Archive for April, 2011

This post is part of a monthly series that presents selections from the writings of John Wesley, co-founder (with his brother Charles) of the Methodist movement.

Below is an excerpt from Mr. Wesley’s pamphlet, Thoughts on a Single Life, first published in 1743 and reissued with minor changes in 1784. As presented here, two paragraphs — identified by brackets — have been added from his comments on Matthew 16:24 in Explanatory Notes on the New Testament.

For easier reading, the wording has been slightly updated to conform to modern usage. (Links to the full text of the pamphlet and to the Matthew 16 section of the Notes are included in the links area below.)

Persons may be as holy in a married as in a single state. Indeed, the Holy Ghost says, “Marriage is honorable among all, and the bed undefiled” (Heb. 13:4).

And yet we must not forget what the apostle Paul writes in 1 Corinthians 7:

I say to the unmarried and to the widows: It is good for them if they remain even as I am…. But even if you do marry, you have not sinned…. Nevertheless such will have trouble in the flesh….

I want you to be without care. He who is unmarried cares for the things of the Lord — how he may please the Lord. But he who is married cares about the things of the world — how he may please his wife…. The unmarried woman cares about the things of the Lord, that she may be holy both in body and in spirit. But she who is married cares about the things of the world — how she may please her husband.

And this I say for your own profit…that you may serve the Lord without distraction. (1 Corinthians 7:8, 28, 32-35)

Though “it is good for a man not to touch a woman,” (1 Cor. 7:1), this is not a universal rule. “I wish,” says the apostle, “that all men were even as I myself.” But that cannot be; for “each one has his own gift from God, one in this manner and another in that” (1 Cor. 7:7).

This is exactly agreeable to this are the words of our Lord. When the disciples said to him (after he taught on marriage and divorce), “If the case be so, it is good not to marry,” he said to them:

All cannot receive this saying, but those to whom it is given. For there are eunuchs who were born thus from their mother’s womb and there are who were made eunuchs by men, and there are eunuchs who have made themselves eunuchs for the kingdom of heaven’s sake.

He who is able to receive it, let him receive it. (Matthew 19:10-12)

Focused on God

To those able to “receive this saying,” I say: Know the advantages you enjoy — many of which are pointed out by the apostle above.

You may be without care. You are under no necessity of “caring for the things of the world.” You have only to “care for the things of the Lord, how you may please the Lord.” One care alone lies upon you, how you “may be holy both in body and spirit.”

You enjoy a blessed liberty from the “trouble in the flesh,” which must more or less attend a married state, from a thousand nameless domestic trials which are found, sooner or later, in every family.

Above all, you are at liberty from the greatest of all entanglements: the loving of one creature above all others. It is possible to do this without any impeachment of our love to God, but how inconceivably difficult it is to give one’s whole heart to God while another has so large a share of it!

Whereas those who are married are necessarily taken up with the things of the world, you may give your time to God without interruption, and need ask leave of none but yourself so to do.

You may give all your worldly substance to God — nothing need hinder. You have no increasing family to provide for, which might occasion a thousand doubts whether you had done either too much or too little for them. You may lay out all your talents of every kind entirely for the glory of God, as you have none else to please, none to regard, but Him that lived and died for you.

Take up your cross daily

If you know and duly prize these advantages you enjoy, be careful to keep them. But know that this is impossible to do by your own strength. You have need to use every help.

The first of these is earnest prayer. Let no day pass without this, without praying for this very thing — that God would work what with men is impossible.

A second help may be frequent and free conversation with those of your own sex who are like-minded. By this means a thousand devices of Satan will be brought to nought.

From the 1954 film ‘John Wesley’

Above all, “keep your heart with all diligence.” Check the first risings of desire. Let no “vain thought lodge within you.” Cry out, “My God and my all, I am alone! Bring my ‘every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ.'”

How shall you preserve this strength and firmness of spirit? Avoid with the utmost care all softness and effeminacy, remembering the express denunciation of an inspired writer that the soft or effeminate “shall not inherit the kingdom of God” (1 Cor. 6:9-10).

Avoid all sloth, inactivity, indolence. Be never idle. Keep at the utmost distance from foolish desires, from desiring any happiness but in God.

It is not possible to avoid all pleasure, and God does not require this. On the contrary, he “giveth us all things to enjoy” (1 Tim. 6:17), so we enjoy them to his glory. But I say avoid all pleasure that in anyway hinders you from enjoying him — yea, all such pleasure as does not prepare you for taking pleasure in God.

Add to this constant and continued course of universal self-denial the taking up your cross daily, the enduring “hardship as a good soldier of Jesus Christ” (2 Tim. 2:3). The Lord will uphold you with his hand.

[Indeed, if any will follow Christ, the very first step is to deny himself — to substitute the will of God in the place of his own will as his overriding principle of action.

Let him in all things deny his own will, however pleasing, and do the will of God, however painful. Should we not consider all crosses, all things grievous to flesh and blood, as what they really are — as opportunities of embracing God’s will at the expense of our own? We should approve and choose what his choice warrants as best for us.]

