Feeds:
Posts

Archive for the ‘Laity’ Category

MethodistThinker.com is on hiatus until after Labor Day. In the interim, we’re highlighting podcasts from our Spring 2010 season.

This podcast features an address by Dr. Randy L. Maddox, William Kellon Quick Professor of Theology and Methodist Studies at Duke Divinity School. In his presentation, he focuses on a widely quoted statement made by Methodist co-founder John Wesley in 1786:

I am not afraid that the people called Methodists should ever cease to exist either in Europe or America. But I am afraid lest they should only exist as a dead sect, having the form of religion without the power.

And this undoubtedly will be the case unless they hold fast…the doctrine, spirit, and discipline with which they first set out. (Thoughts Upon Methodism)

Dr. Randy L. Maddox

Dr. Maddox explores the meaning of “doctrine, spirit, and discipline” by quoting from other writings of John Wesley and hymns by Charles Wesley.

Randy Maddox is an ordained elder in the Dakotas Conference of the United Methodist Church, and he holds degrees from Northwest Nazarene College, Nazarene Theological Seminary, and Emory University. Before coming to Duke, he was Paul T. Walls chair of Wesleyan Theology at Seattle Pacific University.

Dr. Maddox is the author of Responsible Grace: John Wesley’s Practical Theology (1994) and the editor of Rethinking Wesley’s Theology for Contemporary Methodism (1998).

He is also the co-editor of The Cambridge Companion to John Wesley (2009), winner of the Wesleyan Theological Society’s 2010 Smith/Wynkoop Book Award.

The address on this podcast, edited for length, was presented at the 2008 conference of the Southeastern Jurisdiction of the UMC, held at Lake Junaluska, N.C.

To listen, use the audio player below (31 min.) — or right click (Windows users) to download an mp3 (14MB).


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 at the top of the right column.


Related information
The United Methodist Way: Living the Christian life in covenant with Christ and one another (PDF) | A paper developed by a group of UM scholars led by Randy Maddox (September 2007)
A missional future — the United Methodist Way | Taylor Burton-Edwards, UM Reporter (March 24, 2008)
Introduction to The Cambridge Companion to John Wesley (PDF) | Randy L. Maddox and Jason E. Vickers, Cambridge University Press (2009)
Be ye perfect? The evolution of John Wesley’s most contentious doctrine | Randy L. Maddox, Christian History (Jan. 1, 2001)
Papers by Dr. Randy L. Maddox (on Methodism, Wesley Studies, and Practical Theology) — scroll down and click “Publications” | Duke Divinity School

Read Full Post »

A prominent United Methodist layman has compiled a percentage breakdown of last year’s votes on 32 proposed amendments to the United Methodist Constitution, showing the areas of the church in which the various amendments were most strongly supported or rejected.

Although votes on the amendments took place at annual conference sessions in 2009, the totals weren’t ratified by the United Methodist Council of Bishops until two months ago. In all, only five of the 32 amendments won approval across the denomination.

Joe M. Whittemore

The breakdown, compiled by former North Georgia Conference lay leader Joe M. Whittemore, shows that opposition to the controversial “Worldwide Nature” amendments came largely from Africa and from the U.S.’s Southeastern Jurisdiction (SEJ). Those 23 amendments — all soundly defeated — would have restructured the UMC into a series of regional conferences, including a likely U.S. Conference.

“The two largest areas (SEJ and Africa, which have 53.4% of total membership)
voted overwhelmingly against a U.S. conference,” Mr. Whittemore wrote in a brief companion analysis released along with voting results breakdown.

The failure of the restructuring amendments was “a resounding defeat for the idea of having [a single] U.S. area,” Mr. Whittemore wrote. Currently, the U.S. is divided into five semi-autonomous jurisdictions that elect their own bishops.

“This should put to rest not only the idea of a consolidated U.S. area but also any thought of electing and assigning bishops at the U.S. area level,” he wrote.

The breakdown of the overall vote (see table below) shows that less than 3 percent of United Methodists in Africa supported the restructuring amendments. In the U.S.’s Southeastern Jurisdiction, those amendments received only 15 percent support.

Click to enlarge

The full text of all 32 amendments is here (PDF), showing the proposed deletions (stricken text) and additions (in bold/blue) to the UM Constitution. Because amendments relate to constitutional changes , a super-majority vote (at least 66.7 percent) is required for an amendment to be affirmed.

