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

What Do United Methodists Believe? (Part I) by Tom Lambrecht

A previous “Perspective” blog called attention to a survey conducted by United Methodist Communications that indicated 44 percent of grassroots United Methodists consider themselves theologically conservative/traditional. At the same time, 28 percent identified as moderate/centrist and 20 percent as progressive/liberal.
This finding runs counter to the narrative that the “vast majority” of American United Methodists are moving in a more progressive direction, particularly on issues like marriage and sexual ethics. While the survey did not include questions specifically related to the denomination’s current controversy, the results pointed to a substantially conservative theological foundation for United Methodism in the U.S. Even when there is a clear difference between conservatives and liberals, a majority of liberals often affirm a traditional theological perspective. (Of course, one wonders if people might be using the same words, yet defining them differently based on different doctrinal perspectives.)
The online survey was aimed at laity who were members or regular attendees of United Methodist churches in the United States, but who do not serve as local church leaders. As such, the survey attempted to reach the ultimate “grass roots” of the church in order to gauge their beliefs on a number of theological points. Previous surveys have found that the farther up the “ladder” from the grass roots membership into the leadership of the church one ascends, the more theologically liberal are the beliefs people hold.
Who Is Jesus?
The most important aspect of the Christian faith is Jesus Christ. Orthodox Christian doctrine answers the questions Who is Jesus and What did Jesus do? Over 92 percent of United Methodists of all theological stripes believe that “Jesus was a real person who actually lived.”
When asked if Jesus was “the son of God?” 98 percent of conservatives believed so, compared to 82 percent of liberals (moderates were at 92 percent). At the same time, nine percent of both conservatives and moderates said “Jesus was only human and not the son of God.” (The numbers do not add up properly here, so the results may not have been accurately reported. Alternatively, some may have answered both “yes” and “no” to the son of God question.) Notably, 16 percent of progressives asserted that Jesus was only human. This is a small percentage and reflects a relatively high view of Jesus Christ even among United Methodist progressives.
More than 35 percent of liberals thought “Jesus was only a religious or spiritual leader.” While 21 percent of conservatives and 23 percent of moderates agreed, 25 percent of liberals thought “Jesus was a great man and teacher but not divine,” compared with 20 percent of moderates and 15 percent of traditionalists. These answers do not fit well with the answers to the previous question “Was Jesus the son of God.” One can only assume that many members have only a fuzzy idea of what it means to call Jesus “the son of God.”
Strikingly, 48 percent of progressives thought “Jesus committed sins like other people.” One-third of conservatives and 38 percent of moderates agreed.
Fully 82 percent of conservatives believe “Jesus will return to earth someday.” Only 66 percent of liberals agreed, as well as 76 percent of moderates.
Finally, 94 percent of conservatives believe Jesus was conceived by a virgin. Only 68 percent of liberals agree, along with 82 percent of moderates.
The inconsistent answers to these questions about Jesus indicate we may not have done a very good job as a church of teaching our doctrines. Our Articles of Religion and Confession of Faith teach that Jesus was indeed the son of God, that he is divine, conceived by the Holy Spirit of the Virgin Mary, and that he will return again to earth. And the Bible clearly states that Jesus did not sin (II Corinthians 5:21, Hebrews 4:15, I Peter 2:22).
What did Jesus do?
Nearly all (98 percent) conservatives believe that “Jesus died on the cross to reconcile us with God,” while 96 percent of moderates agreed. By contrast, 84 percent of progressives affirmed that statement. The overwhelming majority of conservatives (95 percent) affirmed that “Jesus died so we could have eternal life” – 90 percent of moderates agreed, while 82 percent of liberals agreed. Disappointingly, 18 percent of liberals affirmed, “Jesus’ death has no impact on my eternal life.”
Not surprisingly, 86 percent of traditionalists believe “the only way to salvation is through a relationship with Jesus.” Only 64 percent of moderates and 54 percent of liberals agreed. More than 35 percent of moderates and 46 percent of liberals believe “there are ways to salvation that do not involve Jesus.”
In accordance with an orthodox perspective, 98 percent of conservatives “believe in the bodily resurrection of Jesus from the dead.” Meanwhile, 90 percent of moderates and 81 percent of progressives believe in Jesus’ bodily resurrection.
Here again, the official teachings of our church affirm that Jesus died on the cross to reconcile us with God, so that we could have eternal life. Our teachings hold that Jesus bodily rose from the dead, and that the only way to salvation is through Jesus Christ. The divergence indicated by the survey answers pinpoints a need for clearer teaching of the main essentials of our faith.
The fact that so many moderates and progressives believe in multiple ways of salvation is a key factor in the decline of evangelism in the church. Why focus so much on Jesus if he is not essential to our salvation?
Conclusion
There is nothing more at the heart of our Christian faith than our understanding of who Jesus is and what he accomplished in his life, death, and resurrection. It is encouraging that super-majorities of United Methodists hold to orthodox, traditional theological understandings.
Still, significant minorities of our members believe that Jesus is not God, calling into question the Trinitarian heart of our faith. This includes a significant number of progressives denying the virgin birth of Christ (one of the articles of the Apostles’ Creed). Large numbers think that Jesus committed sins, just like the rest of humanity. And significant percentages do not believe Jesus will return to earth someday (another article of the Apostles’ Creed).
Next week, we will look at other beliefs of grass-roots United Methodists.
Thomas Lambrecht is a United Methodist clergyperson and the vice president of Good News. 

Christmas Message 2018

Dear Renew Network,

Adoration of the Shepherds by Gerard van Honthorst

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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.
So what does the incarnate Jesus have to say to us?
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.
In His Service,
Katy Kiser
Renew Team Leader

Welcome to Renew

By Katy Kiser, Team Leader of the Renew Network

The Renew Network new website comes just in time for an important year in the history of Renew and in the life of the church. In 2019, Renew Network will celebrate thirty years of faithful service to the women of the United Methodist Church.  Renew continues to be a network of women and women’s groups in the United Methodist Church that are faithfully seeking to grow in the knowledge of Jesus as we seek and serve Him.  Renew began as the women’s ministry arm of Good News and continues to be a part of their vital ministry to the United Methodist Church.

