Remembering Marilyn Anderes

Dear Renew Network,

It is with sadness and yet joy that I remember Marilyn Anderes who went to be with the Lord on December 28, 2020. Many of you recall Marilyn who was a very special friend and resource for Renew. Her column “From the Heart” appeared on the last page of the Good News Magazine for many years. And like myself, you may have turned first to read her always poignant and inspiring words before turning into the rest of the magazine. Marilyn also penned articles for other ministries and wrote four books, the last of which, The Intentional Remnant was released just a few months before her death; it is so appropriate to the challenging times in which we find ourselves. Like all her writing, it is a Spirit inspired message that the remnant would do well to read. An excerpt from this book appeared in the November/December edition of the magazine. 

In all her writing and speaking, Marilyn called her audience to a deeper intimacy with God.  Like the title of her book published in 2006, Marilyn wanted others to know that regardless of where we are in our walk with the Lord, there is always More.  She knew the faithfulness of the Lord goes with us through our good times as well as our most difficult circumstances and trials. One such trial in her life was the disease of diabetes which struck two of her three children, her husband and eventually a grand child. In describing her decades-long battle with the disease, Marilyn wrote that God had showed her, “…life without sugar is still sweet.”

On writing of her death, long-time friend and founder of Renew Network, Faye Short wrote: “ Marilyn was an incredible Bible scholar and teacher.  The Word of God was her passion, as were the people to whom she longed to deliver God’s Word for their benefit, that the Holy Spirit might do a great work in their lives.  The anointing of the Holy Spirit was upon her ministry.  She was an incredible wife, mother and friend.  Above all, she loved Jesus and was His faithful servant. “

As I read Faye’s words, I was reminded of Paul’s words to us in the second chapter of I Corinthians. There he speaks of that which is coming to nothing and contrasts it to knowing Jesus Christ crucified and “the hidden wisdom which God ordained before the ages.” Marilyn will be remembered for leading many to go deeper into that wisdom. 

Several years ago, Marilyn was the speaker for a Renew Network retreat. The title of her teaching was a well-known line from the Wizard of Oz, “There’s no place like home.” Today Marilyn is home with the Lord. I see her delving even deeper into all that Jesus has prepared for her. For truly Marilyn like Paul exhorted all to discover that:

Eye has not seen, nor ear heard,
Nor have entered into the heart of man
The things which God has prepared for those who love Him.

Ring Out Wild Bells

Christmas 2020

Dear Renew Network,

In 1850 Alfred Lord Tennyson wrote a Christmas poem titled, Ring Out, Wild Bells.” Instead of exalting the baby Jesus, it describes a year that has much in common with 2020. He writes of ringing out the year with its false pride, civic slander, party strife, foul disease, lust of gold and wars of old. Wouldn’t it be nice if we could simply ring out all that is wrong, unloving and unjust in our world? Oh that we could be done with the racial unrest of this past summer, the contentious election, and the devastating virus that took away our growing economy and brought us death in 2020. But hope is more than putting the past behind us.

Tennyson also speaks of what we should ring in. In some ways he points us to a time to come – perhaps a time when Jesus will return. He mentions ringing in the love of truth and right, the common love of good, the thousand years of peace and the Christ that is to be. But our hope is built on more than the future reign of Christ.

We will never ring out all the tribulation in this world. It is utopian and futile to think that can be done. As Tennyson alludes, tribulation is with us for now. While that is true and there is something to be said for letting go and looking to the future with hope, Jesus points us to a deeper truth. He says to us,

In the world you will have tribulation; but be of good cheer,
I have overcome the world.

We at Renew encourage you to ring in the good news that a baby born of a virgin and conceived by the Holy Spirit has come. He is God with us. He has come and He has overcome! He has come that we might know our worth and experience the joy that is meant for all to know. And He calls us to come – come and follow Him. He has also overcome the darkness of all that is untrue, wrong and evil. Through Him, we too overcome. We have reason to be of good cheer. Jesus is the light of the world!

Let us not forget that we have seen a mighty move of God in our own denomination.

Despite strong forces that have pulled us in competing directions, officially our doctrines have held firm. With the development of the Protocol of Reconciliation and Grace, our church finally accepted the reality that some ideas are incompatible and cannot be held together. Despite the delayed General Conference and the uncertainty that came with the postponement, we are moving forward.

As we ring out 2020 and ring in 2021, let us look within and ring out that which hinders and ring in “the way, the truth and the life, that Jesus came to bring each and every one.

