Fall 2016 Renew Update – Accommodation or Transformation

October 26, 2016

Dear Renew Network,

Since my last Newsletter, much has happened in the church. But by far, I believe the most transformative event for our church is the creation of the Wesleyan Covenant Association, which met in Chicago in early October. As one young pastor from Texas put it, “It is not often that you get to be part of history.” Indeed, history was made, and you can read more about that HERE.

I like how Bishop Mike Lowery described the meeting when he wrote,

I experienced the event as a movement of the Holy Spirit. Prayer was deep. Hope was bright. A sense of the Spirit’s leading was strong. Obedience to Christ was paramount. Such prayer, hope, sense of the Spirit’s leading, and obedience to Christ remains paramount.

For me, the gathering felt like a daylong prayer and praise meeting, which was interspersed with the preaching and presentations of some of our denomination’s most astute bishops, theologians and pastors. I was particularly interested in the words of the church historian, Rev. Andrew Thompson, because his remarks reflected much of what the Renew Network is all about.

Thompson had been asked to give us an overview of church history. He emphasized that the church throughout the centuries had been tempted to accommodate the demands of the culture, instead of transforming culture with the good news of the gospel of Jesus Christ. He began by reminding us that Jesus himself had warned us that we would have tribulation, conflict and challenges in the world, but He had overcome the world.

Thompson powerfully spoke to the challenge before the UMC when he said,

The Church was not meant to be the handmaiden of the culture. The Church was rather called to be the ‘light of the world,’ the ‘city built on the hill,’ and the ‘lamp upon the lamp stand’ giving light to the darkness beyond. (Matthew 5:14-15) If your standard is the ‘spirit of the age,’ then considerations like the sovereignty of God, or the moral law of Christ, or the atoning sacrifice of the cross – these are just embarrassing relics best swept under the rug in the name of ‘progress.’

For over 26 years, part of the work of Renew Network has been to shine light on the places where our church has been tempted to accommodate the prevailing culture rather than be the light of the world and agents of real transformation.

In my last newsletter I wrote about one of these challenges, and what I subsequently learned is known by the term, “sex positivity.” As you may recall or can read about HERE, the United Methodist Women’s 2016 spiritual life study is a book by Helen Brubaker, The Bible and Human Sexuality: Claiming God’s Good Gift. This study asks the church to move away from The Discipline’s stated biblical understanding of human sexuality as fidelity in marriage and celibacy in singleness based on the moral teaching of Christ.

Instead, Brubaker calls for the church to embrace a sexual ethic built on consent and safety. The sexual ethic known as “sex positivity,” is also built on consent and safety. Sex positivity is the view that sexual activity in all its forms is positive and healthy if consensual and safe. This was clearly taught at the Mission U events of the UMW, which I attended this past summer. But the idea of “sex positivity” goes farther than legitimizing sexual behavior that has been seen in previous times as immoral; it claims that sex should be unrestricted on the basis that it is a human right.

The notion of “sex positivity” is being used in the efforts of organizations like Amnesty International, United Nations AIDS, UNDP, UN Women, Human Rights Watch and the ACLU to decriminalize prostitution – and not just decriminalizing sex workers who are often victims of human trafficking. Some go so far as to advocate the right of men to buy and sell women’s bodies for sex, because sex is positive and good for everyone’s health. You can read about this in the excellent article by Darren Geist in the August 2016 edition of First Things.

Is this what we want the United Methodist Church to adopt as it’s teaching on human sexuality? Is our church teaching to be no more than the culture’s contemporary understanding of sex?

You no doubt will find this an outrageous development, which may seem hard to believe or perhaps overstated. The UMW 2016 spiritual life study does not directly advocate for prostitution to be decriminalized and seen as a right. But be aware that Brubaker’s study, The Bible and Human Sexuality leads the UMW and the UMC far beyond de-stigmatizing sex outside of traditional marriage, or legitimizing homosexual behavior and the right of same-sex partners to marry as a matter of justice.

We are being asked to embrace a new sexual ethic that is unbiblical, particularly harmful to women, works counterproductively to ending sex trafficking, and encourages prostitution and pornography, which are becoming increasingly extreme and violent. Geist shares a disturbing statistic – prostituted women have a mortality rate two hundred times higher than the general population.

Lest we despair, let us remember John’s Gospel tells us Jesus has overcome the world; He has the answer to all that is wrong and evil in our culture. Be encouraged! And know there is a significant group of conservative, evangelical, orthodox believers in the UMC who are committed to being “the light of the world” and the “city on the hill.”

I would encourage you and your church to stand firm by staying prayerfully committed. I also would encourage you to go a step further and join the WCA (HERE).

In the meantime, the Renew Network continues in the work that has been so necessary and important to the women and the church called United Methodist. If you have not made a contribution this year, please do. We need your prayers and we need your financial support. Renew is a group of volunteer women, but our work does come with costs. You, our supporters, have been faithful. We appreciate your continued prayer and financial support.

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

Above all, let us not forget the words of Jesus:
My peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid… In the world you will have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world.
John 16:27, 33b

In His Service,
Katy Kiser
Renew Network Team Leader

My Experience at Mission U: The Bible and Human Sexuality: Claiming God’s Good Gift

The UMW spiritual life teaching: The Bible and Human Sexuality: Claiming God’s Good Gift.

August 3, 2016

Dear Renew Network,
By now, you most likely have heard that the Western Jurisdiction elected Karen Oliveto, a married lesbian to the episcopacy. I want to thank the Renew Network for your response to the Good News statement concerning the crisis this action has escalated. If you have not already, please read and sign the statement at http://methodistcrossroads.org. This action is a serious breach of the covenant that holds the United Methodist Church together.

I think a word needs to be said about how we as a church got to this place. We have been at a crossroads for some time. Our official UMC sexual ethic has remained unchanged and rooted in an understanding of scripture that has been clear for thousands of years. But for 44 years, our sexual ethic has been challenged by those who would have our church capitulate to the culture’s demand for an acceptance of sexual freedom that is completely untied from any historical or theological understanding of morality much less holiness. Let me give you an example…

The day after Karen Oliveto was elected bishop, I attended a United Methodist Women’s Mission U event. The UMW’s 2016 spiritual life study is a book by Helen Brubaker, The Bible and Human Sexuality: Claiming God’s Good Gift. Brubaker goes back to the creation account before the fall stressing God’s intention for sexual intimacy before sin entered into His creation. So far so good.

