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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
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During February, we’re showcasing podcasts from our fall 2010 season. This podcast features an address by the Rev. Rob Renfroe, president of Good News, the flagship renewal ministry of the United Methodist Church.

The Rev. Rob Renfroe

Robert Lane Renfroe earned a B.A. magna cum laude from Rice University (1977) and an M. Div. summa cum laude from Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary (1982).

After graduating from seminary, he was appointed to be the associate pastor at The Woodlands United Methodist Church in The Woodlands, Texas, north of Houston.

In 1988, he was named pastor of First United Methodist Church in Atlanta, Texas. Four years later, he moved to Mission Bend UMC in Houston.

In 1998, Renfroe was named executive pastor at Houston’s First United Methodist Church, serving alongside Dr. Bill Hinson (PDF). After three years in that role, he returned to The Woodlands UMC as the pastor of adult discipleship, a position he continues to hold.

From 2007-2009, Rob Renfroe also served as president of the board of the Confessing Movement Within the United Methodist Church. He is also a past member of the United Methodist General Board of Church and Society.

Renfroe became the leader of Good News — and publisher of Good News magazine — in the summer of 2009, following the retirement of the ministry’s long-time leader, James V. Heidinger II.

“The Deeper Issues of United Methodist Renewal” is a presentation Rob Renfroe has delivered at various renewal gatherings. The four issues he discusses are:

  • The nature of moral truth;
  • The authority of the Scriptures;
  • The revelatory work of the Holy Spirit;
  • The uniqueness of Jesus Christ.

The particular address heard on this podcast was recorded in June 2007 at a gathering of the Arkansas Conference Confessing Movement.

To listen, use the audio player below (28 min.) — or right click (Windows users) to download an mp3 (12.6MB).

For previous MethodistThinker Podcasts, click the “podcasts” tab at the top of this page. To subscribe via iTunes or other podcast software, use the “Subscribe to Podcasts” link near the top of the right column.


Related posts
Renewal & Reform Coalition responds to retired bishops’ call to alter UMC’s sexuality standards
Renewal & Reform Coalition releases letter to Council of Bishops
UM renewal leader: ‘The UMC is worth fighting for’
Podcast: Charles Keysor—‘How then should UM evangelicals fight?’
Podcast: Dr. James Heidinger on ‘United Methodist Renewal’
Podcast: Bill Hinson on ‘The Making of a Minister’
A salute to James Heidinger of Good News

Related articles and information
The deeper issues of United Methodist renewal | Rob Renfroe, Good News (via The Sundry Times)
What do United Methodists expect from their bishops? | Rob Renfroe, Good News (Feb. 17, 2011)
Should the UMC change its ordination standards and allow sexually active homosexuals to serve as clergy? | Rob Renfroe, Good News (Feb. 17, 2011)
In pursuit of truth | Rob Renfroe, Good News (January/February 2011)
Good News moves ministry to Houston, Texas area | Good News (November/December 2010)
Your life, God’s gift | Rob Renfroe, Good News (November/December 2010)
Believe, experience, and increase | Rob Renfroe, Good News (June/July 2010)
Grace and truth | Rob Renfroe, Asbury Seminary Chapel podcast (April 13, 2010)
Health care and the most vulnerable | Rob Renfroe, Good News (November/December 2009)
Speaking the truth in love | Rob Renfroe, Good News (September/October 2009)
For the cause of Christ (PDF) | Rob Renfroe, Good News (May/June 2009)
I wonder if you’re like me (PDF) | Rob Renfroe, We Confess (January/February 2007)
Defining the issues: A Methodist witness | Albert Mohler (Nov. 1, 2006)
United Methodism in crisis: Scriptural renewal through the Good News Movement | Chapter 4 of Public Pulpits: Methodists and Mainline Churches in the Moral Argument of Public Life by Steven M. Tipton (University of Chicago Press, 2008 — via Google Books)
Turning Around the Mainline: How Renewal Movements Are Changing the Church (ordering info) | Thomas C. Oden, Baker Books (2006)
40 years of vision for United Methodist Renewal (PDF) | James V. Heidinger II, Good News (November/December 2007)
The story of Good News: A recollection by Charles W. Keysor (PDF) | Good News (March/April 1981)
The Junaluska Affirmation: Scriptural Christianity for United Methodists (PDF) | Forum for Scriptural Christianity (Good News) (July 20, 1975)

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This is the second installment of a monthly MethodistThinker feature for 2011 that  presents excerpts from the writings of John Wesley, co-founder of the Methodist movement.

Because the use of language changes with the passage of time, the wording in these excerpts has been slightly updated, based on the adaptation found in Renew My Heart (Barbour Books, 2011).

The following is from John Wesley’s sermon, “Salvation by Faith.” A link to the full text of the original sermon is included in the links below.