The Network hopes you will find hope, peace, joy and love as you celebrate the coming of the Christ Child this Christmas.

This year when you make your end-of-year giving, I hope you will include Renew Network. Visit the Renew website to download or print the Donations Form. Or you may designate a check to Renew Network and send to:

Good News
P.O. Box 132076
The Woodlands, TX  77393-2076
Fax: 832.813.5327

In His Service,
Katy Kiser
Renew Network Team Leader

Thanksgiving 2020

This coming week we will celebrate Thanksgiving. Some of us will be with family; and some will not because of the increase threat of Covid-19. The virus is but one of the challenges of 2020 which has been full of disappointment and tragic events. I have heard many say they can’t wait until this year is over. But before this year is over, Thanksgiving comes around.  

I looked up the history and found that the idea of giving thanks nationally goes back to the early days of our country. During our Revolution, days of thanks were proclaimed by the Continental Congress in honor of military victories. George Washington declared a day of thanksgiving after the Constitution was ratified. Other presidents called for similar days to give thanks until it was made a national holiday by Abraham Lincoln in 1863 in an effort to heal our nation because of the Civil War. Of course we are all too familiar with the story of the first Thanksgiving in 1621 when the Pilgrims gave thanks to God even though half of their original group had died. Our country has a rich history of giving thanks in the midst of conflict and trials.

Even more, is our faith built on praise and thanksgiving. Giving thanks is a major theme in both the Old and New Testaments. The Bible gives the command to praise the Lord and be thankful more than any other. King David was known for his songs of praise. Paul and Silas while in chains in Philippi sang songs of praise to the Lord. In fact, Paul tells us in I Thessalonians to “Give thanks in everything; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you.”

Thanksgiving is a day when we come together and rise above our challenges and conflicts. We join those who have come before us and honor the Lord for who He is, for what He has done and for His faithfulness to all generations. In troubled times like ours, the Lord calls us to look beyond our present circumstances. He calls us to turn our eyes on Jesus; for when we do, in the words of an old praise song, “the things of earth will grow strangely dim in the light of His glory and grace.” It is in that light that we find so much for which to be thankful.

Katy Kiser

Renew Network Team Leader

832-381- 0331
renew@goodnewsmag.org

In Times Like These

Today is Memorial Day and unofficially it begins the summer season. More importantly, it is a day to remember those who have died while serving in the U.S. military to protect our country and its values. 

 

Recently a supporter of Renew called and shared with me the incredible story of a Methodist Pastor and his family who have been serving the Lord since the early Twentieth Century. This pastor, Rev. Bert Jones Sr. and his wife Ruth Caye Jones along with their five children were familiar faces at revivals and camp meetings for years leading up to World War II. Later they became Mom and Dad Jones of the popular radio program, “A Visit With The Jones,” a program that began in 1948 and is still running today under the leadership of their daughter Carol Jones Saint.

 

In 1943, seeing the causality list of America soldiers who were moving up the boot of Italy, Ruth Jones turned to God’s Word for comfort. She landed on 2 Timothy 3 where it says, “But know this, that in the last days perilous times will come.” From the inspiration of this verse and the melody of the clock that chimed on her mantle, she began to write a hymn that would become the beloved Gospel song, “In Times like These.” 

 

The words are simple and few; they reflect not only the 2 Timothy passage, but also the comfort of Hebrews 6:19, “this hope we have as an anchor of the soul, both sure and steadfast…” The song is also rooted in the comfort that Jesus preached at the end of the Sermon on the Mount  in Luke 6. It tells us that vehement storms come in life, but they are weathered when our lives are built upon The Rock. 

 

How true these words are today. We too live in perilous times. Our enemy is not the Axis powers of World War II. Our enemy is a deadly virus that has spread around the globe and infected more countries than those involved in all the wars of the Twentieth Century. 

 

As we look back today and honor those who gave their lives in battle, let us remember those who are on the front lines battling this virus, and the sick fighting for their lives, and the families who have lost loved ones. Let us pray for each one who has lost a job and all of us who must make decisions on how to proceed with life during our perilous time. And above all, let us remember to share… 

 

 

May you and your family have a meaningful Memorial Day and join those of us at Renew in prayer for our families, our church, our country and our world in this difficult time.

 

Katy Kiser

Renew Network Team Leader

832-381- 0331
renew@goodnewsmag.org

“Do Not Worry” March 2020

Jesus’ words in Matthew 6: “Do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink … but seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. Therefore, do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.”

