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December 6, 345 (traditional date): Nicholas, bishop of Myra (right), one of the most popular saints in the Greek and Latin churches, dies.

Eventually, stories of his generosity and cheer became part of the Christmas tradition, and St. Nicholas became the basis for Santa Claus.

December 18, 1707: Charles Wesley, who founded the Methodist movement with his brother John, is born in England. A celebrated and prolific hymnwriter, his Hark the Herald Angels Sing is widely sung this time of year.

December 18, 1865: Slavery is abolished in the United States as the 13th Amendment to the Constitution is ratified. Many of the abolitionists who pushed for its passage were Christians seeking to make America more like the Kingdom of God.

December 24, 1223: Francis of Assisi stages history’s first living nativity scene, complete with live animals, in a cave near Greccio, Italy.

December 24, 1818: Franz Gruber composes the music for Silent Night in the St. Nicholas Church of Oberndorf, Austria.

December 27, 1784: Francis Asbury is ordained superintendent of the Methodist Church in America at the famous “Christmas Conference” (left) held in Baltimore, Maryland. He soon took the title “bishop.”

December 29, 1851: The first Young Men’s Christian Association (Y.M.C.A.) in the U.S. is organized in Boston.

December 30, 1823: Charles G. Finney, the most effective evangelist in American history, is licensed to preach.

December 30, 1852: Future U.S. President Rutherford B. Hayes marries “Lemonade Lucy,” so called because, as first lady, she forbade alcohol in the Executive Mansion.

The Hayeses (right, photographed on their wedding day) were both devout Methodists who began each day with prayer and organized Sunday evening worship services at the White House.

Adapted with permission from ChristianHistory.net.

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United Methodist Bishop Mack B. Stokes died last week just shy of his 101st birthday.

Bishop Mack B. Stokes (UMNS photo)

Below are insights from Bishop Stokes on the topic of human sexuality, offered from the standpoint of Christianity’s historic teaching and the particular emphasis of Wesleyan believers regarding on holiness of heart and life.

The material is excerpted from the out-of-print book Scriptural Holiness For the United Methodist Christian (Discipleship Resources, 1987).

Bishop Stokes’ other books include The Holy Spirit in the Wesleyan Heritage (1993), Major United Methodist Beliefs (revised 1998), and person-to-Person: Building a Relationship with God Through Prayer (2007).

Marion “Mack” Boyd Stokes served on the faculty of Emory University’s Candler School of Theology from 1941 until 1972, when he was elected to serve as a bishop of the United Methodist Church.

(NOTE: References below to the United Methodist Book of Discipline have been updated to conform to current wording and paragraph numbering.)

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When God created human beings in his image, God made them male and female (Gen. 1:27). And God called them to be “fruitful and multiply” (Gen. 1:28)…. Therefore, in keeping with the biblical revelation, “we affirm that sexuality is God’s good gift to all persons” (¶161F, The Book of Discipline—2008).

As is the case with all human desires, sexual desires need to be directed and controlled. God’s call to holiness includes Christian stewardship of our sexuality. For this reason the biblical teaching is that “sexual relations are affirmed only with the covenant of monogamous, heterosexual marriage” (¶161F).

This raises serious questions…. What about premarital sex? What about homosexuality? What about promiscuity? What about adultery?…

[W]hen God’s love is immediately present and operative in us, how do we act?… For one thing, we act in full respect for the sacredness of our own body and soul, as well as for the body and soul of the other person…. It is not enough to think in terms of “consenting adults.” That is relevant in democratic courts of law…. [But] Christian youth and adults are governed by the presence of the living Christ in them and reserve for their life-partners in marriage the full expression of their sexuality….

[In regard to homosexuality,] the basic question is: What does holiness — the love of God and neighbor — move us to do?

Beyond question there are persons with homosexual tendencies. And beyond question they are precious in the sight of God. Christ’s grand redemptive work has been done for all. And all are called to be redeemed by grace through faith. But is the practice of homosexuality in keeping with God’s holy purpose for our lives?

Among the ancient Greeks and Romans the practice of homosexuality was condoned. And among some people today this practice is condoned and even publicly acclaimed. But in the Hebrew-Christian heritage this practice has not been approved. It has been repudiated as contrary to the revealed purpose of God for our lives.

Our standards are not to be governed by the pagans of ancient Greece and Rome. Nor are they to be guided by the standards and values of those of our own time who are not interested in what the Holy Creator requires.

It is one thing to have homosexual tendencies — just as it is to have tendencies toward promiscuity — but it is another to practice it. This is why we United Methodists say that “we do not condone the practice of homosexuality and consider this practice incompatible with Christian teaching” (¶161F)….

[As regards promiscuity, i]s it not one of the cheapest and most contemptible ways of using others as means to the gratification of elemental selfish desires? And is not this on the side of evil and against God and his righteousness?… In the light of the Bible and God’s holy purpose, promiscuity is as far removed from the grace of God in Christ as hell is from heaven….

[In summary, w]e may say that scriptural holiness leads us to practice the formula: In singleness, chastity; in marriage, fidelity.


