A Review of “Seeing Black and White in a Gray World: The Need for Theological Reasoning in the Church’s Debate Over Sexuality”

by Rod Groom

Dr. Bill T. Arnold is Professor of Old Testament Interpretation at Asbury Theological Seminary, Wilmore, Kentucky, and author of twelve books. Dr. Arnold is an elder in the United Methodist Church, and has been a delegate to two General Conferences.

He admits to having somewhat narrow research interests. However, on his way to the last General Conference in Tampa, he decided to read something a little more directly related to the questions facing our denomination. Continue reading

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Jesus – A Light the World Can’t Put Out

by Chet Klinger

Luke records these prophetic words from Simeon to Mary in Chapter 2:34-35:

“Behold, this Christ is destined for the fall and rising of many in Israel, and a sign which will be spoken against (and a sword will pierce through your own soul also), that the thoughts of many hearts may be revealed.”

Simeon’s prophecy foretells the opposition in the world the newborn Jesus will face, as many fall and rise because of His name and His presence in the world, particularly in Israel. It also tells of a prophecy to Mary that she will share in His suffering.

Dr. Bill Bouknight wrote the article, “The Worldwide Offense of the Cross” in The Confessing Movement’s July-Sept 2015 newsletter, We Confess. He tells about authorities in a southeast province of China giving Christian churches a two-month deadline to remove crosses from public display. Continue reading

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SAVE THE DATE: November 21, 2015

Rob Renfroe, author of The Trouble with the Truth: Balancing Truth and Grace, will be at First UMC in Brandon on November 21 from 10:00am-3:00 pm.

RenfroeRob is the Pastor of Discipleship at The Woodlands United Methodist Church in Texas.  He is also president of Good News, a national organization committed to the doctrinal integrity and spiritual renewal of the United Methodist Church. Lunch will be served.  In the afternoon time will be provided to ask questions and discuss denominational concerns.  The church is located at 120 N. Knights Ave. Brandon, FL 33510. To help us plan for this free event, we would like to know how many people will be attending, so please register at: Lunch with Rob Renfroe!

Rob’s book discusses the need for balancing truth and grace, compassion with righteousness, love with holiness. This balanced perspective is necessary to deal with the issues facing our church today. God loves all, welcomes all, and will forgive all, all who repent and turn to him.

 

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A CALL FOR FASTING and PRAYING  

fastingMaxie D. Dunham, President Emeritus of Asbury Theological Seminary in Wilmore, Kentucky is widely known as an evangelist, leader, and pioneer in small-group ministries. As lay and clergy delegates begin preparing for the work of the General Conference next Spring, he is asking Christians worldwide to fast and pray for General Conference 2016. As Christ Followers we believe in the power of prayer. FLUME invites and encourages everyone to gather your circle of influence to join Christians around the world in fasting and praying for the Lord’s will to be done at this Conference. Read more: http://wesleyanaccent.seedbed.com/2014/09/18/maxie-dunnam/ and at http://www.worldmethodist.org/prayerandfasting.htm

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News Items

NEWS FROM UMC.ORG

Poll: Small changes in church homosexuality views

By Heather Hahn
Sept. 14, 2015 | NASHVILLE, Tenn. (UMNS)

Have the views of U.S. United Methodists on same-sex marriage changed since the Supreme Court legalized such marriages across the country? The short answer is some, but not much.

Read more about this at http://www.umc.org/news-and-media/poll-small-changes-in-church-homosexuality-views.

NEWS FROM THE AUGUST DELEGATION MEETING: EPISCOPAL CANDIDATE SELECTED AND LEGISLATIVE COMMITTEE ASSIGNMENTS MADE

Rev. Sue Haupert-Johnson, superintendent of the conference’s North Central District and clergy leader for the 50-member Florida delegation, was the endorsed choice of the delegation, which gathered at First UMC, Lakeland in August.

http://www.flumc.org/newsdetail/1888826

http://www.flumc.org/floridadelegationtogeneralconference

New Online Resource for Wesleyan Ministry from Good News Magazine – Check it out at http://wesley21.com/. Books, sermons, articles, Ministry Resources, Church Profiles, YouTube Channel, and more.