Each day as we handle the crisis of the Covid19 virus, new advisories are coming out of the CDC and the White House. We are being told that it is imperative to dramatically restrict our social activity; we are being warned that the death toll depends on our response. And responding we are: schools are closing, churches are offering worship services online, restaurants are shutting down, and travel bans are being respected. There is an understandable amount of anxiety and fear. Most of us have not passed this way before, our lives have been put on hold, our routines have been disrupted. Some parents are asking, “What shall I do with the children for the next few weeks, what if they don’t go back to school until next fall?” We find ourselves in an unfamiliar and frightening situation.

Yet, Jesus tells us: “Do not worry…” Be vigilant, prudent, and take precautions seriously. But take Jesus seriously as well. Given that much of what keeps us busy has been put on hold, we have more time to seek Him, more time to study his Word, and pray. What an opportunity. What a promise that all we worry about will sort out.

When something is taken away, like our normal schedules, that something is usually replaced; the replacement is opportunity. Sure it is normal to react with worry, fear, and resentment. But in Matthew 6, Jesus invites and commands us to seek the higher reality of God’s kingdom. Instead of worry, we can take the opportunity he offers us: opportunity to be at home with our family minus our usual activities that cause life to be hectic. We turn to those around us and reassure them of the love of Christ, which calls us to overcome fear and respond in faith. Many of us will have occasion not only to demonstrate the love of Christ, but to offer Christ to those who do not know him.

I see God moving on my small street of twelve families who are offering to pick up groceries so neighbors do not have to go out. Those who had the foresight to prepare for shortages are offering to share out of their abundance. It has been a time of coming together in ways that we have not before. One neighbor of a different religion has shared that she was educated in a Catholic school; she has opened the door to talk about what we have in common. What an opportunity!

Despite the death, destruction, and concern that comes with a pandemic like the Covid19 virus, God is still in control and we see Him moving among us. I find this to be true in the case of our United Methodist Church. The 2020 General Conference has been postponed. We will not be able to pass the Protocol in May. As yet, we have no idea when that will be. Just like our lives, the General Conference has been put on hold. Although postponed, it will be rescheduled.

Has Jesus provided? Yes He has. Our United Methodist Church operates under the Book of Discipline, which was NOT changed, but affirmed and strengthened at the 2019 General Conference when the Traditional Plan was passed. We still officially follow the same scriptural doctrines that the Church has operated under for over 2,000 years. Will those who have vowed to be unfaithful to our doctrine be so? Certainly. But as many if not more of us will remain faithful to historic Christianity in the United Methodist Church. “Do not worry!” Instead pray and seize the many opportunities that will be given to you to be the Church. Seek first His kingdom and His righteousness; proclaim His faithfulness.

 

In His Service,
Katy Kiser
Renew Network Team Leader
832-381- 0331
renew@goodnewsmag.org

Renew Christmas 2019

“Behold I am about to do something new. See, I have already begun!
Do you not see it? I will make a pathway through the wilderness.
I will create rivers in the dry wasteland.”

 

Isaiah 43:19

Much of Isaiah unfolds God’s grand scheme for the restoration of His people. The prophet announced that something new was going to happen. God’s vast divine plan, made before the foundation of the world, was going to take a new turn. The long awaited Messiah was going to be born.

For the Israelites, life leading up to the birth of the Christ Child had not been easy. They had experienced many challenges over the centuries as they struggled with obedience and fidelity to God. The Jews were looking for the Messiah to liberate them from the unjust Roman regime. But He would come with an infinitely greater mission. He would come to save humanity from sin itself.

For the sake of peace and power, the Pharisees and Priests had compromised with the Romans. It was a compromise not unlike the compromises that the mainline churches, including The United Methodist Church, have made to accommodate our cultural reality. Throughout Israel’s history, they experienced times when, in today’s vernacular, they needed a ‘do-over’, a coming back to their God and His plan for them as a people. And Praise God, we too are being called to a renewed commitment.

As Keith Boyette, President of the Wesley Covenant Association, proclaimed in his powerful address at the WCA Global Gathering in November, “God is birthing a new Wesleyan movement.” One man in Florida put it well, “I left the Global Gathering lifted, encouraged and more deeply committed. I am convinced we are in the right place for such a time as this. We are where God wants us; we are on the right side of history.”

We all have a role to play in this new movement. This was brought out beautifully by Cara Nicklas, a lay member of the Oklahoma Annual Conference. At the WCA gathering, she reminded clergy and laity that we are all ambassadors for Christ; in fact each of us, she said, has a role to play as theologians in the new church — the Next Methodism. She challenged laity to grasp a thorough understanding of the issues that divide the church and help prepare congregants for the decisions that lie ahead.

