Archive for May, 2011

On this edition of the MethodistThinker Mini-Podcast, Dr. George Hunter of Asbury Seminary details how Methodism, at least in its institutional United Methodist form, has become what it was once a reaction against.

Dr. George Hunter

In his remarks, recorded earlier this year at United Methodist Congress on Evangelism, Dr. Hunter asks if “a once great movement” — now greatly deficient in New Testament Christianity — “can become a contagious apostolic movement once again?”

To listen to a five-minute excerpt from his January 2011 address, use the audio player below — or download an mp3 file (5MB). (Audio of Dr. Hunter courtesy of GNTV Media Ministry.)

Dr. George G. Hunter III holds the Ralph W. Beeson Chair of Christian Evangelism at Asbury Theological Seminary, where he serves as Distinguished Professor of Evangelism and Church Growth. He the founding dean of the E. Stanley Jones School of World Mission and Evangelism at Asbury.

Dr. Hunter is a graduate of Florida Southern College, the Candler School of Theology (Emory University), Princeton Seminary, and Northwestern University.

He is the author of a dozen books, including The Apostolic Congregation: Church Growth Reconceived for a New Generation (Abingdon, 2009) and The Celtic Way of Evangelism: How Christianity Can Reach the West…Again (Tenth Anniversary Edition) (Abingdon, 2010).

To subscribe to the biweekly MethodistThinker Mini-Podcast, use the “Subscribe to Podcasts” link near the top of the right column.

Related posts
Billy Abraham on United Methodism: ‘There is no common faith among us’
Podcast — Eddie Fox: ‘That the World May Know Jesus’
Podcast — Sir Alan Walker: ‘Christianity at the Crossroads’
Podcast — Harry Denman: ‘Are We Making Christ Known?’
Podcast — Bishop William R. Cannon: ‘The Whole Gospel for the Whole World’
Randy Maddox: ‘Methodist Doctrine, Spirit, and Discipline’
Billy Graham at the 1980 UM Congress on Evangelism

Related articles and information
The Call to Action: A serious conversation | George G. Hunter III, Good News magazine (March-April 2011)
Barbarians in our midst: How the Irish spread the gospel | A conversation with George G. Hunter III, Good News magazine (March-April 2000 — via Thunderstruck)

Read Full Post »

The following commentary is by Terry Teykl, author of The Presence-Based Church, My Most Wanted: 40 Days to Pray for the Lost, and Pray the Price: United Methodists United in Prayer.

Dr. Terry Teykl

An elder in the Texas Annual Conference, Dr. Teykl is a “prayer evangelist,” traveling across the U.S. and around the world encouraging churches to develop and maintain prayer ministries.

He also serves as the “prayer pastor” at Faithbridge UMC in Spring, Texas.

Terry Teykl holds a Master of Theology from Perkins School of Theology at Southern Methodist University. He earned a Doctor of Ministry degree with honors from Oral Roberts University.

He is the founder of Renewal Ministries and Prayer Point Press.

I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not overcome it.
(Jesus in Matthew 16:18)

As the Church of Jesus Christ, are we overcoming — or are we being overcome?

I have to ask myself that question as I read about the events going on in our world today and the struggles our denomination is facing. Hemorrhaging and weak, we hardly seem like the prevailing church that started in the Upper Room and spread throughout an entire continent within a year-and-a-half.

I believe one reasons for our dysfunction is that we have become a church sold out to people. We have bought into consumerism and all the tenets thereof. The consumer-driven marketplace feeds on such factors as ingenuity, entertainment location, and image. The mottos are, “Make the customer happy. Give ’em what they want and they will come back for more. Make a profit at all cost.” The individual consumer is the prize.

While consumerism has its place in the marketplace, it is not difficult to see why it becomes a toxic virus when it is allowed to bleed over into the church.

When, as a church, we buy into the consumerism model, we begin to forfeit our birthrights as part of Jesus’ earthly bride. Driven by marketing, image control, and entertainment value, we allow ourselves to be shaped by the needs and desires of the church-shopping masses.