Related posts
What will the bishops do?
Worth reading: ‘Forgetting How to Blush: United Methodism’s Compromise with the Sexual Revolution’
Chasing away young people by being faithful to the gospel?
What is at stake in the battle over marriage
Should United Methodists agree to disagree on homosexuality?
A word from Mr. Wesley: Holiness in singleness
Why the United Methodist Church cannot condone homosexuality
Pro-homosexuality foundation pours millions into Catholic and mainline Protestant dissident groups
Riley Case: Retired bishops’ statement is a sign of UMC’s sickness
Renewal & Reform Coalition responds to retired bishops’ call to alter UMC’s sexuality standards
In GBCS article, UM elder argues against celibacy for single clergy
Board of Church and Society sex-ed writer: Sex outside of marriage can be ‘moral, ethical’
Judicial Council overturns bishop’s ruling on sexuality statement
Billy Abraham on United Methodism: ‘There is no common faith among us’

Related articles information
Why The Church is so concerned with same-sex marriage and homosexual ordination | Timothy C. Tennent (Nov. 26, 2012)
United Methodists uphold policy that calls homosexual acts ‘incompatible with Christian teaching’ | Daniel Burke, Religion News Service (May 3, 2012)
The church addresses marriage and sexuality | Thomas A. Lambrecht, Good News (January/February 2012)
Outsider influence over homosexuality at General Conference | Karen Booth, Good News (January/February 2012)
Eros defended or eros defiled — What do Wesley and the Bible say? | Ben Witherington, The Bible and Culture (Patheos.com) (Feb. 14, 2011)
Christianity elevates sexual morality (a historical overview of the Christian church’s teaching on sexual morality) — Chapter 3 of How Christianity Changed the World | Alvin Schmidt (Zondervan, 2004 — via Google Books)
Book: Staying the Course: Supporting the Church’s Position on Homosexuality (ordering details) | Maxie Dunnam and H. Newton Malony, ed. (Abingdon Press, 2003)
Anyone who works under the authority or auspices of the Church must be held to the highest standards of behavior, free of misconduct in any form | UMSexualEthics.org
United Methodist churches perform same-sex weddings with one foot in the closet | Amanda Hess, TBD.com (Sept. 30, 2010)
UM Judicial Council backs clergy dismissal over affair | Linda Bloom, UMNS (April 27, 2010)
What the evidence really says about Scripture and homosexual practice: Five issues (PDF) | Robert A. J. Gagnon (March 2009)
How churches can refine message on homosexuality | Robin Russell, United Methodist Reporter (May 19, 2008)
The church and homosexuality | Bishop Timothy W. Whitaker, e-Review (Florida United Methodist News Service) (July 12, 2006)
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’ says push to accept homosexual practice threatens to split United Methodist Church | United Methodist News Service (May 6, 1997)

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October 1, 1509: Birth of John Calvin (below right), French Protestant reformer, in Noyon, France.

john-calvinIn 1536 he published his first edition of his classic Institutes of the Christian Religion (Google Books preview), which became the most systematic Protestant doctrinal statement of the Reformation.

October 6, 1536: English reformer William Tyndale, who translated and published the first mechanically-printed New Testament in the English language (against the law at the time) is strangled to death. His body is then burned at the stake.

October 10, 1821: Law student Charles Finney, 29, goes into the woods near his home to settle the question of his soul’s salvation. He experiences a dramatic conversion, full of what seemed “waves of liquid love” throughout his body.

Finney later becomes American history’s greatest revivalist. Some 500,000 people are converted during his revival services.

October 14, 1735: John and Charles Wesley, cofounders of Methodism, set sail for ministry in America.

October 15, 1900: Former Methodist Charles Fox Parham opens Bethel Bible Institute in Topeka, Kansas, where Agnes Ozman and other students would speak in tongues on New Year’s Eve and begin the 20th-century Pentecostal movement.

October 19, 1609: Dutch theologian Jacob Arminius, founder of an anti-Calvinist Reformed theology, dies at age 49 in Leiden, Netherlands.

October 26, 1950: Mother Teresa founds the first Mission of Charity in Calcutta, India.

francis-asburyOctober 27, 1771: Francis Asbury (left), sent from England by John Wesley to oversee America’s 600 Methodists, lands in Philadelphia.

During his 45-year ministry in America, he travels on horseback (or in carriage) an estimated 300,000 miles, delivering some 16,500 sermons. By his death, there are 200,000 Methodists in America.

October 27, 1978: The complete New International Version (NIV) of the Bible is published. It becomes the most popular English Bible translation of late 20th and early 21st centuries. An updated version is released online in 2010 and in print in 2011.

October 28, 1949: Jim Elliot, missionary to Ecuador’s Auca Indians (Huaorani people), writes in his journal the most famous of his sayings: “He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain what he cannot lose.”

martin-lutherElliot and four fellow missionaries are murdered while trying to evangelize the violent Huaorani tribe. A group of 10 warriors kills them in a brutal attack on January 8, 1956. Later, many of the Huaorani come to faith in Christ.

October 31, 1517: A monk named Martin Luther (right) posts a list of 95 complaints and concerns about the Roman Catholic Church on the door of the Castle Church in Wittenberg, Germany, sparking what became known as the Protestant Reformation.

Adapted with permission from ChristianHistory.net.

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The following book summary 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), and he has been a delegate to five UM General Conferences.