Dr. William Abraham, the Albert C. Outler Professor of Wesley Studies at Perkins School of Theology, proclaimed that the church is at a turning point and the choice is clear. He explained that Jesus presents us with two paths: a broad way that leads to destruction, and a narrow way that leads to life. We will either be a part of a church that is built on sex, gender, and rebellion. Or we will be a church built on the Lord’s teaching on marriage and creation – and most importantly, Divine Revelation and the Creeds.

We are on the threshold of restoration where Methodism will throw off the constraints of the world that caused the church to entertain trendy, compromised theology that has led to decline. Before us lies the opportunity for our church to be one whose identity is in Christ, built on God’s revelation of Himself, and one which is open to and led by God’s own Spirit.

Now is not a time for fear or discouragement. But it is a time of decision and action. As we prepare for the coming of the Christ Child, let us remember that God’s grand scheme has not changed. His divine plan, embodied in Christ Jesus, is the greatest gift of all. Let us not forget the hope that is ours this Christmas. God has not forsaken us, His Church, or His Creation. For, Behold, He is about to do something new. See, He has already begun.

***
As team leader of Renew, I thank all of you who support our work with your prayers and financial giving. In 2019, at the request of pastors and laywomen, Renew has helped churches to refocus women’s ministry on a mission driven program that leads to spiritual growth and biblical knowledge. Next May, Renew will represent evangelical, orthodox women at the 2020 General Conference in Minneapolis. Your end of year gift will make this possible. If you haven’t made a contribution to RENEW recently, we trust you will. I promise you it will be put to good work.

You can continue to stand with us by going on the Renew Website and download or print the Donations Form. Or you may designate a check to Renew Network and send to:

Good News
P.O. Box 132076
The Woodlands, TX 77393-2076
Fax: 832.813.5327

In His Service,
Katy Kiser
Renew Network Team Leader
832-381- 0331
renew@goodnewsmag.org

Welcome to Renew Network

Ongoing Aftermath of General Conference 2019 by Katy Kiser

Dear Renew Network,

Ongoing Aftermath of General Conference 2019

A month after the 2019 General Conference in St Louis, where the work of the Commission on a Way Forward was received and the Traditional Plan was passed, the United Methodist Women’s annual Program Advisory Group and Board of Director’s met in Nashville, TN.  I attended the meetings as a press representative.

At the opening plenary of the Program Advisory Group, Bishop William McAlilly preached from his personal experience, which has given him  compassion for the marginalized LGTBQ+ community. He told the women that UMW was needed more now than they ever have been, because of the injustice done by the passage of the Traditional Plan. He asked, “How would you feel if you were told you are  incompatible?” I detected a strong note of incredulity in both McAlilly and Harriett Olsen. They seemed truly shocked and grieved that the Traditional Plan had prevailed in St. Louis.

I was expecting the general tenor of disappointment expressed at the UMW  meetings in March. The last day of General Conference, when the One Church Plan had not passed, UMW put out a press release that affirmed the position they announced at the Fall 2018 Board of Directors Meeting: they will be staying in relationship with all women in the Global UMC even if there is schism. They announced they are in solidarity with the LGTBQ+ community, which is in pain. Even before the 2019 General Conference, the UMW staff had put out a spiritual growth study titled, The Bible and Human Sexuality, where the marriage culture was questioned and traditional morality was explained away by the rejection of laws that came out of a society dominated by men. Can the UMW National staff expect to be in relationship with traditionalists when they have made it clear that their heart is with the progressives?

Before we consider that question, we should ask, is the passage of the Traditional Plan unjust as McAlily implied?  First of all, centrist/progressives are mistaken to say that those who identify as LGTBQ+ are being called incompatible by the majority of the church who supported the Traditional Plan. No one is being labeled incompatible; but certain behavior is incompatible with clear straight forward teaching in the Bible. It is behavior that has been questioned – not people.

While all persons are of sacred worth, it is clear that all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God. It is in the church where we are encouraged to be in a process (sanctification) whereby we overcome sin. Somehow many in the church have bought into the idea that behavior once understood as sin is now to be understood as a right, or even employed to define who we are. Even worse, once condemned behavior has come to define how some think God made them to be. If God made sinners to be thieves, murderers, and the rest of Paul’s list in I Corinthians 6, why would Paul say “ and such were some of you?” And if God made Cain to rebel, why did He warn Cain that “sin is crouching at the door waiting to devour you!” We are not our sin; we are overcomers of sin if we accept what God says in His Word and that which He has done for us. In the words of Michael W. Hannon, “I am not my sin. I am not my temptation to sin. By the blood of Jesus Christ, I have been liberated from this bondage.

