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In December 1964, Southern Christian Leadership Conference president Martin Luther King Jr. addressed a gathering of the Methodist Student Movement in Lincoln, Neb.

Speaking about the “Christian responsibility” to affirm that racial segregation “is morally wrong and sinful,” King described nonviolence as “the most potent weapon available to oppressed people in their struggle for freedom and human dignity.”

The SCLC president also declared that the “God that we worship is not some Aristotelian ‘unmoved mover’ [but] an other-loving God working through history for the salvation of his children.”

Excerpts from King’s address are below, followed by a portion of the audio.

It is always a rich and rewarding experience for me to take a brief break from the day-to-day demands of our struggle for freedom and human dignity and discuss the issues involved in that struggle with college and university students and concerned people of goodwill….

Martin Luther King Jr. ini 1964

Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. in 1964

And by and through the grace of God and continued work we will be able, I’m sure, to solve this great problem which is the chief moral dilemma of our nation….

[W]e have a Christian responsibility — in this racial crisis, in this revolution — to reaffirm the essential immorality of racial segregation….

[W]e, as Christians, must come to see not only the unconstitutionality of segregation, but we must reaffirm over and over again that racial segregation is sinful and immoral, whether it’s in the public schools, whether it’s in housing, whether it is in the Christian church, or any other area of life. Segregation is morally wrong and sinful….

Christian responsibility means that it is necessary to engage in creative and massive action programs to get rid of segregation and discrimination in our nation, and racial injustice wherever it exists in the world…..

[C]ertainly some strides have been made that make us all very happy — you’ve done things in the Methodist church that are most significant in this area, and we’re all inspired by it.

I just talked with my good friend Bishop [James] Thomas, who has just been appointed to serve in an area where a Negro Bishop has never served, and most of the congregations that fall under his jurisdiction happen to be white congregations. This happens to be a marvelous step forward, and it is always great to see the Church moving on to remove the shackles of segregation from its own body….

[I]t is my hope that we will move on to get rid of segregation in all of its dimensions within the Church. That not only means the Church itself, but church institutions such as hospitals, such as colleges and universities….

♦ ♦ ♦

I would like to say just a few words about the philosophy and the method of nonviolence, since it has been so basic in our struggle across these years….

I’m still convinced that nonviolence is the most potent weapon available to oppressed people in their struggle for freedom and human dignity…. This way of nonviolence has a way of disarming the opponent. It exposes his moral defenses. It weakens his morale and at the same time it works on his conscience and he does not know how to handle it….

[I]f he puts you in jail, you go in that jail and transform it from a dungeon of shame to a haven of freedom and human dignity. Even if he tries to kill you, you develop the inner conviction that there are some things so dear, some things so precious, some things so eternally true, that they’re worth dying for; and if a man has not discovered something that he would die for, he isn’t fit to live. And this is what the nonviolent movement does.

So, there is power in this way because it has a way of disarming the opponent. But not only this: It gives individuals engaged in a struggle a way of seeking to secure moral ends through moral means….

mlk_smileAnother thing about this philosophy is that it insists that it is possible to struggle against an unjust and evil system and yet maintain an attitude of active goodwill for the perpetrators of that unjust system.

In points, this is the most misunderstood aspect of nonviolence when one seeks to live it as a creed and not merely use it as a strategy. It says that you somehow place the love ethic at the center of your struggle.

People begin to say what do you mean? How can you love those who are oppressing you? How can you love those who are using violence to destroy ever move you make?…

Fortunately, the Greek language comes to our aid in trying to determine the meaning of love at this point…. [It speaks of agape love.] Agape is understanding, creative, redemptive goodwill for all men. It is an overflowing love which seeks nothing in return.

Theologians would say that it is the love of God operating in the human heart. And so when one rises to love on this level, he loves every man, not because he likes him, not because his ways appeal to him, but he loves every man because God loves him, and he rises to the level of loving the person who does an evil deed while hating the deed that the person does….

And I believe that it is this kind of love that can take us through this period of transition and we can come to that brighter day….

The thing that must always console us is that as we struggle, we do not struggle alone. And there is something in our Christian faith to remind us of this: The God that we worship is not some Aristotelian “unmoved mover” who merely contemplates upon Himself. He’s not merely a self-knowing God, but He’s an other-loving God working through history for the salvation of His children.

And there is an event at the center of our faith which reminds us that Good Friday may occupy the throne for a day, but ultimately it must give way to the triumphant beat of the drums of Easter. There is something in our faith which reminds us that evil may so shape events that Caesar will occupy the palace and Christ the cross, but one day that same Christ will rise up and split history into A.D. and B.C., so that even the life of Caesar must be dated by His name.

There is something in this universe which justifies [Thomas] Carlyle in saying, “no lie can live forever.” There is something in this universe which justifies William Cullen Bryant in saying, “Truth, crushed to earth, [will] rise again.”

