United Methodism’s Future

**NOTE**  This post is aimed primarily at fellow UMs, but may be of interest to any who are concerned with the future of evangelicalism, rightly dividing the Word of Truth, and making disciples for Jesus Christ.  While there are sharp (and deeply held) convictions about the issues described below, my goal is and always will be to speak the truth in love, even if others do not consider my words to be so.  There is no intent of animus, and I love each of my fellow UMs with the love of Christ.  If there is any fault or error below, the blame rests with me.

 

A Brief Refresher

The current United Methodist Church [UMC] is the product of a merger which occurred in 1968.  Since that time, membership and vitality of the UMC in America may be fairly characterized as “on the decline.”   American UMC membership has declined by approximately 4 million since the merger.  In contrast, the UMC in Africa and the Philippines and other parts of the world is growing.   Further, there appears to be a large disconnect between the laity in the pews and the episcopacy [bishops] and institutional leadership of the UMC Boards and agencies, and most denominational seminaries. The laity [and thankfully many pastors] tend to be more conservative and traditional in their views than these denominational leaders.  The chief issue between UMs over the last several years concerns human sexuality and the definition of marriage.

 

Not just a Sexuality Issue

Every four years at General Conference [GC], petitions to change the historic teaching of the UMC on human sexuality [which prohibits ordination of practicing homosexuals and same-sex marriage ceremonies] are brought forward, and are continually defeated with substantial and generally growing margins.  I (along with many other evangelicals) believe the crux of this debate to be the larger issue of the authority and sufficiency of Scripture.  I believe that God created humanity [in His image], and also created marriage between one man and one woman.  Any expression of sexuality outside these bounds is not in harmony with Scripture.  That said, homosexuality is no more a sin than heterosexual adultery, or other forms of sex outside monogamous heterosexual marriage.

 

2019 Called General Conference

The UMC convened a called GC in 2019 to address potential solutions, ahead of the regularly scheduled GC2020.  The GC2019 affirmed [yet again] the traditional stance of the UMC.  While the vote caused consternation and resentment among many, I believe it was the correct decision and again reflected the views of many in the pews.  The vote was also important in that it led to a greater understanding of the need to explore options for separation.  A diverse group representing both traditional and progressive viewpoints has since met and adopted a Protocol Statement supporting a plan of “amicable separation,” and a pledge to support legislation at GC2020 to implement this plan.

 

Amicable Separation

Perhaps some in the denomination have not wanted to contemplate the “break-up” of the current UMC [understandable to a point), but it has been an inevitability for some time.  We are and have been a much divided denomination.  Having to endlessly deal with the same issue at successive General Conferences detracts from our mission [“You have nothing to do but save souls” – John Wesley].  Thus, I was pleased to read that a group had reached agreement to allow UM annual conferences, individual churches, and each UM to determine which of the successor denominations to affiliate and worship with, once the UMC is separated into components [initial steps planned for GC2020].  Certainly, a planned amicable split is much preferred to an unpredictable contested breakup.  I will be in prayer about the upcoming GC, and I urge all reading this to join me.  Truly, prayer and fasting is called for at times such as this.

 

The Protocol Statement

The diverse group mentioned above issued their Protocol of Reconciliation and Grace through Separation (“Protocol”) on January 3, 2020.  There is a lot we do not know yet, and I am making generalities, but I will be referring to that part of UM that is moderate-progressive as the Post-Separation UMC [PSUMC] and the more traditional part of the church as Evangelical Methodism [EM].  The reason for this distinction is that the Protocol provides a separate plan for the traditionalists, as we will see below.  Among the provisions of the Protocol:

  • Annual Conferences [AC] and local church [LC] congregations may vote to join one of the new denominations formed under the plan of separation. At least one Traditional denomination will be formed, with a block of UM funds to be segregated for the EM denomination(s).  Otherwise, such conferences or churches would become part of the PSUMC.  Individual UMs would be able to follow their church/conference decision, or could move to another church that best reflects their beliefs.
  • Conferences and churches that vote to leave shall maintain their assets and liabilities
  • All current UM clergy would keep their pensions, regardless of their eventual denomination
  • Annual Conferences [USA] may choose [through a 57% majority] to affiliate with a different denomination than the PSUMC.
  • Interestingly, Central Conferences [non-US] require a 2/3 vote to disaffiliate from the PSUMC. Why the tougher threshold?  Theologically, the Central conferences would seem to align more with the EM denomination, but have a higher threshold to get there.  My own personal feeling is that many of the African UM churches would leave UM altogether than be affiliated with a church that further deteriorates positions on human sexuality.  Just my thoughts.
  • A local church may vote [with majority threshold set by church Council] to affiliate with a denomination different than its AC

 

Next Steps

  • The Judicial Council of the UMC [the denominational “Supreme Court”] must declare any proposed legislation originating out of the Protocol as constitutional.
  • Prayer and love and grace are needed in ample quantities as this process moves forward. These are not easy decisions by any means.  As a “lifelong” UM myself, it will not be easy to think about the post-UMC landscape.
  • No matter where we stand currently on the UM spectrum, we love and respect with dignity those who align elsewhere
  • I pray that amicable separation will be healthy for the mission of the sharing the gospel, making disciples, and impacting our world for Jesus Christ

Sabotage

Soldiers, mercenaries, terrorists.