The idea of segregating the church into regional conferences (effectively “national churches” in some cases) received its strongest support from United Methodists in Europe, the Philippines, and the U.S.’s Western Jurisdiction. Together, these areas account for less than 6 percent of the total membership of the denomination.

Across the entire United Methodist Church, the restructuring amendments garnered only 39.5 percent support. “The negative vote on [these] amendments was confirmation of the lack of trust the annual conferences have in giving power to the general church establishment without the implications being clearly stated,” Mr. Whittemore wrote.

Opponents of the Worldwide Nature amendments had warned that the restructuring plan was ill-defined. They argued that passage of the amendments could empower a small, unrepresentative group to make significant changes in denominational structure and areas responsibility.

Europe, the Philippines, and the U.S.’s Western Jurisdiction were also the three areas of the church to give strongest support to Amendment I, an amendment dealing with eligibility requirements for membership in the local church.

Amendment I opponents had argued that its passage would restrict a pastor’s ability to offer spiritual oversight regarding an individual’s readiness to take membership vows.

That amendment, originally authored by a Texas-based group pushing for denominational approval of homosexuality, garnered 47.8 percent of the total vote, far short of the 66.7 percent required for approval.

Even though the 32 of the proposed amendments had won super-majority (i.e., at least two-thirds) approval from the 2008 General Conference, the larger church rejected the General Conference’s recommendation for all but five amendments.

“That 48,000 interested United Methodists could sift through 32 proposed amendments and affirm five positive actions is a confirmation in the combined wisdom of our process and people,” Mr. Whittemore wrote in his analysis. “It causes one to wonder how in tune [the] General Conference is with [the] pastors and laity of local churches.”

Joe M. Whittemore is a member of the 2008-2012 Connectional Table of the United Methodist Church. He has served in many capacities within the UMC, including as chair of the Southeastern Jurisdiction Committee on the Episcopacy and as a member of the Committee on Audit and Review of the General Council on Finance and Administration. Mr. Whittemore has been a delegate to multiple General Conferences.


Related posts

Bishop Scott Jones: Rethinking the path to a worldwide UMC
Riley Case: Approval of Amendment XIX a ‘positive development’ for evangelicals
Maxie Dunnam: Amendments outcome reflects ‘sense of the faithful’
Bill Bouknight: Methodists are saying ‘No’ to their leaders
North Georgia overwhelmingly disapproves restructuring amendments
Leaders in North Georgia, Holston urge defeat of re-structuring amendments
A ‘procedural’ argument against Amendment I
Ed Tomlinson: Proposed amendments would ‘decimate connectionalism’
Update on the ‘Church and Society’ court case
Joe Whittemore: ‘Enough is enough’

Related articles and information
Voting on 2008 Constitutional Amendments: Summary and observations (PDF) | Joe M. Whittemore (May 2010)
UM Bishops announce defeat of global church and open membership amendments | Connor Ewing, Institute on Religion and Democracy (May 12, 2010)
Study Committee responds to constitutional amendment rejections | Stephen Drachler, Committee to Study the Worldwide Nature of the United Methodist Church (May 11, 2010)
Study Committee begins shaping report; focuses on ordained ministry standards | Stephen Drachler, Committee to Study the Worldwide Nature of the United Methodist Church (April 30, 2010)
Confessing Movement speaks to Worldwide Nature Study Committee (PDF—see page 5) | Patricia Miller, We Confess newsletter (November/December 2009)
Presentation to the Study Committee on the Worldwide Nature of The United Methodist Church | Paul Stallsworth, Lifewatch (November 2009)
Letter to the Worldwide Nature Study Committee (PDF) | Karen Booth, Transforming Congregations (November 2009)
Which way to a Worldwide Church? (PDF) | Andrew Thompson, Gen-X Rising blog (May 31, 2009)
The worldwide Methodist movement | Eddie Fox, Interpreter Magazine (Web-only article—March 31, 2009)
New group will study church’s Worldwide Nature | Linda Green, United Methodist News Service (March 3, 2009)
African Power: How 192 delegates saved Methodists from madness & other stories from the General Conference | Mark Tooley, Touchstone (November 2008)

Read Full Post »

John Wesley, co-founder of the Methodist movement (along with his brother Charles), once wrote:

I am not afraid that the people called Methodists should ever cease to exist either in Europe or America. But I am afraid lest they should only exist as a dead sect, having the form of religion without the power.

