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During February, we’re showcasing podcasts from our fall 2010 season. This 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 (1977) and an M. Div. summa cum laude from Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary (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 II.

“The Deeper Issues of United Methodist Renewal” is a presentation Rob 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 responds to retired bishops’ call to alter UMC’s sexuality standards
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)
What do United Methodists expect from their bishops? | Rob Renfroe, Good News (Feb. 17, 2011)
Should the UMC change its ordination standards and allow sexually active homosexuals to serve as clergy? | Rob Renfroe, Good News (Feb. 17, 2011)
In pursuit of truth | Rob Renfroe, Good News (January/February 2011)
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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The following commentary is by Riley B. Case, associate executive director of the Confessing Movement Within the United Methodist Church.

Dr. Riley B. Case

Dr. Case served for many years as a pastor and district superintendent in the UMC’s North Indiana Conference (now the Indiana Conference).

He is the author of Evangelical and Methodist: A Popular History (Abingdon Press) and has served as a delegate to five UM General Conferences.

This commentary was published in a slightly different form in the Confessing Movement’s e-publication, “Happenings Around the Church.”

Links in the commentary below have been added by MethodistThinker.com. — Ed.

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Thirty-six retired United Methodist bishops have released “A Statement of Counsel to the Church” (PDF), saying it is time to change the UMC’s stand in regard to homosexuality.

The topic, as well as the bishops’ statement itself, will consume a great deal of the church’s time and energy and resources between now and General Conference 2012.

Here are eight observations about the retired bishops’ statement:

(1) We should probably welcome the bishops’ “coming out.” We in the church appear to have our own “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy in regard to the personal moral and doctrinal stances of our leaders.

Many of our church leaders have been equivocating for a long time regarding matters of their personal belief. Leaders say they will uphold what the church affirms but “upholding” is not the same as believing. When I have asked several of the bishops (and other leaders) what they personally believe in regard to the United Methodist Church’s Articles of Religion and other standards, I have been told that such questions are inappropriate (“don’t ask so we won’t have to tell”).

We have for years played games at our Jurisdictional Conferences when we have asked candidates for the episcopacy about their own personal beliefs. Now, at least 36 bishops have put it on the table. At least in regard to the practice of homosexuality (and by extension, the doctrinal standards), they do not, and probably never have, believed what the church has taught.

And these are, supposedly, our leaders. They are charged to guard the faith to which they themselves are not committed.

This is not a healthy situation.

(2) We see progressive ideology at work. Progressive ideology holds that the Bible and church tradition are no longer determinative for our present day. Modern science, secular presuppositions, personal preference-whatever-take precedence.

The 36 bishops

Daniel Arichea (Philippines)

Monk Bryan (SCJ)

Kenneth L. Carder (SEJ)

Judith Craig (NCJ)

Jesse DeWitt (NCJ)

Sheldon Duecker (NCJ)

William Boyd Grove (NEJ)

Susan Hassinger (NEJ)

Kenneth Hicks (SCJ)

Joseph Humper (West Africa)

S. Clifton Ives (NEJ)

Alfred Johnson (NEJ)

Charles W. Jordan (NCJ)

Leontine T. C. Kelly (WJ)

J. Lloyd Knox (SEJ)

William Lewis (NCJ)

J. Lawrence McCleskey (SEJ)

Cal McConnell (WJ)

Marshall L. Meadors, Jr. (SEJ)

C. P. Minnick (SEJ)

Robert C. Morgan (SEJ)

Susan Morrison (NEJ)

Fritz Mutti (SCJ)

Donald A. Ott (NCJ)

Sharon Z. Rader (NCJ)

Roy I. Sano (WJ)

Franz Schäfer (S. Europe)

Beverly Shamana (WJ)

C. Joseph Sprague (NCJ)

Forrest Stith (NEJ)

Melvin G. Talbert (WJ)

Jack Tuell (WJ)

Dale White (NEJ)

Richard B. Wilke (SCJ)

Joe A. Wilson (SCJ)

Joseph H. Yeakel (NEJ)

A key to the bishops’ statement is the assertion: “The current disciplinary position of The United Methodist Church, a part of our historical development (emphasis added) need not, and should not, be embraced as the faithful position for the future.”

This is because, in progressive ideology, revelation is ongoing, truth is ever changing (“developing historically”), and if we can get the votes at General Conference, the Bible and church tradition can be superseded.