Brubaker wants us to know interpretations of Scripture have affected the church and views of faith and sexuality. By stressing interpretation of the Word, she opens the door for reinterpreting the Bible. This study leans heavily on a revisionist interpretation of God’s Word. The study is designed to help the church accept not only the practice of homosexuality, but also a sexual ethic that would eliminate any scriptural boundaries on sexual practice other than consent and safety.

At UMW Mission U we were reminded over and over that the scriptures were written by only men during a time of cultural patriarchy when women were considered property and had no rights. Laws were not represented as God’s revealed will and standard to help us distinguish righteousness from unrighteousness, but instead they were presented as written from the will of the male perspective.

Brubaker misrepresents Genesis 20 and 26 where Abraham and Isaac claim their wives are their sisters. She states, “Adultery took place and Sarah was powerless in the situation. The same is true of Rebecca.” This is simply untrue; the scripture is rather clear that God himself intervened through a dream and circumstance that protected both Sarah and Rebecca from committing adultery or being raped.

Brubaker reinterprets the story of Sodom and Gomorrah saying, “it makes more sense that this is an episode of violence on the part of men who are out of control and ready to rape whomever they can.” A film clip shown during Mission U introduced the idea that God judged these cities for their lack of hospitality.

A thorough examination of all the misinterpretation of scriptures that pertain to sexual holiness is not possible in this letter. But not only does this study call into question our traditional understanding of morality and God’s plan for sexual intimacy, it also tells us we should take authority and decide a sexual ethic for ourselves. Brubaker quotes Barbara Lee to give us the foundation for making this judgment.

To relate to each other as whole human beings, we need to develop and live by a Sexual Ethic that celebrates sex while treating it with moral integrity. An ethic that begins by recognizing that people of all sexual orientation and gender identities, of all marital status, and of all physical capacities, have the right to experience sex as a healthy and life giving part of their existence.

God’s intention for human sexuality is clearly stated in Genesis 2 and re-affirmed in Matthew 19 by Jesus himself. But at Mission U we were told that we must go beyond our church’s marriage ethic because it says nothing to widows, singles or gays: and it condones harmful behaviors as long as they are in marriage. We are left with a sexual ethic that can be individualized; I decide what is right for me as long as I accept the universal principle of mutual consent and agreement where yes means yes, no means no, and take responsibility for sex being safe.

Toward the end of Mission U our leader played a video of a young teenage girl who told her tragic story of divorce, sexual abuse and early sexual involvement through a series of index cards. Her story was the perfect example of the family and societal breakdown that results when the marriage ethic is discarded for a sexual ethic built on no more than consent and safety.

I was disappointed that, on the surface, none of the women in the class voiced any concern about what was taught. Do we really believe that God cannot transcend the effects of the Fall and make His will known even if His Word was only written by males? Does the church being salt and light, standing in stark contrast to the world no longer matter?

I cannot recommend The Bible and Human Sexuality to the women of the church. This study is a prime example why the church is in the crisis it is in today. And it is a prime example why Renew has worked for over 25 years to expose the political agendas and dare I say false teaching that guide and inform the women through the UMW mission and spiritual studies like the Brubaker book. Our church needs prayer and a mighty move of God – not a new sexual ethic. I hope the Renew Network will alert the women in their churches to the problems of this study.

Thank you for continuing to support Renew through your prayers and your sacrificial giving. You made it possible for us to be at General Conference and amend the Discipline to officially recognize and encourage women’s ministry in addition to that of UMW. What a blessing to the women of the UMC. Please help us continue to be a blessing that we might be salt and light in this time of uncertainty and crisis as we contend for the soul of our denomination.

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
renew@goodnewsmag.org

General Conference Update

May 2016

Greetings Renew Network,

Since our beginning, Renew Network has sought to encourage women to know Christ and to make Him known through various outreach programs. As John Wesley told Thomas Coke when he departed for the American colonies, “Offer them Christ.” That mandate is just as true and important today as it was in the late 1700s. Unless we ourselves are transformed and have a deep relationship with Christ, how can we hope to further the Mission of the UMC to make disciples and transform the world? We cannot give what we ourselves do not have. The world does not need more of the world and its secular agendas. The world needs the transforming power of the Savior.

As Renew Network members, we need to keep these things in mind as we prepare for the 2016 General Conference in Portland, Oregon the second week in May. Whether you will be in Portland or at home, I encourage you to pray for Renew and the rest of the Renewal Coalition. Several crises will be addressed at this GC. In this update, I will address the crisis of declining membership and equitable representation as it relates to the women of the church.

In 1973, the then Deputy General Secretary of the Women’s Division, Theressa Hoover in her article in Response magazine claimed that the United Methodist Women were a million and a half strong in the United States. As recently as 2003 when then Deputy General Secretary, Joyce Sohl gave her farewell address to UMW, the United Methodist News Service unofficially reported that UMW was one million members strong.  Actually, the official membership number for 2003 was 765,724.

In 2012, UMW membership was 528,156 women for a loss of 237,568 over a ten  year period. Furthermore, the independence granted to UMW at General Conference 2012 has not been able to stem the tide of membership decline.

The latest statistics (2014) from the General Council on Finance and Administration are extraordinary numbers.

In 2014, the United Methodist Church in the United States had around 7 million members, of which 4 million were women.  There were 480,000 women in UMW units in the UMC, which means that for every woman who belonged to an official UMW unit in the local church, there were seven women who did not.  Furthermore, the statistics show that since 2010 the UMW has lost 90,000 women and over 2,000 units/circles in local churches.  There were 32,408 churches in the US in 2014.  Less than half had UMW units.

It is also important to note that some UMW women and groups in the local church are in name only.  They do not use official program materials, the reading program and Bible studies developed by the New York UMW staff, and some do not support official mission giving. These women and units are nevertheless counted in the official numbers. When you consider those facts, the numbers from GFAC become even more sobering.

In 2010 the bishops and Connectional Table of the church commissioned an outside research company to come up with a plan to help the church be more effective in its mission and change the path of membership decline. The report was called the Call to Action.  It recommended effective practices and high-quality ministries for making disciples; it called for diversity and variety in the ways these practices and ministries are adapted in local contexts.

Even before the Call to Action, many of our local churches were following its suggestions for growth and offering vibrant and inspiring women’s ministry in addition to official UMW. In the UMC today, many women attend various Bible studies, ministry programs, prayer groups and participate in both local and global mission opportunities. New evangelical women’s voices have emerged. Indeed the recommendations of the Call to Action Project are being implemented in many local churches.

