Focus 9: Thursday, May 19

Regarding the bishops’ appointed commission

GN-smallFor the second time in as many General Conferences, the body has decided not to decide on reaffirming our church’s teaching on marriage and sexuality. Instead, the General Conference has authorized the Council of Bishops to create a commission to address the divisions within the church and to propose a way forward.

This is a proposal with some potential to resolve our differences in a definitive way, but also one fraught with peril.

Traditionalists have long been under-represented on the church’s boards and agencies, as have our African brothers and sisters. If we who represent the majority of the church are a minority on the commission, it will have little credibility and United Methodists will be skeptical of its recommendation.

If the commission is nothing more than a ploy to further a progressive agenda disguised as plan for unity, it will lead to deeper division and possibly schism.

We pray and believe that our bishops will be wise enough to include well-known and respected leaders of the traditionalist and orthodox renewal movement.

Particularly troubling in the Bishops’ proposal was the statement that during this interim period, the bishops will seek to avoid further “complaints” and “trials” for those who break the Book of Discipline. If the bishops refuse to enforce our covenant during this period, it will lead to growing acts of disobedience and further disenchantment toward a church that appears dysfunctional. And we fear many faithful United Methodists will feel that they must leave the denomination.

The conference has asked that the bishops lead. We ask that they lead with integrity.

– Good News

Bishop James Swanson

Bishop James Swanson









Bishop James Swanson: “It’s all right for you to disagree with me, but it’s not all right for you to hate me. It’s all right for you to plot to win, but never use the weapons of Satan against the people of God.”


An Initiative for Unborn Children

Screen Shot 2016-05-19 at 11.41.35 AMThere are few issues more gut-wrenching, emotional, and polarizing than abortion.

After the 1972 General Conference narrowly approved legalized abortion, the late Albert Outler, noted United Methodist theologian and ecumenist, observed the tragedy awaiting our church and society: “Without radical reform of the consultative process by which the UM Church pretends to determine serious moral and political questions, we shall go on becoming more and more a part of the problem (namely, the literal demoralization of modern society) and less a part of its Christian solution.”

Forty four years later, his words have become reality. Abortion has created division instead of unity, and promoted injustice for the most vulnerable members of the human family. Redemptive ministry to abortion-vulnerable persons is the bright future that can end our present darkness, but we must care enough to address the abortion issue with justice and compassion for both the mother and the child.

Currently, our Book of Discipline states: “We cannot affirm abortion as an acceptable means of birth control, and we unconditionally reject it as a means of gender selection.” United Methodism previously voted overwhelmingly to oppose partial-birth abortion.

For many years now, our denomination has been used by political extremists. Using the good name of Women’s Division and the Board of Church and Society, the Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice (RCRC) has lobbied for issues such as taxpayer funded abortions and partial-birth abortions. That needs to end. Our church should not be used as a pawn by abortion extremists.

Despite the myths being floated in legislative committee, the RCRC does indeed promote abortion, is indeed a lobbying organization, and does indeed promote partial-birth abortion.

“Destruction of the embryo in the mother’s womb is a violation of the right to live which God has bestowed upon this nascent life,” writes German pastor and theologian Dietrich Bonhoeffer in his notable book Ethics.

“To raise the question whether we are here concerned already with a human being or not is merely to confuse the issue,” he continues. “The simple fact is that God certainly intended to create a human being and that this nascent human being has been deliberately deprived of his life. And that is nothing but murder. A great many different motives may lead to an action of this kind… All these considerations must no doubt have a quite decisive influence on our personal and pastoral attitude towards the person concerned, but they cannot in any way alter the fact of murder.”

The official documents of our denomination need to reflect the careful and judicious discernment of the entire United Methodist Church, not professional abortion apologists. We need to encourage boards and churches to welcome abortion-vulnerable women, to offer life-saving resources, and to strengthen partnerships with maternity homes, and abortion-alternative centers.

For too long, we have put off this basic Christian calling of hospitality and justice for the vulnerable and weak. We have failed the gospel and those described in Scripture as the “least of these.” The United Methodist Church needs to become a sanctuary for those escaping abortion.


Conversion and discipline
By E. Stanley Jones

E. Stanley Jones

E. Stanley Jones

Conversion is a gift and an achievement. It is the act of a moment and the work of a lifetime. You cannot attain salvation by disciplines — it is the gift of God. But you cannot retain salvation without disciplines. If you try to attain salvation by disciplines, you will be trying to discipline an unsurrendered self. You will be sitting on a lid. The result will be tenseness instead of trust. “You will wrestle instead of nestle.” While salvation cannot be attained by discipline around an unsurrendered self, nevertheless when the self is surrendered to Christ and a new center formed, then you can discipline your life around that new center —Christ. Discipline is the fruit of conversion — not the root.

This passage gives the double-sidedness of conversion: “As therefore you received Christ Jesus the Lord so live in him, rooted and built up in him and established in the faith” (Col. 2:6-7, RSV). Note, “received” —receptivity; “so live” — activity. It appears again, “rooted” — receptivity; “built up in him” — activity.

The “rooted” means we take from God as the roots take the soil; the “built up” means we build up as one builds a house, a character and life by disciplined effort. So we take and try; we obtain and attain. We trust as if the whole thing depended on God and work as if the whole thing depended on us. The alternate beats of the Christian heart are receptivity and response — receptivity from God and response in work from us.

Stanley Jones (1884-1973) was one of the best-known missionaries (to India) and religious writers in the first half of the twentieth century. He is also known for establishing the Ashram, a Hindi word that means “retreat.”