There is something in the very structure of the cosmos which justifies James Russell Lowell in saying,

Truth forever on the scaffold,
Wrong forever on the throne,—
Yet that scaffold sways the future,
and, behind the dim unknown,
Standeth God within the shadow,
keeping watch above his own.

This is our faith, and this is what will carry us through.

Use the audio player below (or click here) to listen to excerpts from Martin Luther King Jr.’s 1964 address to the Methodist Student Movement (9 minutes).



umsm

The entire text and full audio of King’s address can be found at AmericanRhetoric.com.

According to an article in the Fall 1995 Journal of Ecumenical Studies, the Methodist Student Movement was organized in 1937 and continued until 1965.

The organization was reconstituted — as the United Methodist Student Movement — in 1996.

This post was first published in January 2009.

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

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

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

In 2009 Boston School of Theology received $863,235 from the Ministerial Education Fund (MEF). For this investment a grand total of seven students in 2008 received United Methodist ordination at the cost of $123,319 per student.

The School of Theology at Claremont did a bit better; 10 students from Claremont were in the newly ordained elders and deacons 2008 class in the various conferences. The church’s investment per Claremont ordained student totaled $84,967.

(Claremont, of course, has declared itself to be a multi-faith seminary and has indicated that it is not in the business of trying to convert persons from other religions to Christianity.)

This situation with the Ministerial Education Fund funds points to what many of us consider a serious problem in the church: namely, the seminaries (and the colleges).

The church is presently excited about the Call to Action Report (PDF) that speaks of widespread church reforms to address decades-long membership losses. Based on two independent studies (here and here — PDF) and adopted unanimously by the Council of Bishops, the report calls for the building of vital congregations, the consolidating and eliminating of church agencies, the reforming of clergy leadership development, and for holding bishops accountable for church vitality.

However, the report and the studies preceding the report say nothing about United Methodist seminaries or the way the present seminary situation addresses the need for clergy leadership development.

Part of the problem is that the seminaries (and the colleges) are basically independent entities that go their own ways quite apart from the stated mission of the United Methodist Church, which is to make disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world (UM Book of Discipline ¶120).


A bit of background

At Methodism’s organizing conference in 1784, preachers were advised never to let study interfere with soul-saving: “If you can do but one let your studies alone. We would throw by all the libraries of the world rather than be guilty of the loss of one soul” (Discipline of 1784).

John Wesley himself was highly educated and valued education, but he understood that there is not a direct link between educated clergy and church vitality.

Between 1780 and 1829, during the period of Methodism’s most rapid growth, 40 colleges and universities were founded in the United States, mostly by Presbyterians, Episcopalians, and Congregationalists. Few were Methodist.

While Presbyterians and Congregationalists were steeping themselves in classical studies so that they could serve the cultured elite of the nation, Methodist preachers were organizing camp meetings, preaching revivals, and winning the hearts of the masses.

The Methodist message that all could be saved (i.e., unlimited atonement), that each person had value, and that — in God’s sight — the experience of the heart was more to be desired than the trained mind, made it attractive to all people, rich and poor, black and white, sophisticated and unsophisticated. Methodism was a “bottom-up” religion rather than a “top-down” religion ruled by mediating elites.

In 1832 Congregational seminaries enrolled 234 students, Presbyterians seminaries 257, Episcopalians 47, Baptists 107, and Methodists none. The first Methodist seminary opened in 1847.

By 1859 the other denominations enrolled more than 1,200 students to the Methodists’ 51. Yet Methodism, in its several bodies, claimed the allegiance of one-third of all the religious adherents in America.

In the last half of the 19th century Methodism began to establish colleges and seminaries with abandon. These were not the cause but the result of Methodism’s evangelistic success.

As Methodism grew more sophisticated, Methodists became more and more enamored with education. Education was thought to be the new means by which the world could be civilized and thus Christianized.

While many of these newly minted educational institutions sought a close relationship with the church, many others were increasingly drawn into the values of an increasingly secularized society that worshipped at the altars of academic freedom, new knowledge, and the scientific method.

The coming kingdom began to look more and more like a secular utopia and less and less like the biblical millennium. Creedalism, sectarianism, and all forms of “dogmatism” were to be resisted on the way to this earthly kingdom. Educational institutions began to believe that they were the change agents and that the church existed to serve them, not they the church.


The 20th century

In 1901 Bishop Warren A. Candler, a Methodist bishop on the Vanderbilt University board, presented a resolution that that the university should give preference to hiring Methodists, all other things being equal. The school reacted by disaffiliating itself from the M.E. Church South.

In 1908 the General Conference of the Methodist Episcopal Church, under the influence of its educational institutions, passed legislation removing bishops (who were instructed by the Discipline to guard the faith) from the responsibility of guarding the faith in regard to university or seminary teaching, thus effectively removing the church from intervening in university or seminary affairs.