Many women in the local church have the freedom to expand their ministries in hopes of not only stemming membership decline, but more importantly, with the goal of growing in Christ and offering Him to a hurting and confused world. But at the same time, there are some churches that feel bound by the Book of Discipline to only participate in officially sanctioned ministries.

It is for this reason, that Renew has submitted to the 2016 General Conference two important pieces of legislation, a petition and a resolution calling for the church to recognize the reality in our local churches; that is: there are thriving vital alternative ministries to the official gender-specific ministries of UMW and UMM.

Pet 60614      Page 1038 of the Advanced Daily Christian Advocate – Supplemental Ministries                                                                                       

This petition encourages supplemental ministry programs for women and men in addition to United Methodist Women and United Methodist Men.

Pet 60844      Page 1050 of the Advanced Daily Christian Advocate –  Women’s Ministry                                                                                                   

This resolution lifts up the importance of women’s ministry in the local church and encourages local churches to provide supplemental women’s ministry programs that fit the unique needs of women in each church.

I encourage you to call and ask your delegates to General Conference to support these petitions for the sake of fulfilling the mission of this denomination. Please continue to pray for Renew, Good News and the entire Renewal Coalition.  Most of all, please pray that our denomination will not abandon our biblical standards, will strengthen accountability, and will adopt the plans and measure the Lord would have us to adopt.

In addition, please visit our Facebook page for the latest updates on denominational happenings.  In addition, the Good News website will have daily updates during General Conference. On this site you will find many new resources that include the third lesson of the Mirrors Bible teaching  by Jeannine Fogwell; A Call to Prayer also by Jeannine; and a  devotional by BJ Funk, Remember, O Lord, Your Great Mercy and Love.

Finally, to all of you who have invested in the work of Renew, please know that your gifts are very much appreciated. You have made it possible for me and others to attend GC 2016 and continue the on-going work of renewal as we follow Wesley’s admonition to “Offer them Christ.”

You can continue to stand with us by downloading 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
renew@goodnewsmag.org

 

Winter Newsletter – Hope from John 15 and 16

Winter Newsletter – Hope from John 15 and 16

February 2016

Dear Renew Network,

In the United Methodist Church, all eyes are focused on General Conference. The delegates have been chosen and legislation has been prepared. The stakes are high for the Church. Will the United Methodist Church preserve its integrity or bow to the demand of our culture?

I am discouraged, if not dismayed, that our denominational leaders continue to bend over backward to accommodate the LGBTQ agenda to change the Church’s time- honored teachings on morality and sexuality.

The bishops have allowed this group to disrupt the last five General Conferences that I have attended. After the 2012 General Conference, over two thousand pastors vowed to break church law and have ignored The Discipline – all without any real consequences. This past year the Connectional Table recommended that the church abandon our historical, scriptural teaching on human sexuality. And now the document which contains all the rules and petitions for General Conference, the Advanced Daily Christian Advocate, has issued guidelines for conversation that are clearly weighted to advantage the LGBTQ cause, even to the point of asking all present not to assume male and female pronouns for persons they do not know.

The LGTBQ caucuses have vowed to disrupt our General Conference in Portland with tactics designed to be even more demanding than ever before. These demands and the accommodation of these demands have become more blatantly defiant with each year.

Perhaps you, like me, have been asked by numerous friends, “Why are you still in the United Methodist Church?” Where do we find hope in the midst of this chaos? Where did Jesus’ disciples turn to find hope after He was betrayed, arrested, and crucified? The Gospel of John gives us the answer to all these questions.

Certainly in the days leading up to the Crucifixion, the disciples faced a time of utter confusion, of debilitating anxiety and fear, and, of course, intense suffering and pain. They faced no less, and likely much more, confusion and doubt than we do in our current crisis. Keep in mind that Jesus told His disciples that they would weep and lament and have bitter sorrow, but He promised their sorrow would turn to joy. How so?

Jesus had warned of the lawlessness that would occur. Who can doubt that we are in a time of lawlessness: many protest and ask us to change Church law and the Church’s teaching on human sexuality while bishops, pastors and church staff clearly work contrary to Church teaching, and little or nothing happens to discipline them.

Jesus also warned the disciples that they would be hated, and Jesus traced that hatred to its origin – hatred of Him (John 15: 18-19). The nature of the world is selfish.   Jesus points us to the fact that the world’s selfishness presents us with opposition that creates trials for Christians. The resultant hatred is a sign that the disciples are chosen “out of the world.” Let us remember that we too are called “out of the world,” and let us not be tempted to compromise with it.

The nature of Christians is to be love. Love is defined by Jesus Himself: “If you keep My commandments you will abide in My love, just as I have kept My Father’s commandments and abide in His love.” (John 15: 9-10). Real love is characterized by obedience, not by selfish demands that defy scripture or offer misinterpretations of the truth by which we are called to live our lives. Let us not be tempted or confused by failing to understand the true meaning of love. And let us not embrace an understanding of grace that cheapens the love of the Father in giving His only begotten Son. Love is obedience, and grace is not cheap but costly. It is not love to condone what God does not condone.

Part of understanding the joy that would eventually be the disciples’ was Jesus’ promise of the Holy Spirit, the Helper, whom they had not fully experienced prior to the Resurrection. He tells His disciples that the Holy Spirit will guide them into all truth. Then Jesus shows them how they will know the truth and the work of the Spirit: The Spirit will not speak on His own authority. “(The Spirit) will glorify Me, for He will take of what is Mine and declare it to you. All things that the Father has are Mine.” (John 16: 14-15 See also verses 12-15).

Today we are told by the LGBTQ caucuses in the Church that the Holy Spirit is making known new revelation when it comes to our understanding of human sexuality. But we are able to judge these “new revelations” for what they are, because Jesus clearly taught that the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit are ONE. They are in perfect unity and they do not contradict one another. Furthermore, the Spirit does not contradict God’s Word.

So our hope and joy are in Jesus Himself and in the Holy Spirit. He left us the Spirit that we might be kept in Christ’s teaching and His truth. Hope is also seen in the words He gave the disciples, which are found at the end of John 16. After warning His disciples of the hatred that would come their way, after warning them of the confusion and turbulence that would occur after His arrest, after promising them the guidance of the Holy Spirit – Jesus makes an extraordinary promise. It is found in John 16: 20 and following:

Most assuredly, I say to you that you will weep and lament, but the world will rejoice; and you will be sorrowful, but your sorrow will be turned into joy. A woman when she is in labor has sorrow because her hour has come; but as soon as she has given birth to the child, she no longer remembers the anguish for joy that a human being has been born.

