the General Board of Church and Society spent close to $1.5 million in legal fees in its quest to have the trust reformed.

Two weeks after the ruling, D.C. Attorney General Peter J. Nickels, acting on behalf of the District of Columbia, submitted a motion under Rule 59(e) of the D.C. Superior Court Rules of Civil Procedure (PDF) requesting that Judge Winston “alter or amend” the court’s ruling, arguing that “[i]f the Court’s reformed language were allowed to stand, this would constitute legal error.”

Specifically, the attorney general’s motion suggests that the “reformed language is unduly broad in light of both the trial record and the Court’s own finding of fact.”

That the settlors [of the 1965 trust agreement] intended to restrict the use of the Trust funds to some purpose more limited that any lawful purpose is evident from the record….

Contrary to what the reformed language permits, the evidence at trial simply does not support the conclusion that the settlors’ would have intended that the Trustees use the funds for any lawful purpose related to public welfare. At most, the evidence suggests that the settlors’ intention would have been to expand the use of funds from temperance and alcohol problems to include other “public morals.”…

Clearly, the evidence establishes that the settlors intended to limit the Trustees’ discretion over the purposes for which the Trust Funds could be spent. Therefore, reformed language that limits use of the Trust Funds to issues related to “public morals” would better reflect what the settlors would have intended than reformed language that gives Trustees virtually unfettered discretion.

The attorney general’s motion notes that the 1960 Discipline of the Methodist Church, which is specially referenced in the Declaration of Trust, “defined [public morals] as including issues related to gambling, narcotics, tobacco, exploitation of sex, including the elimination of pornographic literature, and Sunday observance laws.”

“Principles of equity and prudent trust management lead to the conclusion that all funds should be restricted to causes involving ‘public morals,'” the attorney general’s motion states.

It is not known how long it will be before Judge Winston either accepts or denies the attorney general’s motion.

Judge Rhonda Reid Winston (PDF) was appointed to the federal bench in 1994 by President Bill Clinton. She is a graduate of Duke University Law School.

In a commentary posted Oct. 28 on the website of the UM renewal ministry Good News, Rob Renfroe, a former member of the General Board of Church and Society and now president of Good News, wrote that Judge Winston’s ruling in the GBCS case is puzzling.

Thirteen times the [1965 trust] document states that funds in the trust and funds generated by the trust were to be used for “temperance and alcohol problems.” The stated intention of the trust could not be more clear.

Rob Renfroe

For many years, the General Board of Church and Society has used the trust monies for its general purposes and now has been given the green light to continue to do so.

But if these monies were intended for general purposes, why were they ever restricted in the first place? Why designate the funds originally if you intended the funds to be used for any and every purpose that the Board adopts?

Persons of good faith can debate how broadly the phrase “temperance and alcohol problems” can be interpreted — and we have always believed the funds could properly be used for many causes such as alcohol abuse, drug and other addictions, pornography, and gambling. But certainly that phrase was meant to be a restriction of some kind.

It is simply impossible to believe “temperance and alcohol problems” was meant to give permission for the Board to use these funds for any and every purpose it feels a need to address.

Does “temperance” really include writings that promote sex outside of marriage as a moral choice, changing the church’s stance that the practice of homosexuality is incompatible with Christian teaching, and lobbying for federally funded abortion — all positions that trust monies were used to support?

The result of the ruling will be dire for the United Methodist Church. The Board of Church and Society’s willingness to spend over a million dollars to change the intent of the trust gives a clear message to anyone contemplating the donation of a trust or other restricted gifts to any of our Boards in the future.

The message is this: Once you are deceased, your original intent may not be honored and the Board with whom you placed your trust may spend whatever it takes to break that trust. The monies spent to do so will be United Methodist apportionments and, ironically, the very monies generated by the trust itself.

A trust is called a trust for a particular reason. And regardless of a court’s decision, a trust has been broken.

Good News played a role in the case, acting in concert with the Confessing Movement and the Institute on Religion & Democracy. The three groups — working together as the Coalition for United Methodist Accountability — supported five individuals who served as “intervenors” in the trust case. The intervenors assisted the office of the D.C. attorney general by providing testimony and other evidence.