And this undoubtedly will be the case unless they hold fast…the doctrine, spirit, and discipline with which they first set out. (Thoughts Upon Methodism, 1786)

Dr. Randy L. Maddox

This MethodistThinker Podcast, featuring an address by Dr. Randy L. Maddox, Professor of Theology and Wesleyan Studies at Duke Divinity School, focuses on what Wesley meant by those words.

Dr. Maddox explores Wesley’s reference to “doctrine, spirit, and discipline” by quoting from other writings of John Wesley and from several hymns by Charles Wesley.

An ordained elder in the Dakotas Conference of the United Methodist Church, Randy Maddox holds degrees from Northwest Nazarene College, Nazarene Theological Seminary, and Emory University. Before coming to Duke, Dr. Maddox was Paul T. Walls chair of Wesleyan Theology at Seattle Pacific University.

He is the author of Responsible Grace: John Wesley’s Practical Theology (1994) and the editor of Rethinking Wesley’s Theology for Contemporary Methodism (1998).

Dr. Maddox is also the co-editor of the recently released Cambridge Companion to John Wesley (2009), winner of the Wesleyan Theological Society’s 2010 Smith/Wynkoop Book Award.

The address on this podcast, edited for length, was presented at the 2008 conference of the Southeastern Jurisdiction of the UMC, held at Lake Junaluska, N.C.

To listen, use the audio player below (31 min.) — or right click (Windows users) to download an mp3 (14MB).


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 at the top of the right column.


Related information
The United Methodist Way: Living the Christian life in covenant with Christ and one another (PDF) | A paper developed by a group of UM scholars led by Randy Maddox (September 2007)
A missional future — the United Methodist Way | Taylor Burton-Edwards, UM Reporter (March 24, 2008)
Introduction to The Cambridge Companion to John Wesley (PDF) | Randy L. Maddox and Jason E. Vickers, Cambridge University Press (2009)
Be ye perfect? The evolution of John Wesley’s most contentious doctrine | Randy L. Maddox, Christian History (Jan. 1, 2001)
Papers by Dr. Randy L. Maddox (on Methodism, Wesley Studies, and Practical Theology) — scroll down and click “Publications” | Duke Divinity School

Read Full Post »

MethodistThinker.com is on hiatus from posting new material for several weeks. During this time, we are showcasing podcasts from the fall of 2009.

Last year marked the 60th anniversary of the Foundation for Evangelism, founded in 1949 by Dr. Harry Denman.

Dr. Harry Denman

Dr. Harry Denman

As young man in the 1920s, Harry Denman showed exceptional gifts in evangelism and administration — both in his service at the First Methodist Church of Birmingham, Alabama, and as a lay leader in the North Alabama Conference.

When The Methodist Church was formed in 1939 (through the merger of the Methodist Episcopal Church, the Methodist Protestant Church, and the Methodist Episcopal Church, South), Harry Denman was elected to lead the new denomination’s evangelism program.

A decade later, he launched the Foundation for Evangelism as a means of supporting the evangelism ministries of The Methodist Church. (Today, the Foundation’s work includes supporting professors of evangelism at United Methodist-related institutions, sponsoring the biennial Harry Denman Lectures at the UM Congress on Evangelism, and honoring outstanding efforts in local church evangelism through presentation of the Harry Denman Evangelism Award.)

Dr. Denman retired from the Foundation in 1965 but continued his ministry of lay preaching and personal witness. Billy Graham once said that he “never knew a man who encouraged more people in the field of evangelism than Harry Denman.”

Harry Denman’s “body” died (that is how he always described physical death) in 1976. He was 83.

This podcast features a sermon by Harry Denman that probably was recorded in the late 1960s. Listen using the audio player below (17:30) — or download an mp3 file (8.3 MB; on a PC, right click and choose “save as”).


To subscribe to the MethodistThinker Podcast, use the link near the top of the right column.