The whole thing becomes a people-to-people affair based on research and statistics. We do religious things based on careful assessment of human behavior in the “church industry.” Like Martha in the kitchen, we get so busy serving people that we neglect Jesus in the living room!

Being “culturally relevant” is fine — please hear me — but the church exists for God’s pleasure, not the pleasure of humankind. We are His bride, His love, created to represent Him and worship Him to His glory and honor.

We are not to be a consumer-based church, but a Presence-based church, sold out to inviting and welcoming the Presence of God.

Becoming Presence-based

The Presence-based church isn’t defined by procedures or specific worship styles. A Presence-based church doesn’t surface by following a prescribed formula, such as singing certain songs or ministering to people in a certain way.

Most importantly, a church is not Presence-based because of what it does or doesn’t do on Sunday morning. A church service is just the proverbial tip of the iceberg. It is simply a weekly expression of all that is going on under the surface.

Any church can become more Presence-based than it currently is. Any congregation, regardless of size or affiliation, can desire more of God and hunger for His manifest Presence. The issue is not so much about how we worship, but why we worship, and the heart attitude that we embody.

The Presence-based church isn’t interested in the question, “Are we attracting people?” but rather, “Are we attracting the Presence of God,” and, “Is He welcome and honored above all else?”

To be Presence-based, we must, like the Israelites in the desert, put the new Ark, which is Jesus, in the very center of our camp and be led, governed, taught, and sustained by Him alone. He is to be our identity.

The ‘Mary’ heart

Though there are several characteristics of a Presence-based church, the most distinguishing mark is a passion and hunger to know God as expressed through worship and prayer. Presence-based churches have the heart of Mary, who loved nothing more than sitting at the feet of Jesus.

Like the Levites who waited in the temple, lured by an intense fascination with the Ark of the Covenant, the people of the Presence-based church have tasted the incomparable sweetness of God’s nearness and bear His divine imprint. They worship because they are drawn to the Presence of God, and because being created by God for that purpose, they feel more alive and fulfilled during worship than at any other time. It is their passion and purpose.

In the Presence-based church, worship isn’t confined to a one hour service on Sunday morning. It is an ongoing dance that engages all that we are in loving all that He is. Presence-based worship is a response to a God who is so terrifyingly magnificent, yet so intimately known, that praise and adoration burst forth naturally and without effort. It cannot be contained.

Small groups worship at the feet of Jesus. The worship leaders usher the congregation to the feet of Jesus Sunday after Sunday after Sunday. Even board meetings engage the business of the church at the feet of Jesus.

The Presence-based church lives on the cutting edge of worship because its people are constantly looking for ways to press past any barriers that would hinder their expression of love and adoration.

Worship leaders in Presence-based churches may ask people to bow or kneel or worship in a prolonged period of silence and listening. They may introduce His people to worship music from different cultures. Occasionally, they may even dismiss the visitors at the end of the service and invite the regular members to stay and continue worshiping past noon.

Outside the camp

The prayer life of the Presence-based church follows a similar pattern. Hungry to know God’s ways, His glory, His heart, His voice, His rest and His thoughts, the people push past prayer that meets human agendas to seek God just for Himself. They pray to see His face, not just move His hand.

This is a realm of prayer that few ever experience. It is the purist form of prayer that teeters close to the edge of worship — that of praying to know God for no other reason except that He is worthy to be known.

It is the prayer of healthy desperation, a yearning prayer without crisis. It longs to press against the veil of the spiritual realm with such humility and endurance that the breath of God can be felt.

The Presence-based church goes beyond the familiar to seek God. Just as Moses went “outside the camp” to be with God in the Tent of Meeting (Exodus 33:7), the Presence-based church is always pushing past the successes of yesterday and going beyond the normal routine of church life to pray and experience God in new ways.