“Experience” is the standard by which all is tested in progressive ideology. Bishop Don Ott and Bishop Sharon Rader have said they initiated the statement from the retired bishops because of “their experience as church leaders.”

The “experience” of the bishops is that they know of practicing homosexuals who have the calling and the gifts for ministry but whose ordination would be denied because of church standards. Therefore, the church should change its standards to accommodate these people.

This is not a healthy situation.

(3) Is this a declaration of war? In a church already racked with controversy, many had hoped that attention might be directed, especially at the next General Conference, to matters other than homosexuality.

Could we not avoid what has characterized past General Conferences whenever the church’s stand on homosexuality has been discussed: demonstrations on the floor of the conference, civil disobedience and arrests by civil authorities, hurtful language, smashing of chalices, covering the altar in black, and haranguing of the delegates when the vote doesn’t go the desired way?

Recent General Conferences have been showcases not for the church’s unity in purpose and mission but as an unmasking of a church in disarray.

Some have asked in recent months whether we might have a moratorium in 2012 on debate over homosexuality. It appears with this retired bishops’ statement that there will be no moratorium. The retired bishops have “made known their names” and wish to encourage “other church and Episcopal leaders to do the same.”

This sounds a lot like an invitation to a shoot-out. How many names can we generate? In this the retired bishops may be getting more than what they bargained for. There will be push-back.

This is not a healthy situation.

(4) It is uncertain what it is the bishops hope to accomplish with the statement. It appears that the retired bishops believe society’s cultural momentum is on the side of full acceptance of homosexual practice (and by extension homosexual marriage), and that the moral weight of 36 retired ministers can tip the balance and carry the General Conference vote in favor of homosexual practice.

If so, the retired bishops are out of touch. Retired bishops (or any bishops for that matter) might see themselves as generals in a crusade, with multitudes of troops at their command. They overestimate their sense of importance. The day when the church gets stirred up over bishops’ proclamations (especially retired bishops) is past.

The church recently voted on whether to ratify constitutional amendments on inclusivity and on the worldwide nature of the church. These amendments were strongly supported by the General Conference and by the bishops, but when ordinary annual conference delegates voted, amendments that needed a two-thirds vote could not even command a 50 percent majority.

One bishop spoke about being blind-sided. Better to talk about a disconnect between the church and its leaders.

This is not a healthy situation.

(5) Do the retired bishops understand how this looks? The bishops are not speaking on behalf of the church to a lost and dying world, or to a society which has lost its moral grounding. The retired bishops instead are speaking on behalf of a secular culture against the church’s own people and against the faith those people have professed.

This is not a healthy situation.

(6) Have we not learned from the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, the Episcopal Church, the Presbyterian Church USA, and the United Church of Christ?

The retired bishops argue that we are losing members and quality ministers because of the church’s present position on homosexuality (and by implication, on marriage).

The numbers we might be losing from our present stance would pale next to the numbers we would lose if we abandoned our present position.

From 2005-2009 the ELCA Lutherans declined 7 percent, the Episcopalians 9 percent, the PC(USA) Presbyterians 9 percent, and the United Church of Christ 12 percent. Will The United Methodist Church be next?

This is not a healthy situation.

(7) The retired bishops’ statement ignores, disregards and abandons our overseas brothers and sisters, particularly those in Africa. Despite the fact that one African bishop and one European bishop signed the statement, the statement itself reeks of U.S.-centrism.

No global church here. No sensitivity here to the effect this might have in Africa. The statement oozes with implications of U.S. colonialism, imperialism, parochialism, and unilateralism.

If changing our stance on sexual morality would wreck havoc in American churches, the effect in the African churches would be many times greater. And, the effect in lands where Muslim presence is strong would be devastating.

This is not a healthy situation.

(8) The word on the street is that the Council of Bishops is so divided it cannot offer the kind of moral vision the church so desperately needs. The word on the street is also that the retired bishops are a hindrance rather than a help in the work of the council. The retired bishops’ statement on homosexuality lends credence to this kind of talk.

This is not a healthy situation.