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New Room Conference/New Room Network

by Rod Groom

Did you know…

  • that there is a charismatic Pentecostal Wesleyan church denomination planting new church starts?
  • that the typical Christian in the United States in the future may be a thirty-year-old Asian woman?
  • that the CMA churches outside the United States have taken on a project to plant at least one Alliance church in every county in the U.S. over the next few years?

NewRoomI learned this and many other things at the New Room Conference this year (September 16-18 in Franklin, Tn). This conference is an annual meeting sponsored by Seedbed, the resourcing arm of Asbury Theological Seminary. Many people were in attendance. While most were United Methodists, we also had Wesleyans, Free Methodists and some Salvation Army officers/ministers. There was wonderful worship, great breakouts to choose from, and wonderful general sessions as well. Some of my favorites included Dr. Brian Russell of the Florida (Dunnam) Campus of Asbury, Andrew Thompson, Carolyn Moore, Dr. Stanley John, Lisa Yebuah, Dr. Sandra Richter and Dr. Kenneth Watson. Some of the younger pastors and theologians stunned me with their love and Spirit-infused insights. All of the plenary sessions are available in video, while the breakout sessions are in audio, with a couple in video. If you would like to see or hear these, you can buy the package for $39.95 here.

There were four United Methodist Bishops there, including Mike Lowry of the Indiana Annual Conference. Here is his review of the conference: Read his review of the conference. Bishop Lowry is currently assigned to the Fort Worth area.

Overall, I left the conference feeling excited and hopeful. Some people claim New Room is looking to split the United Methodist Church, but in fact, it is not. It is working to help bring about revival and to establish a new network—The New Room Network—among all Wesleyan churches and movements. There is a common focus in all of these churches on our Wesleyan theology and doctrines of holiness and sanctification. Some other impressions of the conference can be found at Good News Magazine, Matt Lipan’s blog, and an article by Mark Tooley.

The most controversial aspect of the New Room Conference is what was called the Wesleyan Covenant Network, and is now being called the New Room Network. This is the item many feared was trying to “split the church.” It is actually a network of Wesleyan churches hoping and working towards revival. A Covenant has been formed which can tell you more about it here. Also, learn more about the Network at http://newroom.network/. Is this something to be feared? Let us know at info@flumevangelicals.com.

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Are Conservatives Trying to Split the Church?

Last year, eighty conservative pastors and theologians suggested it may be time for progressives and conservatives to consider an “amicable separation” in the United Methodist Church. Since the issues surrounding same-sex marriage and the ordination of homosexuals could not Divorcebe resolved, they believed it would be better for both sides to begin working to create a “way of parting that honors the sincerity of those with whom we differ and no longer brings pain to persons made in the image of God” (see more here). Traditional and liberal United Methodists have been arguing about these topics since 1972, and no end is in sight. It is basically a theological dispute, where conservatives trust in a plain reading of Scripture, and believe the issues involving homosexuality are clearly prohibited, while progressives read the Bible more selectively, and find parts of it as not divinely inspired, or even just wrong. Arguments, petitions, and counter-petitions fly every four years at General Conference, and the next one in May 2016 promises to be very contentious. From a conservative point of view, it is obvious that we have “irreconcilable differences” (see http://goodnewsmag.org/2014/05/regarding-the-future-of-the-united-methodist-church/), and that it is time to recognize that we already have schism in the United Methodist Church.

Much of the separation in the two sides has been aggravated by the decision of the Western Jurisdiction bishops to ignore the results of the 2012 General Conference and to start a grassroots campaign of “biblical obedience” by actually disobeying the Book of Discipline in regard to these matters (see the article http://www.umc.org/news-and-media/western-jurisdiction-gay-issue-stand-wrong.