New birth is promised! New birth brings joy! Let us not be surprised by our current trial. Let us persevere. I believe out of the travail in the beloved Church of John Wesley, new birth is coming. I believe it, because it is promised by Jesus Himself. Out of the confusion, the doubt, the anxiety, fear, and pain will come the Church of Jesus Christ. It will not be the church proposed by the Connectional Table or encouraged by the Advanced Daily Christian Advocate or demanded by the angry voices. It may not come in the timing we desire. But out of the confusion it will come. The true Church will prevail. And with it will come the real love and healing for which the world is so desperate.

In Christ,

Katy Kiser – Renew Network Team Leader

I want to extend a special thank you to all those of you who remembered Renew this past year. Your prayers and financial gifts are very appreciated. If you did not make an end of the year gift, please prayerfully consider doing so. Our expenses for General Conference will be substantial. Your gift will go a long way to help our Renew team ensure that secular agendas are rejected and needed legislation is passed. There will be more about that in my next email. Until then please don’t forget to visit the website. There you will find both new resources and a Call to Prayer, which I hope you will use and share with others.

 

Christmas Greetings – Hark the Herald Angels Sing

 

Hark the herald angels sing
“Glory to the newborn king
Peace on earth and mercy mild
God and sinners reconciled”

As I write this update to you, it is already the second week of Advent. This past Sunday in our church, we lit the candle of peace and sang that great Wesleyan hymn, Hark the Herald Angels Sing. Each year at this time, our family receives at least one Christmas card wishing us “Peace.” Often it pictures a wolf lying down with a lamb or a lion with a calf. This year the thought of obtaining the goal of peace seems very far from our reality.

Internationally, not only the threat, but also the instance of terrorism is on the rise. In our own country, we have faced shootings of various kinds and demonstrations that in some cases have led to outrage and destruction. In the United Methodist Church our doctrinal and scriptural differences have brought us to an impasse; the resolution of which promises to be anything but peaceful as we prepare for General Conference 2016. You add on to that the additional pressures of gift buying, decorating, and preparation for the holiday, and “peace” seems indeed unobtainable.

In all this chaos and conflict, we are reminded that Christ was born into a time of incredible unrest. And yet, an angel announced Christ’s birth to the shepherds with the words, “Do not be afraid, for behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy.” And a multitude of heavenly angels praised God and said, “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, goodwill toward men.”

God the Father sent His peace to earth through a family and the birth of His only begotten Son. He did not send a political solution or a mighty ruler to overthrow the injustice His people labored under. Instead He sent a baby who would give Himself for us that we might have a peace that passes understanding – a deeper peace than that the world can offer.

As we contemplate and pray for the conflict in our world and in our beloved church, let us contemplate the words of Richard John Neuhaus who said, “The peace that is ours is not a peace of pretending that things are not as they are; nor is it a peace of being blind to conflict. It is the peace of faith. Faith is trust in the Prince of Peace. In the child of Bethlehem, in the powerlessness of a baby, God entered into our conflicts.”

The conflict in the United Methodist Church is shaking our very foundations, which rest on God’s word and the work of His Son on the cross. The carnal desires of some have threatened not only our peace, but also leads away from the moral righteousness, which Christ makes possible for each of us. As we prepare for 2016, we must fervently pray, earnestly work and not abandon the conflict even when the way seems unclear. In this threatening time, let us join the angels and sing:

Hail the Heaven born Prince of Peace
Hail the Sun of Righteousness
Life and Light to all he brings
Ris’n healing in His wings

Katy Kiser – Renew Team Leader

Fall Newsletter

Renew: A Women’s Ministry Network for United Methodists
www.renewnetwork.org
832.381.0331

October 14, 2015

Dear Renew Network,

After my last letter to the network, a woman wrote to me to say, “Thank you for standing on God’s truth and not being swayed by those who scream the loudest.” She went on to say that it must grieve the Lord that the United Methodist Church was even considering changing its biblical teaching on marriage.

Indeed the voices within the church are loud calling for the church to follow the culture and change its teaching on marriage and human sexuality. This summer I was asked to attend and report on The
Gather at the River conference for the LGTBQ community in United Methodist Church. It was sponsored by Reconciling Ministries Network and the Methodist Federation for Social Action. You can read my articles here, here, and here.

Yes, the progressive voices are loud, and many of our bishops have encouraged these loud voices by their misguided attempts over the years to pacify and accommodate them. But just as committed are the clear voices of Good News, Renew and the other renewal groups. As Rob Renfroe wrote in the July/August edition of Good News magazine, “We can care deeply about our confused culture without conforming to it. We can have our hearts broken for the sexually broken without compromising what the Scriptures teach.”

In the midst of the confusion that exits in the church and the talk of schism, it is important to remember that the United Methodist Church’s official position regarding human sexuality and marriage upholds a high view of biblical authority and remains rooted in biblical teaching. Legislation has been prepared that will clarify, strengthen, and hold accountable our church’s biblical positions on a number of important issues – most notably our position on marriage an sexuality. I invite you to visit the Good News and Renew website and to encourage your delegates to General Conference to support these petitions and resolutions.

Renew continues to report and speak to important issues in our culture and in the church. On some things we cannot keep silent. By far our most important work is to encourage and aid the women of the United Methodist Church in their walk with Christ.

Renew highlights and encourages women in the church to come away from the fruitless pursuit of secularism wrapped in religious garb and pursue a clearer understanding of the way, the truth, and the life we are called to in Christ. It is from Him all blessings flow to each person and all organizing structures in society.

Renew still receives calls from women who are questioning the program materials and spiritual life studies as well as the social and political positions offered by UMW National. Many want to know if their mission dollars further the gospel or if their dollars merely support programs of rights and empowerment.

But even more important, Renew receives calls and emails requesting suggestions for Christ centered programs and Bible studies.

One Renew member and president of her church’s women’s group recently told me that they had used the Renew Women’s Survey to reach out to younger women in their church. Like so many groups, their UMW membership was mostly older women. The younger women were hungry for Bible study but had little time during the week for an added commitment. They helped these young women start a Sunday School class which is meeting their needs to grow in Christ and fellowship with women who share their challenges.

In another part of the country, a woman wrote that her group of women had renamed themselves the Bible Babes. Since they have come together to study God’s word they have seen mighty answers to prayer and lives turned around. The president of yet another group remarked to me, “We want Bible study – not politics!”

Renew continues to help just such women’s groups.