From this point on, seminaries and colleges would be free from all church constraints. Religious tests for teaching were discarded. The only “heresy” the church now allowed was the belief that heresy could exist.

By 1925 (according to a study done by Ministers’ Monthly), of 91 seminaries in the U.S., only 33 seminaries identified themselves as “orthodox” in orientation. None of these was Methodist (four United Brethren and Evangelical Association seminaries claimed to be “orthodox”).

“Fundamentalism” (which in the modernist mind included all forms of evangelicalism) was pronounced as dead. Modernism was considered the wave of the future for Methodist schools and for the future of the church.

Fortunately, nearly 60% of the ministerial students at the time (of both the North and South Methodist churches) were trained through the Course of Study and weren’t required to attend seminary. These were the pastors who did the work in the trenches and helped to keep some kind of theological balance in the church.

By the 1960s and 70s, ministerial candidates who wanted full ordination were required to be seminary graduates. But the seminaries, at least the mainline seminaries, wanting to be sensitive to all the cultural shifts, were missing what was really happening in the Christian world.

Theological modernism and its successors were spiritually bankrupt. The evangelical renaissance was taking place. Pentecostalism was breaking out worldwide. And, not least of all, many theological students preferred to attend growing and thriving evangelical seminaries. The mainline seminaries, wanting to be relevant, were becoming irrelevant.

Source: UMCgiving.org

This would mark the beginning of United Methodism’s 43-year decline — a decline which must be placed, in part, at the feet of the official church seminaries.

The seminaries (and their friends) never admitted to their own complicity in the church’s problems. Their enrollment declines and financial problems were not of their own making. What they needed was more money.

And so, in 1968, the General Conference established the Ministerial Education Fund (MEF) — effectively a “bail out” fund that began being apportioned to the annual conferences in 1970 as one of the church’s general funds.

In recent times this fund has channeled $15 million a year to the general budgets of the seminaries with no strings attached so that the seminaries might continue to do all the things they had always done in the way they had always done them.

There is no indication that the millions of dollars that have been poured into seminaries since 1970 have in any significant way increased the quality of seminary education.

To be sure, there are hopeful signs in UM seminary education, but despite these signs the question remains: If the United Methodist Church is genuinely interested in renewal and reform, what shall be done with the seminaries?


Correction:
An earlier version of this article stated that the Ministerial Education Fund was created in 1972. The MEF was authorized by the 1968 General Conference and became an official apportionment item in 1970.


Related posts
Riley Case: ‘Operational Assessment’ shows UMC has lost its way
United Methodist Judicial Council convenes for fall session
Renewal & Reform Coalition releases letter to Council of Bishops
Riley Case: The future of the United Methodist Church is at stake
Riley Case: Approval of Amendment XIX a ‘positive development’ for evangelicals
Podcast: Randy Maddox on Methodist ‘doctrine, spirit, discipline’
Podcast: Dr. James Heidinger on ‘United Methodist Renewal’

Related articles and information
Why Methodist seminaries are becoming irrelevant and dying | Riley B. Case, Confessing Movement Within the United Methodist Church (July 2009 — via Methodist Examiner)
The Ministerial Education Fund (PDF) | UM General Council and Finance and Administration, Financial Commitment of The United Methodist Church 2009-2012
Call to Action: Reordering the Life of the Church | Website of the UMC’s Call to Action Steering Committee
The complete “Operational Assessment” report (PDF) and Appendices (PDF) | Call to Action Steering Committee (June 29, 2010)
Leaning into the Future: President’s address to the Council of Bishops | Bishop Larry Goodpaster (Nov. 2, 2010)
Momentum builds for major church change | Bishop John L. Hopkins, United Methodist News Service (April 12, 2010)
Church leaders seek consensus on plans for change | Kathy L. Gilbert, United Methodist News Service (Nov. 12, 2009)
Connectional Table OKs new plan to study church | J. Richard Peck, United Methodist News Service (Nov. 9, 2009)
Bishop Palmer says church is in ‘sweet spot’ for change | Kathy L. Gilbert, United Methodist News Service (May 14, 2009)
Methodism’s coming death spiral | Donald Sensing, WindsOfChange.net (Nov. 15, 2007)
40 years of vision for United Methodist Renewal (PDF) | James V. Heidinger II, Good News (November/December 2007)
From the margin to the mainstream: United Methodism’s renewal movement (PDF) | Riley B. Case, Good News (November/December 2007)
Seminaries in crisis | Geoffrey Wainwright, Good News (September/October 1995)
Confessions of a grieving seminary professor | Thomas C. Oden, Good News (January/February 1994)

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

Dr. Riley B. Case

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Call to Action
Steering Team

Jorge Acevedo
Lead Pastor
Grace UMC
Cape Coral, Fla.