Seeking God, romancing with Him, deepens our spiritual understanding and faith. It greatly enhances God’s ability to transform lives and impact communities through us. That is why we need to go outside the camp to seek God for all that He is.

Vast knowledge and profound experience awaits the body of believers that can shake free from the familiar long enough to gaze at the heavens and listen for the heartbeat of God.

Many of our churches today are experiencing “Presence starvation,” and the deficiency is crippling. They have fasted the Presence for so long that they have forgotten what it is like to feast. All the while, Jesus is in the living room, beckoning anyone who will to come and sit at His feet.

Those who do will have “chosen what is better, and it will not be taken from [them]” (Luke 10:42).

Used by permission of Terry Teykl and Prayer Point Press: www.PrayerPoint Press.com

Related post
Podcast — Terry Teykl: ‘Praying for the Lost’

Related articles and information
Prayer and Presence: Not prominent in the Call to Action | Good News magazine (March/April 2011)
Excerpt from My Most Wanted Devotional: 40 Days to Pray for the Lost (PDF)
Biography of Terry Teykl (Microsoft Word file)
Why you should start a prayer room in your church | Terry Teykl, ForMinistry.com
30 Scripture-based prayers to pray for your pastor (PDF) | Terry Teykl, Church Prayer Leaders Network
Interview with Terry Teykl about the Houston area’s ‘Pray Down at High Noon’ prayer focus | KSBJ (several audio clips)
Terry Teykl — chapel address at the Wilmore, Ky., campus of Asbury Theological Seminary (Sept. 9, 2008)

Read Full Post »

On this edition of the MethodistThinker Mini-Podcast, Bishop Lindsey Davis of the Kentucky Annual Conference says the United Methodist Church must repent of its missional lethargy and re-commit itself to the purposes of God in Jesus Christ if it hopes to have renewed life.

Bishop G. Lindsey Davis

In his remarks, recorded last fall at a meeting of the Christian Educators Fellowship, Bishop Davis references Deuteronomy 30:19 (“I have set before you life and death, blessing and curse. Therefore choose life…”) and Zechariah 9:12 (“…you prisoners of hope”).

To listen to a five-minute excerpt from that October 2010 address, use the audio player below — or download an mp3 file (5MB).

Before being assigned to the Louisville Area, Bishop Davis served for 12 years as the episcopal leader of the North Georgia Conference.

To subscribe to the biweekly MethodistThinker Mini-Podcast, use the “Subscribe to Podcasts” link near the top of the right column.

Related posts
Bishop Lindsey Davis: The wind-and-flame faith of Pentecost
Conversations with Bishop Lindsey Davis
Bishop Lindsey Davis: ‘The primary task of the Church’
Bishop Lindsey Davis: ‘Whatever it takes to reach the lost’
Bishop Lindsey Davis speaks to the Confessing Movement

Read Full Post »

The following commentary, about a recent decision by the United Methodist Judicial Council, is by blogger and church planter David Fischler. David writes frequently on topics related to mainline Protestantism at his blog, The Reformed Pastor.

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 served as a United Methodist pastor for nine years.

David 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 opinion piece first appeared in a slightly different form at The Reformed Pastor. Links below have been added by MethodistThinker.com — Ed.

On April 29, the United Methodist Judicial Council struck down a policy passed last year by the New York Annual Conference that would have permitted a male pastor to get married to another man or a female pastor to marry a woman.

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; and,

WHEREAS, same-sex marriages performed in other jurisdictions are legally recognized by state agencies in New York;

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?

That policy, adopted overwhelmingly (83%-17%) by the New York Conference, is shown at right and is available here in PDF.

The United Methodist News Service reported on the Judicial Council’s rejection of the policy:

A policy adopted but not yet implemented by United Methodists in New York and Connecticut that essentially would have allowed clergy to marry someone of the same sex has been declared “null, void and of no effect” by the denomination’s top court.