Related posts
Dr. Billy Abraham on United Methodism: ‘There is no common faith among us’ | Harry Denman Lecture at the 2009 Congress on Evangelism
Sir Alan Walker: ‘Christianity at the Crossroads’ | Harry Denman Lecture at the 1980 Congress on Evangelism

Related information
About the Foundation for Evangelism | Foundation for Evangelism
‘I Delight to Do Thy Will, O My God’ | A sermon by Harry Denman (audio), recorded at Lake Junaluska, N.C. (early 1960s) (posted on the Foundation for Evangelism web site)
‘Living and Believing’ | A sermon by Harry Denman (audio), recorded at Lake Junaluska, N.C. (August 1965) (posted on the Foundation for Evangelism web site)
‘A Lonely Place for Prayer’ | A sermon by Harry Denman (audio), recorded at Lake Junaluska, N.C. (August 1965) (posted on the Foundation for Evangelism web site)
Prophetic evangelist: Harry Denman | Ronnie G. Collins, ImageBearer’s Weblog (May 27, 2009)

Books about Harry Denman
Libraries that have Harry Denman: A Biography by Harold Rogers (Upper Room, 1977) | Where to buy a used copy
Libraries that have Prophetic Evangelist: The Living Legacy of Harry Denman (Upper Room, 1993) | Where to buy a used copy

Read Full Post »

This year marks the 60th anniversary of the Foundation for Evangelism, founded in 1949 by the featured speaker on this week’s MethodistThinker Podcast, Dr. Harry Denman.

Dr. Harry Denman

Dr. Harry Denman

As young man in the 1920s, Harry Denman showed exceptional gifts in evangelism and administration — both in his service at the First Methodist Church of Birmingham, Alabama, and as a lay leader in the North Alabama Conference.

When The Methodist Church was formed in 1939 (through the merger of the Methodist Episcopal Church, the Methodist Protestant Church, and the Methodist Episcopal Church, South), Harry Denman was elected to lead the new denomination’s evangelism program.

A decade later, he launched the Foundation for Evangelism as a means of supporting the evangelism ministries of The Methodist Church. (Today, the Foundation’s work includes supporting professors of evangelism at United Methodist-related institutions, sponsoring the biennial Harry Denman Lectures at the UM Congress on Evangelism, and honoring outstanding efforts in local church evangelism through presentation of the Harry Denman Evangelism Award.)

Dr. Denman retired from the Foundation in 1965 but continued his ministry of lay preaching and personal witness. Billy Graham once said that he “never knew a man who encouraged more people in the field of evangelism than Harry Denman.”

Harry Denman’s “body” died (that is how he always described physical death) in 1976. He was 83.

This podcast features a sermon by Harry Denman that probably was recorded in the late 1960s. Listen using the audio player below (17:30) — or download an mp3 file (8.3 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 this link to set up your feed: http://methodistthinker.com/category/podcasts/feed.


Related posts
Dr. Billy Abraham on United Methodism: ‘There is no common faith among us’ | Harry Denman Lecture at the 2009 Congress on Evangelism
Sir Alan Walker: ‘Christianity at the Crossroads’ | Harry Denman Lecture at the 1980 Congress on Evangelism

Related information
About the Foundation for Evangelism | Foundation for Evangelism
‘I Delight to Do Thy Will, O My God’ | A sermon by Harry Denman (audio), recorded at Lake Junaluska, N.C. (early 1960s) (posted on the Foundation for Evangelism web site)
‘Living and Believing’ | A sermon by Harry Denman (audio), recorded at Lake Junaluska, N.C. (August 1965) (posted on the Foundation for Evangelism web site)
‘A Lonely Place for Prayer’ | A sermon by Harry Denman (audio), recorded at Lake Junaluska, N.C. (August 1965) (posted on the Foundation for Evangelism web site)
Prophetic evangelist: Harry Denman | Ronnie G. Collins, ImageBearer’s Weblog (May 27, 2009)

Books about Harry Denman
Libraries that have Harry Denman: A Biography by Harold Rogers (Upper Room, 1977) | Where to buy a used copy
Libraries that have Prophetic Evangelist: The Living Legacy of Harry Denman (Upper Room, 1993) | Where to buy a used copy

Read Full Post »

South Georgia Bishop James King has a message for men in the Feb. 20 Wesleyan Christian Advocate, the newspaper of the North and South Georgia Conferences.

Professional economists suggest that the stock market has a way of correcting itself when things go to one extreme or the other. It appears that “correction” is a part of a divine design.

Bishop King (UMNS photo)

Bishop James King
(UMNS photo)

The need for correction is not new to Christians. The Bible exposes us to this reality from the very beginning.

When… discipline and restraint are abandoned, bad things begin to happen. If we spend what we do not have, it will eventually show. If we try to take shortcuts to success… it will come back to haunt us.