Several new resources have been added to the Renew website. In Jeannine Fogwell’s teaching Mirrors II: Broken Mirrors, she reminds us that God wants to make deep changes in us that we might reflect His glory. As you work through this teaching, you will learn what it means to be a child of God and how to accept His gift of grace so that transformation is fully not just partially realized. Mary Lambrecht shares some great resources and helpful ideas in her teaching,
Faith of Our Children: A Model for Home Devotions. And BJ Funk writes out of her experience that Women Need Each Other.

Please join me and the Renew Team in praying for the United Methodist Church, the up-coming General Conference and a way for us to proceed that is not fearful of the depth of our division but is clear, committed and willing to contend for the faith, our doctrine and our discipline as we hold one another accountable.
As always, Renew exists because of your sacrificial and generous gifts. Although Renew is an all volunteer organization, we still have expenses. Our work would not be possible without Renew’s network of faithful friends.

You can 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
renew@goodnewsmag.org

 

Methodist Protest Caucuses: “We Are Coming For the Institution” By Katy Kiser

280CDF74D0B74BE78D20831D6EEC9C70_2013_07_19_TheVision_SaraTweedy

 

“We are Coming for the Institution, and like a mighty river, we will sweep it away with the might of our love,” said Rev. Sara Thompson Tweedy at the close of her remarks at the “Gather at the River” conference held in San Antonio for progressive United Methodists.  The heavily LGBTQ-focused conference was sponsored by Reconciling Ministries Network and the Methodist Federation for Social Action.

Many in the United Methodist Church have been exploring ways to hold together two diametrically opposed views of human sexuality.  At General Conference 2012 the church defeated a proposal to agree to disagree on this divisive issue. Conservative orthodox believers who take the authority of Scripture very seriously were not willing to concede this disagreement as a mere matter of interpretation. Since that time any number of similar proposals have surfaced, some of which will be presented at General Conference 2016.  But the rhetoric at the gathering in San Antonio indicated at least as much opposition to compromise.

Rev. Sara Thompson Tweedy condemned the institution of the UMC, which she described as having become so stagnant, “it seemed like all it is producing is flesh-eating mosquitoes.”  Saying there were times she can hardly stand to be in the swamp waters of the institution with the negativity buzzing around her, threatening to eat her alive.

She boldly declared, “I am a self-avowed practicing homosexual.” But she took deep umbrage with the term “practicing.”  She stated, “I am not practicing. I’m professional. And if the IRD or the rest of the groups are here, make sure you quote me on that please.”  And although she referred to her own sexual acts, she condemned the institution for reducing LGBTQ people “to our sexual acts.”

Tweedy said she had been hurt most by “the white moderates,” and what some call “the mushy Methodist middle.”  Tweedy very strongly condemned the institution, making clear her disdain for those who try to have it both ways.  She called out those who try to accommodate the LGBTQ agenda and yet maintain the institution at all costs by upholding the Discipline.  She decried those who say the church needs to stop focusing on politics and instead focus on ministry.

She ridiculed those who had ordained her “with a wink and a nod.”  Her favorite hypocrisy came from bishops who suggested guidelines for ministers who participate in same sex weddings, “You can say a prayer – read a scripture because those are not chargeable offenses.”  “These are crumbs,” she declared, “And I can’t live on crumbs.”

She condemned those who had brought formal complaints against her for her choice to violate our denomination’s explicit policies for clergy sexual behavior, complaining that “Suddenly our institution was gearing up to put an effective pastor, a compassionate minister, faithful wife and loving mother on trial thinking it was preserving itself.”  She also shared that she was told that if she denied being “practicing,” the complaint would go away.  Tweedy applauded all those who had performed same-sex marriages in defiance of the Discipline.  She boasted that as a result of their courage, suddenly trials had gone away.

But for all her disdain and condemnation of bishops, institutionalists, the accountability process, and the Methodist mushy middle, Tweedy declared that she and others like her did not intend to leave the United Methodist Church.  She said that it is their church, too, which they will not leave; but neither will they wait for the Discipline to be changed.

She boldly stated that they could not wait to be who they are and for their relationships to be celebrated in the churches where they “have worked as hard as anybody to build.”  The crowd laughed and cheered when Tweedy declared, she personally could not wait for General Conference 2080 to be her “authentic, self-avowed, practicing, professional lesbian self.”

She emphatically stated LGBTQ members will not accept a “no” vote in Portland. They will not back down, but will be prepared to take additional recourse.  She said, “The Civil Rights movement taught us to put pressure on the institution until it had no choice but to change.”  Tweedy called on her queer clergy brothers and sisters to stop supporting the ‘don’t ask; don’t tell’ policy implicit in the Discipline.  She called for a national clergy “coming out day” – a total coming out – not a one-foot-in-and-one-foot-out position of the institution.

Following her remarks, Bishop James Dorff of the Rio Texas Conference (within whose bounds this gathering took place) came to deliver a brief welcome.  A moderator acknowledged the pain in the room but requested the bishop be allowed to speak.  Nevertheless protest ensued.

In his remarks, Bishop Dorff chose to go much further than offering the greetings which bishops sometimes customarily give to such caucus gatherings in their areas.  He expressed support, however vaguely, for the gathered activists.  “It is not a fun time to be a bishop, but more importantly it is not a fun time to be LGTBQ in the church,” he said.  He expressed hope that “the Spirit of the Almighty God will continue to bless you, all of you, in your work and your mission.”

Then he declared that God wants a “fully inclusive” church.  He said, “I want to be a part of the journey.. I want you to know there are many bishops who wish to be a part of the journey to have a fully inclusive church.”  He specifically thanked Bishop Melvin Talbert for “all the work” he has done in his activism, and told Tweedy that he needed to hear what she had said.  He also apologized for disappointing some of the activists in some of his administrative duties, in apparent reference to the liberal outrage directed at him for his role in preventing the illegal ordination of a lesbian/transgendered activist in his conference.

But despite the cheers for some of his pandering comments, ultimately, none of this was good enough for the liberal caucuses.  When he first came to the front to speak, Bishop Dorff was escorted by Julie Todd, an activist with Amy DeLong’s “Love Prevails” protest group, who carried two posters, one of which said, “DORFF IS NOT A FRIEND TO LGBTQ PEOPLE.”  Immediately, seated individuals came up to fill the prayer rails at the front of the sanctuary, some with their mouths gagged and their hand bound.  Others held protest signs in the balcony for him to see.  At times in his talk, the bishop was shouted down and heckled.

Dorff had done little more than illustrate the hypocrisy that Tweedy had just condemned.