Our society has accepted the current psychological trend to categorize individuals by sexual orientation. The idea that anyone gets their identity from their feelings of attraction to the opposite or same sex is simply a fallacy for which there is no scriptural warrant. Sadly, many in the church have bought into this thinking. They champion a warped sense of justice and work to obtain rights for the LGBTQ+ among us and the acceptance of their agendas and actions. Christian identity is not rooted in sexuality but in Christ himself.

United Methodist Women have made no secret of the fact that they accept new modern interpretations of scripture. This is particularly true in the area of sexuality but not only there.  Not too long ago, a UMW woman wrote to me about a UMW spiritual life study “Embracing Wholeness: An Earth Perspective for Covenantal Living.” Actually it was a study to support the UMW policy on Climate Justice. This UMW woman was disturbed by the author’s claim that the earth and creation was being equated with God Himself. Particularly disturbing to her was the author’s comparison of the death of her cow with the sacrificial death of Christ on the cross. Unfortunately there were multiple unscriptural distortions in the study.

Recently, another woman wrote to Renew wanting to connect with other traditional evangelicals women in her area. She wrote to say that:

We have become more and more disappointed in the national UMW group. We do not agree with the social liberal agenda that is promoted in the UMW. The reading program books are becoming increasingly non-biblical and promote society’s way of viewing the world.

So to answer the question, can the National UMW stay in ministry and mission with both traditionalists and progressives? The answer is probably not.  Trying to be all things to all people has failed the church, because as scripture has become reinterpreted and repurposed, that which unified us was lost. When the church was asked to change the definition of marriage and its standards for ordination, it was a step too far.

Since the passage of the Traditional Plan in St. Louis, it has become clear that many centrists and progressives do not want to stay in a church that is unwilling to change its traditional beliefs on marriage and ordination. Traditionalists have been concerned for some time. For different reasons, traditional evangelical women have been leaving UMW in a steady stream for years, and at a larger rate than the loss of denominational membership. Most give reasons similar to the ones I have cited.

We are in a time of waiting. The Traditional Plan has passed, but the dividing issue still divides; and it remains to be seen how this division will play out. Yet, we do not have to wait to see the final outcome to begin to throw off that which has become ineffective and seriously troubling. The time is now to move into deeper Christ centered ministry and mission that we may see the transformational power of our Savior and the Holy Spirit. God is at work. We should be too.

Please pray for the churches like the two examples I have shared. They represent many more who are looking to disengage from ministry that cannot deliver what is so needed. Pastors and women’s leaders have written to request a copy of the Remodel series. (Read about it here) If your women’s or men’s ministry is looking for a resource to refocus and engage members in transformational ministry, contact Renew and we will send the three booklet series to you.

A heart felt thanks to all who have made Renew’s ministry possible through your prayers and gifts. Your continued support is vital to our work in the mission of Good News to lead United Methodists to a faithful future. Because of delays and angry actions in St. Louis, much work was left undone that must be addressed at the 2020 General Conference. Work has already begun. Delegates are being chosen this spring and summer in our Annual Conferences. Pray for these elections and pray for General Conference 2020. Each of you reading this newsletter can help others to understand the division that separates us and have a part in preparing this church for what is coming.

Raising funds to attend two General Conferences within a year of one another is a challenge. Team Renew appreciates each donation however large or small. If you have not made a contribution lately, please consider making one today. But most importantly, join Team Renew as we contend for the United Methodist Church by faithfully praying for our denomination.

Stand with us by going on the Renew Website and printing the Donations Form. Or you may designate a check to Renew Network and send to:

Good News

P.O. Box 132076

The Woodlands, TX 77393-2076

Fax: 832.813.5327

In His Service,

Katy Kiser

Renew Network Team Leader

832-381- 0331
renew@goodnewsmag.org

2019 General Conference Stands Firm on Biblical Teaching

2019 General Conference Stands Firm on Biblical Teaching
March 2019

Dear Renew Network,

During the days just prior to the 2019 General Conference, one African woman pastor declared, “We are here to give the church back to Jesus.” And so they did. For without their strong support of orthodox, evangelical Christians, the One Church Plan would have prevailed. Instead, the church passed the Orthodox Traditional Plan.

