Good News response to Bishop Ough’s statement
We believe that the hope of the world is what Jesus Christ does through the local church. At our best, The United Methodist Church, with its message of grace and truth, is used powerfully by God to transform lives and communities.
Acknowledging that our denomination is broken, divided, and dysfunctional is heartbreaking, but it is reality and it needs to be admitted. Bishop Bruce Ough’s morning statement at General Conference should be applauded for its directness and its honesty, but it was also a cause for sadness and disappointment. His confession that the Council of Bishops is divided and unable to provide the leadership we need to be a united and vibrant church is another indication of how serious our dysfunction is.
It’s particularly disheartening, in light of the fact that we have debated issues regarding human sexuality for over 40 years, to hear that the Council has not done the work necessary to provide the leadership the church needs and deserves at this time. We had hoped and prayed that the Council would exert the moral and risk-taking leadership this desperate moment requires. We are afraid we are about to witness a terribly disruptive and divisive ending to General Conference and then several years of chaos and harm. This development is more than the result of different views held within the church. It is the fruit of leadership that has failed us.
We are grateful the Council has finally begun to talk about how deep our divisions run and perhaps have the kind of conversations that should have been going on for the last ten years. We are praying that these conversations will be fruitful and lead us to a way forward.
Good News and our allies have proposed legislation at this General Conference that would restore integrity and accountability to our covenant. Most of that legislation has been approved by legislative committees and we expect it to be passed by the entire conference and become church law. Though we are of divided opinion, our way forward will be together, following what we have agreed to be the positions and practices of the church.
We are grateful we are a global church that is growing where the Gospel is being faithfully proclaimed and lived out. We remain committed to a vibrant and faithful practice of Wesleyan orthodoxy that honors the Scriptures and proclaims Jesus Christ as Lord. We will continue to work for a faithful future for the people called Methodist and are bold enough to believe God will so act that our best days are yet to come.
– Good News
The Body of Christ
Christians, from the earliest creeds onward, have confessed to being part of “one, holy, catholic, apostolic church.” This is the body of Christ in the world. But only by belonging to a visible community of faith can individuals truly make visible the reality of the church.
From the beginning it was clearly God’s plan that the Body would be made manifest to the world by gathering into confessing communities to fulfill His mission — that is, to administer the sacraments, preach the Word, and make disciples. Thus, immediately after Pentecost, He established the pattern: Individual believers were to gather into particular communities.
When Christians in the early centuries gathered together, they became known as the communio sanctorum, meaning “the communion of saints.” And they were indeed that, bound together as only men and women could be who were surrounded by an angry, hostile society ready to feed them to the lions. But by manifesting the church, they made visible the mystery of God’s salvation, and this witness changed the world.
–By Charles Colson (1931-2012), founder of Prison Fellowship.
Questions about the Third Way
The Connectional Table has proposed dramatic changes to the UM Church’s teachings on marriage and sexuality. The proposal, called a “A Third Way,” would change the definition of marriage to include “two people,” allow United Methodist pastors the freedom to preside at same-sex weddings in our churches’ sanctuaries, and it would give annual conferences the right to ordain openly gay candidates for ministry. Under the Third Way, the Discipline would now read, “The United Methodist Church historically has not condoned the practice” (emphasis added). Advocates say it’s a plan that would move the church past its decades-old impasse over the issue of homosexuality.
- A Third Way is not a compromise. A compromise would end the debate and create a solution everyone could live with. A Third Way will not do that. Those who want to change our position will not be satisfied with a solution that does not provide justice for parts of the connection. Justice demands they work until there is one position for the whole church – theirs. Do not vote for this with the mistaken belief that compromise will resolve our differences. It will not.
- A Third Way will lead to schism. For matters of conscience, passing A Third Way will force many evangelicals to leave the church. Our African brothers and sisters have told us it will create insurmountable difficulties for them and may necessitate leaving the denomination. Do not vote for A Third Way with the hope that it will keep us together. Passing similar legislation in other denominations has led to schism in every instance. It will do the same in The United Methodist Church.
- A Third Way will make many pastors unappointable. As one bishop has said, “I have scores of pastors who will perform same-gender marriages, but I have less than five churches that will accept them. Once they perform such a marriage, most of them will become unappointable in my conference.” Many churches will not accept a pastor they believe denies the full inspiration of the Bible. They will not trust his or her leadership and many will leave the UM Church. Please vote no.
The plan can be implemented without constitutional amendments, and attempts to localize decisions within annual conferences. If the enabling petitions for A Third Way pass progressives will get much of what they want, while traditionalists will be expected to live with a church that promotes what they believe to be contrary to God’s will. This is not a compromise.
By Walter Fenton, a United Methodist clergyperson and an analyst for Good News.
The Marks of a Methodist
By John Wesley
A Methodist is one who has “the love of God shed abroad in his heart by the Holy Ghost given unto him;” one who “loves the Lord his God with all his heart, and with all his soul, and with all his mind, and with all his strength.” God is the joy of his heart, and the desire of his soul; which is constantly crying out, “Whom have I in heaven but thee? and there is none upon earth that I desire beside thee! My God and my all! Thou art the strength of my heart, and my portion for ever!”
[A Methodist] is therefore happy in God, yea, always happy, as having in him “a well of water springing up into everlasting life,” and overflowing his soul with peace and joy. “Perfect love” having now “cast out fear,” he “rejoices evermore.” He “rejoices in the Lord always,” even “in God his Saviour;” and in the Father, “through our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom he hath now received the atonement.” “Having” found “redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of his sins,” he cannot but rejoice, whenever he looks back on the horrible pit out of which he is delivered; when he sees “all his transgressions blotted out as a cloud, and his iniquities as a thick cloud.” He cannot but rejoice, whenever he looks on the state wherein he now is; “being justified freely, and having peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.” For “he that believeth, hath the witness” of this “in himself;” being now the son of God by faith. “Because he is a son, God hath sent forth the Spirit of his Son into his heart, crying, Abba, Father!” And “the Spirit itself beareth witness with his spirit, that he is a child of God.” He rejoiceth also, whenever he looks forward, “in hope of the glory that shall be revealed;” yea, thus his joy is full, and all his bones cry out, “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who, according to his abundant mercy, hath begotten me again to a living hope – of an inheritance incorruptible, undefiled, and that fadeth not away, reserv