For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves;
it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast.
(Ephesians 2:8-9 NKJV)

Salvation by faith must be preached as the first doctrine, and it must be preached to all. The Holy Spirit says, through St. Paul, “No other foundation can anyone lay than that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ” (1 Corinthians 3:11).

“Whoever believes on Him shall be saved” is, and must be, the foundation to all else. That is, it must be preached first, and it must be preached to all. We must exclude no one. Not the poor. Not the unlearned. Not the young. For our commission is, “Go and preach the gospel to every creature.”

Never has maintaining the doctrine of salvation by faith been more seasonable that at this day. Nothing but this doctrine can effectually prevent the increase of delusions among us. Attacking one by one all the errors that assail us would be endless. But salvation by faith strikes at the root, and all errors fall at once where this truth is established.

It is this doctrine, justly called the strong rock and foundation of the Christian religion, that first established Christianity on this continent. It is this alone that can save us now.

Wesley statue in Bristol, England
Photo by Chris Bertram (used by permission)

Nothing but this can give a check to the immorality which has overspread the land as a flood.

Can you empty the ocean drop by drop? But let the righteousness which is of God by faith be brought in and the waves shall be stayed.

Nothing but this can stop the mouths of those who “glory in their shame” and openly deny the Lord that bought them.

Bring in the gospel. Begin with the righteousness of faith, with Christ, “the end of the law” to everyone who believes (Romans 10:4).

Declaring salvation by faith strikes at the very foundations of hell. For this reason, our adversary stirred up earth and hell to destroy those who first preached it.

[But do not fear.] Even though you are as helpless and weak as a young infant, the strong man, Satan, will not be able to stand before you. You will prevail over him and subdue him, and overthrow him, and trample him under your feet.

March on, under the great captain of your salvation, conquering and to conquer, until all your enemies are destroyed, and “death is swallowed up in victory” (1 Corinthians 15:54). Thanks be to God who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ!

Adapted in part from Renew My Heart,
published by Barbour Publishing, Inc. Used by permission.

Related posts
A word from Mr. Wesley: ‘Salvation by faith’
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 articles and information
Salvation by faith (full text) | The Rev. John Wesley (1738) (from The Sermons of John Wesley, 1872 Edition — Thomas Jackson, editor)
‘By grace are ye saved through faith’ | John Meunier (June 24, 2010)
This still new doctrine of salvation by faith | John Meunier (Sept. 28, 2010)

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This is the first installment of a new MethodistThinker feature for 2011 that will present excerpts from the writings of John Wesley, co-founder (with his brother Charles) of the Methodist movement.

“A Word from Mr. Wesley” will appear around the first of each month.

Because language changes with the passage of time, the wording in these excerpts has been slightly updated. (Where possible, a link to the full text of the original document will be provided for those who wish to consult the complete text.)

The following is from John Wesley’s sermon, “Salvation by Faith.”

For by grace you have been saved through faith… (Eph. 2:8)

All the blessings God has bestowed upon man and women are of his grace, his free, undeserved favor. We have no claim to the least of His mercies.

It was free grace that “formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into him a living soul,” and then stamped on that soul the image of God. The same free grace continues to us at this day — life, and breath, and all things. And whatever righteousness may be found in us, this is also the gift of God.

With what then can we atone for even the least of our sins? With our works? Even if our works are many and holy, they are not our own, but God’s.

Therefore, having nothing — neither righteousness nor works — to plead, our mouths are utterly stopped before God. If, then, we find favor with God, it is “grace upon grace!” “By grace you have been saved through faith.”

Grace is the source, faith is the condition, of salvation.

What kind of faith? Faith in Christ. Christian faith is a full reliance on the blood of Christ; it is a trust in the merits of His life, death, and resurrection. This kind of faith means resting upon Him as our atonement and our life. It is cleaving to Him as our “wisdom, righteousness, sanctification, and redemption” — or, in one word, our salvation.

This is a present salvation — something attained here on earth — by those who are partakers of this faith. This is that great salvation foretold by the angel, before God brought His First-begotten into the world: “You shall call His name Jesus, for He will save His people from their sins” (Matthew 1:21).


Born again unto a new life

Through faith in Jesus Christ, we are saved both from the guilt of sin and from the power of it.

First, we are saved from the guilt of all past sin. Saved from guilt, we are also saved from fear — from fear of punishment, from fear of the wrath of God, whom we now no longer regard as a severe Master, but as an indulgent Father.

Secondly, through this faith we are saved from the power of sin. Those who by faith are born of God do not commit habitual sin (for this would mean that sin reigning and sin cannot reign in anyone who believes), nor do they commit willful sin (because those who abide in the faith abhor sin as deadly poison).