Related posts
Renewal & Reform Coalition responds to retired bishops’ call to alter UMC’s sexuality standards
Why the United Methodist Church cannot condone homosexuality
In embracing homosexual marriage, Foundry UMC rejects UM boundaries, breaks with 2 millennia of church teaching
GC 2012 delegates set at 988 — Philippines gains delegates despite large membership loss
Riley Case: The future of the United Methodist Church is at stake
Judicial Council overturns bishop’s ruling on sexuality statement
Maxie Dunnam: Amendments outcome reflects ‘sense of the faithful’
Judicial Council says no to same-sex marriage
Billy Abraham on United Methodism: ‘There is no common faith among us’
Bill Bouknight: The good news from General Conference ’08

Related information
Eros defended or eros defiled — What do Wesley and the Bible say? | Ben Witherington, The Bible and Culture (Patheos.com) (Feb. 14, 2011)
United Methodist churches perform same-sex weddings with one foot in the closet | Amanda Hess, TBD.com (Sept. 30, 2010)
What the evidence really says about Scripture and homosexual practice: Five issues (PDF) | Robert A. J. Gagnon (March 2009)
Slavery, homosexuality, and not being of one mind | Riley B. Case, via The Sundry Times (July 1, 2008)
How churches can refine message on homosexuality | Robin Russell, United Methodist Reporter (May 19, 2008)
United Methodists uphold homosexuality stance | Robin Russell, United Methodist News Service (April 30, 2008)
Judicial Council Decision 1032 and ecclesiology (PDF) | William J. Abraham, General Board of Higher Education & Ministry Consultation on Decision 1032 (February 2007)
Methodists strengthen stand against homosexual practice | Christianity Today (May 5, 2004)
Debate at the 2004 General Conference on various legislation related to homosexuality (includes audio) | 2004 General Conference Archive
Resources list: Ministry for and with homosexual persons (requested by the UMC’s 2004 General Conference) (PDF) | United Methodist Publishing House
Homosexuality and the Bible (PDF) | R. Albert Mohler Jr., Southern Baptist Theological Seminary
Homosexuality and the Great Commandment (an address to the Episcopal Diocese of Pittsburgh) | Peter C. Moore (November 2002)
Good News’ response to Cal/Nevada’s dismissal of complaints against 68 clergy involved in same-sex covenant | James V. Heidinger II on behalf of the Good News Board of Directors (Feb. 14, 2000)
Good News board urges bishops to preserve unity of church | United Methodist News Service (Feb. 2, 1999)
‘Good News’ says push to accept homosexual practice threatens to split United Methodist Church | United Methodist News Service (May 6, 1997)

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The following statement was released Feb. 16 by the Renewal and Reform Coalition, composed of the Confessing Movement Within the United Methodist Church, Good News, Lifewatch, RENEW, Transforming Congregations, and UMAction.

Links below have been added by MethodistThinker.com — Ed.

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In early February 2011, a group of [32—now 36] retired United Methodist bishops issued “A Statement of Counsel to the Church—2011″ (PDF) in which they called upon The United Methodist Church to remove statements in ¶304.3 of the Book of Discipline that declare “The practice of homosexuality is incompatible with Christian teaching” and instruct that “self-avowed practicing homosexuals are not to be certified as candidates, ordained as ministers, or appointed to serve in The United Methodist Church.”

The decision on our church’s doctrine and polity on these matters is reserved solely to the delegates to General Conference, and this group of retired bishops has neither voice nor vote in such deliberations.

We are dismayed that bishops who have agreed to live within the covenant defined by our Book of Discipline and who are charged in the Book of Discipline “to uphold the discipline and order of the Church” are undercutting that very discipline and order, encouraging dissension and disunity, and advocating on behalf of positions which have been repeatedly rejected by our General Conference after focused prayer, study, and holy conferencing.

The retired bishops who have joined in the statement are a minority of the active and retired bishops who are part of the Council of Bishops. We call upon the Council of Bishops as a whole to defend the church’s belief and discipline, and to hold one another accountable for such defense.

After ten General Conferences (1972-2008), numerous dialogues, at least two General Church study commissions, official study resources, dozens of convocations, a plethora of books, demonstrations and disruptions of the General Conference business, and extended impassioned debate, our denomination has consistently affirmed a holistic position that is pastoral and biblical, compassionate and redemptive.

From the UM
Book of Discipline

¶161F Human Sexuality — We affirm that sexuality is God’s good gift to all persons. We call everyone to responsible stewardship of this sacred gift.

Although all persons are sexual beings whether or not they are married, sexual relations are affirmed only within the covenant of monogamous, heterosexual marriage.