Upon the whole, without disputing whether the married or single life be the more perfect state — an idle dispute, since perfection does not consist in any outward state whatever, but in an absolute devotion of all our heart and all our life to God — we may safely say, “Blessed are ‘those who have made themselves eunuchs for the kingdom of heaven’s sake.'”

Related posts
A word from Mr. Wesley: The sure cornerstone of our faith
A word from Mr. Wesley: ‘The way to the kingdom’
A word from Mr. Wesley: ‘Salvation by faith’
A word from Mr. Wesley: ‘The first doctrine’
Podcast: John Wesley on ‘The New Birth’
Podcast: Donald English — Aldersgate Day address, 1988
Podcast: Bishop Gerald Kennedy on ‘The Marks of a Methodist’
Judicial Council asked to revisit Decision 1032, allow homosexual clergy to marry
In embracing homosexual marriage, Foundry UMC rejects UM boundaries, breaks with 2 millennia of church teaching
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’

Related information
Thoughts on a Single Life (full text) | From The Works of the Reverend John Wesley, A. M. (1835) (via Google Books)
Notes on Matthew 16 (full text) | John Wesley’s Notes on the Bible, Wesley Center Online

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For the eighth time, the United Methodist Judicial Council is being asked to revisit a 2005 ruling that declared that the pastor-in-charge of a UM congregation is invested with the authority to determine if a parishioner is spiritually prepared to take the vows of church membership.

A UMNS graphic

The council — the denomination’s supreme court — will hear a reconsideration request (PDF) from the California-Pacific Annual Conference at this week’s spring session, which begins Wednesday (April 27) in Detroit.

At its October 2010 meeting, the Judicial Council denied similar reconsideration requests from the Arkansas Conference and the Northern Illinois Conference. The tersely worded denial, issued in Memorandum No. 1158 (available here in PDF), said simply: “The requests for reconsideration are hereby denied.”

The controversial 2005 ruling, known as Decision 1032, stemmed from Virginia Conference case in which a pastor explained to a sexually active homosexual man who wanted to join the South Hill (Va.) United Methodist Church that taking vows of membership in the UMC involved a public declaration of turning from sin. Further, the pastor explained that UM doctrine teaches that sexual activity between two persons of the same sex is considered “incompatible with Christian teaching” (¶161F of the Book of Discipline).

The pastor, the Rev. Ed Johnson, did not bar the man from attending worship services or otherwise restrict his involvement in the congregational life of the South Hill church.

Pastor Johnson subsequently faced an administrative complaint from Virginia Conference Bishop Charlene Kammerer, who said that in not immediately allowing the man to become a member, Johnson was violating the Book of Discipline by demonstrating an “unwillingness or inability to perform ministerial duties” (¶362.2).

From the UM Baptismal Covenant

In Decision 1032, the Judicial Council ruled 5-3 against Bishop Kammerer, noting that the Book of Discipline “invest[s] discretion in the pastor-in-charge to make the determination of a person’s readiness to affirm the vows of membership.”

Last October, in a concurring opinion (PDF-p.3) issued along with the council’s terse denial for a reconsideration of Decision 1032, council member Jon R. Gray urged that efforts to resolve the underlying dispute that led to the 2005 decision be focused on the legislative arena — via the General Conference — rather than on the judicial processes of the UMC.

“[In the] five years [since] Decision 1032 was rendered, we have been asked in seven separate cases to review or reconsider Decision 1032 in some fashion,” he wrote. “The General Conference is the only body authorized and able to resolve the issue for the Church.”

Also on the Judicial Council docket this week is a case that asks the council to determine if a 225-year-old year old rule that that allows Methodist ministers to marry — specifically, Article XXI of the Articles of Religion — supersedes the Book of Discipline‘s language on the heterosexual nature of marriage.

Policy Concerning Marriage
of All Clergy and
Article of Religion XXI

WHEREAS, the Articles of Religion take precedence over all other sections of the Book of Discipline outside the Constitution, we believe that any Disciplinary provision denying marriage to some clergy is unconstitutional and contrary to the Articles of Religion and the first Restrictive Rule (see ¶17); and,

WHEREAS, interpretation of scriptures that relate to issues outside the Articles of Religion, the Confession of Faith, and John Wesley’s Notes and Sermons does not rise to the level of doctrine (see ¶102, pp. 58-59); and,

WHEREAS, same-sex marriage is legally permitted in the state of Connecticut;…

THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED, that the New York Annual Conference (NYAC) adopts a policy effective January 1, 2011 that all clergy in the NYAC may be legally married at their own discretion, as permitted by ¶103 of the Articles of Religion. We direct that all Conference Boards and agencies conduct their business consistent with this policy; and,

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, given that our policy is consistent with ¶103, which states, “Therefore it is lawful for [the ministers of Christ] to marry at their own discretion, as they shall judge the same to serve best to godliness,” but it is in conflict with ¶2702.1 (a) & (b), which bar clergy from any form of marriage other than heterosexual marriage and bar them from self-avowed practicing homosexuality, even in the context of marriage, the NYAC requests a Declaratory Decision from the Judicial Council (see ¶2601.1 and ¶2610.2j) as follows:

Is our policy valid in light of the apparent alteration and change of ¶103 of the Articles of Religion by General Conference when they established the provisions of ¶2702.1 (a) & (b), in violation of the First Restrictive Rule in ¶17 of the Constitution, which states that, “The General Conference shall not revoke, alter, or change our Articles of Religion or establish any new standards or rules of doctrine contrary to our present existing and established standards of doctrine”?