This, then, is the salvation that is through faith — even in this present world: A salvation from sin and the consequences of sin, by the atonement of Christ applied to those who believe on him, and a deliverance from the power of sin, through Christ formed in the heart.

Those who are thus saved by faith are indeed born again. They are born again of the Spirit unto a new life — a life that “is hidden with Christ in God” (Colossians 3:3).


Related posts
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 articles and information
Salvation by faith (full text) | The Rev. John Wesley (1738) (from The Sermons of John Wesley, 1872 Edition — Thomas Jackson, editor)
‘By grace are ye saved through faith’ | John Meunier (June 24, 2010)
This still new doctrine of salvation by faith | John Meunier (Sept. 28, 2010)

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The latest MethodistThinker Podcast features an address by the Rev. Rob Renfroe, president of Good News, the flagship renewal ministry of the United Methodist Church.

The Rev. Rob Renfroe

Robert Lane Renfroe earned a B.A. magna cum laude from Rice University in 1977 and an M. Div. summa cum laude from Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary in 1982.

After graduating from seminary, he was appointed to be the associate pastor at The Woodlands United Methodist Church in The Woodlands, Texas, north of Houston.

In 1988, he was named pastor of First United Methodist Church in Atlanta, Texas. Four years later, he moved to Mission Bend UMC in Houston.

In 1998, Renfroe was named executive pastor at Houston’s First United Methodist Church, serving alongside Dr. Bill Hinson (PDF). After three years in that role, he returned to The Woodlands UMC as the pastor of adult discipleship, a position he continues to hold.

From 2007-2009, Rob Renfroe also served as president of the board of the Confessing Movement Within the United Methodist Church. He is also a past member of the United Methodist General Board of Church and Society.

Renfroe became the leader of Good News and publisher of Good News magazine in the summer of 2009, following the retirement of the ministry’s long-time leader, James V. Heidinger.

“The Deeper Issues of United Methodist Renewal” is a presentation Renfroe has delivered at various renewal gatherings. The four issues he discusses are:

  • The nature of moral truth;
  • The authority of the Scriptures;
  • The revelatory work of the Holy Spirit;
  • The uniqueness of Jesus Christ.

The particular address heard on this podcast was recorded in June 2007 at a gathering of the Arkansas Conference Confessing Movement.

To listen, use the audio player below (28 min.) — or right click (Windows users) to download an mp3 (12.6MB).

For previous MethodistThinker Podcasts, click the “podcasts” tab at the top of this page. To subscribe via iTunes or other podcast software, use the “Subscribe to Podcasts” link near the top of the right column.


Related posts
Renewal & Reform Coalition releases letter to Council of Bishops
UM renewal leader: ‘The UMC is worth fighting for’
Podcast: Charles Keysor—‘How then should UM evangelicals fight?’
Podcast: Dr. James Heidinger on ‘United Methodist Renewal’
Podcast: Bill Hinson on ‘The Making of a Minister’
A salute to James Heidinger of Good News

Related articles and information
The deeper issues of United Methodist renewal | Rob Renfroe, Good News (via The Sundry Times)
Good News moves ministry to Houston, Texas area | Good News (November/December 2010)
Your life, God’s gift | Rob Renfroe, Good News (November/December 2010)
Believe, experience, and increase | Rob Renfroe, Good News (June/July 2010)
Grace and truth | Rob Renfroe, Asbury Seminary Chapel podcast (April 13, 2010)
Health care and the most vulnerable | Rob Renfroe, Good News (November/December 2009)
Speaking the truth in love | Rob Renfroe, Good News (September/October 2009)
For the cause of Christ (PDF) | Rob Renfroe, Good News (May/June 2009)
I wonder if you’re like me (PDF) | Rob Renfroe, We Confess (January/February 2007)
Defining the issues: A Methodist witness | Albert Mohler (Nov. 1, 2006)
United Methodism in crisis: Scriptural renewal through the Good News Movement | Chapter 4 of Public Pulpits: Methodists and Mainline Churches in the Moral Argument of Public Life by Steven M. Tipton (University of Chicago Press, 2008 — via Google Books)
Turning Around the Mainline: How Renewal Movements Are Changing the Church (ordering info) | Thomas C. Oden, Baker Books (2006)
40 years of vision for United Methodist Renewal (PDF) | James V. Heidinger II, Good News (November/December 2007)
The story of Good News: A recollection by Charles W. Keysor (PDF) | Good News (March/April 1981)
The Junaluska Affirmation: Scriptural Christianity for United Methodists (PDF) | Forum for Scriptural Christianity (Good News) (July 20, 1975)

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Update: On Oct. 30, the Judicial Council denied requests to reconsider Decision 1032. The denial was issued in Memorandum No. 1158 (available here in PDF).