The United Methodist Judicial Council has ruled that the New York Annual (regional) Conference resolution and policy allowing clergy “to marry at their own discretion” is “neither valid nor constitutional.”

While an annual conference can adopt rules and regulations for its own governance, the council wrote in Decision 1185, the conference “may not legally negate, ignore or violate provisions of the Discipline with which they disagree even when the disagreement is based upon conscientious objections to those provisions.”

Strictly speaking, as noted in a previous MethodistThinker post, even if the policy had been upheld, there should have been no situations in which it would apply.

UM 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).

Nevertheless, the New York Conference presented an interesting set of arguments in favor of its policy:

The rationale for the New York policy…is that same-sex marriage is [now] legal in Connecticut[, which is part of the New York Conference]; that such unions performed legally elsewhere “are legally recognized by state agencies in New York”; and that the church’s Articles of Religion — doctrinal standards found in Paragraph 103 of the Book of Discipline — state that it is “lawful” for clergy “to marry at their own discretion.”

Contending that the Articles of Religion take precedence over other church laws outside the church’s constitution, the New York Conference declared that “we believe that any…provision (in the Discipline) denying marriage to some clergy is unconstitutional and contrary to the Articles of Religion…”

In particular, Paragraph 103 would take precedence over Paragraph 2702, the conference said.

It worth noting that liberals in the denomination have spent the better part of the last century slowly eviscerating the Articles of Religion, to the point where the document is widely held to be nothing more than historical curiosity that can be ignored at will (that’s certainly the only way to explain some of the bizarre stuff taught in United Methodist seminaries these days).

But when they think (incorrectly, as it turns out) they can use the Articles to get what they want, they go all creedal. The hypocrisy is stunning, if unsurprising.

The other two arguments seem to be saying (as liberals in the mainline have been saying since 2003 when the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court ignored precedent, tradition, history, biology, and anything else that would get the way in legalizing same-sex marriage) that state law should take precedence over church law in governing the denomination.

Needless to say, they didn’t get far with that.

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

Which it is — any man is free to marry any woman, and vice versa.

At [last month’s] oral hearing in Detroit, Kevin Nelson, a New York lay member who identified himself as “a straight person who supports full inclusion of gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender persons,” argued that when John Wesley, the founder of Methodism, wrote [sic] the Articles of Religion, he did not define marriage as heterosexual.

That’s true. The Articles don’t specifically prohibit two men from marrying, nor do they prohibit men from marrying manatees or statues of Elvis. Given the 18th century time frame, I would have thought we could simply assume that Wesley, who adapted the Methodism’s Twenty-Five Articles of Religion from the Anglican Church’s Thirty-Nine Articles (dating back to the 16th century), believed marriage to be a man-woman thing — but apparently not.

By the way, are you wondering what Article XXI actually says?

Article XXI—Of the Marriage of Ministers: The ministers of Christ are not commanded by God’s law either to vow the estate of single life, or to abstain from marriage; therefore it is lawful for them, as for all other Christians, to marry at their own discretion, as they shall judge the same to serve best to godliness.

Ah. So Methodist Article XXI — just like Anglican Article XXXII on which it is based — was aimed at the Roman Catholic prohibition on ministers’ marrying. (Context can be such a pain in the neck, can’t it?)

More from the UMNS report:

Both Craig and Nelson noted that Wesley was well aware that issues of class, race and status could be used by society as an attempt to block marriage. “Although John Wesley may not have considered marriage for same-gender couples in Article XXI, the discretion of clergy to marry whom they choose can be understood on the face of it as a challenge to arbitrary social categories and prejudices,” Craig said at the October hearing.

Except that there’s nothing arbitrary about the restriction of marriage to heterosexual couples. It’s that pesky Bible thing, doncha know.

Nelson[, a program associate at the UMC’s General Board of Global Ministries,] declared that allowing other parts of the Discipline to supersede Article XXI is “anti-Wesleyan” and ignores the ministry of Jesus to the marginalized, “a marginalization that in today’s world and in the case of gay and lesbian persons is all too often perpetuated by the very Christian churches that have been charged by God with opposing it.”