He is the author of Evangelical and Methodist: A Popular History (Abingdon Press).

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

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

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Forgetting How to Blush: United Methodism’s Compromise with the Sexual Revolution (Bristol House, 2012) is a thoroughly researched, heavily footnoted account of efforts, strategies, schemes, and attempts on the part of non-Christian — or at least quasi-Christian — persons, groups, caucuses, and in some cases church leaders, to secularize historic Christian truth in regard to human sexuality.

Author Karen Booth, director of Transforming Congregations, begins with Alfred Kinsey and his studies on human sexuality. Kinsey influenced Hugh Hefner, who chafed under the restraints of traditional biblical morality (Hefner grew up in a conservative Methodist home).

Hugh Hefner not only started Playboy magazine, he also gave a major grant to fund the Sexuality Information and Education Council of the United States (SIECUS). SIECUS was interested in values-neutral sex education, which basically ignores biblical moral teaching.

Remarkably, SIECUS had ties with the Methodist General Board of Education Task Force on Sex Education, which operated under the assumption that the church’s “negative” views toward sexuality needed adjusting.

In the 1960s, youth ministry in the Methodist Church was undergoing a philosophical shift. Youth, so we were told, did not want others — including their parents or the church — to tell them what to do. They wanted “freedom” and “equality.”

Under the sway of progressive pressures, the 1972 General Conference did away with the Methodist Youth Fellowship (MYF) and legislated a new agency, the National Council on Youth Ministry (NCYM). That group, among other things, gave grants to homosexual-advocacy groups.

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Trying to be ‘relevant’

The church bureaucracy was already on board. As early as 1962 the Methodist Church had published a resource Sex and the Whole Person which essentially substituted the latest (secular) psychological insights for traditional teaching about faithfulness in marriage and celibacy in singleness. Sex and the Whole Person spoke of Freud and sexual repression. It emphasized that in sexual matters seldom is there a right and wrong, but shades of grey. There were no moral absolutes.

At the time of The Methodist Church-Evangelical United Brethren merger in 1968, the editors of church school material indicated that sex education would be one of their top priorities. Meanwhile in its March-April, 1969 issue, Motive magazine — the church’s paper for young adults — printed an article by Del Margin and Phyllis Lyon, co-founders of a lesbian-advocacy group. (The UMC had the sense to stop publication of Motive in 1971).

In the mid-1970s, Leon Smith of the Board of Discipleship commented on “positive” trends he saw in the church’s response to the new sexuality — from rigid rules to situational ethics; a new toleration of private, consensual acts; the recognition of positive uses of pornography; and a new understandings of homosexual activity (understood now as a “variant” rather than “deviant”).

If the church believed that this attempt to be “culturally relevant” would enhance youth ministry it was sadly mistaken. Over a 10-year period the circulation of youth materials fell from 1.2 million pieces per quarter to 400,000 and the youth staff at Nashville went from 13 full-time persons to one part-time employee. (Melvin Talbert, now a retired bishop who urges clergy and laity to defy the UMC’s sexuality standards, was the general secretary of the Board of Discipleship at that time.)

To their credit, a number of bishops and church leaders were not pleased with the direction in which progressives were leading the church in the area of human sexuality. A few leaders spoke out on behalf of the church’s traditional stance, and Curriculum Resources toned down some of the more extreme studies.

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The push to normalize homosexual relationships

Those biblically orthodox leaders were further tested by the onslaught of homosexual-practice advocacy that has characterized some parts of The United Methodist Church since 1970.

Karen Booth

Had it not been for an amendment from the floor at the 1972 General Conference that inserted into the Social Principles language that says the UMC “does not condone the practice of homosexuality and considers it incompatible with Christian teaching” (now in ¶161F in the Book of Discipline), The United Methodist Church likely would have been the first mainline denomination to neutralize biblical teaching about homosexual practice.

Tellingly, since 1972 no general agency of the church has petitioned the General Conference to uphold traditional teachings on marriage, the family and human sexuality.

Before the 1980 General Conference, every agency and every caucus that petitioned General Conference in regard to homosexual practice — except for the renewal ministry Good News — urged the church to set aside its orthodox stance on homosexual practice. For its efforts Good News was labeled “intolerant” and “hateful.”

The United Methodist General Board of Church and Society claims to advocate positions taken by the General Conference, but in the area of marriage the board is silent. It is also silent in the area of affirming the sexual ethic of faithfulness in marriage and celibacy in singleness (¶161B and ¶161F).

GBCS does indicate that the church must seek to eradicate “heterosexism” and “homophobia,” but when it comes to the UMC’s statement that “the practice of homosexuality is incompatible with Christian teaching,” GBCS is silent. At one time the church sought to enrich marriages. But in a current GBCS list of 20 key issues facing the church and society, marriage is not even mentioned.

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Follow the money

The United Methodist Book of Discipline prohibits the use apportionment money to “promote the acceptance of homosexuality” (¶613.20 and ¶806.9). This doesn’t mean that those in the church who want to bless homosexual relationships and to change the definition of marriage are without funding and support.