We deplore all forms of the commercialization, abuse, and exploitation of sex. We call for strict global enforcement of laws prohibiting the sexual exploitation of children and for adequate protection, guidance, and counseling for abused children.

All persons, regardless of age, gender, marital status, or sexual orientation, are entitled to have their human and civil rights ensured and to be protected against violence. The Church should support the family in providing age-appropriate education regarding sexuality to children, youth, and adults.

We affirm that all persons are individuals of sacred worth, created in the image of God. All persons need the ministry of the Church in their struggles for human fulfillment, as well as the spiritual and emotional care of a fellowship that enables reconciling relationships with God, with others, and with self.

The United Methodist Church does not condone the practice of homosexuality and consider this practice incompatible with Christian teaching. We affirm that God’s grace is available to all. We will seek to live together in Christian community, welcoming, forgiving, and loving one another, as Christ has loved and accepted us. We implore families and churches not to reject or condemn lesbian and gay members and friends. We commit ourselves to be in ministry for and with all persons.

¶304.3 Regarding Clergy — While persons set apart by the Church for ordained ministry are subject to all the frailties of the human condition and the pressures of society, they are required to maintain the highest standards of holy living in the world.

Since the practice of homosexuality is incompatible with Christian teaching, self-avowed practicing homosexuals are not to be accepted as candidates, ordained as ministers, or appointed to serve in The United Methodist Church.

The denomination’s statement on the practice of homosexuality is a balanced position that affirms the “sacred worth” of all persons, even while acknowledging that as Christians we cannot affirm every expression of human sexuality.

Clearly, there are certain sexual practices that contradict biblical standards, and as faithful disciples we must be willing to declare them to be incompatible with Christian teachings. The United Methodist position does this with mercy and grace.

The retired bishops’ statement is woefully inadequate in its failure to address the clear pronouncements of Scripture in both the Old and New Testaments and almost 2,000 years of Christian history. The teaching of The United Methodist Church on human sexuality is consistent with the teaching of the Church universal.

In essence, the retired bishops’ statement is a plea for the church to accommodate to the world and compromise with the relativism of our age. Scripture and Christian history steadfastly warn against such accommodation and compromise.

To a watching world, the position of The United Methodist Church is a necessary and reasonable statement of ethical clarity in an age of murky morality. It is a statement of theological honesty in an age of religious ambiguity. It is a prophetic statement to a world that offers no boundaries to sexual expression.

As recognized in our Book of Discipline, faithful followers of Jesus Christ are called to celibacy in singleness and fidelity in marriage.

The Scriptures and almost 2000 years of Christian theology have permitted sexual activity only within the boundary of marriage. The Church universal in its orthodox expressions has defined marriage as the covenantal relationship of supreme love between a man and a woman.

The United Methodist position is and must remain consistent with this understanding.

The retired bishops’ statement provides no rationale for deviating from this position, except for arguments based in convenience — convenience for those who find difficulty administering the church’s position rightly and for those who choose to persist in engaging in sinful practices.

Maintaining our position keeps faith with the supremacy of Scripture and accords with tradition, experience and reason.

The position of The United Methodist Church is a prophetic message of life to a broken and hurting world. The biblically prophetic message has always been more interested in truth and transformation than in consensus and conformity to the propositions advanced by the world. What the world often finds excusable and acceptable, the church does not and cannot.

Even though our debates have historically focused exclusively on homosexuality, The United Methodist Church must learn how to provide effective and compassionate ministry to all persons who struggle to live lives of sexual purity.

All persons, whatever their sexual temptations or inclinations, are welcome in The United Methodist Church, but sexual relationships outside the biblically and historically defined boundary of Christian marriage between a man and a woman must be named for what they are — sin. The Gospel also includes God’s gracious promise that those who confess and repent will be given the power for new life and transformation.

We live in a hypersexualized culture — as evidenced by the more than 40-year-obsession of those who would change our sexual ethics. United Methodism must deal seriously — and here we are speaking to conservatives as well as liberals and moderates—with the crippling spiritual devastation that sexual brokenness brings into our local congregations.

Many who sit next to us in our pews have been victimized by sexual abuse or by an unfaithful spouse. Others in our congregations struggle with promiscuity, are addicted to pornography, suffer with sexually transmitted diseases, are confused about their sexual identity, or wrestle with same-sex attractions.