The United Methodist General Board of Church and Society is the successor to the Board of Temperance, Prohibition and Public Morals and two other agencies of the former Methodist Episcopal Church. In the early 1920s, Methodists concerned about alcohol abuse donated millions of dollars to construct a headquarters for the Temperance Board near the U.S. Capitol in Washington.

The 1965 trust agreement, which transferred the building and other assets to what was to become the General Board of Church and Society, stipulated that income from the trust would be devoted “in perpetuity” to addressing the “areas of temperance and alcohol problems.” (The trust language is consistent with ¶1008.2 of the United Methodist Book of Discipline: “Funds vested in any of the predecessor boards shall be conserved for the specific purposes for which such funds have been given.”)

Attempts to loosen the restrictions of the trust began as early as 1969. In that year, the Investment Committee of the Endowment Fund Trustees concluded that language in “original” Board of Temperance documents is “broader in scope and more inclusive than certain language in…the Declaration of Trust of March 23, 1965.”

These original documents include the Temperance Board’s 1917 Certificate of Incorporation, which said the board was being created “to promote the cause of temperance by every legitimate means; to prevent the improper use of drugs and narcotics; [and] to render aid to such causes as in the judgment of the Board of Trustees, tend to advance the public welfare.”

In the mid-1970s, GBCS — in an attempt to further loosen the 1965 trust restrictions — sought an opinion from outside legal counsel. The result of that consultation is described in the GBCS’s financial statements (PDF) for 2005 and 2006:

The Board’s management, on March 5, 1975, asked outside legal counsel whether the income from the Trust Fund could be properly spent on certain activities carried out by the board related to “public morals” and “general welfare.”

The list reviewed by the outside legal counsel included not only alcohol and temperance concerns, and drug abuse, but also…policy aspects of the public welfare problem and policy aspects of our health care delivery system… [as well as] questions of public morality relating to human sexuality… [and] the cost of administration for these programs…

On May 12, 1975, outside legal counsel stated that “it would be proper to interpret the [types of] work [which the Board described when it requested the legal opinion] as [being] included under the category of ‘public morals’…and ‘general welfare’ for Trust Fund purposes. This would mean that income from the Trust Fund could be used on an annual basis for these purposes.”

In an October 2002 letter, GBCS attorney Milton Cerny noted that it was unlikely that “the trust instrument’s language could be interpreted any more broadly than has already been done.”

Today, temperance-related spending now accounts for a relatively small percentage of GBCS expenditures. A record of the Board’s 2008 spending (PDF—see p. 7 of the file) shows a line item of $158,100 for programs focused on “Alcohol, Addictions, and Health Care,” with no breakdown of how much of that dollar amount actually went to specific alcohol-related ministry.

The bulk of the Board’s $2.8 million program budget in 2008 was spent on areas such as “Education and Leadership Formation,” various undefined “program-related” expenses of the general secretary’s office, and maintaining an office at the United Nations.

In addition to money from trust, the General Board of Church and Society receives apportionment money from local churches via the United Methodist World Service Fund. GBCS’s financial statement for 2008 (PDF) showed total revenue of $6.1 million. About $2.6 million of that amount came from apportionments.

The General Board of Church and Society has long been a lightning rod for criticism within the United Methodist Church. As noted by Steven M. Tipton in his 2007 book, Public Pulpits: Methodists and Mainline Churches in the Moral Argument of Public Life (University of Chicago Press), “For decades…vigorous critics of the board have protested its public advocacy as politically partisan and radically left-wing.”

In 2009 and early 2010, the GBCS used its resources to advocate for a controversial Democrat-led health bill that called for significantly expanding the federal government’s role in the U.S. health care system. The board’s work earned a public thank-you from House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.

“Our coalition ranges from the AARP…to…the United Methodist Church,” she said on the House floor March 23, moments before passage of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. The 2,685-page legislation, known colloquially as “Obamacare,” passed the House of Representatives by a vote of 219-212 (50.8%-49.2%). Every Republican and 34 Democrats voted no.

The board’s involvement in advocating for the unpopular bill created a strong backlash within the United Methodist Church.