If we try to be the church without teaching and practicing the values of our faith, it will show in the lives of men and women who have lost their way….

Grace is how God provides us with new opportunities to correct ourselves and grow closer to God.

Men of God, there are too many men who have moved away from our Biblical and Wesleyan teachings. We have come to the inevitable: a season of correction….

Do not fight what is happening, for it is a good thing. We are returning to God.

Let us continue to grow in the grace God provides — as we travel on the road to holiness.

“Return to me,” declares the LORD Almighty, “and I will return to you.”
Zechariah 1:3

“They sought God eagerly, and he was found by them.”
2 Chronicles 15:15

Last August, Bishop James King was elected president of the General Commission on United Methodist Men, a national post.

He blogs at BishopKing.com.


Related posts
A profile of Bishop James King
Bishop Mike Watson: Spiritual disciplines for 2009
Rock Eagle 2008: ‘Living life as a son of God’
Bishop Mike Watson: ‘The Methodist Christian Way’
Maxie Dunnam: A pastor’s personal holiness

Related article
A surefire investment: How to pray in the midst of financial catastrophe | Philip Yancey, Christianity Today

Read Full Post »

During a Q-&-A session at  January’s UM Congress on Evangelism, Bishop Robert Schnase (Missouri Conference) noted that churches that engage in risk-taking mission must be willing to live with disappointment, failure, and uncertainty.

Bishop Schnase (Schnay’-zee) is the author of The Five Practices of Fruitful Congregations (Abingdon, 2007). One of those five practices is “risk-taking mission and service.”

Part of the “risk” of real mission and service is the uncertainty of whether it will make any difference at all. I can’t tell you how many times we go to great lengths…  to provide scholarships for people who then drop out.

bishop-schanse-3

Bishop Robert Schnase

Or we build a home after a flood, just to see the home wiped away the next year by the next flood.

Or we put ourselves on the line to work with somebody who’s on parole… to try to give this person some network of support and a better chance, and it goes well — until they walk off with the computer.

Or we work with somebody who’s dealing with alcohol and drugs… and they’re making it… and then we get that call in the middle of the night that [tells us] we’ve got to start all over again.

That’s part of the risk of risk-taking mission and service.

And that is as biblical as you can get. It’s like the sower sowing seeds. There’s rocky ground, there [are] the birds that come and eat is all, there’s the hard soil — there’s all of that. But the promise of that parable is that, by the grace of God, a harvest comes forth a hundredfold….

Part of the “risk” is that this doesn’t work a lot of times, or that the difference [we make] is something that we don’t see. We don’t know. We can’t see the results sometimes. But… out of obedience to Christ, we’ve got to try. And we’ve just got to keep doing it.

Use the audio player below to listen to a two-minute excerpt of Bishop Robert Schnase, recorded at the 2009 UM Congress on Evangelism in Nashville, Tenn.


The audio above is courtesy of the GNTV Media Ministry. (You can purchase Bishop Schnase’s entire session on “Risk-Taking Mission and Service” here, labeled “Wednesday Workshop #3.”)

Cokesbury offers a free discussion guide (PDF) to accompany the Five Practices book.

Bishop Schnase’s Five Practices Blog is here.

The Congress on Evangelism is presented each January by the Council on Evangelism and the General Board of Discipleship, with support from The Foundation for Evangelism.

In addition to Bishop Schnase, this year’s speakers and workshop leaders included:

  • Tyrone Gordon of St. Luke Community United Methodist Church in Dallas, Tex.;

Related posts
Bishop Robert Schnase on ‘The Five Practices’
Billy Abraham on United Methodism: ‘There is no common faith among us’

Related article
Leading in the Wesleyan Way: Congress on Evangelism inspires laity, clergy | Amy Forbus, UMR Communications

Read Full Post »

Speaking earlier this month at the United Methodist Congress on Evangelism, Dr. William J. (Billy) Abraham said the seeds of United Methodism’s 40-year decline were sown inadvertently by one of the “founding fathers” of the denomination, the late Albert C. Outler. (Outler chaired the Theological Study Commission appointed  by the General Conference when the United Methodist Church was formed 1968.)

In the first of three Denman Lectures at the evangelism gathering, Dr. Abraham, who is the Albert Cook Outler Professor of Wesley Studies at the SMU’s Perkins School of Theology, praised Outler for his strong scholarship, deep commitment to Christ, and remarkable rhetorical skills.