2019 will be critical years to the future of the Methodist Church and the Wesleyan expression of our faith. The decisions made at the February called General Conference will realign us with the Faith “once delivered to the saints” or entrench our church further into the demands of a culture, which has lost its way.  We will choose a path in the name of “unity” which will not only compromise our witness, but also lead to further decline. Or we will “stand firm” in the historic faith that has prevailed over the last two-thousand plus years.

Vital ministry will be especially important in the life of the church during the next many months. It is important that we continue to address the spiritual needs of women to grow in knowledge and understanding of Christ and the Gospel. It is also important to understand the challenges both within and without our beloved church if we are to go forward in faithful witness and service.

With this in mind, let me draw your attention to some new resources on our site for your consideration.

On this site and our Facebook page you will find many resources to help you and your women’s group.  I serve as Team Leader of an amazing group of Wesleyan women – some with whom you may already be familiar.  Learn more about our team and contributors under the “ABOUT RENEW” tab at the top of our Home page.  Under the “START A MINISTRY” tab, you will find help for starting or expanding a women’s ministry in your church. The Ministry Survey is designed to target the specific needs in your context and reach the younger women in your church.

Also in the “START A MINISTRY” section of the website you will find examples of women and women’s groups who are reaching out to their own communities and to the world with the love of Christ.  These inspirational stories are meant to help you and your women’s group find the projects that will motivate Christian service rooted in the Great Commission and the mission of the church to make disciples of Christ.

We are excited that there are many clergy and lay-women who are providing Bible studies from a Wesleyan perspective.  As Rob Renfroe says, when Methodist do it right, no one does it better.  Be sure to check out the Devotionals, Renew Writings and Recommended Books and Bible Studies under “MINISTRY RESOURCES.”  

There you will find “Ascending the Mountain,” a 30 day devotional challenge by Renew Steering Committee member and WCA secretary, Rev. Madeline C. Henners. The book is a journey of excitement, surrender, and learning to hear God’s voice. It will deepen your understanding of the Christian’s call to love God with all your heart, soul, mind and strength as you grow your relationship with Him.  It is perfect for small or large group study as well as your personal time with the Lord.

You will also find a book titled, “Adventure of Surrender” by long time friend of Renew, Marilyn Andress. Many of our supporters will remember Marilyn’s column in Good News Magazine. This book teaches the reader how to let go and let God – in a word Surrender – through the words of Jesus found in John 15. See Jesus’ teaching on abiding in the vine in a new light; discover the key to a fruitful life; and deepen your knowledge of the fruit of the Spirit.

Reverends Rob Renfroe and Walter Fenton give an evangelical perspective on the division in the UMC in their book, “Are We Really Better Together?” This book gives the most comprehensive yet succinct understanding of the issues that divide the UMC. This book tackles why we are divided over the authority of Scripture, the biblical understanding of human sexuality, the meaning of mission, and the division over the best way forward. This book is a great resource for starting or continuing a conversation in your local church about the crisis in the United Methodist Church. This book is perfect for helping your church or your ministry group understand the deeper issues that have caused division in the United Methodist Church.

Also under the ““MINISTRY RESOURCES” tab you will find some thought provoking devotionals. The wisdom of clergy woman, BJ Funk is just right for starting your daily time with the Lord; or beginning your women’s meetings.  Mary Lambrecht offers insight on building healthy families, spiritual growth and healing from trauma and loss. We are very excited about the women in the United Methodist Church who are writing from a Wesleyan perspective.

If you did not see the article on Why UMW is Declining in the July/August edition of the Good News Magazine, you will find it on the home page of the Renew Network website. Women from various parts of the country have called or emailed to thank Renew for giving voice to the issues that have been concerning them for decades. Others have been prompted to call for ministry ideas that will meet the needs of the unreached women in their congregations. Still others look to Renew for analysis of issues and denominational happenings.

A hearty 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 Newsto lead United Methodists to a faithful future. 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’s called General Conference scheduled for February 23-25, 2019 in St Louis, MO.

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

Is the Traditional Plan Punitive?

While no one has explicitly told me that he or she thought the Traditional Plan is punitive, that appears to be an undercurrent of thinking among those who oppose the plan. One aspect of the plan is that it contains strict accountability measures for annual conferences, bishops, clergy, and members of boards of ordained ministry, with the expectation that they will “support, uphold, and maintain accountability to the United Methodist standards” barring the ordination of self-avowed practicing homosexuals, the celebration of same-sex marriages, and funding that promotes the acceptance of homosexuality. Those unwilling to live within our church’s standards are encouraged to withdraw from the UM Church and form or join a self-governing Methodist church that reflects their beliefs and practices.

The purpose of the Traditional Plan is to restore the unity of the church, which is currently in schism due to nine annual conferences and two jurisdictions voting to reject our church’s standards. The current crisis in the church is prompted not by differences of belief, but differences of practice. There is room in The United Methodist Church for a variety of opinions on many subjects. But once the church has set a standard for how we live our life together in the Body of Christ, it is expected that everyone will live according to that standard, to the best of their ability.

There are two ways to rectify a situation where there are divergent practices that violate the standards or rules of an organization. One way is to change the rules to allow the divergent practices. This is what the One Church Plan proposes. The other way is to expect the organization’s members to live by its standards or find another like-minded organization. This is what the Traditional Plan proposes.

Secular organizations such as Rotary or Kiwanis expect their members to live by the rules of the organization. Those who refuse to do so are often asked to leave the organization. Without such accountability, the organization has no integrity.

United Methodist clergy promise to live by the standards set by the church. One of the qualifications for ordination is that candidates are willing to “be accountable to The United Methodist Church, accept its Doctrinal Standards and Discipline and authority, accept the supervision of those appointed to this ministry, and be prepared to live in the covenant of its ordained ministers.” When candidates come forward for ordination, they must answer, “Have you studied our form of Church discipline and polity? Do you approve our Church government and polity? Will you support and maintain them?” They must also affirm, “Will you observe the following directions: … Do not mend our rules, but keep them; not for wrath, but for conscience’ sake?”

The Traditional Plan is based upon the premise that clergy and bishops have promised to live by our church’s standards and should be expected to do so. In light of the fact that the church has been unwilling for over 40 years to change its expectations regarding same-sex marriage and the ordination of LGBT persons, clergy are expected to either live by them or seek another denomination that is more in line with their theology. After all, most active clergy today came into their status knowing what the expectations of the church are, saying that they agreed with those expectations, and promising to live by them. To refuse to do so now is a breaking of their promise.