Related posts
In GBCS article, UM elder argues against celibacy for single clergy
United Methodist Church facing health bill fallout
House Speaker thanks UMC for help in passing health bill
‘Church and Society’ decries pro-life amendment to health bill
Board of Church and Society sex-ed writer: Sex outside of marriage can be ‘moral, ethical’
‘Church and Society’ urges repeal of ‘conscience’ rule for healthcare workers
Update on the ‘Church and Society’ court case
Former member of Board of Church and Society speaks out
Source documents in the Methodist Building Trust case
General Board of Church and Society goes to court
‘Church and Society’ withdraws support for Freedom of Choice Act

Related articles and information
The 1965 Declaration of Trust (PDF) | (March 23, 1965)
Memorandum of Points and Authorities in Support of the Motion of the District of Columbia to Alter or Amend Judgment (PDF) | Office of D.C. Attorney General (Oct. 21, 2010)
Decision: General Board of Church and Society v. The District of Columbia (PDF) | District of Columbia Superior Court (Oct. 6, 2010)
“Joint Proposed Findings of Fact and Conclusions of Law” from the Acting Attorney General of D.C. and the Intervenors (PDF) | (January 2009)
Summary Judgment on Count 1: General Board of Church and Society v. The District of Columbia (PDF) | District of Columbia Superior Court (Jan. 18, 2008)
The General Board of Church and Society’s filing with the District of Columbia Superior Court (PDF) | (February 2007)
Court sides with agency on use of funds | Heather Hahn, United Methodist News Service (Oct. 7, 2010)
Superior Court rules in favor of United Methodist General Board of Church & Society | GBCS (Oct. 7, 2010)
Why is an agency of the United Methodist Church in court? (PDF) | Joe Whittemore (March 2009)
Financial statements of the General Board of Church and Society, 2007 and 2008 (PDF)
Case may decide direction of social action agency | Kathy L. Gilbert, United Methodist News Service (Nov. 26, 2008)
Board of Church and Society calls for withdrawal from Iraq | Mark Schoeff Jr., United Methodist News Service (Oct. 19, 2005)
The war in Iraq is lost (PDF) | Jim Winkler, General Board of Church and Society (June 9, 2004)
Who profits from the Methodist Building? (PDF, see page 4) | UMAction Briefing, Institute on Religion and Democracy (Fall 2005)
Agency rejects Church & Society audit over Methodist Building | Mark Tooley, Good News (March/April 2004)
Methodists cross line on Middle East | David Fischler, The Reformed Pastor blog (Oct. 19, 2010)

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The latest election-related polling data from the non-partisan Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life suggests that a majority of voters who can be classified as “white Mainline Protestants” will support Republican Party congressional candidates in today’s elections.

Although the margin of GOP-over-Democrat preference has tightened slightly in recent days, the latest Pew survey of likely voters (PDF) shows white mainliners choosing Republican congressional candidates over Democrats by a nearly 20 percent margin (55%-36%).

The Pew data also show that Republican candidates are getting their strongest support among voters who attend religious services weekly. More than half of these voters (55 percent) either stated their intention to vote Republican or said they were “leaning” toward voting Republican.

In contrast, Democrat voter strength is highest among those who “seldom or never” attend religious services, with 54 percent of such voters expressing an intent to vote for Democratic candidates or at least “leaning” toward Democrats.

The Pew poll also found that black Protestants, a reliable Democratic constituency since the 1960s, are likely to vote overwhelmingly for Democratic candidates.

Because of the rather limited sample size of white Mainline Protestants (approximately 400 respondents), Pew researchers say the findings related to the voting patterns of white mainliners have a margin of error of ±6 percent.

Given the racial make-up of the United Methodist Church, the latest Pew polling data on the voting intentions of white Mainline Protestants seem likely to represent today’s general voting patterns among United Methodists.

According to the denomination’s General Council on Finance and Administration, the UMC’s U.S. membership (Excel file) was 90 percent white and 5.8 percent black as of 2008 (the most recent data available).

The remaining UMC members were classified as Asian (1.1 percent), Hispanic (less than 1 percent) and either Native American, Pacific Islander or multiracial (less than one-half percent for each group).