But Dr. Abraham said it’s time to face the “painful” reality that the culturally driven, “anti-supernatural,” and “high-brow” ethos that Outler helped create in the United Methodist Church has hindered the effectiveness of the UMC in making disciples of Jesus Christ.

Below is a partial transcript of Dr. Billy Abraham’s remarks, followed by a 10-minute audio excerpt.

[I]t’s now time to get past… the appropriate praise [of Albert Outler] and to start coming to terms with the stark reality that lies at the core of Outler’s work, and the work of United Methodism insofar as it embodies Outler’s proposals…. The form of Methodism that was constructed under Outler’s tutelage and watch — it is that form that has suffered drastic decline over the last 40 years….

Dr. Billy Abraham

Dr. Billy Abraham at the 2009 Congress on Evangelism

Now, I’m not going to give you the catalogue of all the difficulties I see in Outler’s position. I think there are many problems in his position. I don’t think he take nearly seriously enough the radical offense of the gospel…. I don’t think that he took sin sufficiently seriously…. That’s two of a number of items… [but] I want to focus in on two criticisms.

First, Outler’s proposals concerning the practice of evangelism are much more rhetorical than they are substantial…. [They fail to] deal head on with the pivotal need to bring the gospel to the world, and then proceed to make — and not just nurture — disciples. Thus, Outler limits evangelism to proclamation or witness, and he sets his face against the critical need for initiation into a robust version of Christianity….

Now, secondly, I think that the fundamental methodology [of Outler's evangelism model] is superficially attractive but ultimately disastrous for the theory and practice of evangelism.

[His strategy] was simple: develop a vision of the core of Christianity, then express that within the conceptual and intellectual norms of the host culture.

We did that in the modern period, and we’re about to that in the post-modern period. We’re now in the throes, in fact, of a fresh application of that strategy — and I’m going to watch with a very close eye as to how that works itself out over the next 20 years. Now, I think the Emergent movement… [is] very important…. But pay attention. We could end up 20 to 30 years from now in fact “giving away the store” because we make post-modernity the intellectual norms into which we’re going to translate the faith — and we will discover, in fact, that this has been a case of death by our own hand….

There are two separate issues that need to be faced in evangelism…. First, there’s the issue of how we justify the core truth claims of Christianity in the face of concerted incredulity, if not outright hostility. The other issue is the radically different problem of how we connect the claims that we advance and the practices we advance with the culture we currently inhabit. These [two issues] are quite different.

Now, to be quite frank about this, Outler gave up on that first enterprise. He did not have in his day… the resources to deal with the massive intellectual attack on Christianity that was launched by David Hume, by Kant, by Nietzsche, by Freud, by Marx, by Russell, by Ayer, and by Anthony Flew….

outler

Illustration of Albert Outler
by Bruce Sayre

What Outler did was collapse these [two issues of evangelism into one] by insisting that we translate the faith into “the language of the university common room, the couch, and the country club.” This was precisely what he did when he turned to process philosophy and to psychotherapy. These represented the high-brow intellectual culture which Outler inhabited….

This strategy… is a recipe for decline and death. It offers a woolly “Christianization” of contemporary high-brow cultural commitments in the name of faith. And we can be sure that the contemporary norms of thought will swallow up and devour the content of the faith….

I don’t care whether you call it modernity or whether you call it post-modernity… if we simply take [cultural forms] as the norms that are going to guide our reception of the Christian faith over the next 30 years, then we’ll have even less in the “hard drive” of United Methodism than we currently have.

What [we need in] evangelism is… a deep re-appropriation of the faith that is intellectually serious, that is sensitive to situation in which we find ourselves, and that is going to reinstate the actual deep traditional practices of evangelism, involving… the communication of the faith by laity and clergy and initial catechesis and formation which will enable people to survive in the world in which they’ve got to live….

[The gospel] is the radical news of…the arrival of heaven on earth. It is the arrival of the Kingdom of God in and through Jesus Christ, in his death, in his life, and in his resurrection. And if we don’t have that at the core, we are dead in the water…. [I]f we stick simply to the modern and post-modern world, [our evangelism] cannot be rooted and grounded in special revelation as enshrined in the [historic] faith of the Church. And the purpose of that revelation is to really disclose the truth about God….

coe09The whole point of revelation is to reveal. And if we do not know who our God is — and are able to defend that — then we are not going to have the gospel itself. I think that the overall outcome of the Outler strategy across 40 years can be stated simply: the Church becomes an endless seminar in search of elusive and ultimately unattainable truth — rather than the carrier of the rich and salutary “faith once delivered to the saints.”