While integrity would seem to demand those unwilling to live by the standards of the church should withdraw from ministry in our denomination and seek another in which to exercise their ministry, most have not done so. In fact, many progressives have defiantly stated that they will not leave the church, nor will they live by the church’s standards.

This puts us in a situation where, for the sake of the church’s unity and integrity, discipline must be exercised. That is why enhanced accountability measures are an integral part of the Traditional Plan. Without them, the church simply continues as it is now, with some parts of the church refusing to live by the church’s expectations. This is a state of schism, not unity, and it is leading to the disintegration and decline of the denomination.

By changing the rules to accommodate disobedience, the One Church Plan creates an expectation that individual conscience trumps the standards of the church. It sows the seeds of congregationalism and further disintegrates the unity of the church. One can only anticipate that the church will likewise accommodate other conscientious objections to church standards and practices in the future, perhaps in areas such as the payment of apportionments or belief in the necessity of faith in Christ for salvation.

The Traditional Plan believes we must share common practices as a denomination on matters that are distinctively connectional. These help to form our identity as United Methodist Christians. Matters of ordination, the sacraments, doctrinal standards, and essential moral teachings are practices that hold our denomination together. Without them, we become just a crowd of people without a shared identity.

Regrettably, because of the principled refusal by some in our denomination to abide by the shared practices established by General Conference as the only legitimate authority to do so, the only way to recover unity is to enhance accountability and request those unwilling to abide by those shared practices to withdraw from the denomination. The plan balances these stricter accountability measures with an open door for annual conferences, congregations, and clergy to leave the denomination without penalty.

The process for departure is simple and straightforward, without a lot of hoops to jump through. The financial obligations are minimal, seeking only to keep our promises to our retired clergy regarding pensions. And a suggested modification of the Traditional Plan provides for a one-time grant of $200,000 to any annual conference that withdraws in order to assist with transitional expenses. Those departing could even continue some forms of partnership and cooperation with The United Methodist Church, including joint mission work and continued participation in benefit plans through Wespath.

The Traditional Plan is not punitive toward those having the integrity to depart from a denomination that they can no longer support. The stricter accountability measures are only made necessary for those who refuse to keep the promises they made to abide by our polity when they were ordained as clergy and consecrated as bishops. This approach is the only way forward that will restore unity in our denomination in the years ahead.

Thomas Lambrecht is a United Methodist clergyperson and the vice president of Good News. He also served as a member of the Commission on a Way Forward.

Twenty-seven Days of Prayer

Team Renew invites you to join this Call to Prayer for General Conference 2019 provided by the Wesleyan Covenant Association of the Texas Annual Conference.

The following is from the Call to Prayer.

John Wesley said, “I continue to dream and pray about a revival of holiness in our day that moves forth in mission and creates authentic community in which each person can be unleashed through the empowerment of the Spirit to fulfill God’s creational intentions.”

General Conference is fast approaching, demanding the United Methodist Church to make decisions that will define our future as a denomination. (Renew and) the Texas Conference members of the WCA,  want to urge all our members to be in prayer each day of February leading up to and immediately following General Conference.

To make that happen, we are equipping you with a daily scripture and a prayer.

You will find that these prayers have been written around nine themes:

Word/Truth
Faithfulness/Obedience
Wisdom/Spirit
Mission of the Church
Healing of Brokenness
Discipleship
Lordship/Humility
True Unity
Delegates/Bishops

Praying for twenty-seven days (through General Conference and the following day), we will pray each theme three times.

Please make this a part of your regular daily prayer time.

Thank you for your commitment to Christ and our beloved church as we pray our way forward.

Leaning into God’s future for us,

 

February 1

Scripture

“My prayer is not for them alone. I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me. I have given them the glory that you gave me, that they may be one as we are one—I in them and you in me—so that they may be brought to complete unity. Then the world will know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me.” (John 17.20-23)

Prayer

Heavenly Father, we join with your Son in his prayer for true unity among all who believe in him. But keep us from the temptation to embrace a unity of expedience that sacrifices the truth revealed in your Word. By your grace, make us one Father: one in the faith once for all delivered to the saints; one in purpose to go into all the world and make disciples; one holiness of heart and life. Through your Son Jesus Christ, who prayed for us, and who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit in perfect unity, one God, world without end. Amen.

Pray for:

Delegates who have not secured visas

 

February 2

Scripture

“To the Jews who had believed Him, Jesus said, ‘If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples.  Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free…[and] if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed” (John 8.31-32, 36)

Prayer

Dear Lord, forgive us for making Truth an endangered species in your world today.   For all too often we have given into our own desires, believing that truth is whatever we want it or need it to be, not what You have proclaimed that it actually is.  Release us from our relativism, and remind us that Truth is inextricably tied Your teachings, and freedom is forever found only in You. Set us free, thus, O Son of God, to be Your disciples now and in these days ahead, Amen.

Pray :

The weather in St. Louis will not prevent or delay flights or delay those traveling by car.

 

February 3

Scripture

“Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight.” (Proverbs 3:5-6)

Prayer

Loving Father of heaven, thank you for adopting us as your beloved children.  Forgive us when we make the mistake of thinking we love people more than you do and trust the ways of the world more than the ways of heaven.  Please give us humble hearts and teachable spirits as we learn to faithfully follow you.  Amen.

Pray for:

Your Bishop

Lay and Clergy Delegates

 

February 4

Scripture

“Brothers and sisters, choose seven men from among you who are known to be full of the Spirit and wisdom. We will turn this responsibility over to them and will give our attention to prayer and the ministry of the word.” (Acts 6.3)

Prayer

Father God, we ask that our brothers and sisters who are delegates to our denomination’s General Conference be filled with Spirit-led wisdom that takes the posture of humility and obedience. Father, in the midst of our constant prayers for them, continue to guide each of us as we seek to do Your work and spread the Gospel to all Creation. We pray in Jesus’ name.  Amen.

Pray for:

Your Bishop

Lay and Clergy Delegates

 

February 5

Scripture

Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and earth has been given to me.  Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you.  And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” (Matthew 28:18-20)

Prayer

Lord, help us to ever keep in mind the privilege and purpose of being a part of your Church. May we always seek to tell of your redeeming love and to grow in love as your disciples with our neighbors near and far. Thank you for always being with us. Amen.