A 2003 book affirming the UMC's official position

All such persons need to know that The United Methodist Church is prepared to minister to their needs while uncompromisingly standing for biblical truth and the transformative power of a relationship with Jesus Christ.

The path urged by the retired bishops, if adopted, will leave The United Methodist Church barely distinguishable from the culture, particularly in the Christian West. All this would be done for the sake of expediency and convenience, a desire for “relevance,” and a misapplied sense of social justice.

In reality, the retired bishops’ position is in a distinct minority across the Church universal and has only resulted in dissension, schism, and the weakening of the Church where it has been adopted.

We urge our brothers and sisters in Christ in The United Methodist Church to reject the counsel of these retired episcopal leaders.

— Endorsed by the Renewal and Reform Coalition

Related posts
Why the United Methodist Church cannot condone homosexuality
In embracing homosexual marriage, Foundry UMC rejects UM boundaries, breaks with 2 millennia of church teaching
Defying denomination, UM church in D.C. offers to perform same-sex weddings
Judicial Council overturns bishop’s ruling on sexuality statement
Board of Church and Society sex-ed writer: Sex outside of marriage can be ‘moral, ethical’
Maxie Dunnam: Amendments outcome reflects ‘sense of the faithful’
In Mississippi Conference, testimony from lesbian couple stirs controversy
Judicial Council says no to same-sex marriage
Billy Abraham on United Methodism: ‘There is no common faith among us’
Bill Bouknight: The good news from General Conference ’08
Joe Whittemore: ‘Enough is enough’

Related information
United Methodist churches perform same-sex weddings with one foot in the closet | Amanda Hess, TBD.com (Sept. 30, 2010)
What the evidence really says about Scripture and homosexual practice: Five issues (PDF) | Robert A. J. Gagnon (March 2009)
Slavery, homosexuality, and not being of one mind | Riley B. Case, via The Sundry Times (July 1, 2008)
How churches can refine message on homosexuality | Robin Russell, United Methodist Reporter (May 19, 2008)
United Methodists uphold homosexuality stance | Robin Russell, United Methodist News Service (April 30, 2008)
Judicial Council Decision 1032 and ecclesiology (PDF) | William J. Abraham, General Board of Higher Education & Ministry Consultation on Decision 1032 (February 2007)
Methodists strengthen stand against homosexual practice | Christianity Today (May 5, 2004)
Debate at the 2004 General Conference on various legislation related to homosexuality (includes audio) | 2004 General Conference Archive
Resources list: Ministry for and with homosexual persons (requested by the UMC’s 2004 General Conference) (PDF) | United Methodist Publishing House
Homosexuality and the Bible (PDF) | R. Albert Mohler Jr., Southern Baptist Theological Seminary
Homosexuality and the Great Commandment (an address to the Episcopal Diocese of Pittsburgh) | Peter C. Moore (November 2002)
Good News’ response to Cal/Nevada’s dismissal of complaints against 68 clergy involved in same-sex covenant | James V. Heidinger II on behalf of the Good News Board of Directors (Feb. 14, 2000)
Good News board urges bishops to preserve unity of church | United Methodist News Service (Feb. 2, 1999)
‘Good News’ says push to accept homosexual practice threatens to split United Methodist Church | United Methodist News Service (May 6, 1997)

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During February, while MethodistThinker is on hiatus from new postings, we’re showcasing podcasts from our fall 2010 season. This podcast features an address by Bishop Alfred Norris.

Bishop Alfred Norris in 2005 (via UMNS)

Born in Louisiana in 1938, Alfred Lloyd Norris was educated at Dillard University in New Orleans and Gammon Theological Seminary in Atlanta.

After serving for 16 years as a United Methodist pastor and district superintendent in his native state, he was named president of Gammon in 1985.

In 1992, he was elected to the UM episcopacy and assigned to the New Mexico and Northwest Texas conferences. Later, Bishop Norris moved to the Texas Annual Conference, where he served until his retirement in 2004.

In 2006, he was asked to return to the active episcopacy to fill the term of North Texas Bishop Rhymes H. Moncure, who had died in office. After leading the North Texas Conference for two years, Bishop Norris retired again from active status in 2008.

Last year, he returned to Gammon Theological Seminary when asked to serve as the school’s interim president and dean, a position he held until Jan. 1, 2011. Gammon, founded in 1883, is the United Methodist part of a consortium of six historically African-American theological schools in the Atlanta area collectively known as the Interdenominational Theological Center.