Karen Booth traces some of this money and support, most of which comes from groups outside The United Methodist Church, including:

  • Welcoming Church Movement/Institute for Welcoming Resources;
  • Soulforce;
  • The Religious Institute on Sexual Morality, Justice and Healing;
  • Faith in America;
  • The National Gay and Lesbian Task Force Foundation;
  • The Human Rights Campaign: Religion and Faith Program;
  • Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (GLADD);
  • Believe Out Loud.

Major funding for these organizations — and for caucuses within mainline churches — comes from groups such as the Arcus Foundation, which from 2007 to 2011 has made 150 grants totaling almost $20 million to “religion and values” initiatives.

Two UM groups, Reconciling Ministries Network (RMN) and Methodist Federation for Social Action (MFSA), received almost $850,000.

From LGBTfunders.org

The Evelyn and Walter Haas, Jr. Fund has given $10 million in the same four-year period to “allies” who work among clergy and congregations for “marriage equality.”

The E. Rhodes and Leona B. Carpenter Foundation gives money to seminaries that support the homosexual agenda. In 2009, it gave grants totaling $75,000 to the Church Within a Church Movement (PDF), Dumbarton UM Church in Washington D.C., and the Reconciling Ministries Network.

Karen Booth asks an interesting question: Does The United Methodist Church understand the implications of outsider money flowing into the church with the specific agenda of subverting the church’s teaching on human sexuality? Have any church leaders expressed concern over this?

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A healing gospel

The typical reaction on the part of progressives to a work such as Forgetting How to Blush is to rant about “homophobia” and “hatefulness.” However, it would be difficult to label the movement Karen Booth heads, Transforming Congregations, as a homophobic and hateful group.

Many of those associated with Transforming Congregations have known sexual brokenness themselves and have experienced rejection on the part of the church. But they believe that the gospel of Jesus Christ offers healing, and they give testimony to healing that has taken place in their own lives.

Forgetting How to Blush (the title is from Jeremiah 6:15 and 8:12) is not an encouraging book. It is a sober account of “United Methodism’s Compromise with the Sexual Revolution,” an account that suggests intense spiritual warfare is taking place in The United Methodist Church.

But hope remains. Most local UM churches and ordinary church members have refused to follow the progressives in their effort to follow the secular world in regard to human sexuality.


Related posts
Group of clergy, laity calls for censure of Bishop Talbert
The UM position on marriage and sexuality is stronger than anything Dan Cathy said
Chasing away young people by being faithful to the gospel?
What is at stake in the battle over marriage
Should United Methodists agree to disagree on homosexuality?
Bishop Mack Stokes: Holiness in human sexuality
A word from Mr. Wesley: Holiness in singleness
Renewal & Reform Coalition responds to retired bishops’ call to alter UMC’s sexuality standards
Renewal & Reform Coalition releases letter to Council of Bishops
In GBCS article, UM elder argues against celibacy for single clergy
Why the United Methodist Church cannot condone homosexuality
In embracing homosexual marriage, Foundry UMC rejects UM boundaries, breaks with 2 millennia of church teaching
Board of Church and Society sex-ed writer: Sex outside of marriage can be ‘moral, ethical’
Judicial Council says no to same-sex marriage

Related articles and information
Endorsements for Forgetting How to Blush | Bristol House
‘Behavior Doesn’t Interrupt Your Relationship with Christ’: A Recipe for Disaster | Ben Witherington, ChristianityToday.com (July 12, 2012)
United Methodists uphold policy that calls homosexuality ‘incompatible with Christian teaching’ | Daniel Burke, Religion News Service (May 3, 2012)
The church addresses marriage and sexuality | Thomas A. Lambrecht, Good News (January/February 2012)
Book Review: Forgetting How To Blush: United Methodism’s Compromise with the Sexual Revolution by Karen Booth | James V. Heidinger II, Good News (March/April 2012)
UM clergy vow to wed homosexual couples | Sam Hodges, UM Reporter (July 15, 2011)
Eros defended or eros defiled — What do Wesley and the Bible say? | Ben Witherington, The Bible and Culture (Patheos.com) (Feb. 14, 2011)
Christianity elevates sexual morality (a historical overview of the Christian church’s teaching on sexual morality) — Chapter 3 of How Christianity Changed the World | Alvin Schmidt (Zondervan, 2004 — via Google Books)
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)
Book: Staying the Course: Supporting the Church’s Position on Homosexuality (ordering details) | Maxie Dunnam and H. Newton Malony, ed. (Abingdon Press, 2003)
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)
How churches can refine message on homosexuality | Robin Russell, United Methodist Reporter (May 19, 2008)
Homosexuality and the Great Commandment (an address to the Episcopal Diocese of Pittsburgh) | Peter C. Moore (November 2002)
‘Good News’ says push to accept homosexual practice threatens to split United Methodist Church | United Methodist News Service (May 6, 1997)
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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August 6, 1801: Revival hits a Presbyterian camp meeting in Cane Ridge, Kentucky (as pictured in sketch below). Within a week, 25,000 were attending the revival services.

Cane Ridge became the largest and most famous camp meeting of the Second Great Awakening.

Although the revival at Cane Ridge grew out of a Presbyterian gathering, it helped spark the Methodist camp meeting movement, as noted by theologian Fred Sanders of Biola University.