Pray for:

Your Bishop

Lay and Clergy Delegates

 

 

February 6

Scripture

“If you openly declare that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.”  Romans 10:9

Prayer

Father God, we ask that you would help us as a denomination boldly recover our confession of Jesus as Lord for the sake of those who are far from Him.  May we do so with gentleness and respect and also out of a deep love for you and a profound gratitude for the good news.  Amen.

Pray for:

Your Bishop

Lay and Clergy Delegates

 

February 7

Scripture

“Know therefore that the LORD your God is God, the faithful God who keeps covenant and steadfast love with those who love him and keep his commandments, to a thousand generations,” (Deuteronomy 7:9)

Prayer

Lord, we ask in the name of Jesus that the United Methodist Church would know that the LORD our God is God. We ask that we would not just be hearers of the word, but doers. May we remain faithful to the teachings of Scripture, holding fast to the promise that the Lord our God is faithful to complete the good work He has started in each one of us. We praise you and thank you that you have always been faithful, and will remain faithful into eternity.

Pray for:

Your Bishop

Lay and Clergy Delegates

 

February 8

Scripture

“Who is wise and understanding among you? Show by your good life that your works are done with gentleness born of wisdom. But if you have bitter envy and selfish ambition in your hearts, do not be boastful and false to the truth. Such wisdom does not come down from above, but is earthly, unspiritual, devilish. For where there is envy and selfish ambition, there will also be disorder and wickedness of every kind. But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, willing to yield, full of mercy and good fruits, without a trace of partiality or hypocrisy. And a harvest of righteousness is sown in peace for[f]those who make peace.”(James 3:13-18)

Prayer

Father, as we cry out for General Conference, we pray that our delegates and bishops would seek you with all their heart, soul, mind, and strength as you lead them. Echo down through eternity the true wisdom that is from above, not like the worldly noise that is empty of your Word. We lift before your throne of grace all those who will be gathering in St. Louis. Give them safe travel and a desire to journey where you lead. May your Spirit stir among them, preparing them, giving them courage and power to remain faithful to the Word. Amen.

Pray for:

Your Bishop

Lay and Clergy Delegates

 

February 9

Scripture

“When the righteous cry for help, the Lord hears, and rescues them from all their troubles.The Lord is near to the brokenhearted, and saves the crushed in spirit. Many are the afflictions of the righteous, but the Lord rescues them from them all.”(Psalm 34:17-19)

Prayer

Jesus, we confess that through the turmoil in the United Methodist Church many feel discombobulated, disillusioned, or disconnected. Lord, send down your Spirit to quiet our noisy hearts and minds so we might hear your voice and find peace. Expose what requires repentance. Reveal what requires repair. Show us what can be replanted. We need healing and we need transformation. Through the cross, you, Jesus, are our only healer. Come visit every hurting heart. In your compassionate name we pray. Amen.

Pray for:

Your Bishop

Lay and Clergy Delegates

 

February 10

Scripture

“I appeal to you, brothers and sisters, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree with one another in what you say and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be perfectly united in mind and thought” (1 Corinthians 1.10)

Prayer

Lord, in the midst of divisions and false doctrines, help your people called Methodist seek genuine unity around the truth revealed through your Word. End our divisions and battles that weaken our witness and sap our energy from your mission to make disciples for the transformation of the world. Unite us in one heart, one mind, and one thought. Renew in us the fire and passion of your Holy Spirit to spread scriptural holiness across our land. Amen.

Pray for:

Your Bishop

Lay and Clergy Delegates

 

 

February 11

Scripture

“We thank God continually because, when you received the Word of God, which you heard from us, you accepted it not as a human word, but as it actually is, the Word of God which is indeed at work in you who believe.” (2 Thessalonians 2.13)

Prayer

Dear Lord of the Living Word, we thank You that You did not leave us alone in this world without a witness to Your ways. We joyfully proclaim that the scriptures are indeed not the invention of any individual, or even the sum of all human wisdom, but that they are the very words of life which have come from You. We submit ourselves to their authority and pray that Your Word may indeed be at work inside of each of us, all to the praise and glory of Your name, Amen.

Pray for:

Your Bishop

Lay and Clergy Delegates

 

February 12

Scripture

“The one who enters by the gate is the shepherd of the sheep.  The gatekeeper opens the gate for him, and the sheep listen to his voice. He calls his own sheep by name and leads them out.” (John 10:2-3)

Prayer

Beloved Jesus, thank you for loving us so much that you laid down your life like a good shepherd to protect the sheep of your flock. You, the Word of God in the flesh, call each of us by name to come and follow you. You disciple us with lovingkindness as you call us to love both God and neighbor, even when it may be costly, sacrificial.  Give us to the strength and vision to love like you. In your holy name, Amen.

Pray for:

Your Bishop

Lay and Clergy Delegates

 

February 13

Scripture

“Wisdom’s instruction is to fear the Lord, and humility comes before honor.” (Proverbs 15:33)

Prayer

Lord God, we love you and seek to glorify you in all that we do.  We come humbly before you in these days of turmoil in our denomination, yearning for the wisdom that only comes from setting aside our human desires and obeying your Word. We seek this for your glory only Lord. Let your will be done. We pray in Jesus’ name. Amen.

Pray for:

Your Bishop

Lay and Clergy Delegates

 

February 14

Scripture

“But what about you?  he asked. “Who do you say I am?”  Simon Peter answered, “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.”  Jesus replied, “Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah, for this was not revealed to you by flesh and blood, but by my Father in heaven.  And I tell you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not overcome it.” (Matthew 16:15-18)

Prayer

Thank you, Lord, for the gift of your Church. Help us to understand more and more the astounding salvation you offer us all and the unimaginable price you paid to be our Messiah.  May we never lose sight that this is the only foundation of the Church.  Help us to have the courage to build on this foundation a Church that carries your truth and love to places that are filled with despair, knowing that nothing can overcome your power of love.  Amen

Pray for:

Your Bishop

Lay and Clergy Delegates

 

February 15

Scripture

“So why do you keep calling me ‘Lord, Lord!’ when you don’t do what I say?” Luke 6:46

Prayer

Lord Jesus, we have seen obedience and the call to discipleship as an option in being your people, and we have wondered why we are so powerless. Grant us true repentance as a people who once burned with zeal for you and your ways. May we once again become serious about spreading scriptural holiness across the land and turning from our own sinful ways in obedience to your words.  Amen.