The United Methodist Judicial Council opened its fall session in New Orleans Wednesday with a heavy docket of 31 items (PDF), including several related to a controversial 2005 decision (Decision 1032) in which the council ruled that a pastor has the authority to gauge if a prospective church member is spiritually ready to take membership vows.

The Northern Illinois Conference is asking Judicial Council, the denomination’s “supreme court,” to reconsider Decision 1032, as are the Minnesota and Arkansas Conferences. Northern Illinois also is requesting declaratory decisions on four other matters related to membership.

UMNS graphic

Decision 1032, decided by a 5-3 vote, arose from a Virginia Conference case. In early 2005, the Rev. Ed Johnson, then pastor of South Hill UMC, counseled a sexually active homosexual man who wanted to join the South Hill church.

The man, an inactive member of a non-UM church in the area, had been attending South Hill UMC for several months and expressed a desire to transfer his membership.

Pastor Johnson made clear to the man that UM membership vows included both a renunciation of sin (“Do you…repent of your sin?”) and a profession of faith (“Do you confess Jesus Christ as your Savior, put your whole trust in his grace, and promise to serve him as your Lord…?”).

Since homosexual activity is deemed by the UMC to be “incompatible with Christian teaching” (¶161F of the Book of Discipline, in light of Romans 1 and other passages), Johnson made clear that joining the church would have implications for the man’s involvement in homosexual relationships.

(NOTE: The 2008 General Conference adopted a change in ¶225 of the Book of Discipline that allows a baptized member of “another denomination” to transfer to the UMC without a specific renunciation of sin. Instructions that accompany the new official membership liturgy (PDF) refer to this as “being received into baptized but not professing membership.” More on this below.)

In January 2005, Pastor Johnson “began his usual pastoral practice of holding membership classes. He met with [the membership candidate] six times, called him on the phone, took homemade raisin bread to his shop, and offered to be the membership candidate’s ‘spiritual friend,'” according to the oral argument (PDF) presented at the October 2005 Judicial Council hearing by the Rev. Tom Thomas, Johnson’s counsel.

From the UM Baptismal Covenant

“In February 2005 meetings with the membership candidate, [he] acknowledged to [Pastor] Johnson his on-going homosexual practice and his intention to continue having same-sex sex.

“[Pastor Johnson] told the membership candidate he would regretfully have to postpone [the man’s] membership candidacy until they worked through some issues,” Thomas said.

The following month, Virginia Conference Bishop Charlene Kammerer sent an administrative complaint against Ed Johnson to the Conference Board of Ordained Ministry, citing the pastor’s “unwillingness or inability to perform ministerial duties” (Book of Discipline ¶362.2). Later, Johnson was suspended without pay.

In Decision 1032, the Judicial Council ruled in Pastor Johnson’s favor, 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.”

In a dissenting opinion, council member (now council president) Susan T. Henry-Crowe argued that the decision “compromises the historical understanding that the Church is open to all.”

Johnson was appointed to a church in another city. A new pastor sent to South Hill, the Rev. Barry Burkholder, allowed the man at the center of the membership controversy to join by transfer from a nearby Baptist church.

In a recent commentary, associate director of the Confessing Movement Within the United Methodist Church, described what happened after Decision 1032 was issued and offered background on the moves to revisit the decision.

[The UM Council of Bishops] made a statement [four days after Decision 1032 was rendered] defending the bishop of Virginia, implying that the Judicial Council decision was wrong.

Dr. Riley B. Case

The bishops followed this with another unprecedented action: they would not renominate for re-election any of the Judicial Council members who voted with the majority in the decision.

In 2008 the General Conference elected a new slate of Judicial Council members whose views were more in line with the “progressive” element of the church….

[Further] an amendment to Article IV [— the “Inclusiveness of the Church” article of the UM Constitution] was submitted to the 2008 General Conference and approved (with very little debate) by that body with the necessary two-thirds vote.

The amendment sought to [alter the language of Article IV] so that “all persons” meant all persons, regardless of what persons believed or practiced, or even whether they had accepted Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior. Thus, supposedly, in the name of diversity a blow would be struck for the condoning of homosexual practice…. “[D]iversity” would now be inscribed in the constitution as the basis for membership, taking the place of confession in Jesus Christ.

The amendment to Article IV, which needed to be ratified by two-thirds of the voting members of annual conferences, failed spectacularly. Needing a two-thirds vote in the annual conferences, it failed even to muster a majority. [This] was, and is, a sharp reminder that the leadership of The United Methodist Church is disconnected from the local church, from the annual conferences, and from the overseas church….

Now a new strategy…. The North Illinois Annual Conference petitioned the Judicial Council to consider whether Judicial Council Decision 1032 is superseded by ¶225 in the Discipline.