In the 2008 presidential election, white Mainline Protestants were evenly split — 44% to 44% — between Republican candidate Sen. John McCain and Democratic candidate Sen. Barack Obama.

Voters who attended weekly religious services, however, went for Sen. McCain by a 55%-to-43% margin, according to Pew data.

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United Methodist Church facing health bill fallout
House Speaker thanks UMC for help in passing health bill
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Why the United Methodist Church cannot condone homosexuality
Why aren’t UM leaders supporting the Manhattan Declaration?

Related information
Comparing the platforms | Christianity Today (August 2008)
Democrat and Republican platform comparison (bulletin insert) (PDF) | Christian Action Commission (2008)
Party platform comparison resource | Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention (2008)
Comparison of political party platforms and The United Methodist Church (includes UM Social Principles from the Book of Discipline and selections from the Book of Resolutions) (PDF) | General Board of Church and Society (2008)
Addressing political resolutions by the church (PDF) | UMAction (April 2008)
The 2008 Book of Resolutions: The voice of the United Methodist Church? | Liza Kittle, RENEW Network
Which candidates most closely align with your views? Find out with VoteEasy | Project Vote Smart

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November 5, 1414: The Council of Constance opens to end the Great Schism. It deposed all three rival popes, but it also executed Bohemian reformers John Huss (Jan Hus) and Jerome of Prague, and anathematized the teachings of John Wycliffe.

billy-sundayNovember 6, 1935: American revivalist Billy Sunday (right), a professional baseball player who became one of America’s most famous evangelists, dies at age 73. More than 100 million people heard him speak at his evangelistic crusades.

November 7, 1918: Evangelist William (“Billy”) Franklin Graham, Jr., is born in Charlotte, North Carolina

November 12, 1660: John Bunyan is arrested for unlicensed preaching and sentenced to prison. While incarcerated, he writes Pilgrim’s Progress, which continues to be the second-bestselling book of all time (after the Bible).

oswald-chambersNovember 15, 1917: Oswald Chambers (left) dies while serving as chaplain to British troops in Egypt during World War I. His widow, Gertrude, spends the rest of her life compiling his notes, lectures, and sermons into books, including the best-selling, My Utmost for His Highest.

November 18, 1874: The Women’s Christian Temperance Union is founded in Cleveland, Ohio. Claiming the power of the Holy Spirit, Protestant members would march into saloons and demand they be closed.

The WCTU was the largest temperance organization and the largest women’s organization in the U.S. before 1900.

November 21, 1964: The third session of Vatican II closes with the approval of three documents. One of these, the “Decree on Ecumenism,” declared both Catholics and Protestants to blame for past divisions and called for dialogue, not derision, in the future.

November 22, 1873: The French ship, Ville du Havre, sinks in the north Atlantic, killing all four daughters of Chicago lawyer Horatio G. Spafford. His wife survived, and Spafford immediately books passage to join her in England.

While passing over the spot where his daughters died, he begins writing what would become the famous hymn, It is Well with My Soul.

cs-lewisNovember 22, 1963: British scholar, C.S. Lewis (right), author of Mere Christianity, dies (on the same day that an assassin kills Pres. John F. Kennedy).

November 24, 1771: Methodist Francis Asbury begins preaching in America. For the next 45 years, he was the main figure in establishing Methodism in the U.S.

A new biography of Asbury was released in 2009, American Saint: Francis Asbury and the Methodists (Oxford University Press).

November 28, 1863: The first annual national Thanksgiving Day is celebrated in the midst of the Civil War. Several weeks earlier, President Abraham Lincoln had proclaimed the fourth Thursday of November as a national day of thanks.

martin-boehmNovember 30, 1725: Martin Boehm (left) is born in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania. He became a Mennonite bishop, but later was excluded from the Mennonite communion because of his “experimental” (i.e. emotional and evangelistic) preaching, as well as his association with persons of other sects.

Boehm joined with Philip W. Otterbein and others to form the United Brethren in Christ, a predecessor denomination to the United Methodist Church.

Adapted with permission from ChristianHistory.net.

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