Any of the above will do.

With a boldness unparalleled, these agents of warfare penetrate deep behind enemy lines. Their mission is clear; leave a wake of destruction through stealth, planting of minefields, and ambush of unsuspecting and unprepared combatants.

Even though multitudes of their fellow soldiers have been discovered, trapped and eliminated, they keep coming, undeterred as madmen from the denizens of Hell. Because that is exactly who they are.

The demonic minions of Satan never rest, never tire, never waver from the destruction of their enemy; which is that fellow or lady in the mirror, by the way.

Only one thing stops them in their tracks. One weapon that brings them to their knees.

“the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.” [Eph 6:17]

And of course Jesus, who is the Living Word.

And He healed many who were ill with various diseases, and cast out many demons; and He was not permitting the demons to speak, because they knew who He was. [Mark 1:34]

I implore you as I remind me:

1. Put on your armor and keep it on [Eph 6]

2. Guard your heart [Prov 4:23]

3. Pray and Read the Word, especially when the forces of evil strike, intent on sabotaging your heart and faith.

In the strong name of Jesus, Amen.

Poem:

War on Self

I declare war
on the ruinous me
the kind that sneaks around
and loves the darkness deep
Who suppresses Christ
in favor of emptiness

This man is marked for death –
so that the new creation
can thrive, cloaked in the Holy Spirit

Charge!
And do not stop
do not look back
until you have thrust the spear
deep into the blackened heart
and reclaimed the King’s territory

To Him be honor, glory and praise
Forever and always

07/24/13

Walking

Jer 7:23 But this is what I commanded them, saying, Obey My voice, and I will be your God, and you shall be My people; and walk in all the ways that I have commanded you, so that it may be well with you.

Jer 6:16 Thus says Jehovah, Stand in the ways and see, and ask for the old paths where the good way is, and walk in it, and you shall find rest for your souls. But they said, We will not walk in it.

I am not walking well. Physically, I mean. My back issues have cropped up again and I am hobbling at best. Soon I will have surgery again. Twice in two years, almost exactly a year apart is not a good trend! Maybe I can skip August from now on…

Let me clarify that I’m not asking for sympathy, although I do covet prayers. God will see me through.

But thinking about my difficulties in walking with my back and legs led me to think about walking with my heart and my soul. My walk with the Lord. I confess I am sometimes hobbling and stumbling here too.

My prayer is this: “Lord Jesus, help me to walk in the way You have established for me. Let me not deviate from the path of righteousness and holiness and obedience to You. And when I stumble, when my spiritual walk is weak and hobbling along, lift me up and strengthen me in your Spirit as I cry out to You. Unlike the people in the time of Jeremiah, I desire to find and walk the old paths. Restore the beauty, wonder, and peace of a faithful walk with You. Let me bask in the fullness of Your grace. In the strong name of Jesus, Amen.”

God bless you today.

Poem:

Sense

I sense in you the supernatural gift

the divine essence

the touch of the Almighty

the breadth of forgiveness

the calm of those who walk with the Lord deep into the night

And arise with a joy magnanimous

beyond this life

11/23/15

This Pain…

How can I not compare this,

to the thorn embedded underneath

providing a sharp reminder

of that which You ordained

Paul to keep

 

How I long for a dramatic

power of healing

instant pain relief

that incredible feeling

 

And of course

You’d receive all the glory!

Until I resume my routine again

And Your healing becomes

lost in the noise

 

Would I then remember —

When I could not walk

When I could not sleep

When my despair

was dark and deep?

 

I think of the man with leprosy

Who simply asked Jesus

“Lord, if you are willing”

“You can make me clean.”

Jesus was willing.

 

But what is clean?   What is healing?

It is far better, to be cleansed within

To have a spotless soul

Even if the body never fully heals again

 

A/N:  I continue to pray for physical healing, consistent with the will of God.   But the state of my soul is paramount. 

The Purpose of Pain

One could easily say that the past month of my life would fit in the category of “thrown for a loop, and then run over back and forth by said loop.”

For 50+ years, I prided myself on my general good health.  And this from an infancy where I was sickly, had to drink soy milk, and began to see an ophthalmologist at age two.  But for most of my adult life, I had little if any health problems, never saw a family physician [I did ask my father – who was the epitome of the rural general practitioner – general health questions], and praised God for my good health [except when I was running from Him, nee Jonah].  I had a record of never spending the night in a hospital, that I intended to keep.