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

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

Judy Benson
Conference Lay Leader
Oklahoma Conference
Frederick, Okla.

Ben Boruff
Member of the Connectional Table
Indianapolis, Ind.

Judy Chung
Pastor
Placentia UMC
Placentia, Calif.

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

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

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

John Innis
Bishop — Liberia Area
Monrovia Liberia, West Africa

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

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

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

Gregory Palmer
Bishop — Illinois Area
Springfield, Ill.

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

Rosemarie Wenner
Bishop — Germany Area
Frankfurt Germany

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

Read Full Post »

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 many years as a pastor and district superintendent in the UMC’s North Indiana Conference (now the Indiana Conference). He has been a delegate to five UM General Conferences. (Links below have been added by MethodistThinker.com.) — Ed.


I was speaking with a fellow pastor several years ago and inquired whether he and his church might be interested in Good News magazine. He replied “no” because people in his congregation were upset enough with the denomination as it was without hearing more stuff.

He went on to explain that the denominational papers were bad enough even with their institutional spin. If his people got the real news they would be tempted to “jump ship.”

In this pastor’s mind it was better to keep the people in the dark than that they should be informed about what the church was really doing. I thought of that conversation several weeks ago when the following stories broke:

1) Southern California’s Claremont School of Theology.

This UM seminary is now “multi-faith” — meaning they are bringing on board Muslim professors to train Muslim imams (clergy) and Jewish professors to train rabbis. Soon they will train Hindus and Buddhists.

Claremont president Jerry D. Campbell

United Methodist apportionment monies support this endeavor to the tune of about $1 million a year.

In a world of great poverty, in a world crying out for preachers to proclaim the unsearchable riches of Jesus Christ, in a denomination short of funds, our tithes and offerings are being used to promote the idea that all religions are various roads to the same god.

The president of the Claremont School of Theology, Dr. Jerry D. Campbell, told the United Methodist Reporter that Christians who seek to evangelize persons of other faiths to accept Jesus Christ have “an incorrect perception of what it means to follow Jesus.”

2) ‘Sex and the Church: An Ordained Single Woman and the [Book of] Discipline.’

This article, part of a series on human sexuality appearing in the Faith in Action electronic newsletter sponsored by the UM General Board of Church and Society (GBCS), essentially argues that the church’s standard on sexuality — “celibacy in singleness and faithfulness in marriage” — needs to be changed.

Sexual intercourse outside of marriage can be loving and fulfilling and should not be considered sinful, even for clergy. (In August, 2009, a Unitarian minister was given space by GBCS to make a somewhat similar argument.)

Other articles in the series have argued that abstinence programs don’t work, abortion is OK, and teenagers need to be instructed in maturity for the timing of sexual encounters.

Missing are any articles written from the perspective of the traditional and Biblical view of marriage and human sexuality.

Missing too for the last 38 years (since 1972 when the board was founded) are any articles or statements in defense of the Biblical (and United Methodist) stance that “the practice of homosexuality [is] incompatible with Christian teaching” (¶161F, The Book of Discipline—2008).

3) The church’s support and lobbying for a partisan health-care plan that narrowly passed the U.S. Congress.

When House Speaker Nancy Pelosi publicly thanked the UMC for advocating for a plan that had only one-party support, it took many United Methodists by surprise. How did we get lined up on only one side of a partisan issue? Those who have been around the inside workings of the church were not so surprised.

Spkr. Pelosi at Glide UMC—San Francisco

It used to be different. Many years ago the church’s moral and social stances came from the people. There were no general agencies to pontificate that the use of alcohol was sin or the slavery was against the will of God. These views grew out of the convictions of the people responding to Biblical preaching.

Today social stances are decreed from the top down. General agencies, such as the General Board of Church and Society, are staffed by some of the most liberal persons in the denomination. These persons write General Conference legislation out of their own biases. This legislation is pushed through the General Conference, often without debate, and placed in the 1084-page Book of Resolutions.

Then the same staff members who wrote the legislation quote the Book of Resolutions, “represent” the “church’s stand” on numbers of controversial issues, and argue before lawmakers that this is the considered United Methodist position. Obviously, the system is flawed.

Perhaps as never before there is a fundamental divide between the corporate leadership of the United Methodist Church and its people. In addition, the corporate leadership is either unwilling or unable to recognize the seriousness of this problem and relate it to the membership and financial crisis presently facing the church.

The Claremont situation should be considered as exhibit #1 illustrating our problems.

That a denomination that claims to proclaim Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior (Book of Discipline ¶121), that speaks of its mission as “making disciples of Jesus Christ” (¶120), that operates with doctrinal standards in the Wesleyan tradition, that historically has been in large part responsible for defining the word “evangelical” in American church life — that such a denomination should continue to pour money into an institution that operates with a philosophy that undermines all that United Methodism has been about is indefensible.