Pray for:

Your Bishop

Lay and Clergy Delegates

 

February 16

Scripture

“If you love Me, you will keep My commandments. And I will ask the Father, and He will give you another Advocate to be with you forever— the Spirit of truth. The world cannot receive Him, because it neither sees Him nor knows Him. But you do know Him, for He abides with you and will be in you.”(John 14.15-17)

Prayer

Jesus, we come humbly before you in a posture of praise and gratitude that you have given us an Advocate, the Holy Spirit, who is with us to guide us, to empower us and abide in us throughout our lives. God, we pray that we would be overflowing with the love of Christ, such that we would be faithful to keep your commandments. May our obedience come from an overflow of a transformed heart, that loves You above all else. Amen.

Pray for:

Your Bishop

Lay and Clergy Delegates

 

February 17

Scripture

“It’s important that a church leader, responsible for the affairs in God’s house, be looked up to—not pushy, not short-tempered, not a drunk, not a bully, not money-hungry. He must welcome people, be helpful, wise, fair, reverent, have a good grip on himself, and have a good grip on the Message, knowing how to use the truth to either spur people on in knowledge or stop them in their tracks if they oppose it.  For there are a lot of rebels out there, full of loose, confusing, and deceiving talk. Those who were brought up religious and ought to know better are the worst. They’ve got to be shut up. They’re disrupting entire families with their teaching … Everything is clean to the clean-minded; nothing is clean to dirty-minded unbelievers. They leave their dirty fingerprints on every thought and act. They say they know God, but their actions speak louder than their words…”(Titus 1:9-16)

Prayer

Father, as we pray for the delegates and bishops of General Conference remind us that you have raised up these leaders—some we agree with, some we do not. All belong to you, all are loved by you. As we cry out on their behalf, we pray that none will be pushy, short-tempered, or bullying; that all will be honoring, patient, and kind. We pray that they would be gripped by the message of the Gospel, using their position in leadership to spur the United Methodist Church on in the full knowledge of your truth and stand of against all that is opposed to that truth. Amen.

Pray for:

Your Bishop

Lay and Clergy Delegates

 

February 18

Scripture

“Heal me, O Lord, and I will be healed; save me and I will be saved, for you are the one I praise.”(Jeremiah 17:14)

Prayer

Heavenly father, we come before you today in need of hope. Deliver us from delusions of helplessness, weakness, and resignation. Remind us that we are the people of your Spirit with the promise of a beautiful future, the vision of a radiant life, and the covenant of never ending love. Help us to see again that your cross is the source of light for our darkness. And let us give you thanks in anticipation of what you will do in the United Methodist Church because we have seen what you have done. Thanks be to God! Amen.

Pray for:

Your Bishop

Lay and Clergy Delegates

 

 

 

February 19

Scripture

“As a prisoner for the Lord, then, I urge you to live a life worthy of the calling you have received. Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love. Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace. There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called to one hope when you were called; one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all.” (Ephesians 4.1-6)

Prayer

Save us, O Lord, from a false unity in name only. Save us, O Lord, from a false unity that denies the one hope of salvation and transformation found in your Son, Jesus. Save us, O Lord, from a false unity that abandons the faith once for all delivered to the saints. Save us, O Lord, from pride that thinks we know better than what you have revealed to us in your Word. And keep us always in love with all people through power of your Holy Spirit. Amen.

Pray for:

Your Bishop

Lay and Clergy Delegates

 

February 20

Scripture

“Your Word is a lamp for my feet, a light on my path.  I have taken an oath and confirmed it, that I will follow Your righteous laws…Your statues are my heritage forever; they are the joy of my heart.  My heart is set on keeping Your decrees to the very end.” (Psalm 119:105-106, 111-112)

Prayer

O God, how grateful we are that on the journeys of our lives. You have illuminated a path for our feet in Your Word. So help us to order our steps and go wherever You might lead us, even to the very end. Let the Word of Christ dwell richly within us, so that the peace of Christ may rule in us and our hearts may find their joy in You. For all this we ask in the name of He who is the living Word of God, Amen.

Pray for:

Your Bishop

Lay and Clergy Delegates

 

February 21

Scripture

“Anyone who lives on milk, being still an infant, is not acquainted with the teaching about righteousness.  But solid food is for the mature, who by constant use have trained themselves to distinguish good from evil.” (Hebrews 5:13-14)

Prayer

Holy Father of heaven, thank you for loving us as your children. Please forgive us when we insist on living in our childish ways rather than growing in maturity and costly love. We ask that by the power of your Holy Spirit we may grow to faithfully do your will on earth as it is done in heaven. In your holy name we pray, Amen.

Pray for:

Your Bishop

Lay and Clergy Delegates

 

 

February 22

Scripture

“The Spirit of the Lord will rest on him—the Spirit of wisdom and of understanding, the Spirit of counsel and of might, the Spirit of the knowledge and fear of the Lord.” (Isaiah 11:2)

Prayer

Holy Spirit, come! Shine a light upon our feet, make a path for awakening.  We confess as a denomination that we have been asleep. Forgive us for our slumbering. We are crying for awakening; we need an awakening of wisdom and of counsel and of might that You alone can provide, Lord. Holy Spirit, come!  Amen.

Pray for:

Your Bishop

Lay and Clergy Delegates

 

February 23 (In Session)

Scripture

“Keep watch over yourselves and all the flock of which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers.  Be shepherds of the church of God, which he bought with his own blood.” (Acts 20:28)

Prayer

Lord, help us to diligently watch our walk of discipleship and to daily seek to grow in love and in knowledge of your Word.  Would you help us to care for your church, ever mindful of the privilege to serve your sons and daughters. Thank you, Lord. Amen

 

February 24 (In Session)

Scripture

“Therefore, God elevated him to the place of highest honor and gave him the name above all other names, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue declare that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.” (Philippians 2:9-11)

Prayer

Father God, one day every person alive and who has ever lived—the greats and the unknowns—will bow before you and acknowledge that Jesus is Lord. May we humbly begin each day bowing in the attitude of our hearts to His rightful sovereign rule over our lives. May it motivate us not to settle for anything less than a church that seeks to follow Him in ways that will declare His glory and love to a world in darkness.  Amen.