This podcast features Bishop Norris’ address, edited for length, presented at the 2005 ordination service of the North Georgia Annual Conference.

Listen using the audio player below (18 min.) — or download an mp3 file (8.2 MB; on a PC, right click and choose “save as”).

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
Podcast: Maxie Dunnam on ‘The Pastor as Prophet, Priest, and Evangelist
Podcast: Bishop Gerald Kennedy on ‘The Marks of a Methodist’
Podcast: Bishop James King on ‘Preaching Authority’
Podcast: Tom Atkins — ‘We Need the Power of the Holy Spirit’
Podcast: Bishop Robert E. Hayes on ‘A Long Fight with a Short Stick’
Podcast: Bill Hinson on ‘The Making of a Minister’

Related articles and information
Interim president-dean for Gammon Theological Seminary appointed | General Board of Higher Education & Ministry (March 22, 2010)
Bishop Alfred Norris to lead North Texas Conference | United Methodist News Service (Sept. 13, 2006)
Biography of Bishop Alfred L. Norris | Council of Bishops Gallery, United Methodist Church

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MethodistThinker.com is on its semi-annual hiatus (observed in February and August). This month, we are showcasing podcasts from the fall of 2010.

The premiere podcast of our fall 2010 season featured 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 other 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’
Claremont president: Christians shouldn’t evangelize people of other faiths
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)
Healing our doctrinal dyslexia (adapted from an address delivered at a gathering of the Confessing Movement Within the United Methodist Church, April 1995) | William J. Abraham, Good News (January/February 1996)

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This is the second installment of a monthly MethodistThinker feature for 2011 that  presents excerpts from the writings of John Wesley, co-founder of the Methodist movement.

Because the use of language changes with the passage of time, the wording in these excerpts has been slightly updated, based on the adaptation found in Renew My Heart (Barbour Books, 2011).

The following is from John Wesley’s sermon, “Salvation by Faith.” A link to the full text of the original sermon is included in the links below.

For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves;
it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast.
(Ephesians 2:8-9 NKJV)

Salvation by faith must be preached as the first doctrine, and it must be preached to all. The Holy Spirit says, through St. Paul, “No other foundation can anyone lay than that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ” (1 Corinthians 3:11).

“Whoever believes on Him shall be saved” is, and must be, the foundation to all else. That is, it must be preached first, and it must be preached to all. We must exclude no one. Not the poor. Not the unlearned. Not the young. For our commission is, “Go and preach the gospel to every creature.”

Never has maintaining the doctrine of salvation by faith been more seasonable that at this day. Nothing but this doctrine can effectually prevent the increase of delusions among us. Attacking one by one all the errors that assail us would be endless. But salvation by faith strikes at the root, and all errors fall at once where this truth is established.

It is this doctrine, justly called the strong rock and foundation of the Christian religion, that first established Christianity on this continent. It is this alone that can save us now.

Nothing but this can give a check to the immorality which has overspread the land as a flood.

Can you empty the ocean drop by drop? But let the righteousness which is of God by faith be brought in and the waves shall be stayed.

Nothing but this can stop the mouths of those who “glory in their shame” and openly deny the Lord that bought them.

Bring in the gospel. Begin with the righteousness of faith, with Christ, “the end of the law” to everyone who believes (Romans 10:4).

Declaring salvation by faith strikes at the very foundations of hell. For this reason, our adversary stirred up earth and hell to destroy those who first preached it.

[But do not fear.] Even though you are as helpless and weak as a young infant, the strong man, Satan, will not be able to stand before you. You will prevail over him and subdue him, and overthrow him, and trample him under your feet.

March on, under the great captain of your salvation, conquering and to conquer, until all your enemies are destroyed, and “death is swallowed up in victory” (1 Corinthians 15:54). Thanks be to God who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ!

Adapted in part from Renew My Heart,
published by Barbour Publishing, Inc. Used by permission.

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Related articles and information
Salvation by faith (full text) | The Rev. John Wesley (1738) (from The Sermons of John Wesley, 1872 Edition — Thomas Jackson, editor)
‘By grace are ye saved through faith’ | John Meunier (June 24, 2010)
This still new doctrine of salvation by faith | John Meunier (Sept. 28, 2010)

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