At “Gather at the River” there was no appreciation, only contempt for bishops who attempt to uphold the letter of Discipline while at the same time diminishing consequences for those who violate it. The orthodox conservatives and the LGBTQ community agree; there is no middle ground; there is no “third way.”  At the very least, the days of having it both ways, of coexistence, shared ministry, and accommodation appear to be numbered.  The Supreme Court decision to allow same sex marriage in all states has emboldened the LGBTQ movement in the church.  If Tweedy is correct that they will not back down or go away, then this forty-plus-year conflict is far from over and attempts to preserve unity at General Conference 2016 will be difficult, at best.

The Coming Train Wreck: Progressive UMC Plans for General Conference 2016 By KatyKiser

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Disclose, Divest, Disrupt. This slogan, worn on the shirts of many at the Gather at the River conference sponsored by Reconciling Ministries Network and Methodist Federation for Social Action in San Antonio, Texas, perhaps summarizes what can be expected from progressives at the United Methodist General Conference 2016.  It is easy to dismiss such blustering as empty rhetoric only meant to galvanize the progressive United Methodist base. But can it continue to be written off as such, especially considering their past performance at General Conference and the rhetoric and clear messages propagated from Gather at the River?

Speakers at the gathering demanded immediate changes to church doctrine and “full inclusion” in the United Methodist Church. Bishop Minerva Carcaño declared it was time for the church to catch up with society, our sister mainline churches, and God. One presenter defined inclusion as “all who are NOT white, NOT straight, and NOT over 45,” which indicates that exclusivity is the basis for their understanding of “inclusivity.”

Rev. Peter Storey, a (non-UMC) Methodist pastor from South Africa and former chaplain to Nelson Mandela was especially judgmental of those in the church who hold a traditional biblical view of sexuality: “The Holy Spirit knows the prejudices of the devout, no matter how respectable or carefully mapped in dogma, are the most dangerous prejudices there are. The Spirit is showing us what once was revered as ancient truth has become uncouth and untenable. Time makes ancient truth uncouth.”

Nevertheless, Storey assured the conference their future was secure, saying, “Welcome to the future of the UMC where none will be excluded.”  But for all his assurance, he reminded the gathering that they must rise above their fear and have a willingness to die. In calling for bold and courageous action, he asked, “What or who is there to fear? Can a bishop water-board you?”

In a plenary, Amy DeLong of Love Prevails made it clear that progressive expectations should be low.  “If you are hopeful, I am here to rid you of that burden. We get trounced.” She acknowledged the reality that the votes were simply not there to change the UMC’s governing Book of Discipline and remove restrictions against homosexual practice. She told the crowd that democratic change was closed to them; they had nothing to lose, and called for “new and disruptive tactics.”

Delong declared that the liberal United Church of Christ denomination is not designed to be a refugee camp for exiled United Methodists. She promised they would work for change in new and different ways, and claimed they would be 100 percent successful. Success was defined as showing up. She told the conference, “We are the embodiment of justice. We are the incarnation and incarnation is meaningless if we don’t make an appearance.” Among some of her more incendiary comments was her suggestion to bring “gallons and gallons and gallons of piss and vinegar,” adding “just think of the trouble we can cause.”

Both Amy Delong and Julie Todd also of Love Prevails have not waited for General Conference 2016 to begin their campaign to Disclose, Divest, Disrupt. Bishop Carcaño acknowledged that they have been allowed to influence meetings of the Commission on General Conference (COGC) and the Connectional Table (CT), even if unofficially from the margins.  Carcaño announced that very little would have happened with the Connectional Table if it were not for Julie Todd.

Todd had taken to the microphone at a CT meeting, after they had hosted a panel discussion on homosexuality, and basically asked, as the bishop summarized her, “Is this all you are going to do? Do you realize you’re dealing with my life?”  Carcaño credited Todd for being the voice of the Holy Spirit and profoundly influencing the CT to formally committing itself to the LGBTQ liberationist agenda (as John Lomperis reported on here) and ultimately petitioning this upcoming General Conference. The CT is recommending changing the UMC’s effective definition of marriage, allowing pastors to preside at same-sex weddings and giving annual conferences the right to ordain openly homosexually active clergy.

Amy DeLong and her allies successfully shut down General Conference 2012 when the LGTBQ agenda was not adopted. Carcaño applauded DeLong for asking the COGC if disruptive LGBTQ protesters like herself would be safe at General Conference 2024 in Zimbabwe. As a result, the commission changed the location to the Philippines. “Isn’t this the important question?” Carcaño asked, “Will General Conference be safe for all God’s children or a life-threatening one?” General Conference 2028 will be held in Zimbabwe only if it is determined it will be safe for all LGBTQ persons.

Carcaño reported that the COGC has proposed taking all legislation concerning LGTBQ matters out of the normal committee process and to deal with them in the entire body of delegates at the 2016 General Conference in Portland, Oregon. She also reported that she was hopeful that the commission’s recommendation to suspend Robert’s Rules of Order would allow the General Conference to have “a Holy Spirit moment” as they take up these important issues with “holy conferencing.” These proposals will have to be approved by General Conference delegates to go forward.

Although not calling for disruption but just as disrespectful of General Conference were the remarks of Rev. Kathryn Johnson, Program Director for the Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice (RCRC).  She told the gathering, “What happens at General Conference stays at General Conference!”

Johnson acknowledged RCRC will be under scrutiny in Portland, but said that was not the important thing. She said, “We know we won’t have to have approval of the General Conference to do the work we need to do.” She displayed disregard for the fairly decided and democratically expressed will of the majority of our denomination.  Johnson made clear RCRC will not moderate its work even if more of its values and commitments come in conflict with the UMC’s official stance.

In committee, the General Conference 2012 held in Tampa voted to end the church’s formal affiliation with RCRC. But this and many other committee-approved petitions, never came to the floor of the full conference for a vote, so the UMC-RCRC affiliation was not severed. It is well documented that RCRC has continued to use our church’s name to directly oppose any mild legal restriction or moral opposition to any abortion. This next General Conference will consider petitions to move our denomination’s official Social Principles in a more pro-life direction. It will also consider petitions to for the UMC to join other denominations who have already ended their relationship with RCRC.

Johnson went on to say no matter what the church decides, “We will not be defeated; we will not be stopped. Our work will go on.” Johnson ended her remarks with the claim that RCRC is the leading religious, sacred, Christian voice for reproductive health and justice.