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, that we request a Declaratory Decision from the Judicial Council concerning the validity and constitutionality of our conference policy, set forth above, as follows:

Given that ¶2702.1 commands some of our clergy to remain single, it violates Article XXI (¶103) and is therefore an alteration and change of our Articles of Religion which is prohibited by the First Restrictive Rule in ¶17 of the Constitution of the UMC; and Given that our policy is consistent with ¶103, which states, “Therefore it is lawful for [the ministers of Christ] to marry at their own discretion, as they shall judge the same to serve best to godliness,” but is in conflict with ¶2702.1 (a) & (b), which commands some of our clergy to remain single and removes their discretion to marry, is our policy valid and constitutional?

The case, deferred from last fall’s Judicial Council session, stems from a policy resolution adopted overwhelmingly last year (83%-17%) by the New York Annual Conference.

The resolution, sponsored by the Methodist Federation for Social Action and Methodists in New Directions (a New York Conference group affiliated with the pro-homosexuality Reconciling Ministries Network), is aimed at allowing homosexuals serving as clergy in the NY Conference to marry.

(Marriage between two men or two women is now legal in the state of Connecticut, which is part of the UMC’s New York Conference.)

The new policy (shown at right and here in PDF) permits clergy members of the New York Conference to be “legally married at their own discretion, as permitted by Paragraph 103 of the Articles of Religion.”

Strictly speaking, there should be no situations in which the New York Conference policy would apply. Book of Discipline requirements on “standards of holy living” for United Methodist clergy bar “self-avowed practicing homosexuals” from being “accepted as [ministerial] candidates, ordained as ministers, or appointed to serve in The United Methodist Church” (¶304.3).

In addition, any “clergy member of an annual conference…may be tried when charged…with one or more of the following offenses: (a) immorality including but not limited to, not being celibate in singleness or not faithful in a heterosexual marriage; (b) practices declared by The United Methodist Church to be incompatible with Christian teachings, including but not limited to: being a self-avowed practicing homosexual…” (¶2702).

The United Methodist News Service offered details on the New York Conference case earlier this year:

During an oral hearing at the October [Judicial Council] meeting, J. Ann Craig and Nehemiah Luckett — New York lay members who identified themselves as gay — argued that Article XXI of Paragraph 103, declares that marriage is “a moral structure available to all.”…

[J. Ann Craig previously served as the executive secretary for Spiritual and Theological Development in the UMC’s Women’s Division; Nehemiah Luckett is the composer-in-residence and associate minister of music at Asbury Crestwood United Methodist Church in Tuckahoe (Yonkers), N.Y.]

In her presentation, Craig said that the denomination’s ban on same-gender marriage is contrary to Paragraph 103, which states that it is “lawful” for pastors, “as for all other Christians, to marry at their own discretion, as they shall judge the same to serve best to godliness.”

She added that the church’s doctrinal standards, of which the Articles of Religion are a part, take precedence over changes to the Book of Discipline.

The October oral hearing also included a presentation in support of current UMC policy from Wisconsin pastor Thomas Lambrecht, a board member of Good News, a ministry that describes itself as “a voice for repentance, an agent for reform, and a catalyst for renewal within the United Methodist Church.” [Disclosure: The editor of this blog is a Good News board member.]

Lambrecht said the New York Conference policy constitutes a clear misapplication of Paragraph 103. The policy “unilaterally changes the [UMC’s] definition of marriage” without the approval of General Conference, he said.

Paragraph 161F of the United Methodist Book of Discipline states that “sexual relations are affirmed only within the covenant of monogamous, heterosexual marriage.”

Further, according to Paragraph 161B, the United Methodist Church supports “laws in civil society that define marriage as the union of one man and one woman.”

The full five-case docket for this week’s meeting of the United Methodist Judicial Council is here (PDF). The nine current members of the United Methodist Judicial Council are listed below.

  • Susan T. Henry-Crowe (Council president, clergy, South Carolina Conf.)
  • — Dean of the Chapel and Religious Life at Emory Univ. in Atlanta

  • Jon R. Gray (Council vice president, lay, Missouri West Conf.)
  • — attorney, former circuit court judge

  • Angela Brown (lay, California-Nevada Conf.)
  • — asst. district attorney in San Francisco, board member—National Center for Lesbian Rights (PDF-see page 7), past vice president—NIA Collective, an organization for lesbians of African descent

  • William B. Lawrence (clergy, North Texas Conf.)
  • — Dean of SMU’s Perkins School of Theology

The alternate members:

  • Joe May (first clergy alternate, Mississippi Conf.)
  • Jay Arthur Garrison (first lay alternate, Holston Conf.)
  • J. Montgomery (Monty) Brown (clergy, West Virginia)
  • Thomas K. Byerly (lay, West Michigan Conf.)
  • Mary A. Daffin (lay, Texas Conf.)
  • John Harnish (clergy, Michigan Conf.)
  • James D. Karblee (clergy, Liberia Conf.)
  • Raymond Mande Mutombo (lay, North Katanga Conf.)
  • Deanell Tacha (lay, Kansas East Conf.)
  • William F. White (lay, Wisconsin Conf.)
  • Rodney E. Wilmoth (clergy, Rocky Mountain Conf.)
  • Vicki Woods (clergy, New England Conf.)
Related posts
United Methodist Judicial Council convenes for fall 2010 session
Why the United Methodist Church cannot condone homosexuality
Judicial Council overturns bishop’s ruling on sexuality statement
Board of Church and Society sex-ed writer: Sex outside of marriage can be ‘moral, ethical’
Maxie Dunnam: Amendments outcome reflects ‘sense of the faithful’
In Mississippi Conference, testimony from lesbian couple stirs controversy
Judicial Council says no to same-sex marriage
Billy Abraham on United Methodism: ‘There is no common faith among us’

Related information
Docket for the April 27-30, 2011 meeting of the UM Judicial Council (PDF)
RES 10-5: Request Judicial Council reconsider Decision 1032 (PDF) | California Pacific Annual Conference (June 20, 2010)
Decision 1032 | UM Judicial Council (Oct. 29, 2005)
A pastoral letter to the people of The United Methodist Church | UM Council of Bishops (Nov. 2, 2005)
Judicial Council Decision 1032 and ecclesiology (PDF) | William J. Abraham, General Board of Higher Education & Ministry Consultation on Decision 1032 (February 2007)
Petition #2010-305: Policy concerning marriage of all clergy and Article of Religion XXI (PDF) | New York Annual Conference (June 2010)
Court takes up membership, marriage | Linda Bloom, United Methodist News Service (Feb. 4, 2011)
Jurisdiction and powers of the UM Judicial Council | ¶2609, Book of Discipline of The United Methodist Church — 2008
Rules of practice and procedure (PDF) | UM Judicial Council (Revised April 2010)
New membership vows and ritual (revised and corrected) | Taylor Burton-Edwards, UM General Board of Discipleship (effective Jan. 1, 2009)
The services of the Baptismal Covenant in the United Methodist Church (as revised to align with the 2008 Book of Discipline and Book of Resolutions) (PDF) | UM General Board of Discipleship/United Methodist Publishing House (2009)
How churches can refine message on homosexuality | Robin Russell, United Methodist Reporter (May 19, 2008)
United Methodists uphold homosexuality stance | Robin Russell, United Methodist News Service (April 30, 2008)
Five new members are elected to Judicial Council | Neill Caldwell, UMNS (April 28, 2008)
Judicial Council election excludes Africans (PDF) | UMAction (April 30, 2008)
Methodists strengthen stand against homosexual practice | Christianity Today (May 5, 2004)
Homosexuality and the Great Commandment (an address to the Episcopal Diocese of Pittsburgh) | Peter C. Moore (November 2002)
Good News’ response to Cal/Nevada’s dismissal of complaints against 68 clergy involved in same-sex covenant | James V. Heidinger II on behalf of the Good News Board of Directors (Feb. 14, 2000)
‘Good News’ says push to accept homosexual practice threatens to split United Methodist Church | United Methodist News Service (May 6, 1997)

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Each of the four gospels — Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John — offers an account of the resurrection of Jesus Christ. These accounts contain several divergences in detail.

Was there one angel who appeared at the tomb (Matt. 28, Mark 16), or two (Luke 24, John 20)? Did Mary Magdalene go to the tomb alone (John 20), or with others (Mark 16, Luke 24)?

Critics have raised questions about these and other areas of divergence:

  • Was it still dark out? (Yes – John 20); (No – Matt. 28; Mark 16)
  • Did Mary Magdalene tell anyone? (Yes – Matt. 28, Luke 24, John 20); (No – Mark 16)
  • Were the angels (or angel) inside the tomb or outside? (Two angels inside – Mark 16, John 20); (One angel outside – Matt. 28)
  • Was the first appearance to the disciples in Galilee? (Yes – Matt. 28); (No – Luke 24; John 20).

How do we account for these variations? Are they a stumbling block to believing that Jesus rose from the dead?

A logical whole

According to an established rule of investigative practice, if a reasonable explanation fits the available evidence then divergences in detail do not necessarily constitute contradictions.

Click for full Holy Week timeline in PDF

So the real question is not, “Do the gospel accounts diverge at points?” but, rather, “Can those divergences be put together into a logical whole?”

In his book, Beyond a Reasonable Doubt (College Press, 1992), retired judge Herbert Casteel, a trial judge for 26 years in Missouri, offers one example of how the various accounts could fit together:

Very early a group of women, including Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James, Salome, and Joanna set out for the tomb.

Meanwhile two angels are sent; there is an earthquake and one angel rolls back the stone and sits upon it. The soldiers faint and then revive and flee into the city.

The women arrive and find the tomb opened; without waiting, Mary Magdalene, assuming someone has taken the Lord’s body, runs back to the city to tell Peter and John. The other women enter the tomb and see the body is gone. The two angels appear to them and tell them of the resurrection. The women then leave to take the news to the disciples.