From the UM General Board of Discipleship

Paragraph 225 now states that “a member in good standing in any Christian denomination who has been baptized and who desires to be united with The United Methodist Church shall be received” [rather than “may”] as a member of the UMC. The 2008 General Conference added the word “shall” to the paragraph in an effort to institutionally force “inclusivity.”

The question is moot, of course, because Decision 1032 was made before the word “shall” in ¶225 was placed in the Discipline. It would be a relevant question only if a similar Ed Johnson case were now presented to the Judicial Council.

But ¶225 illustrates the problem of ambiguity that characterizes so many parts of the Discipline. The same paragraph that uses the word “shall” also uses the word “may” (persons may be received).

The intent of the paragraph is to recognize the validity of church membership and baptism in other denominations. Is it now to be re-interpreted to mean much more than it was ever intended to mean — namely, that a church or a pastor may inquire into the faith of a person being received into membership by profession of faith, but may not inquire into the faith and beliefs of a possible transfer?

And what is a “Christian” denomination? Do we include Mormons, Unitarians, Seventh-Day Adventists, and United Pentecostals (who do not baptize in the name of the triune God)?….

And who is “a member in good standing”? In the actual Ed Johnson case that was an important part of the issue. The person seeking membership was hardly in good standing in the previous church (actually two churches) which basically asked him to leave because he was being disruptive.

If the Judicial Council decides at this week’s meeting to revisit Decision 1032, the actual reconsideration would not occur until the council’s spring 2011 meeting.

Also on the docket this week, the Judicial Council is also being asked to rule on whether the secretary of the General Conference has the authority to determine the number of delegates to quadrennial General Conference.

Another case asks the council to determine if a 224-year-old year old rule that that allows Methodist ministers to marry (Article XXI of the Articles of Religion) supersedes the church’s prohibition against same-sex marriage for clergy.

In addition to its request regarding Decision 1032, the Northern Illinois Conference is requesting that the council permit each annual conference to adopt its own definition of the term “status” in Article IV of the Constitution (“All persons without regard to race, color, national origin, status, or economic condition, shall be eligible…upon baptism [to] be admitted as baptized members, and upon taking the vows declaring the Christian faith, [to] become professing members in any local church in the connection”—italics added for emphasis). Northern Illinois specifically seeks to include “sexual orientation and transgender identity” in its definition of “status.”

The Judicial Council rejected a 2006 request to reconsider Decision 1032 (filed by Bishop Charlene Kammerer and the Virginia Conference Board of Ordained Ministry). But as noted above, the make-up of the nine-member council has changed significantly since then as a result of the election of new council members at the 2008 General Conference in Fort Worth, Texas.

As reported in the April 29, 2008, Fort Worth Star-Telegram (article no longer online), “The council previously had a 6-3 conservative majority. But only one of the council members elected…is conservative, joining the sole conservative member remaining on the council.” Even though approximately 30 percent of United Methodists live in Africa, no African was elected to serve as a primary member of the council (two Methodists from Africa were elected as “alternate” members).

According to a report by the California-Nevada (Conference) News Service, the election of “progressive” members was the result of a coordinated effort.

Richard Bentley, a clergyman in the California-Pacific Conference [and convener of the California-Pacific Chapter of the Methodist Federation for Social Action], was instrumental in developing the winning progressive slate. He was one of three men who called together contacts from annual conferences in each of five U.S. jurisdictions to give input on candidates who progressives affirmed will be, in their terms, “fair and balanced.”

Consensus developed based on theological perspectives and existing base support that could be augmented….

The slate was printed and distributed to nearly every annual conference delegation.

An editorial (no longer online) in the May/June 2008 Good News magazine noted that distribution of the slate appeared to be in violation of General Conference guidelines.

A matter left unexplained after the election of the new Council members was who exactly was responsible for a brochure placed on the desks of many delegates the morning of the elections.

The goldenrod flier listed candidates who were “recommended by a politically unaffiliated group of fifty jurisdictional and central conference delegates” but didn’t say who these fifty were — it wasn’t signed. It simply appeared on the desks of many delegates. (A conference rule prohibits materials being placed on the desks of the delegates.)

The flier’s…recommended candidates were all elected, and in the order listed on the brochure.

Following the elections, a delegate raised a question about the official-looking flier, but the report back was that no rule had been violated.

Dan Johnson with flier

Dan Johnson with flier

Use the audio player below to hear delegate Dan Johnson (clergy member, Florida Conference) raise a question about whether the flier, apparently distributed in violation of General Conference rules, had affected the outcome of the Judicial Council elections.

Bishop Mike Coyner (Indiana Conference) is the presiding officer.

The interchange is about two minutes.