Specific plans to disrupt General Conference were not discussed at Gather at the River plenary sessions.   The event organizers did invite Love Prevails to lead two breakout workshops, entitled “Disruption 101” and “Disruption 201,” both led by Amy DeLong and Julie Todd.  Out of respect for the attendee’s privacy, the conference organizers did not allow press to observe these or any of the other workshops. In any case, the progressive coalition is emboldened and ready to take whatever action is necessary to accomplish their goals. The impression was given that they will disrupt before votes are taken, possibly during the committee process, and are ready for a sustained effort.

 

Conclusion:

One thing is clear, if the progressives have their way, General Conference 2016 will not be business as usual. This gathering made it painfully obvious that changing how sexuality is discussed or allowing “the voices in the middle” opportunity to speak in small groups will not satisfy the progressives or resolve the profound differences that exist. The Gather at the River conference focused attention on just how wide the divide is and how determined the progressive caucuses are to pressure the church into not only full inclusion but celebration of LGBTQ sexuality, even if it takes “new disruptive tactics.”  We saw a taste of this in 2012 but are we ready for the train wreck they are planning?

Where Will Progressive United Methodists Go From Here? By Katy Kiser

This is my third and final article on the Gather at the River conference.  In Methodist Protest Caucuses: “We Are Coming For the Institution” I covered the progressive UMC caucus leaders’ harsh and angry words for the institution of the United Methodist Church. My second article, The Coming Train Wreck, dealt with progressive plans to disrupt General Conference 2016.

Gather at the River boasted 700 plus attendees, most of which appeared to be middle aged or older, white, married and possibly just sympathizers of the LGBTQ movement in the church. Of the few young people in attendance, the majority were presenters and staff. Although there is no reason to believe changing the church’s biblical teaching on human sexuality will draw millennials, nevertheless, the caucuses and those who support them have a loud and strong voice in the United Methodist Church.

In this final article, I will examine where the progressive United Methodist caucuses hope to go from here and take a brief look at the revisionist biblical teaching they use to support their agenda.

One theme that will no doubt define and guide the future work of progressive caucuses is that of “transgenderism.” Trans, queer, non-binary, and gender non-nonconforming are just a few of the many terms employed at this conference to describe transgenderism, which was celebrated as an emerging frontier. The term transgenderism refers to a growing phenomenon of persons whose gender identity, expression or behavior does not conform to that associated with the sex to which they were assigned at birth. Some use the phrase “biblical obedience” to describe a transgendered person’s faithfulness to submit to their truth or understanding of what God created them to be even if it defies their biological reality.

Transgenderism was celebrated at the gathering in worship, dance, preaching and the sharing of personal stories. Name badges displayed the preferred pronouns of all participants. So that all transgendered persons felt comfortable at Travis Park UMC, where the gathering was held, all restrooms had been designated “gender neutral” on the bottom three floors of the church. Only the top floor had separate facilities for women and men. Eliminating “transphobia” and combating “heterosexism” are emerging justice issues for progressive United Methodists.

In June, the U.S. Supreme Court legally redefined the institution of marriage to include same-sex couples. Strikingly, this was hardly mentioned at the conference.

The lack of attention to this victory for LGBTQ activists highlights the fact that no longer are we discussing heterosexuality vs. homosexuality or mere gay rights. The biblical and biological distinctions of male and female have expanded to a smorgasbord of gender options.

Another theme that ran throughout the gathering was one of “intersectionality.”  This is the word that has been given to describe the fusing of all “justice issues.” The term refers to a seamless struggle for justice against the “self-preserving forces of pride, exclusion, power and bureaucratic legalism.” “We are not single-issue people,” declared one pastor.

Reconciling Ministries Network used the term “intersectionality” to describe their coalition with eleven liberal United Methodist organizations known as the Love Your Neighbor Coalition (LYNC). The coalition speaks about the intersections of injustice around all issues. Notable was the coalition’s mention of a new “justice issue,” “alternative methods of pregnancy.”

From the beginning, there has been the claim that the struggle to obtain LGBTQ rights was the same struggle as that of the civil rights movement. For the most part progressives have been successful in making this connection regardless of the profound differences. Currently, two staff members of Reconciling Ministries Network are working with leaders of the Black Lives Matter movement, which RMN says includes other “queer people of color.”

Today the LGBTQ movement within the UMC has gone beyond the supposed civil-rights-movement connection, now claiming that all justice issues are LGBTQ issues. By appropriating all social-justice concerns as LGBTQ justice issues, they appear to strategically strengthen their cause and make it difficult to separate legitimate justice issues from those that are not.

In keeping with the “intersectionality” mantra, this conference also promoted some other very different causes. Amidst the variety of workshops offered were a couple appearing to make the move of equating Israel with apartheid-era South African and promoting singling out the world’s lone Jewish state for Boycotts, Sanctions, and Divestment (BDS). One of these workshops was co-led by a co-founder of a group called “Black Laundry—Queers Against the Occupation.” The BDS movement within and beyond the UMC has been extremely callous in its willingness to resort to anti-Semitic rhetoric and completely dismiss concerns about victims of anti-Israel terrorism.

Conference organizers also hosted a workshop on “Reproductive Justice” (a slogan for unrestricted abortion on-demand through all stages of pregnancy), which was led by Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice (RCRC) official Kathryn Johnson. The workshop was advertised as exploring “intersections between the struggles for LGBTQ justice and reproductive justice.” It is striking that a conference that so vehemently marched under the banner of “inclusion” made clear that their vision of “inclusion” involves acting as if unborn and Israeli lives do NOT matter.

The most striking intersectional remarks were those of Jason Redick, a youth minister in Carrollton, Texas. He stated that, “All intersections point to Jesus. We don’t know about His personal life – I believe that Jesus was Queer, Black and Poor.” He was given thunderous applause.

Underlying the LGBTQ demands for justice in the church is the vague concept of “biblical obedience” which is broadly defined as disobeying the alleged injustices of parts of the UMC’s covenantal Book of Discipline, out of professed faithfulness to a variety of subjective personal understandings of marriage, gender and other justice concerns currently popular among progressive United Methodists. It was first coined by Bishop Melvin Talbert at the 2012 General Conference.

At Gather at the River, Talbert explained that this phrase was intended to counter the idea that the Bible belongs only to the conservatives. “The Bible is our book, too. We can read and interpret, too.” One presenter used the term, “biblical obedience” to describe queer people who live out their lives in obedience to whom they believe they are created to be. RMN’s CEO Matt Berryman added, that they put loyalty to God’s justice before institutional power. They follow “a queer Christ to the margins of life and the intersections of injustice.”