Many were disappointed with bishops who did not move the process along, which in turn left no time to adopt petitions which would have addressed some of the unconstitutional issues cited in an earlier Judicial Council ruling. And yet much was accomplished. Important loopholes were closed and standards strengthened, including those for ordained ministry.

An explicit prohibition was passed that will limit candidates for ordained ministry to those individuals who will uphold our standards as stated in the Book of Discipline. Additionally, Bishops will not be able to dismiss complaints arbitrarily. A gracious exit plan was passed. But time ran out before it was perfected. Still the will of the body was made known.

There were important amendments that were not allowed to come before the body due to stalling. There is much work that will need to be done between now and the 2020 General Conference. But that does not diminish what can be celebrated. The One Church Plan did not have the votes to pass. It was not affirmed by the majority of delegates. This is remarkable given the time and energy the Council of Bishops and Uniting Methodists put into passing it. Their claim that it had overwhelming support was proved wrong.

We can rejoice that the Book Of Discipline will be strengthened; the definition of marriage will not change; our churches still officially cannot hold same sex weddings, and the ordination standards have been made stronger. For a more detailed account of what was passed and not passed click here and here.

What has divided the church is bigger than the issue of inclusion of LGTBQIA persons. The issue that has divided United Methodists is deeply theological and spiritual. Leading up to and during the conference, there had been much talk of ‘unity’ and ‘love’ by the centrists and progressives. They thought they had the moral high ground. But did they? It turned out that their understanding of both love and unity was built on sand and not a rock solid understanding of God or Scripture.

Dr. Luther Oconer, a Filipino who teaches at United Theological Seminary spoke at a dinner the night before the conference began. He reminded us that there is no real unity without obedience. Oconor also drew the connection between obedience and holiness. He made a powerful point when he remarked, “Promoters of the OCP argue for a diversity of practices…on human sexuality.” He went on to say that they want diversity in unity, but fail to realize that what we practice is tied to deeply held beliefs that define who we are as Methodists: beliefs that “run to the core of our understanding of sin, grace, justification, and sanctification.” The progressive position makes no sense because, “…by allowing different approaches to marriage and ordination based on context, we will have already undermined the very essence of what makes us Methodists…It is tantamount to surrendering our spiritual identity to the dictates of the world.” For Oconor’s entire address, click here.

Our Centrist and Progressive brothers and sisters seemed to have forgotten or failed to comprehend that obedience is necessary to unity and holiness. Unity cannot be achieved if we discard the beliefs that define who we are. They asked all United Methodists to accept the demands of the LGTBQIA community and get back to the Great Commission and the business of making disciples – a goal they thought all Methodists could share. But as Dr. Richard Ramos has shown, mission cannot be successful without obedience, because here too, authentic mission must abide by the words of Jesus who tells us not only to go into all the nations, not only to baptize but to teach them to observe ALL things He has taught. Again, obedience is key to mission.

Most importantly, obedience is also essential to the understanding of real love. Jesus tells us in John 14:15 “If you love me, keep my commandments.” John’s letters tell the early church that love is obedience to ALL that God has commanded. Love distinguishes Christians from the world. Throughout John’s writings, he expounds on love. John makes it very clear in his second letter the sixth verse, “This is love, that we walk according to His commandments.”

It is a shallow love that is defined by merely granting what a person wants. It is a dangerous love that misrepresents and blesses what the Word of God does not affirm. For love separated from obedience to all “that is written” is not love. It is self-centeredness in the name of a shallow love that is neither of the spirit nor of the truth. As Cara Nicklas, a delegate from Oklahoma wrote, “Proponents of the OCP argued simply that their plan promoted ‘love for one another’ implying the Traditional Plan did not. Their ‘Love’ is viewed as acceptance of any and all sexual behavior. If it feels good, do it.”

Unity, holiness, mission and love are unobtainable without obedience. Rev. Kenneth Levingston reminded delegates that Methodism is known for its faithfulness to scripture and its emphasis on the way of holiness. Levingston also admonished us not to go back to the bondage that does not honor God. He was referring to those who have taught the church to go after the flesh and not the Spirit.

The Traditional Plan was passed. Traditionalists believe LGTBQIA persons are loved by God. They are welcome in our churches. They are loved with a love that has not been severed from obedience to all that Jesus has taught.