Preachers from numerous denominations arrived [at Cane Ridge], set up pulpits in tree stands, and preached; sometimes as many as seven preachers at once addressing different crowds throughout the woods. There was a lot of fainting, swooning, shouting, and dancing as the days went by.

In the aftermath, Presbyterians pretty much washed their hands of it and backed away. It was the Methodists who, while denouncing the excesses of the event, nevertheless were proud to claim ownership. They retroactively dubbed it a camp meeting staffed by circuit riders, and promoted similar revivals elsewhere.

August 7, 1771: Francis Asbury answers John Wesley’s call for volunteers to go to America as missionaries. He would become the father of American Methodism.

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

August 10, 70: Roman troops, sent to put down a Jewish rebellion, break through the walls of Jerusalem and destroy the temple.

August 21, 1741: Composer George Frideric Handel (left) shuts himself up in his home to write the oratorio, Messiah. He finished the composition only 23 days later.

“Whether I was in the body or out of the body when I wrote it, I know not,” he later said.

August 27, 1727: Count Nicolaus von Zinzendorf‘s Moravian community at Herrnhut, Germany, begins a round-the-clock “prayer chain.” At least one person in the community prayed every minute of the day — for more than 100 years.

August 31, 1688: English Puritan writer and preacher John Bunyan (right), author of Pilgrim’s Progress, dies at age 69.

Though one of England’s most famous authors even in his own day, he maintained his pastoral duties until his death, caused by a cold he caught while riding through the rain to reconcile father and son.

Adapted with permission from ChristianHistory.net.

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

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June 3, 1905: Hudson Taylor, English missionary to China and founder of the China Inland Mission, dies. “China is not to be won for Christ by quiet, ease-loving men and women,” he once said.

June 9, 1834: William Carey, often called “the father of modern Protestant missions” dies, having spent 41 years in India without a furlough. His mission could count only about 700 converts, but he had laid a foundation of Bible translations, education, and social reform.

He also inspired the missionary movement of the 19th century, especially with his cry, “Expect great things; attempt great things.”

magcartJune 15, 1215: King John signs the Magna Carta (right), which begins, “The Church of England shall be free,” setting forth the principle that the government had no right to control the church.

June 19, 1834: Baptist preacher Charles Haddon Spurgeon, one of the greatest pulpiteers of the 19th century, is born in Essex, England.

In 1850, the teenage Spurgeon was converted during a service at a Primitive Methodist church, as a lay preacher spoke on Isaiah 45:22: “Look unto me, and be ye saved, all the ends of the earth; for I am God, and there is none else.”

Mr. Spurgeon described the event in his Autobiography:

[The speaker] had not much to say, thank God, for that compelled him to keep on repeating his text, and there was nothing needed — by me, at any rate — except his text. Then, stopping, he pointed to where I was sitting under the gallery, and he said, “That young man there looks very miserable”…and he shouted, as I think only a Primitive Methodist can, “Look! Look, young man! Look now!”….

Then I had this vision — not a vision to my eyes, but to my heart. I saw what a Savior Christ was…. I no sooner saw whom I was to believe than I also understood what it was to believe, and I did believe in one moment.

June 22, 1714: English Presbyterian pastor and Bible commentator Matthew Henry dies. His work is still published as Matthew Henry’s Commentary.

Methodist co-founder Charles Wesley based one of his most famous hymns, A Charge to Keep I Have, on Mr. Henry’s comments about Leviticus 8:35:

[The priests] attended to keep the charge of the Lord: we have every one of us a charge to keep, an eternal God to glorify, an immortal soul to provide for, needful duty to be done, our generation to serve; and it must be our daily care to keep this charge, for it is the charge of the Lord our Master, who will shortly call us to an account about it, and it is at our utmost peril if we neglect it.

neroJune 24, 64: After the Great Fire of Rome, Roman Emperor Nero (left) begins persecuting Christians.

According to Tacitus, Nero ordered Christians to be thrown to dogs, while others were crucified. Some were even set on fire “to serve as a nightly illumination when daylight had expired.”

June 25, 1744: The first Methodist conference convenes in London and begins to set standards for doctrine, liturgy, and discipline, thus giving an organizational framework to the “Evangelical Revival” that began in 1739.

John Wesley later wrote:

In June 1744, I desired my brother and a few other clergymen to meet me in London, to consider how we should proceed to save our own souls and those that heard us…. I invited the lay Preachers that were in the house to meet with us. We conferred together for several days, and were much comforted and strengthened thereby.

Adapted with permission from ChristianHistory.net.


Related posts
January in Christian History
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Mark Tooley

Mark Tooley, author of Taking Back the United Methodist Church (Bristol House, 2010) discussed the UMC’s 2012 General Conference in an interview Tuesday on Issues Etc., a daily program produced by Lutheran Public Radio.

You can listen to the 10-minute conversation below. (If the audio player doesn’t work, use this mp3 file.)

Mark Tooley is the president of the president of the Institute on Religion and Democracy, founded in 1981 by United Methodists Ed Robb and David Jessup.

IRD describes itself as “an ecumenical alliance of U.S. Christians working to reform their churches’ social witness, in accord with biblical and historic Christian teachings, thereby contributing to the renewal of democratic society at home and abroad.”