Claremont-provided photo (via UMNS)

Claremont operates without regard to United Methodist history and doctrine. It has declared itself to be going in a different direction from the church. This is fine, but this means there should be disaffiliation.

Let the school raise money from sources in the Middle East (as it has spoken of doing). But why should bishops urge local churches to cut back staff and program to “pay apportionments” when those apportionments are used as “bail out” money to prop up sick seminaries.

Furthermore, MEF (Ministerial Education Fund) monies should support students (who now graduate with huge debts), not institutions. If the fund supports seminaries, it should support seminaries overseas where the UMC is growing and not be restricted only to seminaries in the U.S.

Are these matters even being debated? The Council of Bishops is quiet; the General Board of Higher Education and the Ministry is quiet; the other UM seminaries are hesitant to criticize another seminary lest they too should come under criticism.

Is there hope? At the moment the only hope seems to be the Call to Action Steering Team, which will be making recommendations with the goal of reforming and renewing the UMC.

The church is investing a great deal of energy and trust in this committee. Will the committee rise to the challenge? Will the Connectional Table and the Council of Bishops be willing to support any of the controversial recommendations? Or will the corporate culture, which is invested in institutions and in a defective church structure that simply is not working, be too much to overcome?

The future of the United Methodist Church is at stake.

evangelical-and-methodistIn addition to his role as associate executive director of the Confessing Movement, Riley B. Case serves as a member of the Good News board of directors and as president of the board of the Kokomo (Ind.) Rescue Mission.

Dr. Case is a graduate of Taylor University and Garrett-Evangelical Theological Seminary. He earned a graduate degree from Northwestern University and holds an honorary degree from Taylor University.

His books include Evangelical and Methodist: A Popular History (Abingdon) and Understanding Our United Methodist Hymnal (Wipf and Stock).


Related posts
Claremont president: Christians shouldn’t evangelize people of other faiths
UM seminary embraces non-Christian faiths, will train Muslim imams, Jewish rabbis
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’
Why the United Methodist Church cannot condone homosexuality
United Methodist Church facing health bill fallout
House Speaker thanks UMC for help in passing health bill
How did the UMC come to define health care as a ‘right’?

Related articles and information
United Methodist money to train Muslim clerics? | Riley B. Case, Good News (July 6, 2010)
Another PR release for Claremont | Terry Mattingly, GetReligion.org (July 6, 2010)
Claremont’s religious diversity: Church affirms multi-faith project | Robin Russell, United Methodist Reporter (July 2, 2010)
University Senate rescinds public warning (PDF) | news release, University Senate of the United Methodist Church (June 25, 2010)
University Senate organization, policies, and guidelines — 2009-2012 (PDF) | United Methodist University Senate
Claremont seminary reaches beyond Christianity | Mitchell Landsberg, Los Angeles Times (June 9, 2010)
Theology school becomes 1st accredited U.S. seminary to train Muslim & Jewish theologians | Islam Today (June 9, 2010)
Why Methodist seminaries are becoming irrelevant and dying | Riley B. Case, Confessing Movement Within the United Methodist Church (July 2009 — via Methodist Examiner)
The 2008 Book of Resolutions: The voice of the United Methodist Church? (PDF) | Liza Kittle, RENEW

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With the stated goal of helping “solve the world’s big problems,” a seminary of the United Methodist Church is becoming an “inter-religious institution” and will add clerical-training programs for Jews and Muslims this fall.

UMNS photo

Southern California’s Claremont School of Theology (CST) — one of 13 official United Methodist seminaries — later plans to create programs for Buddhists and Hindus.

“We’re making history,” Claremont president Jerry D. Campbell said at a June 9 news conference, officially unveiling the school’s embrace of non-Christian religions, a project that has been in the planning stages for several years.

“[We have] a bold and idealistic vision to create the first graduate consortium in the world where Christian ministers, Jewish rabbis, and Muslim imams — and eventually clerics from other religions — will be educated side by side,” Campbell said.

Such joint education will “facilitate love among our different traditions in order that we can begin to solve the world’s big problems,” he said.

Audio from the June 9 news conference at Claremont School of Theology

President Jerry Campbell (44 seconds)


Najeeba Syeed-Miller (28 seconds)


Najeeba Syeed-Miller, CST’s first Muslim faculty member, told the news conference that Claremont’s broadened orientation demonstrates a new kind of righteousness.

“We are redefining what it means to be righteous in the 21st century,” she said. “To be righteous is to hold on to the message of pluralism and inclusion.”

Earlier this year, the United Methodist Church’s University Senate, a group that determines which schools meet criteria for being affiliated with the UMC, voted to place Claremont on public warning for failing to “consult fully” with the Senate, the Council of Bishops, and the UM General Board of Higher Education and Ministry regarding “a substantial reorientation of the institution’s mission.” (The Senate also expressed concern about CST’s “failure to transmit the school’s most current audit and management letter.”)