The call for discussion and for work towards amicable separation was not a serving of divorce papers. Instead it was a recognition that it may be time to stop pretending, and to start honoring one another as people of conscience, with very different viewpoints on some very critical matters. Conservatives have not said they were splitting the church, and it is not forthright to say they are. A very successful “stay united” social media program was launched earlier in the year, which implied that even talking about separation was horrendous. It is not. It is a fact of life in the church, and honest discussions may allow for some sort of peaceful negotiations or even resolutions to continue. Many plans for reorganization and/or separation have been presented as petitions to General Conference, and throwing stones at one another does not help.

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On “Dividing the United Methodist Church”

PBSby Rod Groom

PBS’s “To the Contrary” Series recently aired a special on how the sexuality issues are dividing our denomination. You can still see it on YouTube here. This 25-minute video is fairly well-balanced, and covers most of the issues and controversies concerning same-sex marriage and ordination. It is a good primer on what is currently going on, and worth the time watching it.

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Petitions to General Conference

At the 2015 Florida Annual Conference, members of FLUME presented Petitions to General Conference that we wanted considered by the Annual Conference. If the Annual Conference had approved these, they would have had more weight in being GC2016forwarded on to the General Conference. After a lot of thinking and discussion, it was decided that these were truly resolutions that should have been submitted prior to the established deadline of January 31, 2015. As it was, there were two separate votes of the Conference to suspend the rules to consider the petitions, but neither mustered the required 2/3 vote necessary. Both votes did exceed the 50% mark, with the first being 64%, and the second 57%.

Only the first two of the four petitions had to do with possible separation of the denomination, the first being to preserve clergy pensions for clergy transferring out, and the second outlining a method for either a progressive or conservative church to withdraw honorably from the denomination.

Here are the summaries and recommendations we published at the time of Annual Conference. Full text of the petitions was published in the Conference workbook and is now available on our website, http://flumevangelicals.com, under the menu item, Petitions to General Conference, at the top of the home page.

Clergy Pension Preserved, pp. 180-181 (Paragraph 361 of the Book of Discipline):

Essential Points: When a clergy person withdraws from the ordained office or from the denomination for any reason, they will be entitled to the full pension credit they have earned up to the time of withdrawal. This includes all years of service and all funds deposited in their name.

Evaluation: This allows clergy to withdraw from being an ordained minister or from the United Methodist Church, without losing what they have earned towards retirement.

Recommendation: APPROVE.

EXPEDITED EXIT, pp. 182-183 (New Paragraph 2548 and 361.3 of the Book of Discipline):

Essential Points: Allows a local United Methodist Church to surrender its charter and withdraw from the denomination and annual conference, based upon reasons of conscience, witness and mission, so that it may better serve Christ and his kingdom. Requires 90 days of study, two-thirds affirmative vote, repayment of monies given to the church by the annual conference through grants or loans during the previous five years, payment of three times the current year’s apportionments.

Evaluation: Honors the consciences of people and allows for honorable withdrawal of a church in a ministry-affirming way, so that the central mission of the church in making disciples may continue.

Recommendation: APPROVE.

LIMITING APPORTIONMENTS, pp. 184-185 (Paragraph 615 of the Book of Discipline):

Essential Points: Limits apportionments to ten percent of the previous year’s income for operations and mission.

Evalution: Gives incentive to curb spending and forces prioritization of budgeting decisions.

Recommendation: APPROVE.

WITHDRAW FROM THE RELIGIOUS COALITION FOR REPRODUCTIVE CHOICE (RCRC), pp. 186-189 (Non-Disciplinary):

Essential Points: RCRC works to defend and expand the absolute right to abortion in any and all circumstances, including partial birth abortions. It opposes principles the United Methodist Church has adopted in its Social Principles that teach respect for the sacredness of life, and which do not affirm abortion as an acceptable means of birth control and rejects it as a means of gender selection or eugenics. Calls for immediate withdrawal of the General Board of Church and Society and United Methodist Women from membership in the RCRC.

Evaluation: Separates the United Methodist Church from the RCRC.

Recommendation: APPROVE.

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Petitions by Steering Committee Member

Rev. Mason Dorsey has submitted two petitions to General Conference concerning consequences for clergy performing same-sex celebrations. These include provisions for offending bishops as well. Both petitions are available on the website, http://flumevangelicals.com, under Petitions to General Conference on the top menu.

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