When trying to make sense of their use of the term “biblical obedience” or the revisionist interpretations of the Bible which are offered to support the LGBTQ agenda, it is important to keep in mind certain principles.  First, progressives read the Bible through a liberationist lens where overcoming injustice and obtaining rights are paramount. The focus is on the institution and not the individual heart. Secondly, creative story telling that conveniently supports their pre-conceived political agendas serves as a substitution for sound biblical exegesis. Thirdly, their appeal to the Holy Spirit is an appeal to a spirit who is revealing new evolving truth, which contradicts previous biblical revelation.  In the words of the Rev. Peter Storey, “The Spirit is showing us what once was revered as ancient truth has become uncouth and untenable.”

The lack of sound exegesis was seen throughout the plenary Bible studies led by the Rev. Grace Imathiu of the Northern Illinois conference, formerly of Kenya.  She retold well-known Bible stories to support the LGBTQ struggle for justice in the church. When teaching from Luke 3, she mimicked and mocked those who think they are saved and say to themselves, when they see an African baby, or a LGTBQ person, or someone in prison, “if only they knew Jesus.” She invoked John the Baptist’s words to call them “children of snakes.” She added, “Don’t think you are saved,” because you are American, or white, or live in the white suburb of Chicago.

 

CONCLUSION

After sitting through four days of Bible study, preaching, and reports at Gather at the River, it was painfully clear that what orthodox believers see as good – the progressive UMC caucuses see as evil; what they see as light – the orthodox see as darkness. While everyone is looking for a way forward characterized by clarity and moral fortitude, no one agrees how that should be defined.

Many in the church still hold on to the idea that shared ministry, continued dialogue, and a strong commitment to unity can hold this doctrinally fractured denomination together. Meanwhile, the agitation of a minority of United Methodists who reject biblical standards for sexual self-control has become increasingly militant, pushing our church to the breaking point. But in a day when many believe that truth is relative, when a prominent Methodist pastor can say time honored biblical truth is “uncouth and untenable,” will the truth of our situation be faced? And if it won’t be faced at General Conference 2016, then when?

Summer 2015 – Beyond Pentecost

July 2015

Dear Renew Network,

Team Renew and I hope you are enjoying this summer. For some of us, it is a time of vacation from the scheduling demands of the school year, and hopefully it includes a vacation to an exciting or at least peaceful destination. It is also the time after Pentecost, which some traditions call “Ordinary Time.” That is curious; for if you know even just a little about what followed Pentecost in the book of Acts, you realize that those days were anything but ordinary.

Starting with Pentecost Sunday, my pastor began a sermon series on the book of Acts. The book is aptly named for it is full of action. The most recent sermon centered on the story of Stephen, the first martyr. Chapter 6 of Acts tells us that he was full of faith and the Holy Spirit. We see that clearly when Stephen is accused of speaking blasphemous words against Moses and God. What follows is Stephen’s historical summary of God’s call and faithfulness to His people. The word says that as Stephen spoke, his face was “…as the face of an angel.”

But Stephen does not sugar coat what has just happened. The death and resurrection of Christ is still fresh on everyone’s mind. He likens it to the persecution of the prophets who foretold of the coming of the “Just One.” He tells his accusers that they “…have received the law by the direction of angels and have not kept it.”

Of course this was too much for them to tolerate, so they cast him out of the city, stoning him to death. Stephen gazes into heaven and seeing the glory of God and Jesus standing at His right hand, asks God to receive his spirit. Then he speaks his last words, “Lord, do not charge them with this sin.”

This struck me as very timely. Stephen’s words echo Christ’s own words on the cross, “Forgive them for they know not what they do.” What a powerful witness of forgiveness – and what a powerful outcome. Saul or Paul as we now know him is present. The next chapter of Acts will report one of the most dramatic conversions ever recorded.

This sermon was delivered at my church just after another dramatic demonstration of forgiveness. I am thinking of the forgiveness and prayers that the victim’s family members extended to the young man who killed nine men and women while attending a bible study at the Emanuel AME Church in Charleston. Forgiveness did not stop with the family members; it inspired a whole community and beyond.

New on the Renew Website are several posts that turn our hearts and minds to contemplate The Power of Forgiveness. That is the title of my post, which takes a look at the power of men and women to effect change and outcomes when real Christ-like love and forgiveness is extended. Forgiveness is powerful on a large scale as the events of Charleston demonstrate, but forgiveness is also powerful in our everyday personal lives.

Mary Lambrecht looks at forgiveness from a more personal perspective in her post, Casting Off the Cloaks of Unforgiveness. She asks, what is forgiveness, and what could be hindering us from running the race that God has specifically appointed for us? In her devotional, The Sweet Scent of Forgiveness, BJ Funk reminds us that at times, we may need to ask someone to forgive us.

Also new is part one of a new teaching by Jeannine Fogwell titled, Mirrors. Jeannine is a breast cancer survivor who has a touching testimony. In the first teaching, she reminds us that we are created to bring light to a darkened world no matter how dark our personal circumstances. I hope you will take advantage of these new resources.

As you all know, the Supreme Court has changed the law of the land making same sex marriage legal in all fifty states. This ruling did not surprise me, but it did make me sad. By issuing this ruling, the court went outside its constitutional set boundaries of interpreting the law, and instead it made law.

In less than a year, the United Methodist Church will decide if we change or compromise the law of the church concerning same sex marriage, ordination of practicing homosexuals, and other related issues. For us too, it is a matter of boundaries – not those of the Constitution certainly, but those of Holy Scripture.  The Connectional Table of the UMC and others are proposing we too adopt these changes.

The boundary question for us in the UMC will be one of authority. Will we continue to be under the authority of Holy Scripture? We are being asked to bless the experience of a few and to allow that to define truth for the church, just as it now defines marriage for our society. But truth is more than our sexual desires or how we define ourselves; truth is more than what the Supreme Court defines it to be. Truth is the person of Jesus himself who comes to the church as a bridegroom.

Stephen reminded the Jewish authorities that they had received the law by the direction of angels and had not remained faithful to its authority. That strikes me as the challenge before the UMC. Will we remain faithful?

Join me in praying that that the Discipline of the UMC will continue to be rooted in the truth, faithful to the authority of scripture, and compassionate in its ministry.  Renew along with Good News and the other renewal ministries is working toward that end.

I want to thank each of you in the network for your prayers and your financial support. You make our ministry possible. We will have a considerable increase in expenses as we prepare for General Conference 2016 in Portland. We continue to monitor UMW National the former Women’s Division. You can stand with us by going on the Renew Website http://renewnetwork.org/donations/ 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 Team Leader

Email: renew@goodnewsmag.org

Phone: 832-381-0331