Peter and John run to the tomb with Mary Magdalene following. Peter and John enter the tomb, see the grave clothes, and then return to the city, but Mary Magdalene remains at the tomb weeping, and Jesus makes His first appearance to her.

Jesus next appears to the other women who are on their way to find the disciples. Jesus appears to Peter; He appears to the two disciples on the road to Emmaus; and then appears to a group of disciples including all of the Eleven except Thomas.

False testimony?

According to Judge Casteel, the minor variations found in the four gospel accounts actually argue for their reliability as containing eyewitness testimony:

People who conspire to testify to a falsehood rehearse carefully to avoid contradictions. [This is why f]alse testimony appears on the surface to be in harmony, but discrepancies appear when you dig deeper. [On the other hand, t]rue accounts may appear on the surface to be contradictory, but are found to be in harmony when you dig deeper….

From ‘Evidence for Faith’
by John Warwick Montgomery

[In addition,] the Gospel accounts of the resurrection…[contain] numerous details of the very type that false accounts would be careful to avoid.

For example, it is related of the Lord’s appearances to His followers, that at first they did not recognize Him.

A false story would never have been made up this way, because it is obvious that this would support an argument that the disciples were mistaken and didn’t see Jesus at all.

Why did the Gospel writers tell it this way? Because their purpose was simply to tell what happened, and that is the way it happened.

Moreover, many witnesses to the resurrected Christ went to their deaths rather than recant their testimony.

Indeed, from the time of the resurrection forward, these witnesses devoted themselves, no matter the cost, to the proclamation that Jesus the Messiah rose from the dead.

We did not follow cleverly invented stories when we told you about the power
and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but we were eyewitnesses of his majesty.

— The Apostle Peter in 2 Peter 1:16

Related post
Podcast: Bill Bouknight on ‘The Resurrection of Jesus Christ’

Related resources
Chapter 12 from Beyond a Reasonable Doubt (PDF) |Herbert C. Casteel, College Press (1992)
The Jury Returns: A Juridical Defense of Christianity | An excerpt from Evidence for Faith: Deciding the God Question by John Warwick Montgomery, Probe Books (1991)
The testimony of the evangelists | Simon Greenleaf (1846)
The Easter sermon of John Chrysostom (~400 A.D.) [NOTE: This sermon is read aloud in Eastern Orthodox churches on Easter (“Pascha”) morning.]
How Easter killed my faith in atheism | Lee Strobel, Wall Street Journal (April 16, 2011)
Celebrating the Resurrection | Mark Tooley, The American Spectator (April 22, 2011)
Of first importance: The Cross and Resurrection at the center | Albert Mohler (April 22, 2011)

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The MethodistThinker Podcast has returned from hiatus with a new, shorter format. Rather than featuring longer-form presentations, as it has for the past two years, the refashioned podcast is only five minutes long.

Each “mini” podcast will feature a brief teaching excerpt from a Methodist leader.

We hope the shorter format will make the podcast more user-friendly for busy pastors and lay people.

Dr. Bill Bouknight

The first installment of the new bi-weekly MethodistThinker Mini-Podcast features Dr. Bill Bouknight preaching about the atoning work of Jesus Christ.

Listen below, or download an mp3 file. To subscribe, use the “Subscribe to Podcasts link near the top of the right column.

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

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

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

David Fischler

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

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

This post first appeared in a different form at The Reformed Pastor. Links below have been added by MethodistThinker.com — Ed.

At CatholicVote.org, Thomas Peters recently wrote about the effort by homosexual billionaires to change the Roman Catholic Church’s position on homosexuality by funding dissident groups within the church. Peters catalogs funding to the tune of almost $600,000 to various Catholic groups through something called the Arcus Foundation.

After reading Peters’ article, I went to the Arcus website and discovered that it isn’t just Roman Catholic groups this foundation is funding. Money is also going to many dissident groups in mainline Protestant denominations.

Here are some of the grants listed for 2010 alone:

  • Central United Methodist Church (Detroit): $50,000 for The Reconciling Project, “a reconciling education and advocacy initiative to positively transform attitudes and beliefs about LGBT [Lesbian-Gay-Bisexual-Transgendered] people among United Methodist congregants and pastors in Southeastern Michigan.”
  • Christian Community: $300,000 (over two years) “to increase support for and advocacy on behalf of LGBT people of faith in mainline Protestant congregations across the U.S.”
  • Emory University (United Methodist affiliated): $100,000 (over two years) for continued support for Religion Dispatches, “a progressive online magazine dedicated to analysis and critique of the role of religion in public culture, with a focus on LGBT justice issues.”
  • Intersections International: $100,000 for the Believe Out Loud campaign, “which seeks to move moderate people of faith to publicly advocate for LGBT inclusion within their mainline Protestant faith communities.” (The Reconciling Ministries Network in the United Methodist Church is integrally involved with the Believe Out Loud campaign.)
  • Lutherans Concerned: $90,000 for “two convenings to advance the full inclusion of LGBT people of faith by convening pro-LGBT denominational leaders from the Episcopal Church USA, the United Methodist Church, the Evangelical Lutherans of America, the Presbyterian Church (USA), and the United Church of Christ, and by convening nationally recognized pro-LGBT Lutheran theologians.”
  • Methodist Federation for Social Action: $93,120 “to advance the full inclusion of LGBT people of faith within the United Methodist Church through a coalition of progressive justice organizations working within the UMC.” (MFSA used these funds to hire a coordinator for the Common Witness Coalition, an alliance of progressive groups that will press the UM 2012 General Conference to vote for “full inclusion of all people in UMC membership and leadership”—PDF.)