The nine current members of the United Methodist Judicial Council are:

  • 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
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
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)
Top court takes up membership issues | Linda Bloom, United Methodist News Service (via UM Reporter — Aug. 9, 2010)
Docket for the Oct. 27-30, 2010 meeting of the UM Judicial Council (PDF)
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)
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)
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)
By what power? S.C. asks Judicial Council to decide authority of General Conference secretary | Jessica Connor, South Carolina United Methodist Advocate (Sept. 1, 2010)
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)
Debate at the 2004 General Conference on various legislation related to homosexuality (includes audio) | 2004 General Conference Archive
Resources list: Ministry for and with homosexual persons (requested by the UMC’s 2004 General Conference) (PDF) | United Methodist Publishing House
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 board urges bishops to preserve unity of church | United Methodist News Service (Feb. 2, 1999)
‘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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Following a four-month period of “prayer, study, [and] discussion” billed as the “Summer of Great Discernment,” one of United Methodism’s most prominent churches has concluded that the United Methodist Church’s restrictions on homosexual marriage, and by implication the Christian faith’s long-held doctrines related to marriage and homosexuality, are “inconsistent with the teachings of Jesus Christ.”

Foundry UMC's main building

A policy statement (PDF) approved last week by Washington, D.C’.s Foundry UMC argues that a United Methodist rule prohibiting clergy from officiating at union ceremonies for same-sex couples “exclude[s] gay and lesbian members from the full life of the church” and therefore is inconsistent with Christ’s teachings.

The Foundry statement does not cite any specific teaching from the gospels or the other New Testament books in which the words of Christ are recorded.

The United Methodist Church’s prohibition on officiating at a union ceremony for two men or two women is found in Paragraph 341.6 of the denomination’s Book of Discipline. That paragraph also prohibits conducting same-sex union ceremonies in UM church buildings.

Foundry’s statement, passed by a 367-8 vote, further asserts that the UMC’s prohibition on homosexual marriage violates the denomination’s own Constitution. By failing to affirm same-sex unions, the United Methodist Church is contravening Article IV of the UM Constitution, the Foundry policy statement argues. Article IV says (in part) that “no conference or other organizational unit of the Church shall be structured so as to exclude any member or any constituent body of the Church because of race, color, national origin, status or economic condition.”

In a “special edition” of the Foundry Forge newsletter (PDF) published just after the vote, the church’s senior pastor Dean Snyder, who has served at Foundry UMC since 2002, said the congregation’s decision to reject Paragraph 341.6 and embrace homosexual marriage is “the right thing” to do.

“We’ve studied, discussed, and voted. We’ve done the right thing,” he wrote. “We will have beautiful weddings here for all of our members and friends who want to be married here.”

The outcome of Foundry UMC’s “Summer of Great Discernment” was not unexpected. In 2008, Foundry began “recogniz[ing] same-sex unions in special ceremonies that [fell] just short of an official wedding,” according to a United Methodist News Service report.

A year later, Foundry was one of seven churches that sponsored a resolution on human sexuality that was approved by the Baltimore-Washington Conference but was later overturned by the United Methodist Judicial Council.

The resolution, which said United Methodists are “divided regarding homosexual expressions of human sexuality,” effectively “negated the church’s clearly stated position,” the Council ruled.

Foundry UMC has been affiliated with the homosexuality-affirming Reconciling Ministries Network since 1995. RMN is an unofficial group that “mobilizes United Methodists of all sexual orientations and gender identities to transform our Church and world into the full expression of Christ’s inclusive love.”

The Reconciling Ministries Network has been involved in repeated attempts to change official United Methodist doctrine related to sexual practice. “RMN works for full equality in membership, ordination, and marriage for God’s lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender children,” according to the group’s website.

Earlier this year, shortly after same-sex weddings were declared legal by the District of Columbia City Council, another RMN-affiliated church in D.C., Dumbarton UMC in Georgetown, announced it would “honor and celebrate” weddings between two men or two women (text of statement by the Dumbarton UMC church council). “We celebrate love and loyalty wherever it is found,” Dumbarton’s pastor Mary Kay Totty said.

In a 2009 case arising from the California-Nevada Conference, the United Methodist Judicial Council effectively ruled (Decision 1111) that even in states or jurisdictions where same-sex unions have been deemed legal, UM clergy who perform such unions are nonetheless acting in disobedience to the Book of Discipline.

Last week’s action by Foundry UMC, though focused on United Methodist policy, challenges nearly two millennia of church teaching on homosexual activity.

Some of the earliest-known examples of such teaching — from church leaders such as John Chrysostom, Cyprian, and Theodoret of Cyrus — are summarized by UM scholar Thomas C. Oden in Staying the Course: Supporting the [United Methodist] Church’s Position on Homosexuality (Abingdon Press, 2003), a collection of essays by UM leaders and theologians.