United Methodist scholars and leaders have given up on any serious intellectual defense of the faith, opting instead for the quest for the culturally relative translation that will somehow take us through to another generation….

Any effort to develop a concentrated church-wide united practice of evangelism is doomed to failure because in fact there is no common faith among us. Any proposal to this end will be evaluated not — please hear me gently here — any proposal will be evaluated not in terms of the gospel of Jesus Christ, but in terms of the gospel as perceived in our current social, intellectual, and political location.

And Jesus will simply become cipher for our own passions and desires.

Use the audio player below to listen to a 10-minute excerpt of Dr. Abraham’s remarks, recorded at the 2009 UM Congress on Evangelism in Nashville, Tenn. (Audio is courtesy of the GNTV Media Ministry. You can purchase the full address here.)


William J. Abraham is the author of Wesley for Armchair Theologians (Westminster John Knox Press, 2005) and Crossing the Threshold of Divine Revelation (Eerdmans, 2006). He served as co-editor of the forthcoming Oxford Handbook of Methodist Studies (2009).

The Congress on Evangelism is presented each January by the Council on Evangelism and the UM General Board of Discipleship, with support from The Foundation for Evangelism.

The Foundation for Evangelism, organized in 1949 by Harry Denman, celebrates its 60th anniversary January 31.


Related posts
Bishop Robert Schnase on ‘The Five Practices’
Astonishing preaching
New research: What Americans really believe
‘Refocused on our divinely appointed mission’
Bishop Lindsey Davis: ‘The gospel in an age of skepticism’

Related articles
Methodist philosopher Billy Abraham examines United Methodism’s decline | Mark Tooley, UMAction (Jan. 8, 2009)
Leading in the Wesleyan Way: Congress on Evangelism inspires laity, clergy | Amy Forbus, UMR Communications (Jan. 23, 2009)
United Methodists at the End of the Mainline | William J. Abraham, First Things (June/July 1998) (via Leadership U)

Read Full Post »

New membership vows for the United Methodist Church took effect on Jan. 1, 2009. Formerly, incoming members pledged “to be loyal to the United Methodist Church” and “to faithfully participate in its ministries by their prayers, their presence, their gifts, and their service.”

Now, new members will pledge loyalty “to Christ through the United Methodist Church.” And to the list of “prayers, presence, gifts, and service,” one more word has been added: “witness.”

Lyn Powell, former president of the Southeastern Jurisdiction Association of Annual Conference Lay Leaders, explained how these changes came about in a recent column in the Wesleyan Christian Advocate, the newspaper of the North and South Georgia Conferences.

Witness? Who submitted the petition to add “witness” to the vows? I am happy to share with you that it came from the Association of Annual Conference Lay Leaders at their 2006 spring meeting in Minneapolis.

Forty of the 50 conference lay leaders were in the room when we experienced an epiphany of sorts — first acknowledging the decline of the UMC in the U.S., then naming the role of the laity in the decline, and finally covenanting to do something about it as lay leaders of our conferences.

ppgswIn that meeting, we agreed that the biggest shift in the profile of the laity over the last 60 years came with our disengagement from appropriate, effective witness in the community.

Our early faith communities built strong churches by understanding that every baptized member is a minister. Every baptized member is charged with the responsibility of sharing the joy found in the household of faith with persons outside the faith.

Unfortunately, as the denomination matured the laity gradually withdrew from that understanding of themselves as ministers of witness, and unfairly began to give that responsibility to one individual: the pastor.

As the witness efforts of whole congregations declined, so began the decline of the denomination.

Of course, witness in today’s community will have a different look from that of times past. Our Association hopes that with the addition of “witness” to the membership vows, our congregations will begin to examine what effective witness might look like in their own communities.

What efforts would be winsome to their friends, relatives and even to strangers? And, just as importantly, what efforts would be counterproductive — even if they “feel good” to us insiders?

Our Association is convinced that as our congregations identify, teach, and practice modern effective witness, future generations may identify this addition to the [membership vows and baptismal covenants] as one of the most significant actions of the 2008 General Conference.