In 2009, the Arcus awarded the Reconciling Ministries Network (RMN) in the UMC $300,000 (over two years) to support “a comprehensive strategy to advance LGBT inclusion within the United Methodist Church that includes passage and implementation of pro-LGBT denominational policy regarding Church membership, ordination and same-gender [sic] marriage.” (In 2007, Arcus awarded RMN $100,000.)

Also in 2009, Arcus gave the communications firm of Douglas Gould and Company a grant of $194,200 to provide communications support to both the UM Reconciling Ministries Network and Lutherans Concerned to assist their efforts “to advance the full inclusion of LGBT people in the United Methodist Church and in the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America.”

Here are several other Arcus grants from last year:

  • Church Divinity School of the Pacific: $404,351 “to develop official rites for the blessing of same-gender relationships within the Episcopal Church.”
  • More Light Presbyterians: $75,000 “to support the ratification of denominational policy that permits the ordination of partnered LGBT persons within the Presbyterian Church (USA).”
  • The Gay Christian Network: $73,018 “to develop, test, and refine a pilot program that prepares young adult evangelicals to support pro-LGBT dialogue within evangelical communities.”
  • Truth Wins Out: $40,000 “for general operating support to enable Truth Wins Out to continue to challenge the ex-gay movement and monitor the anti-LGBT efforts of the religious right.” (Truth Wins Out is the group behind pressuring Apple to drop apps developed by the Manhattan Declaration and Exodus International.)

Despite the lack of stated religious connections on the part of its staff or its board members, the Arcus Foundation has a “Religion and Values” program, the goal of which is described this way:

[Our] goal is to achieve the recognition and affirmation of the moral equality of LGBT people. To accomplish this goal, the program supports the efforts of religious leaders to create faith communities in which LGBT people are welcomed as equal members; it also supports civic leadership to promote the moral and civil equality of LGBT people at state, national, and international levels.

The two-part “measurable program outcome” for the Religious and Values program is stated this way:

Goal 1: Ensure that denominations and faith-based institutions affirm LGBT moral equality and support LGBT rights;

Goal 2: Support pro-LGBT faith-based leaders who form, sustain and drive the movement or LGBT moral equality and civil rights.

In his article at CatholicVote.org, Thomas Peters notes that the total given by the Arcus Foundation since 2007 to groups operating within Catholic and Protestant churches is $6.5 million. That’s a lot of scratch.

The questions raised by this attempt to influence church doctrine and policy are enormous. Arcus certainly has every right to fund organizations such as the Human Rights Campaign and GLAAD that are working for homosexual rights in the political arena. But by what right does a secular foundation, operating from principles at odds with historic Christian faith, seek to influence Christian churches to abandon aspects of that faith?

From LGBTfunders.org

Liberals have been claiming for years that there is something insidious, if not downright evil, about support the Institute on Religion and Democracy has received from conservative foundations.

That funding is dwarfed — in both scale and breadth — by the money given out by Arcus.

It’s also the case that the IRD supports the traditional stances of the churches to which it speaks. It is not seeking to bring about radical change in historic teaching and practice.

In the current issue of First Things, George Weigel of the Ethics and Public Policy Center has a fascinating article about the infiltration of the Catholic Church by various agents of the Soviet Union and its Warsaw Pact allies during the post-World War II era. The aim was to influence church policy with regard to the Soviet bloc, and to seek to garner support for the bloc’s foreign and domestic political agendas.

What the Arcus Foundation is doing may be more public, and may involve using money to fund others rather than using their own “agents,” but make no mistake: this is just as much about infiltrating the churches to push a political agenda.

Related posts
Why the United Methodist Church cannot condone homosexuality
Breaking the covenant: Why aren’t ‘Reconciling’ churches being held to account?
Riley Case: Retired bishops’ statement is a sign of UMC’s sickness
Renewal & Reform Coalition responds to retired bishops’ call to alter UMC’s sexuality standards
In embracing homosexual marriage, Foundry UMC rejects UM boundaries, breaks with 2 millennia of church teaching
Riley Case: The future of the United Methodist Church is at stake
Judicial Council overturns bishop’s ruling on sexuality statement
Maxie Dunnam: Amendments outcome reflects ‘sense of the faithful’
Judicial Council says no to same-sex marriage
Billy Abraham on United Methodism: ‘There is no common faith among us’
Bill Bouknight: The good news from General Conference ’08