Below are excerpts from Dr. Oden’s essay about the church’s historic teaching on the first chapter of Romans, in which the apostle Paul discusses homosexual behavior as an outgrowth of humanity’s tendency toward idolatry.

The [Romans] passage divides itself naturally into two parts: the foolish and idolatrous exchange of God for creaturely images; and the exchange of natural for unnatural passions….

Dr. Thomas C. Oden

Paul writes in Romans 1:21: “For although they knew God they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking and their senseless minds were darkened.”

Paul first clearly asserts that they (all humanity, of whatever sexual practice) “knew God.”… Yet precisely those who knew God as God “did not honor him as God.” This is the tragic story of all humanity enmeshed in the history of sin…. In this way all humanity… “became futile in their thinking.”….

The foolish exchange is set forth in verse 22: “Claiming to be wise they became fools, and exchanged the immortal God for images resembling mortal man or birds or animals or reptiles.”… “Having a high opinion of themselves, and not being patient enough to go the way that God had commanded them,” wrote John Chrysostom, “they became immersed in a way of thinking which made no sense” (Homilies on Romans)….

Romans 1:24: “Therefore God gave them up in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, to the dishonoring of their bodies among themselves.” Who is “they?” Not homosexuals in particular, but the whole history of idolatrous humanity. Theodoret of Cyrus: “By gave them up [paredoken] Paul means that God permitted this to happen. He simply abandoned them because they had fallen into extreme ungodliness.” (Interpretation of the Letter to the Romans)….

Up to this point we have been describing not homosexual practice specifically, but the general condition of humanity: idolatry and foolishness. Now a major transition occurs in Paul’s argument. He is going to illustrate the general principle with a specific example.

Romans 1:21-2:4

For although they knew God, they neither glorified him as God nor gave thanks to him, but their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened. Although they claimed to be wise, they became fools and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images made to look like mortal man and birds and animals and reptiles.

Therefore God gave them over in the sinful desires of their hearts to sexual impurity for the degrading of their bodies with one another. They exchanged the truth of God for a lie, and worshiped and served created things rather than the Creator — who is forever praised. Amen.

Because of this, God gave them over to shameful lusts. Even their women exchanged natural relations for unnatural ones. In the same way the men also abandoned natural relations with women and were inflamed with lust for one another. Men committed indecent acts with other men, and received in themselves the due penalty for their perversion.

Furthermore, since they did not think it worthwhile to retain the knowledge of God, he gave them over to a depraved mind, to do what ought not to be done.

They have become filled with every kind of wickedness, evil, greed and depravity. They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit and malice. They are gossips, slanderers, God-haters, insolent, arrogant and boastful; they invent ways of doing evil; they disobey their parents; they are senseless, faithless, heartless, ruthless.

Although they know God’s righteous decree that those who do such things deserve death, they not only continue to do these very things but also approve of those who practice them.

You, therefore, have no excuse, you who pass judgment on someone else, for at whatever point you judge the other, you are condemning yourself, because you who pass judgment do the same things. Now we know that God’s judgment against those who do such things is based on truth. So when you, a mere man, pass judgment on them and yet do the same things, do you think you will escape God’s judgment?

Or do you show contempt for the riches of his kindness, tolerance and patience, not realizing that God’s kindness leads you toward repentance?

(New International Version)

Romans 1:26: “For this reason God gave them up to dishonorable passions. Their women exchanged natural relations for unnatural.”Here homosexual practice (they “exchanged natural relations for unnatural” [metellaxan ten phusiken chresin eis ten para phusin]) specifically enters for the first time into Paul’s discussion, as a dramatic case in point, illustrating the larger human predicament (idolatry).

Ambrosiaster recognized and explained Paul’s distinction between what is natural and what is unnatural sexually: “Paul tells us that these things came about, that a woman should lust after another woman, because God was angry at the human race because of its idolatry….” (Commentary on Paul’s Epistles)….

Romans 1:27: “And the men likewise gave up natural relations with women and were consumed with passion for one another, men committing shameless acts with men and receiving in their own persons the due penalty for their error.” When men are consumed with sexual passion for other men, the reason is not merely lust, but idolatry: “It is clear that because they changed the truth of God into a lie, they changed the natural use of sexuality into that use by which they were dishonored” (Ambrosiaster, Commentary on Paul’s Epistles).

What specifically are these “shameless acts”? The context makes it unavoidable that these are acts that men commit with men, and that they are sexually focused. This demeans human dignity. Cyprian regarded “men committing shameless acts with men” as “an indignity even to see,” from which one naturally turns one’s eyes away…. (Cyprian, To Donatus)….

