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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

Renew 2018 Christmas Letter

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