 

February 25 (In Session)

Scripture

“And [Jesus] being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.” (Philippians 2.8)

Prayer

Father God, we are filled with awe and humility that the God-man, Jesus Christ, would take the form of a human and model for humanity what it looks like to be obedient, regardless of the consequences. Lord, I ask that the United Methodist Church would model the faithfulness and obedience modeled by Jesus, to those in the world who have not yet entered into relationship with Him. Amen.

 

February 26 (In Session)

Scripture

“Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.”(Galatians 6:9)

Prayer

Father, once again we come before you to lift into your very presence the delegates and bishops of General Conference. We believe that you have raised them up for such a time as this. We pray that you would guard their hearts, knowing these are wearying days of sleeping in hotels, hours of meetings and debates, and the struggle of sharing the truth in love. Strengthen their bodies, refresh their minds, protect their hearts. We pray that our bishops will maintain order and our delegates will conference in love. Save them from distractions and disruptions, focusing only on your will to bring about the harvest you desire through the people called Methodists.

 

February 27

Scripture

“Don’t fear, because I am with you; don’t be afraid, for I am your God. I will strengthen you, I will surely help you; I will hold you with my righteous strong hand.”(Isaiah 41:10)

Prayer

Lord, General Conference is over. We invite you today to enter into the broken places within us. For weariness that encumbers, for wayward words that have cut, for bitterness that poisons, for regrets that burden, for pride that bloats, for reprisals that disfigure, for divisions that separate, good God deliver us. You still are God and you still claim us as your own. Heal, refresh, renew, sanctify. For by your miraculous grace you continue to send us out, following where you lead us. Let us be about our Father’s business. Amen.

A Call To Prayer for GC 2019

Team Renew invites you to join this Call to Prayer for General Conference 2019 provided by the Wesleyan Covenant Association of the Texas Annual Conference.You will find a new prayer each day on the Renew Facebook page.

The following is from the Call to Prayer.

John Wesley said, “I continue to dream and pray about a revival of holiness in our day that moves forth in mission and creates authentic community in which each person can be unleashed through the empowerment of the Spirit to fulfill God’s creational intentions.”

General Conference is fast approaching, demanding the United Methodist Church to make decisions that will define our future as a denomination. (Renew and) the Texas Conference members of the WCA,  want to urge all our members to be in prayer each day of February leading up to and immediately following General Conference.

To make that happen, we are equipping you with a daily scripture and a prayer.

You will find that these prayers have been written around nine themes:

Word/Truth
Faithfulness/Obedience
Wisdom/Spirit
Mission of the Church
Healing of Brokenness
Discipleship
Lordship/Humility
True Unity
Delegates/Bishops

Praying for twenty-seven days (through General Conference and the following day), we will pray each theme three times.

Please make this a part of your regular daily prayer time.

Thank you for your commitment to Christ and our beloved church as we pray our way forward.

Leaning into God’s future for us,

A BRIEF HISTORY AND ACCOUNT OF THE RENEW NETWORK by Faye Short     

A BRIEF HISTORY AND ACCOUNT OF THE RENEW NETWORK                                             Prepared by Faye Short                                                                  

 

FORERUNNERS OF THE RENEW NETWORK

The Women’s division had been fully penetrated by the radical feminism that swept the country and entered mainline churches by the late 1960s and 70s. Radical theology and liberal political and social concepts had invaded UMW resources prepared by the staff of the Women’s Division. Evangelical women and men recognized this early on. As a local UMW president in the late 70s, I found the content of UMW program resources appalling.

The first group of evangelical women to publicly “take on” the women’s Division came out of Dallas, Texas. They identified themselves as the Esther Action Council Task Force for Accountability and published a comprehensive handbook documenting the radical political, social and theological actions and resources coming from the Women’s Division.

These faithful women thought that this disclosure would create and uprising among the women of the UMC. They did not bargain for the deep-seated loyalty the women felt to the organization of United Methodist Women, which they equated with their mothers and grandmothers, and subsequently with the Women’s Division. Nor did they anticipate the vengeful response of the Women’s Division and the women who blindly stood with them. Finally, they did not anticipate that they had invaded the enemy’s territory and would suffer personal attacks in the physical and spiritual realm. Their valiant effort brought much to light, but the darkness comprehended it not – and swallowed it up.

In the 1970s, evangelical women began raising alarms about the resources they were getting from the Women’s Division. Many of these women were constituents of Good News. Under the early leadership of Good News women including Helen Rhea Stumbo, Diane Knippers, Alice George, Prudence Waltz, Lanelle Wright, Gail Smith, Margie Jones, Jackie Pyle, Andrea Andress, Dottie Young, and others, the Good News Taskforce on Women in the Church was birthed to challenge the misdirection of the Women’s Division. The taskforce published a bi-monthly newsletter, “Candle,” and produced supplemental program resource books. “Let Your Light So Shine.” They reviewed UMW resources and documented Women’s Division excesses. The taskforce performed this ministry from 1977 through the early 80s, then slacked off on their aggressive campaign, yet continued as a taskforce of Good News.

The early work done by the Esther Action Council and the Good News Women’s Taskforce laid the foundation for the formation of the Evangelical Coalition for the United Methodist Women (ECUMW), later renamed the RENEW Network.

THE FORMATION OF THE ECUM/RENEW NETWORK

My experience as a local, district and conference officer for United Methodist Women during the 70s and 80s was impacted by the work of the Good News Women’s Taskforce, and , in turn, my experience within the organization of United Methodist Women was to impact the work of Good News among evangelical women.

In my local, district and conference UMW leadership positions, I discovered that the worldview and radical activism of the Women’s Division did not match my Wesleyan, biblical world view, and I chafed under the UMW banner. It was the encouragement of Good News women such as Helen Rhea Stumbo and Lill Coker that kept me engaged in UMW conference service.

When I as an evangelical woman, representing those I knew to be conservative women in North Georgia, took clear, yet courteous, well-informed stands against such things as theological pluralism, liberation theology, pro-abortion positioning, homosexual advocacy, inclusive language, political and social liberalism, Marxist/communist leanings and much more, I was ostracized and threatened with removal from office. Finally, I resigned, and was glad to be done with UMW and the Women’s Division.