Tooley was named president of the organization in 2009.

Mark Tooley’s writings have appeared in The Wall Street Journal, National Review Online, Frontpage, The American Spectator, The Weekly Standard, Touchstone, and The Washington Times.

His second book, Methodism and Politics in the Twentieth Century (Bristol House) was released earlier this year.


Related posts
Podcast: Mark Tooley, author of ‘Taking Back the United Methodist Church’
Mark Tooley profiled in WORLD magazine
Podcast: Rob Renfroe on ‘The Deeper Issues of Methodist Renewal’
Podcast: Charles Keysor – ‘How then should UM evangelicals fight?’

Related articles and information
Same-Sex Marriage for United Methodists? | Mark Tooley, The American Spectator (June 27, 2011)
Mark Tooley discusses the Wisconsin Conference church trial of Amy DeLong | Issues Etc., Lutheran Public Radio (June 24, 2011)
Mere-O Interview: Mark Tooley | Mere Orthodoxy (March 14, 2011)
United Methodist ‘Call to Action’ finds 15% of UM churches highly ‘vital’ | Mark Tooley, UMAction—IRD (July 17, 2010)
Wesleyan surge: A review of Taking Back the United Methodist Church | William Murchison, Touchstone (May/June, 2010)
Mark Tooley Remarks to the IRD Board (March 14, 2010)
From CIA to IRD: Advocate Mark Tooley knows that ‘God often has surprises for us’ | WORLD (Oct. 10, 2009)
A conversation with Mark Tooley, president of the Institute on Religion and Democracy | The King’s College (New York City) Distinguished Visitor Series (Sept. 9, 2009)
Review: Taking Back The United Methodist Church (2008 ed.) | Ray Nothstine, Acton Institute Power Blog (April 10, 2008)
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 Junaluska Affirmation: Scriptural Christianity for United Methodists (PDF) | Forum for Scriptural Christianity (Good News) (July 20, 1975)

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Ray Nothstine

The following review is by Ray Nothstine, managing editor of Religion & Liberty, a publication of the Acton Institute.

He holds a Master of Divinity degree from Asbury Theological Seminary in Wilmore, Ky., and a B.A. in Political Science from the University of Mississippi in Oxford.

He also served on the staff of former Rep. Gene Taylor (D-Miss).

This review was originally published in a slightly longer form on the Acton Institute Power Blog.

Some links below have been added by MethodistThinker.com. — Ed.

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Methodism was once the largest denomination in America. The faith grew rapidly from America’s beginning and has traditionally been characterized by aggressive evangelism and revival.

It has carried a vibrant social witness, too. Methodist Church pronouncements once garnered front page headlines in The New York Times.

Its high water mark undoubtedly came during prohibition, the greatest modern political cause of the denomination. Methodists even built and staffed a lobbying building next to Capitol Hill believing a dry country could remake society.

In Methodism and Politics in the Twentieth Century (Bristol House, 2012), Mark Tooley has chronicled Methodism’s denominational political pronouncements from William McKinley, America’s first Methodist president, to 9-11. Tooley has unearthed a staggering amount of official and unofficial Methodist declarations and musings on everything from economics, war, civil rights, the Cold War, abortion, marriage, and politics.

Tooley, who is also the author of Taking Back the United Methodist Church (Bristol House, 2009), offers little of his own commentary on the issues in Methodism and Politics, instead allowing Methodism’s voice for over a century to speak for itself.

What emerges is a denomination that begins to recede in significance, perhaps because of the sheer saturation of its witness in the public square. But its leadership often trades in a prophetic voice for a partisan political one, and sadly at times, even a treasonous voice.

Methodists not only led on prohibition, but were out in front on issues such as women’s suffrage, the New Deal, and the Civil Rights Movement. While they did not always carry a unified voice on these issues, even many Southern annual conferences and bishops broke with the popular political position (in their home states) of defending segregation.

While support for the New Deal and greater federal intervention in the economy was not rubber stamped by all Methodists, an emerging and often biting anti-free market voice would dominate official pronouncements.

This continues to this day with declarations calling to support greater government regulations, single payer health care, and a host of measures calling for government wage and price controls.

Way back in 1936, one Oklahoma Methodist pastor offered his own advice to some of his brethren:

Why do [these Methodist Reds] not get passports, emigrate to Russia where they can prostrate themselves daily before the sacred mummy of Lenin and submit themselves to the commands of Joseph Stalin?

Soft on totalitarianism

Tooley chronicles the pacifist sentiment that began to overtake the denomination the 1920s. By the 1980s, a denomination that once was harsh in its critique of communism became one in which a committee of bishops would pronounce that “actions which are seen as ‘Marxist-Leninist’ by one group are seen as the core of the Christian message by others.”

President Eisenhower with Methodist bishops in 1959

Perhaps most shameful was the action of several bishops during the American hostage crisis in Tehran, Iran, from 1979-1981.

United Methodist Bishop Dale White said of the new Islamic fundamentalist regime, “I know there are individuals in the Iranian power structure who do trust The United Methodist Church.” White offered assessments of the new regime being “democratic.”