As I got to age fifty, I celebrated a half a century on earth with continued good health.  I did have one issue that was not bothering me too bad, but finally underwent surgery to correct it last year.  But I convinced the surgeon to send me home same day, thus keeping my record intact!

And then there was the latter half of August, 2016.  The pain in my right leg went from nagging to intolerable.  It would be later diagnosed as a bulging disc in my back doing a number on the sciatic nerve that runs down the leg.  I was unable to walk.  To get to the car, my wife and my brother-in-law had to support me as I took one baby step [or dragging of the leg] at a time.  Then a whirlwind week of ER visits [yes, multiple – a story for another time], painful MRIs, and finally referral to a Neurosurgeon who fixed the disc.  But my record came to an end with an overnight hospital stay.  Oh well – age…

God was working through this entire ordeal and has been exceedingly good to me; I truly am forever grateful.  I can walk!  Hallelujah!

And that would be the end of the story, but for…

Pain.  Despite a successful surgery that has allowed me to walk again, I have a lingering neuropathy on my foot.  The surgeon was hopeful that this would go away on its own, but that has not been the case.  I have asked God to take away this nagging, sometimes burning, sometimes shooting pain.  My foot is ultra-sensitive.  Medication prescribed has little effect.  Sleep is difficult.  Wearing a shoe is extra painful.

I am hopeful that as I return to see the surgeon this week that some other course of therapy – medication or otherwise might be helpful.  And my prayers are still that God would heal as he did for the leprous man in Matthew 8:2-3

Suddenly, a man with leprosy approached him and knelt before him. “Lord,” the man said, “if you are willing, you can heal me and make me clean.”

Jesus reached out and touched him. “I am willing,” he said. “Be healed!” And instantly the leprosy disappeared

But God may have a greater purpose for my pain.  I am steadied in my resolve, that if God does not heal me and this pain continues to beset me – He is still holy, glorified, and sovereign.  He is still worthy to be praised!

The Bible tells us that God’s power is made perfect in our weaknesses.  Paul certainly knew this with his “thorn in the flesh.”

But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me.  That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.
[2 Cor 12:9-10]

Is this easy?  Not at all.  But I am confident in God’s plan for my pain.  Whether He takes this nagging thing away is irrelevant.  His plan, His purpose, His Word; my obedience, taking up my cross [light as it is], and becoming more Christ-like are the issues.  Thy will be done.

Amen.

 

Late great United States?

We stand on the precipice of a new year.  The last 12 months have been tumultuous for the United States of America in many ways; culturally, politically, but most of all morally and spiritually.

Once could fairly and adequately state that [using Charles Spurgeon’s analogy] America is on the down-grade.  Christian bakers and photographers are fined and threatened with worse for conscientiously objecting  to participation in a same-sex ceremony.  The slaughter of unborn babies, which has continued unabated since 1973, was brought into sharp display with grisly videos depicting infant body part transactions.  And where does one begin regarding the treatment of veterans?

But the United States can be great again.  Its’ citizens must begin again to:

  • remember and honor the triune God who has continually watched over and blessed the nation from its inception
  • respect the Constitution and the rule of law
  • convey honor and dignity to all human life, regardless of its age from conception to natural death

And demand of the government to:

  •  act as a sovereign nation; protecting its citizens and securing its borders
  • treat those who serve in  our military, police, and first responder units with honor and respect, taking special care of the wounded in their ranks
  • serve again as the principal leader of free nations, advancing the cause of liberty and redress of wrongs against the oppressed

This list is not even close to exhaustive by any means.  That fact is unfortunate and is cause for sadness.  Above and before all of our efforts, however is the need to pray daily for this nation.  Pray for those in authority and positions of leadership.  Pray for the election of new leaders that we will face in the not too distant future.  Pray that we would return to God, and that His judgement upon us may yet be stayed.  Pray without ceasing.

 

Late Great United States?

 

I fear for this place

the late great United States?

where innocent babes are torn asunder

harvested in pain, for plunder

When did our hearts grow fangs

How long since our souls surrendered?

 

The fact that God has not yet brought us low

gives me cause to hope

Still yet a remnant of The Way holds sway

within His heart, judgement held at bay

 

But how long can His righteous anger be subdued

against the tide of evil and depravity unglued?

Hardly ever has the Devil found such fertile ground

We make it far too easy for evil to abound

 

Yet, lest we forget

when sin covers this land

in the barrenness of desert sand

We who faithfully follow Christ

can offer Living Water

and plant the seeds that bring

fertile valleys of righteousness

in the Land of the King

 

12/09/15