Along with the warning, the University Senate placed a hold on $800,000 from the UMC’s Ministerial Education Fund that had been targeted for Claremont.

CST’s multi-year reorientation plan, recasting the school as “an ecumenical and inter-religious institution,” was approved in March 2008 by the school’s board of trustees. The plan is known as the University Project.

In an April 24, 2010, guest column in a Los Angeles-area newspaper, Sandra N. Bane, chair of the CST board of trustees, stressed that the University Project would not undermine the United Methodist influence at Claremont.

Sandra Bane (L) at a
2009 trustees meeting

“The School of Theology will be the founding partner of this proposed university, ensuring that a Protestant Christian — and United Methodist — presence will be preserved in the new university structure,” she wrote.

“[CST's] Board of Trustees will remain predominately United Methodist (as it is today) and it will continue to be overseen by a Methodist governance structure.”

Claremont’s board includes two active United Methodist bishops: Mary Ann Swenson of the California-Pacific Conference and Minerva Carcaño of the Desert Southwest Conference. A complete listing of board members is here (PDF).

Mrs. Bane said the goal of the University Project is to “educate leaders and scholars across religious boundaries” so they can later be more effective as community leaders. Future Claremont graduates “will already know how to work across lines of religious difference to improve our neighborhoods and communities,” she wrote.

Longtime CST trustee F. Thomas Trotter, a former general secretary of the UMCs Board of Higher Education and Ministry, fully supports the school’s transformation to an inter-religious institution. He told In Trust magazine last year that Claremont, which has struggled financially in recent years, can thrive by broadening its scope beyond the Christian faith. “The confessional seminary is a dead duck,” he said.

In a July 2009 essay, Riley B. Case, associate director of the Confessing Movement Within the United Methodist Church, argued that Claremont’s move to a multi-faith model should disqualify the school from being an official UM seminary.

“Claremont can obviously do what it wants to do,” he wrote. “But does the United Methodist Church need continually to pour [almost] $1 million yearly into such an institution? Isn’t [the UMC] supposed to be…about winning disciples to Jesus Christ?”

The mission of the United Methodist Church, as stated in the Book of Discipline, the denomination’s official doctrinal guide and rulebook, is “to make disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world” (¶120).

Dr. Jerry D. Campbell

The Discipline also notes that the “ultimate concern” of the church’s ministry is “that all persons will be brought into a saving relationship with God through Jesus Christ” (¶127).

Further, the Book of Discipline states that while “we respect persons of all religious faiths,” the United Methodist Church “affirms that Jesus Christ is the Son of God, the Savior of the world, and the Lord of all” (¶121).

In response to a question at the June 9 news conference, Claremont president Jerry Campbell said he is “guardedly optimistic” that the new inter-faith school will retain its ties with the UMC.

“There will be strains in the relationship anytime we attempt to do anything new and different,” he said. “We’re in the midst of [a] process of working it out.” Campbell noted that “the [UM] Church sent a team to review what we were doing, and that review, in my judgment, went very well.”

He attributed denominational concerns about Claremont to the fact that “education and religion are two things that do not change quickly or easily — and this is requiring a change in both.”

The UMC’s University Senate will decide at its meeting next week (June 23-24) whether to ask the General Board of Higher Education and Ministry to release the money earmarked for Claremont.

Claremont’s “University Project” is being funded in large part by a $10-million gift from David and Joan Lincoln, members of Paradise Valley United Methodist Church in Arizona.

More from the June 9 news conference at Claremont School of Theology

Jerry Campbell on implementing Claremont’s new inter-religious model (5 min.)


Q&A re: Claremont’s relationship with the United Methodist Church (2 min.)


“We believe the outcome of this kind of education will be…the ability to better address global problems where religious collaboration and cooperation are needed to reach solutions and repair the world,” David Lincoln said in a Feb. 22, 2010, news release from Claremont.

In a June 10 interview on the Salem Radio Network’s Albert Mohler Program (audio below), Mark Tooley — author of Taking Back the United Methodist Church (Bristol, 2008) — said CST’s transformation to an inter-faith institution is not surprising, given the school’s theological trajectory over the past 50 years.

Claremont has long been identified with process theology, which “claims that God is constantly evolving and mutating into something different,” Tooley said. “So the fact that [Claremont] would end up in the place of becoming multi-faith and multi-religious is just the logical outcome of where they started.”

The Claremont School of Theology was founded as the Maclay School of Theology in 1885 in San Fernando, Calif. The school moved to Los Angeles in 1990 and was housed at the University of Southern California. It moved to its present location in Claremont, Calif. (east of downtown Los Angeles), in 1957.

In 2006, just weeks after Jerry D. Campbell became Claremont’s president, the school nearly lost its accreditation from the Western Association of Schools and Colleges because of lingering financial problems.