The United Methodist General Conference sent a message to Ayatollah Khomeni declaring that the UMC hears the “cries of freedom from foreign domination, from cultural imperialism, from economic exploitation.” Methodist officials even participated in pro-Khomeni student demonstrations in Washington D.C. and met with (and offered praise for) officials in the new Iranian government.

One former hostage recalled:

Some of the people who came over especially the clergy were hypocrites because they came to aid and comfort the hostages but ended up giving aid and comfort to the Iranians and actually making it worse for us.

Leftward on

The election of President Ronald Reagan naturally sent many United Methodist Church officials into a tizzy. “People voted their self interest instead of the Social Principles of the church,” Bishop James Armstrong concluded. “It looks like United Methodists with everybody else forsook their Christian idealism at the ballot box.”

Some United Methodist Bishops had already declared their denomination much more aligned with the Democratic Party. It was downhill from there for many Methodist leaders, as they coddled the Sandanistas and “Brother Ortega” in Nicaragua and dove head first into the nuclear freeze movement.

President Johnson addresses Methodists in 1966

In the 1990s, one official of the UMC’s General Board of Global Ministries bewailed the Republican Congress by saying, “White, male supremacists now wear suits. They talk states rights and anti-taxes. The climate of hate and violence is a challenge to us.”

Not to be outdone, General Board of Church and Society official Robert McLean declared that the GOP Contract with America effectively “cancels” the Sermon on the Mount. Most recently, some UM officials have joined forces with the left-leaning “What Would Jesus Cut?” campaign.

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Waning influence

Because The United Methodist Church is a connectional denomination, today the growing influence of theologically conservative African is counter balancing what Methodist progressives and political liberals can accomplish. Indeed, the liberal influence has been shrinking for decades. And because progressives have made so many predictable pronouncements, they no longer speak with the weighty spiritual authority The Methodist Church once held.

Dedication of the Francis Asbury statue in D.C. in 1924

American Methodism in 1900 was growing, confident, largely unified, and politically formidable.

One hundred years later, it looks back over decades of steep membership decline and political marginalization, as church officials were no longer presumed to speak for most church members.

In the 1920s, President Calvin Coolidge said of Francis Asbury, one of the first two Methodist Bishops in early America, that “he did not come [to America] for political motives,” but came to bear “the testimony of truth.”

One wishes Methodist denominational officials would not only follow more of Asbury’s doctrine, but his praxis as well.


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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), and he has been a delegate to five UM General Conferences.

He is the author of Evangelical and Methodist: A Popular History (Abingdon Press).

This opinion piece was originally published in a longer form in the Confessing Movement’s e-publication, “Happenings Around the Church.”

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

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United Methodists will discuss many important matters next month at General Conference in Tampa, Fla. — such as restructuring, the budget, and the global nature of the church. But for the press, the big news will be the decisions made around homosexuality.

The United Methodist Church is the last of the mainline churches to hold to the biblical view on marriage and the practice of homosexuality, and the pro-homosexual lobby knows that getting the UMC to alter that stand would greatly advance the homosexual agenda. To that end hundreds of thousands of dollars — much of it from outsiders not connected with the UM Church — have been poured into an effort to overturn United Methodism’s present stance.

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 United Methodist position on matters related to homosexuality is clear: All persons are individuals of sacred worth; marriage is between a man and a woman; the practice of homosexuality is not compatible with Christian teaching.

But we live in an increasingly secular society that is moving toward the acceptance of homosexual practice and, tied to it, homosexual marriage.

A vocal group in the church — those who call themselves progressives — agrees with the secular world. As one person said: “Society around us is leading the way about accepting of homosexual practice and the church is lagging behind.”

The progressives include some who by title and position are considered leaders in The United Methodist Church, including bishops, seminary professors, and board and agency staff.

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What to watch for

So we come to General Conference 2012. While there are many petitions seeking to change the church’s historical stance in regard to human sexuality, three groups of petitions bear special watching.

1) Petitions that would have the church redefine marriage so that it is no longer a covenant between “a man and a woman” but between “two persons” (see an example here—PDF).

There is no biblical argument nor is there any argument from church or cultural tradition for this kind of redefinition.

The main religious argument is an inclusion/exclusion argument — i.e., we should not deny two men or two women who love each other the privilege of marriage because to do so is judgmental and restrictive (for progressives being judgmental and restrictive are practically the only personal sins left to condemn).

2) Petitions from several annual conferences would place disclaimers in the preamble to the Social Principles (see an example here—PDF).

These petitions want the preamble to state that unanimity of belief, opinion, and practice has never been characteristic of the Church. Therefore when there are significant differences of opinion in the church (such as around the practice of homosexuality), these differences should not be covered over with false claims of consensus, but embraced with courage as the people of God continue to discern God’s will.

The important thing is “celebrate our differences” and stay together.

The logical question to ask in response to these petitions is: Why then even bother? Why have any statements of faith? Why have any Social Principles? Why appeal to any biblical teaching? When all the chaff is blown away these petitions want us to say that, in practice, the United Methodist Church has no standards. Whatever is said in doctrinal standards or Social Principles is only a matter of opinion.

3) At least two petitions direct the church and the world to refrain from judgment regarding homosexual persons and practices “until the Spirit leads us into new insight” (see pages 273-276 of this PDF file).