Immediately after the close of the conference, a friend and I found ourselves in a conversation with a female bishop. She accused us and other traditionalist of wanting to throw her out of our denomination. My friend gently reminded her that she knew what the UMC stood for when she vowed to uphold and guard those beliefs. We must remember that the bishop and other like her appeared to be in shock because the OCP did not pass.

Since then, many progressive bishops and denominational leaders have made any number of accusations to the motives of traditionalists. Some have vowed in print to continue to disregard our Book of Discipline and work for full inclusion of all LGBTQIA persons.

It should be remembered that traditionalists have been faithful to the Word of God and the Book of Discipline. Progressives have put us in schism. Dr. David Watson, professor at United Theological Seminary, puts it very strongly, “For years now I have believed we are not functioning as a single denomination. Once bishops started openly to violate the decisions of the General Conference, it was essentially all over. The 2019 General Conference simply held up in dramatic fashion what has become increasingly clear to many: the divisions are so great that we cannot hold them within a single denominational container.”

If the OCP had prevailed, our church would indeed be in bondage to the demands of our culture. The church would have rejected real unity, true holiness, authentic mission and perfect love. But instead, the conference upheld what in Jesus’ words, has been true “from the beginning.” Rev. Levingston passionately reminded the delegates at a Good News breakfast that, “It is still written,” a reference to Jesus’ words in Matthew 24, “Heaven and Earth will pass away, but My words will by no means pass away.” Peter on whom the church is built put it this way, “The Word of the Lord endures forever.”

Of all the accomplishments and disappointments of this conference, the overarching fact remains – The Word of God and the Doctrine of Holiness were not abandoned by the majority of United Methodists.

I want to thank the network for your prayers and your gifts which made it possible for Renew to be represented at the 2019 General Conference. Work is already in progress for the 2020 General Conference.

In His Service,
Katy Kiser
Renew Network Team Leader

Do not be Conformed but Transformed

Dear Renew Network,

Paul perfectly describes the choice before The United Methodist Church as delegates and concerned Methodists make their way to St. Louis, where in just three weeks, they will decide the dividing issue of our time. Will we be conformed to the demands of our culture? Or not.  Will we give in to the loud voices who want the church to liberalize her sexual ethic? Or not.

We are well aware that the church has been dealing with this issue for decades. The Commission on a Way Forward has been deliberating since shortly after General Conference 2016 and has come up with three plans. As traditional, orthodox, evangelical Methodists, we know that the Modified Traditional Plan is the only plan that does not conform to a worldly understanding of Human Sexuality, and the only plan that gives us any hope of transforming a hurting world that has lost its way.

Our progressive fellow Methodists disagree. They believe the One Church Plan is the answer to the impasse over sexuality. They firmly believe that both a traditional and progressive view of sexuality can successfully be held together even though they are diametrically opposed to one another. They seem to ignore the division and decline of every denomination, that has embraced a progressive sexual ethic similar to the proposed changes to our Book of Discipline in the One Church Plan before The United Methodist Church now.

I feel safe in saying: God clearly speaks in Scripture; his Word does not have to be reinterpreted to be understood. But believing what is right and standing for the truth is just part of the battle. We must pray. The next four weeks are critical.

And as we pray, may we stand in humility, calling on God’s grace to abound that the faith once delivered to the saints would be preserved in The United Methodist Church. May we pray with thankful hearts for all the work that already has been done and will be done at the conference. Let us pray God will move mightily in St. Louis and that His will shall be done.

I am grateful to our brothers and sisters of the Wesleyan Covenant Association in the Texas Annual Conference for providing a 27 day Prayer Guide to use along with the prayers we individually are led to pray. You can find this guide here. You will also find the daily prayer from the guide posted on the Renew Facebook page.

As we enter the month of February, let us not lose heart or get distracted. But like Paul entreats us, may we each be transformed by the renewing of our minds, that we may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect will of God.

Please be in prayer for our church. Your gift will make it possible for Renew to be present at the Special General Conference in February 2019.

Stand with us by going on the Renew Website and printing the Donations Form. Or you may designate a check to Renew Network and send to:

 

Good News
P.O. Box 132076
The Woodlands, TX 77393-2076
Fax: 832.813.5327

In His Service,
Katy Kiser
Renew Network Team Leader
832-381- 0331
renew@goodnewsmag.org

 

The Adoration of the Shepherds

Dear RENEW Network,

It is December and literally everywhere we go are reminders that “Tis the Season.” For Christians, it is the season of Advent, the coming of the Christ Child, the Emmanuel, the arrival of God with us, God Incarnate.