Before coming to Claremont, Campbell served for a decade as the Chief Information Officer and Dean of the University Libraries at the University of Southern California. He is a past president of the Association of Research Libraries as well as the American Theological Library Association. An ordained elder in the United Methodist Church, Campbell earned his Ph.D. in American History from the University of Denver.

During the recently concluded spring 2010 semester, the Claremont School of Theology had an enrollment of about 225 full-time and part-time students. Fewer than 100 were United Methodists.


Related articles and information
Seminary announces multifaith project | Joey Butler and Kathy L. Gilbert, United Methodist News Service (June 15, 2010)
Theology school integrates studies of different faiths | Associated Press via USA Today (June 14, 2010)
Claremont seminary reaches beyond Christianity | Mitchell Landsberg, Los Angeles Times (June 9, 2010)
Excerpts from a conversation with Mark Tooley, author, Taking Back the United Methodist Church | Albert Mohler Program, Salem Radio Network (June 10, 2010) — Use player below (9 min.)


(Albert Mohler is president of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Ky.)
Methodists, Muslims and Jews: Learning together to lead together | Jerry D. Campbell, On Faith, WashingtonPost.com (June 10, 2010)
All religions are the same, right? | Bobby Ross Jr., GetReligion.org (June 10, 2010)
A new paradigm for theological education | Sheryl Kujawa-Holbrook (professor, Practical Theology and Religious Education, Claremont School of Theology), Huffington Post (June 9, 2010)
Can a United Methodist seminary be “interfaith”? | news release, Institute on Religion and Democracy (May 14, 2010)
Methodist and multi-faith dialogue | Sandra N. Bane (chair, Claremont School of Theology board of trustees), Los Angeles Newspaper Group (April 24, 2010)
Methodists suspend funding of two seminaries | John Dart, The Christian Century (April 6, 2010)
University Senate places Claremont, United theological schools on public warning | UM General Board of Higher Education & Ministry (Jan. 26, 2010)
University Senate organization, policies, and guidelines — 2009-2012 (PDF) | United Methodist University Senate
Members of the United Methodist University Senate — 2009-2012 | UM General Board of Higher Education & Ministry
Claremont responds to sanction from the United Methodist Church | news release, Claremont School of Theology (Jan. 29, 2010)
Being Methodist and multifaith | Jerry D. Campbell, United Methodist Reporter (Oct. 15, 2009)
Financial crisis inspires new vision at Claremont School of Theology | William R. MacKaye, In Trust magazine (Autumn 2009)
Why Methodist seminaries are becoming irrelevant and dying | Riley B. Case, Confessing Movement Within the United Methodist Church (July 2009 — via Methodist Examiner)
Claremont seminary loses, regains, accreditation | Linda Green, United Methodist News Service (Dec. 11, 2006)
Accrediting ups and downs | Doug Lederman, Inside Higher Ed (Dec. 27, 2006)

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The man who led one of the United Methodist Church’s strongest and largest congregations for more than three decades shared his “ideas and opinions” last week about the future of the denomination.

Dr. John Ed Mathison addressing North Ga. pastors and leaders

Dr. John Ed Mathison addressing
North Ga. pastors and leaders

Dr. John Ed Mathison, pastor of Frazer Memorial UMC in Montgomery, Ala., for 36 years, spoke at a gathering of the Wesleyan Covenant Renewal Movement, a group of theologically conservative pastors and leaders in the North Georgia Conference.

He said the most “pressing challenge” facing the UMC is a series of constitutional amendments — to be voted at this year’s Annual Conference sessions — that would separate the denomination into multiple “Regional Conferences,” each with the ability to adapt the United Methodist Book of Discipline as it so chooses.

If passed, the amendments would allow United Methodists in the United States to structurally segregate themselves from United Methodists in Africa, Asia, and Europe.

Noting that such a change would likely have a profound effect on the ministry environment in the United Methodist Church, Dr. Mathison urged his audience to get involved with educating delegates about the amendments.

“Don’t sit back and say, ‘Somebody’s going to take care of it,’” he warned. “Be sure you talk with the folks who are delegates from your church and in your area.”

Another cause of concern is the United Methodist Church’s failure to attract young people to the ministry. “It’s appalling to see the [small number] of young people under 35 who are entering the United Methodist ministry,” Dr. Mathison said. Recent studies show that only about 5 percent of UM clergy are under 35.

Source: Lewis Center for Church Leadership

Source: Lewis Center for Church Leadership

A related problem is that “we seem to making it more and more difficult to enter the ministry,” especially for those who didn’t attend a UM-approved seminary.

“I am for strong standards,” he said, but “if we keep putting up bigger and bigger fences to get into the Methodist Church, we’re losing a lot of good people.”