Related information
MFSA hires coalition coordinator with grant from Arcus Foundation | Methodist Federation for Social Action (Dec. 15, 2010)
Road to General Conference 2012 (PDF) | The Progressive Voice, MFSA (Fall 2010)
Brochure for “Building an Inclusive Church” (a training workshop sponsored by RMN, More Light Presbyterians, Lutherans Concerned, et al and supported by the Arcus Foundation) (PDF) | Institute for Welcoming Resources, National Gay and Lesbian Task Force (2010)
Eros defended or eros defiled — What do Wesley and the Bible say? | Ben Witherington, The Bible and Culture (Patheos.com) (Feb. 14, 2011)
Christianity elevates sexual morality (a historical overview of the Christian church’s teaching on sexual morality) — Chapter 3 of How Christianity Changed the World | Alvin Schmidt (Zondervan, 2004 — via Google Books)
What the evidence really says about Scripture and homosexual practice: Five issues (PDF) | Robert A. J. Gagnon (March 2009)
Slavery, homosexuality, and not being of one mind | Riley B. Case, via The Sundry Times (July 1, 2008)
How churches can refine message on homosexuality | Robin Russell, United Methodist Reporter (May 19, 2008)
United Methodists uphold homosexuality stance | Robin Russell, United Methodist News Service (April 30, 2008)
Judicial Council Decision 1032 and ecclesiology (PDF) | William J. Abraham, General Board of Higher Education & Ministry Consultation on Decision 1032 (February 2007)
The church and homosexuality | Bishop Timothy W. Whitaker, e-Review (Florida United Methodist News Service) (July 12, 2006)
Methodists strengthen stand against homosexual practice | Christianity Today (May 5, 2004)
Resources list: Ministry for and with homosexual persons (requested by the UMC’s 2004 General Conference) (PDF) | United Methodist Publishing House
Homosexuality and the Bible (PDF) | R. Albert Mohler Jr., Southern Baptist Theological Seminary
Homosexuality and the Great Commandment (an address to the Episcopal Diocese of Pittsburgh) | Peter C. Moore (November 2002)
‘Good News’ says push to accept homosexual practice threatens to split United Methodist Church | United Methodist News Service (May 6, 1997)

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This is the latest in our monthly series that presents excerpts from the writings of John Wesley, co-founder (with his brother Charles) of the Methodist movement.

The following is condensed from “Upon Our Lord’s Sermon on the Mount—13,” one of many sermons Mr. Wesley preached on Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5-7). For easier reading, some of the wording in this condensation has been slightly updated from the original.

A link to the full text of the original sermon is included in the links below.

Not everyone who says to me, “Lord, Lord,” shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of my Father in heaven…. [E]veryone who hears these sayings of mine, and does not do them, will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand: and the rain descended, the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house; and it fell. And great was its fall. (Matt. 7:21,26-27)

Having declared in his Sermon on the Mount the whole counsel of God with regard to the way of salvation, and having observed the chief hindrances of those who desire to walk therein, Jesus concludes with the weighty words presented above.

It imports us, in the highest degree, thoroughly to understand the force of these words.

What are we to understand by the expression, “Not everyone who says to me, Lord, Lord…”? It undoubtedly refers those who think of going to heaven by any way other than that which our Lord described in his Sermon.

Our Lord’s expression implies (to begin at the level of “verbal” religion) whatever creeds we may rehearse and whatever whatever number of prayers we may repeat.

Further, we may abstain from every presumptuous sin, from every kind of outward wickedness. We may refrain from all those ways of acting or speaking which are forbidden in holy writ. We may have a conscience void of any external offense. We may be clear of all uncleanness, ungodliness, and unrighteousness, as to the outward act.

And yet we are not hereby justified.

We may attend the supper of the Lord, hear abundance of excellent sermons, and omit no opportunity of partaking all the other ordinances of God. We may do good to a neighbor, deal our bread to the hungry, and cover the naked with a garment.

Still we may have no part in the glory which shall be revealed.

Anyone who marvels at this is stranger to the whole religion of Jesus Christ. For how far short are all these things from righteousness and true holiness. How widely distant from that inward kingdom of heaven first sown in the heart as a grain of mustard seed that afterwards puts forth great branches on which grow all the fruits of righteousness.

None who do not have this kingdom of God within them shall enter into the kingdom of heaven.

Our Lord well knew that many would not receive this saying.

Therefore confirms it again: “Many” — not just a few — “will say to me in that day,” not only, “We have said many prayers” or “We have refrained from evil” or “We have exercised ourselves in doing good,”  but even more, “We have prophesied in your name and in your name done many wonderful works.”

And yet, Jesus will say even unto them, “I never knew you” — for your heart was not right toward God. “Depart from me,” you who — notwithstanding all these things you did — are “workers of lawlessness,” transgressors of my law of holy and perfect love.

To put this beyond all possibility of contradiction, our Lord confirms it by this comparison: “Everyone who hears these sayings of mine, and does not do them, will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand: and the rain descended, the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house” — as they will surely do, sooner or later, upon every soul of man — “and it fell. And great was its fall.”

Such must be the portion of all who rest in anything short of that religion Jesus described in his Sermon on the Mount. And the greater will their fall be, because they heard his sayings, and yet did “not do them.”

Jesus’ blood and righteousness

In contrast, the one who builds his house upon a rock is he “who does the will of my Father in heaven.” He sees and feels all his sin and all his guilt — till it is washed away by the atoning blood. He is conscious of his lost estate, of the wrath of God abiding on him, and of his utter inability to help himself — till he is filled with peace and joy in the Holy Ghost.