One additional note: As our Organization presented the “witness” legislation to the General Board of Discipleship to pass on to the General Conference, a Board member suggested a second change… which we supported and subsequently was passed. The [former] vows ask the incoming member “…will you be loyal to the United Methodist Church…”

[Now,] the incoming member shall be asked, “Will you be loyal to Christ through the United Methodist Church…”

During the affirmation of this addition, all of us agreed that our first loyalty is to Christ, and that living out that loyalty through the United Methodist Church is a great joy and unparalleled privilege.

The change in membership vows (¶217.5 and ¶217.6 in the UM Book of Discipline) also affects Baptismal Covenant rituals I, II, and IV in the United Methodist Hymnal (specifics here—PDF). (NOTE: Baptismal Covenant III was discontinued in 2004 as a result of previous changes in the Discipline.)

Lyn Powell

Lyn Powell

Lyn Powell, former lay leader of the North Georgia Conference, delivered the 2008 Laity Address, “Disciples Transforming the World,” at last year’s General Conference in Fort Worth, Texas.

Use the audio player below to listen to streaming audio of her address (31 min.), or download an mp3. (Full text in PDF here | streaming video excerpt here.)



Related posts
Bishop Robert Schnase on ‘The Five Practices’
For the pastor on your Christmas gift list
Helping people become givers

Read Full Post »

MethodistThinker.com is presenting a retrospective on Bishop Lindsey Davis 12 years as the leader of the North Georgia Conference, now the largest U.S. conference in the United Methodist Church. His tenure in North Georgia ends later this month.

On June 16, 2004, speaking at the annual luncheon sponsored by the Conference Board of Laity (PDF), Bishop Davis reflected on the continuing work of renewal in the North Georgia Conference, much of it led by lay people.

Eight years ago, I told you that our church was in need of renewal, and I invited you to join me on a journey of faith. You’ve been there by my side all the way. And, occasionally, you’ve even be out in front of me, leading the way….

The lay leadership of the North Georgia Conference is extraordinary. Those of you in this room represent the best our church has to offer to a spiritually hungry world.

With your leadership, the North Georgia Conference has grown by 51,347 persons in the last eight years. That’s an 18 percent increase in church membership.

Bishop Davis also noted that North Georgia’s laity had helped the Conference launch “new mission efforts all over the world,” including bringing the Disciple Bible study to Russia, offering refugee assistance in Iraq and Afghanistan, building a school in Honduras, and re-constructing a church building in Estonia that, years earlier, had been shut down and desecrated by Soviet troops.

In concluding his remarks, the bishop said lay people must help the United Methodist Church steer a course based on biblical fidelity and theological soundness.

Many challenges stand before us — none, in my opinion, more important than for us to teach and preach in these days to come with theological clarity.

We must support and proclaim, in my view, the classical, orthodox doctrines of our faith — what St. Jude said “was once and for all delivered to the saints.”

We live in a culture of disbelief; we live in culture of bizarre beliefs.

The United Methodist Church must not be timid. We must be loving, and compassionate, and respectful of all persons — but we must also, I think, reemphasize the great verities our faith, which [have] sustained the saints down through the ages.

It is this apostolic faith which will empower, shape, and guide us in the future.

And we cannot be faithful to this task without the ministry of a fully engaged laity. I believe that 99 percent of the vision that God has for this Annual Conference rests in the hearts of the laity.

As a pastor, over and over again, the really important things that we did in our church did not originate in my heart or my mind, but in the hearts and minds of the lay people who were there as a part of the congregation. I believe the same is true for this Annual Conference. And that’s why a fully engaged laity is so very important.

So we look to the future with hope and optimism and excitement. Let us hold on to God’s vision, and let us also hold on to one another, in these days to come. God bless you all.

Streaming audio of his full address is below (13 min.) — or download the mp3 file (3MB).



Related posts
Bishop Lindsey Davis: ‘The gospel in an age of skepticism’
Conversations with Bishop Lindsey Davis
Bishop Lindsey Davis: ‘The primary task of the Church’
An interview with Bishop Lindsey Davis
Bishop Lindsey Davis: ‘Whatever it takes to reach the lost’
Bishop Lindsey Davis: The Church in time of war
Bishop Lindsey Davis: A vision for the future
Bishop Lindsey Davis speaks to the Confessing Movement
Bishop Lindsey Davis on the role of a bishop

Read Full Post »

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 86 other followers