“Until the Spirit leads us into new insight?” The assumption behind the statement is that whatever Scripture says, whatever church tradition holds, whatever the truth claims made by Christian groups of all times and in all places, these teachings are not adequate to serve as the basis for our moral standards.

Apparently, in these modern, secular times we are waiting for the “new insight” the Spirit offers us.

Petitions such as these typically make reference to “unity” and all being “people of good will” and “working together.” But when Christian faith with its appeal to Scripture is attacked and replaced with ideology based on personal preferences and subjective experience, we have long departed from unity and good will and working together. We are talking about two different religions.

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Christianity elevates sexual morality (a historical overview of the Christian church’s teaching on sexual morality) — Chapter 3 of How Christianity Changed the World | Alvin Schmidt (Zondervan, 2004 — via Google Books)
Book: Staying the Course: Supporting the Church’s Position on Homosexuality (ordering details) | Maxie Dunnam and H. Newton Malony, ed. (Abingdon Press, 2003)
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What the evidence really says about Scripture and homosexual practice: Five issues (PDF) | Robert A. J. Gagnon (March 2009)
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March 2, 1791: Methodist founder John Wesley dies in London at age 87. At his death, the Methodist movement had 294 preachers and 71,668 members in Britain, plus 198 preachers and 43,265 members in America. Today Methodists number about 30 million worldwide.

Among Mr. Wesley’s last words: “I’ll praise my maker” and “The best of all, God is with us.”

Use the player below to listen to a 1950s-era radio dramatization of Mr. Wesley’s final moments, with actor Miron Canaday as John Wesley. (An mp3 CD of the 30-part radio series, “A Brand from the Burning: The Story of John Wesley,” is available from Moody Audio. Order here.)
Charles Finney

Charles Finney

March 9, 1831: Evangelist Charles Finney concludes a six-month series of meetings in Rochester, New York.

The meetings, often called “the world’s greatest single revival campaign,” led to the closing of the town’s theater and taverns, a two-thirds drop in crime, and a reported 100,000 conversions.

March 10, 1748: John Newton, captain of a slave ship, is converted to Christianity during a huge storm at sea. He eventually became an Anglican clergyman and the author of the famous hymn, Amazing Grace.

March 10, 1880: Commissioner George S. Railton and seven women arrive in New York City to establish the Salvation Army in the United States.

Francis Asbury

Francis Asbury

March 21, 1778: Charles Wesley, brother of John and author of 8,989 hymns (including Hark! The Herald Angels Sing, O for a Thousand Tongues to Sing, and Christ the Lord Is Risen Today), dies at age 81.

March 31, 1816: Pioneer Methodist bishop Francis Asbury dies at age 71. During his 45-year ministry in America (he was sent here in 1771 by John Wesley), he traveled on horseback or in carriage an estimated 300,000 miles, delivering some 16,500 sermons.

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

Adapted with permission from ChristianHistory.net.


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Deitrich Bonhoeffer

Dietrich Bonhoffer

Feb. 4, 1906: Lutheran pastor and theologian Dietrich Bonhoeffer is born in Breslau, Germany. As one of the leaders of Germany’s Confessing Church, he opposed the Nazis.

Bonhoeffer was arrested and eventually hanged — just days before Allied troops liberated the concentration camp where he was held. His books include The Cost of Discipleship.

Feb. 5, 1736: Brothers John and Charles Wesley arrive in Savannah, Georgia. They were to be missionaries to the native Americans, and John was to be pastor of the Savannah parish. Their efforts failed. “I went to America to convert the Indians; but O! who shall convert me?” he wrote two years later.

After returning to England, each had a deep experience of God’s grace and went on to lead what became known as the Methodist movement or Wesleyan revival. Today, there are an estimated 70 million Methodist and Wesleyan Christians worldwide.

Dwight L. Moody

Dwight L. Moody

Feb. 5, 1837: Dwight Lyman (D.L.) Moody (left), the greatest evangelist of his day and one of the greatest revivalists of all time, is born in Northfield, Massachusetts.

During his lifetime, he presented his message — by voice or pen — to at least 100 million people. Like the Wesley brothers mentioned above, Moody gave testimony of a deep and transformative experience of God’s grace.

Feb. 12, 1915: Blind hymnwriter Fanny Crosby dies at age 95 after writing more than 8,000 texts. Her works include Blessed Assurance, All the Way My Savior Leads Me, and Jesus Keep Me Near the Cross.

John Bunyan

John Bunyan

Feb. 18, 1678: Puritan preacher John Bunyan (right) publishes The Pilgrim’s Progress, the second best-selling book in history (after the Bible) .

The allegorical tale, which describes Bunyan’s own conversion process, begins, “I saw a man clothed with rags… a book in his hand and a great burden upon his back.”

Feb. 22, 1906: Itinerant evangelist William J. Seymour arrives in Los Angeles to lead a lead a Holiness mission. The group grew larger as word spread of its revival meetings, which included speaking in tongues — a practice which, though mentioned several times in the New Testament, had been largely unknown in the modern church.

The revival meetings eventually moved to a rundown building on Azusa Street, and became known as the Azusa Street Revival. This revival is is often cited the birthplace of modern-day Pentecostalism.

Adapted with permission from ChristianHistory.net.


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