His soul is athirst for nothing on earth, but only for God, the living God. He loves the Lord his God with all his heart, and with all his mind, and soul, and strength.

How truly wise is this man! He sees, clearer than the light of the noonday sun, that the end of man is to glorify God and to love and enjoy him for ever. And with equal clearness he sees the means to that end — which is to know, love, and imitate God, and to believe in Jesus Christ who he has sent.

This wise man “builds his house upon a rock,” upon the Rock of Ages: the Lord Jesus Christ. He builds only upon Jesus’ blood and righteousness. On this cornerstone he fixes his faith, and rests the whole weight of his soul upon it.

He is taught of God to say, “Lord, I have sinned; I deserve the nethermost hell — but I am justified freely by thy grace, through the redemption that is in Jesus Christ — and the life I now live, I live by faith in Him, who loved me, and gave himself for me. I now live — even in the flesh — a life of love, a life of holiness and happiness, praising God and doing all to his glory.”

Actor Alan McNaughtan as John Wesley

Upon which foundation are you building? The rock or the sand? What is the foundation of your hope? Where have you built your expectation of entering into the kingdom of heaven?

Upon orthodoxy or right opinions? Perhaps on belonging to an excellent church? Such may be helps to holiness; but they are not holiness itself.

Upon what have you built your hope of salvation? Upon doing no harm? Upon attending all the ordinances of God?  Upon good works?

Then go and learn again, “By grace you are saved through faith” (Eph. 2:8); “Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but of his own mercy he saves us” (Titus 3:5). Count all you have done but dung and dross.

Build upon the rock! Renounce all hope of ever being able to save yourself. Be it all your hope to be washed in his blood and purified by his Spirit who “himself bore [your] sins in his own body upon the tree” (1 Peter 2:24).

Weep for your sins and mourn after God until he turns your heaviness into joy. Then weep for those who do yet not weep for themselves. Mourn for the sins and miseries of mankind. For the immense ocean of eternity, without a bottom or a shore, already has swallowed up millions and is gaping to devour those who yet remain!

Be angry at sin as an affront to the Majesty of heaven, but love the sinner still — like our Lord, who “looked round about upon the Pharisees with anger, being grieved for the hardness of their hearts” (Mark 3:5).

You in God, God in you

Let nothing satisfy you but the power of godliness, a religion that is spirit and life — the dwelling in God and God in you.

Be purified through faith from every unholy affection, cleansing yourself “from all filthiness of flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God” (2 Cor. 7:1). Through the power of God’s grace, be purified from pride by deep poverty of spirit; be purified from anger and every unkind passion by meekness and mercifulness; be purified from every desire but to please and enjoy God by hunger and thirst after righteousness.

Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your strength!

Let your religion be the religion of the heart. Be amazed and humbled to the dust by the love of God which is in Christ Jesus. Be a lover of God and of all mankind! Show your faith by your works, and thus “do the will of your Father in heaven!”

And as surely as you now walk with God on earth, you will also reign with him in glory!

Related posts
A word from Mr. Wesley: ‘The way to the kingdom’
A word from Mr. Wesley: ‘Salvation by faith’
A word from Mr. Wesley: ‘The first doctrine’
Podcast: John Wesley on ‘The New Birth’
Podcast: Donald English — Aldersgate Day address, 1988
Podcast: Bishop Gerald Kennedy on ‘The Marks of a Methodist’
Podcast: Billy Abraham on ‘Connecting Doctrine and Evangelism’

Related information
Upon Our Lord’s Sermon on the Mount, 13 (full text) | The Rev. John Wesley (from The Sermons of John Wesley, 1872 Edition — Thomas Jackson, editor)

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On this April Fools’ Day, we’re setting aside theological discussions and denominational news in favor of something a bit lighter. — Ed.

For more than two decades, singer-songwriter Mark Bradford has been putting smiles on the faces of morning-show radio listeners in cities such as Philadelphia, Houston and Kansas City with his dead-on parodies of popular songs that replace the original lyrics with new lyrics that satirize current events.

Bradford at Denver's First Church of the Nazarene

But there is more to Mark that just zany morning-show humor. Mark is a follower of Jesus Christ — and a member of First Church of the Nazarene in Denver, Colo. — who has turned his talent for parody into a ministry opportunity. (The Church of the Nazarene is part of the the World Methodist Council.)

Working with One Way Street, Inc., a provider of resources for puppet ministry, Mark has created a series of recordings that he calls “Righteous Pop Music” (RPM).

Each of his 14 RPM CDs features well-known pop songs with newly written lyrics inspired by the stories, characters, and themes of the Bible. The recordings are often used as a musical adjunct for puppet ministries.

Mark Bradford’s mission statement is “To glorify God, uplift and challenge believers, appeal to non-believers, and reflect in my music the power and intimacy we can have with God through Christ.”

Need a smile on your face today? Use the audio player to listen to Mark’s recording of “Sacred Agent Man” (about the Apostle Paul), a “righteous” version of the 1966 hit, “Secret Agent Man.” The song is from Righteous Pop Music—Volume 2, released in 1996.

Mark Bradford’s YouTube channel is here. His blog, focused on Scripture, is here.

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