Noting that “there is no acceptable place between humiliation and respect,” Nelson asked council members to “take a controversial but clearly proscribed stand” to uphold the church’s constitution and affirm the New York Conference policy.

As a constitutional argument, this amounted to a plea for the Judicial Council to do what the supreme courts of several states have done, and simply impose its own policy preferences (assuming they differ from the current ones) for that of the membership of the denomination.

The good thing about this is that it appears to shut off any judicial avenue for liberals in the United Methodist Church to foist their transformation of theology and ethics on the church as a whole.

Instead, they will have to go the route of trying to change the Book of Discipline at UMC’s General Conference, the world-wide meeting of the church that has seen evangelical United Methodists from Africa wield growing influence because their churches are growing which the American church shrinks.

Theological and moral standards still need to be enforced, of course, but at least the standards themselves aren’t going anywhere any time soon.

Related posts
Judicial Council asked to revisit Decision 1032, allow homosexual clergy to marry
United Methodist Judicial Council convenes for fall 2010 session
A word from Mr. Wesley: Holiness in singleness
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
Court voids new policy on clergy marriage | Linda Bloom, United Methodist News Service (May 3, 2011)
Docket for the April 27-30, 2011 meeting of the UM Judicial Council (PDF)
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)
African Power: How 192 delegates saved Methodists from madness & other stories from the General Conference | Mark Tooley, Touchstone (November 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)
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)
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’ says push to accept homosexual practice threatens to split United Methodist Church | United Methodist News Service (May 6, 1997)

Read Full Post »

The 2011 National Day of Prayer

Today marks the 60th Annual Observance of the National Day of Prayer, with prayer gatherings in communities across the nation.

Although particular days of national prayer have been observed since America’s earliest history, a formal a nationwide annual observance began only in 1952, following the passage of a law signed by President Harry S. Truman that called for an annual National Day of Prayer.

More than three decades later, Congress and President Ronald Reagan, designated the first Thursday in May as the uniform date of that annual observance.

The theme for this year’s National Day of Prayer is “A Mighty Fortress is Our God.”

This year’s 2011 National Prayer —  used this morning at a prayer gathering at the Cannon House Office Building (to be rebroadcast here from 10 p.m.-1 a.m. ET tonight), as well as at many local gatherings around the nation— was written by current NDP honorary chairman, Joni Eareckson Tada:

Almighty God, you are our Mighty Fortress, our refuge and the God in whom we place our trust. As our nation faces great distress and uncertainty, we ask your Holy Spirit to fall afresh upon your people — convict us of sin and inflame within us a passion to pray for our land and its people. Grant the leaders of our country an awareness of their desperate need of wisdom and salvation in You until sin becomes a reproach to all and righteousness exalts this nation.

Protect and defend us against our enemies and may the cause of Christ always prevail in our schools, courts, homes, and churches. Lord God, send a spirit of revival and may it begin in our own hearts.

Remember America, we pray. Remember the foundations on which this country was built. Remember the prayers of our nation’s fathers and mothers, and do not forget us in our time of need.

In the name of our Savior, Jesus Christ, Amen.

In a presidential proclamation marking this year’s National Day of Prayer, President Barack Obama noted that prayer has played a key and decisive role in the history of the United States. “It is thus fitting that…Congress and Presidents have set aside days to recognize the role prayer has played in so many definitive moments in our history…. [L]et us be thankful for the many other freedoms and blessings that we often take for granted.”

Last month, a federal court rejected (PDF) an attempt — in Freedom From Religion Foundation Inc. v. Barack Obama — to have the National Day of Prayer declared unconstitutional.

To find a National Day of Prayer gathering in your area, go here. (Note: Not all local events are listed.)

Many United Methodist churches are hosting NDP events. For a sampling, see this Google search.

Read Full Post »