This is costly for men. What did they give up? The natural for the unnatural. They left behind “natural relations with women” [ten phusiken chresin tes theleias]. Men lusting for men “receive in their own persons the due penalty for their error.”…

Paul was writing to the church in Rome. He knew that Rome had a homosexual community, according to Severian of Gabala: “Paul did not say this lightly, but because he had heard that there was a homosexual community at Rome” (Pauline Commentary From the Greek Church), so this example was not pulled out miscellaneously, but intentionally addressed to the Roman Christians as a warning….

Contrary to normal sexual desires, homosexual practice turns the sexes against each other, and intensifies the war between the sexes…. This is the work of the devil who “was bent on destroying the human race, not only by preventing them from copulating lawfully, but by stirring them up to war and subversion against each other” (Chrysostom, Homilies on Romans). The devil does not like natural and normal sexuality between a man and a woman in covenant fidelity looking toward the protection of children….

The result of idolatry was to drag down both men and women, pitting them against each other, and promising but not delivering pleasure, and eliciting in them a heightened readiness to tolerate other accelerating evils. Romans 1:28: “And since they did not see fit to acknowledge God, God gave them up to a base mind and to improper conduct.”…

The willingness to tolerate many sorts of sexual distortions is a staple aspect of homosexual consciousness and history, as Ambrosiaster recognized. He portrays the homosexual life as one that nurses the improbable fantasy that God will look the other way: “Because of the error of idolatry they were handed over to doing evil things with each other…. And because they thought they could get away with it, …Paul adds here that they were more and more reduced to folly and became ever readier to tolerate all kinds of evils, to the point that they imagined that God would never avenge things which no one doubted were offensive to humanity as well….” (Ambrosiaster, Commentary on Paul’s Epistles).

Here Ambrosiaster correlates Paul’s comments on female and male homosexuality with the longer list of offenses [in Romans 1:29-30] that become more easily tolerated….

“Paul put wickedness at the head of the list, because he thought that evil and covetousness depended on it. He then added malice, from which flows envy, murder, strife and deceit. After this he put malignity, which generates gossip and slander” (Ambrosiaster, Commentary on Paul’s Epistles)….

Homosexuals do not have the excuse that they are being prevented from licit intercourse by God, because they themselves have chosen an unnatural way: “No one can say that it was by being prevented from legitimate intercourse that they came to this pass, or that it was from having no means to fulfill their desire that they were driven into this monstrous insanity” (Chrysostom, Homilies on Romans).

Elsewhere in his Staying the Course essay, Dr. Oden noted that he is “praying for the grace of charity in respect for all homosexuals, each of whom is created in the image of God, and [is] an intended recipient of the atoning love of God.”

Nonetheless, “I do not hide behind the claim that these consensual views [of earlier theologians on homosexual practice] are not mine,” he wrote. “I joyfully confirm them as true to the apostolic tradition.”

Thomas C. Oden (bio—PDF) retired as Henry Anson Buttz Professor of Theology and Ethics at Drew University in 2004. His teaching career included positions at Yale, Southern Methodist University, Phillips University, and Princeton Theological Seminary.

Dr. Oden has served as the general editor of InterVarsity Press’s 29-volume Ancient Christian Commentary on Scripture. His most recent book is How Africa Shaped the Christian Mind: Rediscovering the African Seedbed of Western Christianity (InterVarsity Press, 2008 — Google Books preview).

Staying the Course: Supporting the [UM] Church’s Position on Homosexuality features essays by, among others, Leicester Longden, Joy J. Moore, Richard B. Hays, William J. Abraham, and Maxie Dunnam. The table of contents is here.

The book is available from Cokesbury and Barnes and Noble.


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Related information
United Methodist churches perform same-sex weddings with one foot in the closet | Amanda Hess, TBD.com (Sept. 30, 2010)
Foundry Church crossed a line! | Mark Tooley, Faith Experience (July 31, 2010)
In visit to D.C., homosexual Episcopal bishop advises UM church to “get into trouble” | Jeff Walton, IRD (July 20, 2010)
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)
D.C. Foundry church will honor same-sex unions | Robin Russell, United Methodist News Service (March 11, 2008)
Judicial Council Decision 1032 and ecclesiology (PDF) | William J. Abraham, General Board of Higher Education & Ministry Consultation on Decision 1032 (February 2007)
Methodists strengthen stand against homosexual practice | Christianity Today (May 5, 2004)
Debate at the 2004 General Conference on various legislation related to homosexuality (includes audio) | 2004 General Conference Archive
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’ 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 board urges bishops to preserve unity of church | United Methodist News Service (Feb. 2, 1999)
‘Good News’ says push to accept homosexual practice threatens to split United Methodist Church | United Methodist News Service (May 6, 1997)
Liberal Methodism of Clintons may explain political positions (a column about Foundry UMC) | Cal Thomas (April 22, 1995)
An interview with Thomas Oden, general editor, The Ancient Christian Commentary on Scripture | InterVarsity Press

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