However, I carried a heavy burden on my heart for the women of the UMC, and grieved over the resources that were being used to undermine their personal faith and their witness in their homes, work places and communities. I was again impacted by Good News women such as Helen Rhea, Anna Collins, Carolyn Elias and other in 1987 and 1988. Helen Rhea asked if I would consider becoming a Good News Board member and invited me to attend a summer board meeting in 1988. At this meeting I walked into the board meeting with Jim Heidinger and said to him, “Jim I appreciate the work of Good News and support you on many issues; however, I must say that I come to this meeting with a strange burden on my heart for the women of the UMC.” Jim replied, “Faye, who knows but that God has sent you to Good News for this very purpose.” At this meeting, I was elected to the board and to the Executive Committee, effective January 1989.

During 1989, I assisted Anna Collins, the Women’s Taskforce Chair with several tasks and attended a taskforce gathering in the home of Virginia and Don Shell at Lake Junaluska, North Carolina. Anna asked that I oversee the planning of a workshop for evangelical women at the upcoming Good News summer convocation. I worked closely with Julia Williams, the invited guest speaker, and with Helen Rhea and Dianne Knippers in the planning of the workshop. It was attended by about 55 women. Julia allowed them ten minutes to “gripe” and then said, “Now, we are going to talk about how we can make a difference.”

After the workshop, the women mobbed the leaders and said, “All of this is well and good, but once we leave this place, how are we to achieve these objectives?” we assured them we would give this some prayer and thought.

About a month later several of the event leaders (Faye, Helen Rhea, Diane Knippers and Julia Williams) met for a time of prayer and discernment. We determined it was time to begin a network for evangelical women for the purpose of renewal at the local level and accountability on the part of the Women’s Division. Because of the far-reaching power of the Women’s Division, and their involvement with so many national and international issues, and their theological, political and social scope, we decided to form a “coalition” under Good News, The Mission Society and the Institute on Religion and Democracy. This was sanctioned by all three boards, and provided the newly-formed Evangelical Coalition for United Methodist Women (ECUMW) the resources and the umbrella protection needed to take on the Women’s Division’s destructive and insidious control of the women of the UMC.

I will never forget when Lil Coker and I approached Jim Heidinger about our plan. We met with him in his office and shared the vision with him. He was very supportive and voiced his awareness that only women could take on the WD. As we were preparing to leave the room, Jim opened the door for us, then, shut it again. He turned to us and said, “Do you realize what you are taking on? The Women’s Division is the most powerful, well-oiled machine within the denomination. There is something intrinsically evil about it. Are you sure you want to do this?” We assured him we did understand, yet felt called to the task. In December 1989, the ECUMW was officially launched.

Initially Julia Williams and I were co-directors of the new network. However, as vice-president, soon to become president of the MSUM, Julia had little time to devote to the cause, so I took up the position as director, later designated as president.

The ECUMW was formed on solid ground because we drew from the three renewal organizations to form our initial steering committee and support team. We had resource personnel who could assist in addressing the political, social and theological radicalism of the Women’s Division. The ECUMW/RENEW was never a light-weight group. We were equipped to address with intelligence and intention the excesses of the Division, and they knew it. At the same time, we had theologically solid women who could provide the supplemental resources needed for the women of the church. We held writer’s workshops that produced excellent resources.

God blessed the network and our impact was felt immediately. The United Methodist Reporter did a front-page article on the ECUMW in 1990, drawing attention to our existence. They did not publish contact information for us, and so received requests from women asking how to reach us. We never did a membership campaign, but realized continued, solid growth over the years. Our membership consisted of women from all over the nation, from local, district and conference UMW officers, and from men and pastors which were aware of and concerned about the direction of the Women’s Division. The ECUMW, later the RENEW Network, was loved and hated by the women of the UMC – and feared by the Women’s Division, whose denouncement of us and attempts to discredit us were constant.

After several years of coalition existence under the three UM renewal organizations, RENEW opted to come under the Good News Board of Directors for the purpose of fiscal and program accountability and to facilitate the working of men and women together for the renewal and reform of the United Methodist Church. The RENEW Oversight Committee and Good News Board have guided and applauded our work. RENEW continued its close association with the MSUM and IRD, and also networked with other renewal groups including Bristol House, Transforming Congregations, Lifewatch, Celebration, the Association for Church Renewal and EQUIP.

 

WHAT HAS RENEW ACCOMPLISHED IN ITS 20+ YEAR HISTORY?

RENEW has accomplished so much over its 20+ year history that it will take a book to adequately present it to the church. Below is a thumbnail sketch of the overall ministry of RENEW along with brief accounts of the significance of this ministry upon the Women’s Division and the denomination.

A Voice For Change                                                                                                                        From its inception, RENEW has provided a place for evangelical women to unite and network together over their documented concerns, thereby providing a concerted voice for change. Having such a network provides real and powerful support for women who, out of genuine concern for the women of the UMC, are willing to take on Women’s Division excesses.

Financial Analysis                                                                                                                    Early in its formation, the RENEW Network did a thorough analysis of the Women’s Division finances and spending patterns, disclosing where the money comes from and where it goes. This analysis also looked at the radical organizations that the Women’s Division networked with and funded. On the basis of our financial disclosure, RENEW recommended to its network members that they not give to undesignated mission giving, but rather designate or redirect their funds. Many women took this advice and Women’s Division funding plunged over the years. RENEW produced Financial Files I-IV over this time period.

Providing Connection                                                                                                            RENEW did not recommend that women leave the organization of United Methodist Women, but rather encouraged them to remain within and work for change and accountability. However, when the women became educated, and confronted the Women’s Division with their concerns, the dismissal of the Women’s Division and the failure of the division to change pushed many women to determine to withdraw from the organization. When this happened, RENEW provided a connection for these women and produced supplemental program resources and guidelines for effective women’s ministries. Stats from GCFA indicated that only 15% of women who are members of the UMC were members of United Methodist Women. That left 85% who had no women’s ministry, or who had adopted alternative ministries.*

Monitoring of the WD                                                                                                               The monitoring of Women’s Division program resources has been a major goal of RENEW. Highly capable individuals were enlisted to review materials produced either by the Women’s Division alone or in conjunction with other organizations such as Church Women United and the United Nations. Many pastors availed themselves of RENEW’s reviews, particularly when they were asked to teach a UMW mission study and found it to be highly egregious.