The incarnation of God is a great mystery. Jesus leaves heaven and allows Himself to be born a baby, a fully human baby. The birth of a baby is generally a happy thing, a blessed event. But in the case of the birth of Jesus, it is a miracle, and one which cannot happen in the normal course of life. But it did happen! And with it came the long-awaited Messiah, who brings salvation to all who will accept Him.

Think about it. He comes. He comes to earth where He too is subject to time and space and all the realities and temptations of a fallen world. He is still fully God, but He comes as we all come into the world – in the human flesh of a baby. Jesus, the Son of God, leaves eternity; and in doing so, He manifests God among us. And what He leaves, we gain.

No one puts it more beautifully than John in the first verses of his Gospel:

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God,
and the Word was God. All things were made through Him,
and without Him nothing was made that was made. In Him
was life, and the life was the light of men. And the light
shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not comprehend it.

Why would He leave Heaven and come? In a word – Love. Something has happened to His beautiful light-filled creation. That something is sin. But just as the love of God created the world and all that we can know or imagine, His love was sent to right every wrong, destroy the works of evil, offer us all salvation and eternal life. How? – through the birth and death of the Only Begotten Son of God. The ‘Good News’ is, God’s love is more powerful than the power of sin and death. That is a point that we should not gloss over or take for granted.

We know the story well. Birth is celebrated at Christmas. Christ, the incarnate, came that first Christmas. And each year we acknowledge it yet again. Each year we are offered the opportunity to experience this mystery, the mystery of God’s deep love. For Jesus came; He comes; and He will come again.

In most churches, we celebrate the Advent Wreath; the first candle we light is the candle of ‘hope.’ If ever we needed hope, we need it this Christmas and in the months to come. We all come to impasses in our lives where we need the hope only the Savior can give. But this year the hope we need is more than just personal; it is corporate. We are at an impasse in the United Methodist Church. We have been approaching this impasse for some time and many of us have been afraid to meet it head on.

Our Church has sought unity in every possible way, trying to reconcile the irreconcilable. Our leaders have studied the issue from every angle. Some of us have ignored the issue; we haven’t talked about it. We have just kept on being the church and making disciples. Others have been on a crusade to change the church into a shape of their own, one that accommodates the current sexually permissive culture. Still others have been like the ‘watchmen’ of Ezekiel 33 warning the church it is going astray.

So what does the incarnate Jesus have to say to us?

Perhaps His answer is found in His birth. For God sent His Son into a family; He sent Jesus to Mary and Joseph, the holy family. By the very birth of Jesus, we are reminded that the original family was holy, being made in the image of God, male and female, and told to be fruitful and multiply. And in a real sense, when we strive to reject or redefine God’s original plan for humankind, we reject God’s incarnate Son sent to save us. John in the fourth chapter of his first letter tells us as much.

The answer also lies in Jesus’ words to Nicodemus in John Chapter 3. He points us to birth, or to be more exact – rebirth. We must be born again. For by Christ’s incarnation comes the promise of complete human redemption and perfection and the restoration of ‘the body’ to be the organ of the Holy Spirit. Each of us is meant to be a temple of the Holy Spirit. There are also profound implications for the church – the ‘body’ corporate.

Maybe we won’t fully understand what God is doing until after the special General Conference in February of next year. Maybe what happens at that conference won’t play out as painfully and destructively as it has in other denominations. Then again, birth can be painful; it is associated with travail. But when the process is over, we rejoice that new life has come!

As we prepare to celebrate Christ’s coming and the New Year, let us remember the promise of new life that Jesus offers each of us and to our church. Let us keep the promise of birth and rebirth before us and not lose heart.

For, whatever happens, God is with us.

For us at Renew, we will be celebrating you – our faithful network, who prays for our work and whose contributions make it happen. It has been an outstanding year. We have helped churches refocus their women’s ministries to be more gospel centered. Our analysis has helped women’s groups discern various teachings that offer more of the world than of the Word. Your faithful support enabled Renew to give their first scholarship to an outstanding young evangelical woman, who is making a difference in the United Methodist Church. (More about her later.) And let us not forget our new website. Your faithfulness has made this and more happen.

Please be in prayer for our church. Your end of the year gifts will make it possible for Renew to be present at the Special General Conference in February 2019.

Stand with us by going on the Renew Website and printing the Donations Form. Or you may designate a check to Renew Network and send to:

Good News
P.O. Box 132076
The Woodlands, TX 77393-2076
Fax: 832.813.5327

In His Service,
Katy Kiser
Renew Team Leader