Dr. Mathison, who now heads a leadership-training ministry, also noted that UM seminaries need to a better job of teaching students leadership skills. “How many of us took a course in seminary on leadership?” he asked. “And [yet] that’s what we do most of the time.”

Another concern Dr. Mathison focused on is the growing impact of the economic recession on local church budgets.

He said leaders at the Annual Conference and General Church level could help reduce the burden on local churches by cutting some of the denominational expenses local churches are required to pay. If such leaders would publicly announce specific cuts, local churches would have a sense that they are “being heard at the upper levels,” he said.

John Ed Mathison also spoke about the need for Annual Conferences to be “more intentional in starting new churches,” noting that the planting of new fellowships gave tremendous impetus to the early Methodist movement.

He rounded out his list of seven concerns by focusing on upcoming decisions facing the United Methodist Judicial Council (Spring 2009 docket—PDF).

“I think it is extremely clear [from votes at the General Conference] how United Methodists stand worldwide on human sexuality,” he said. “And I’m just hopeful and prayerful that when the Judicial Council meets they will remember that and…act accordingly.”

Use the audio player below to listen to the first half of Dr. John Ed Mathison’s Feb. 24 address to the Wesleyan Covenant Renewal Movement at Norcross (Ga.) First United Methodist Church (19 min.).


In the second half of his address, Dr. Mathison discussed six specific ways UM pastors and leaders can expand their influence though intentional leadership.

The Wesleyan Covenant Renewal Movement was founded in 2004 to “promote the presence of leadership within the [North Georgia] Conference…committed to the renewal of historic Wesleyan standards and Biblical authority.”

An October 2008 statement detailing the WCRM’s “foci” and “core convictions” is here (PDF).


Related posts
John Ed Mathison: Six ways for a pastor to make a lasting difference
Proposed amendments would separate UMC into ‘national entities’
John Ed Mathison on the future of the United Methodist Church
Judicial Council sends controversial cases back to conferences
Joe Whittemore: ‘Enough is enough’

Related articles
Amending away our global church? | Riley Case, Good News
African Power: How 192 delegates saved Methodists from madness | Mark Tooley, Touchstone
Clergy age trends in the United Methodist Church: 1985-2008 (PDF) | Lewis Center for Church Leadership
The skandal-ous mission of the Board of Ordained Ministry | Will Deuel, ‘Man Called Preach’ (blog)
Court docket includes Bush library, same-sex unions | United Methodist News Service

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Blogger Josh Tinley reports that “United Methodist Communications (UMCom) has terminated its relationship with Buntin Group, the company responsible for the…’Open Hearts, Open Minds, Open Doors’ campaign, because of Buntin’s work with the Tennessee Lottery.”

UMCom hired Buntin eight years ago to put together what the Nashville Post then described as a campaign that “is believed to be the most expensive ad campaign ever funded by a mainline Protestant denomination.”

Three years later, the Tennessee Lottery approached Buntin, but the agency rebuffed the entreaty because, according to president and CEO Jeffrey Buntin, the advertising company didn’t want to “jeopardize the relationship” with the United Methodist Church.

Then, a few months ago, things changed. Buntin decided to accept the Lottery’s business. Apparently, UMCom refused to be open-minded and closed the door on Buntin.

I say “Bravo” to UMCom. Methodists have historically (and with good reason – PDF) opposed state-sponsored gambling. It’s nice to see UMCom take a stand.

Thinking more about this: The Buntin/UMCom dust-up makes me wonder about all the UM-related colleges in Georgia that happily accept lottery-funded HOPE scholarship money, much of it coming from the poor (PDF).

The Associated Press reports that “the heaviest lottery players — the 20% of players who contribute 82% of lottery revenue — disproportionately are low-income, minority men who have less than a college education.”

Do any of our UM college presidents and financial-aid officers feel even a twinge of guilt over that? And what about all the UM parents who seem untroubled over sending their kids off to college at the expense of tens of thousands of lottery losers?

One parent I engaged in conversation about this told me her moral objections to the gambling-funded scholarship “went away once the college bills start coming in.”

She is not alone. The Georgia state lottery, narrowly approved in a statewide referendum in 1992, has almost no vocal opposition anymore. Our moral concerns have been overridden by free flowing money for college (and for gambling-funded pre-kindergarten).

The lottery was “sold” to the the people of Georgia on the premise that it would be a boon to education. And, no question, it has raised lots of money for students and schools. But surely the most significant way it has affected education is by teaching kids, parents, and schools (even Christian colleges) that an admirable end justifies a morally questionable means.

Yes, we have learned that lesson all too well.

Related update: The National Coalition Against Legalized Gambling is launching a new campaign next week. NCALG’s longtime field director and spokesman is UM clergyman Tom Grey.

Update 2: Should churches accept donations that come from lottery winnings? Mark Creech of the Christian Action League thinks about that here.

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