RENEW representatives faithfully attended the spring and fall board meetings of the Women’s Division, observing first-hand the program direction of the various committees of the Division. Picking up budget and program information in advance enabled RENEW to alert the women of the church as to policies and programs they needed to watch and address as needed.

RENEW sent teams to the quadrennial UMW Assemblies which inevitably showcased radical speakers, anti-American sentiment, deviant theology and left-leaning social and political advocacy.

Renew also sent representatives to the highly controversial quadrennial National Seminars where participants were schooled in liberal social and political advocacy in behalf of many controversial issues. The tone of this event is hostile toward democracy and orthodox Christian faith.

The Ecumenical Decade’s Re-Imagining Conference and Resulting Crisis                           The World Council of Churches developed a program called: “The Ecumenical Decade: Churches in Solidarity with Women.” The Women’s Division gained General Conference sanction to participate in the Decade. A study book by the same title was offered to United Methodist Women as a resource. When I, as president of RENEW, reviewed this workbook, I was shocked at the blatant radical feminist content, promoted by well-known feminist authors such as Virginia Mollenkott, Barbara Lundblad, and others. It propelled me into a year’s research on radical feminism and its incursion into the church.

Good News hosted a summer celebration, at which RENEW presented a workshop on the Ecumenical Decade, exposing the radical content of the study book, and I shared my findings. Not long after, while attending one of the Women’s Division board meetings, RENEW’s press rep picked up printed material promoting the upcoming 1993 Re-Imagining conference, which was the midpoint event of the Ecumenical Decade, Churches in Solidarity with Women program. The material revealed that this conference was to be a “coming out” of radical feminism. I alerted the women of our network to the potential danger of this event, and, as I recall, encouraged them to discourage the Women’s Division from participation.

As the event drew closer, I had a telephone call from a Catholic women’s leader in California encouraging RENEW to send a press representative to the meeting. She was not able to attend, but recognized the radical nature of the event, saying she believed it would be a “high water mark” for radical feminism. I asked Dottie Chase, who had covered other liberal church meetings for Good News, to go in our behalf. She consented. I contacted Rev. Sue Cyre with the PCUSA and asked her to consider attending. I also contacted a representative from the American Baptist Church. These three press reps attended the Re-imagining conference and found, among other things, the worshipping of the goddess Sophia, standing in solidarity with Christians Lesbians, denying the necessity of Christ’s atoning death, and promoting the syncretism of religions.

RENEW’s disclosure of the content of this meeting rocked the church and caused the Women’s Division to back off from – although never denouncing – full support of the Re-Imagining community, which continued meeting for several years prior to disbanding. RENEW monitored all Re-Imagining meetings. I attended the second meeting as a participant and was refused seating by six tables of women. I was finally asked, by embarrassed leaders, to go to the press box. Jean Audrey Powers came over and talked with me. After a lengthy conversation she said, “Faye, I am sorry we are poles apart theologically, because I like you.” I responded, “I like you too Jean Audrey.” She went back to the table she was monitoring and got the group to allow me to sit at their table.

Annual Re-Imagining Conferences continued for several years during the remainder of the Ecumenical Decade. The Women’s Division continued participation, never acknowledging the escalating egregious nature of the gatherings. Renew had press reps at every Re-Imagining Conference, and Faye Short wrote many articles and letters to the women of the UMC. RENEW also reported on the prurient magazine that sprang out of the movement, keeping the Women’s Division’s feet to the fire. No doubt, the Women’s Division’s commitment to Re-Imagining was a major cause of UMW funding and membership loss.

A Call to Reform                                                                                                                           In December 2001, Good News joined with RENEW in issuing “A Call for Reform and the Women’s Division.” This action was taken in response to years of egregious actions on the part of the Women’s Division culminating in several actions taken by the Board of Directors of the Women’s Division at the Fall 2001 board meeting. This meeting came on the heels of the September 11 attack by terrorists upon the United States.

Anti-American Response to 9/11 and the Continuing At the 2001 board meeting: (1) “A Resolution on Terrorist Attacks” was passed calling for a halt to the bombing of Afghanistan, favoring negotiation over action against terrorism. Speakers spoke disparagingly of U.S. policies that supposedly evoked the horrific 9/11 attacks; (2) Plans were devised for the implementation of a “Mobilization Against (the Anti-) Terrorism Act” although the House of Representatives passed the Anti-Terrorism Act by 357-66, the U.S. Senate by 88-1;

Re-Imagining Continues to Influence UMW WD Allows Sophia Circle                                 The directors voted to continue to allow official status for a District Unit of UMW, “Sophia Circle,” whose stated purpose was to gather monthly “for an hour’s lively discussion on material from the Re-Imagining Newsletter; (4) It was announced that Barbara Lundblad, a former controversial Re-Imagining speaker, was to be the Plenary speaker at the UMW Assembly scheduled for Philadelphia in April 2002. RENEW’s press representative, Carolyn Elias, captured all this information and more.

Our Basis of Concern                                                                                                                  The official “Call for Reform of the Women’s Division” was endorsed by thousands of United Methodist women, and affected the status and membership of the Division. I wrote “Our Basis for Concern” as the foundational piece to support the “Call for Reform of the Women’s Division” campaign.

RENEW and WD Conversation at Wesley Seminary                                                                    At her inaugural address to the Women’s Division, Dr. Jan Love mentioned her desire to listen to the women of the church and her willingness to converse with them. I, as president of RENEW, took this as an opportunity to invite the Women’s Division to engage in a conversation with representatives of the Renew Network. This exchange took place at Wesley theological Seminary on September 21, 2005. The women who represented RENEW acquitted themselves well, addressing political, theological and social issues with clarity and impressive expertise. Network members were pleased to have their concerns brought directly to the staff of the Women’s Division. RENEW representatives did them proud.

WD Ties United Nations Goals to the Mission of the UMC                                                   General Conference presented serious challenges to RENEW due to the radical nature of the legislation of the Women’s Division brought to the conference. The Women’s Division is a world player – into national and international social and political concerns. Their advocacy for the support of United Nations’ treaties is well-documented. The Women’s Division is pro-abortion, pro-homosexual practice, pro-welfare support, pro-international criminal court, pro-redistribution of wealth, pro-socialist policies, and on and on. Key evangelical leaders within Methodism have long decried the power of the Women’s Division at GBGM meetings and at General conference. The “Agreements of ‘64” granted the Division rights that give them the “edge” on representation on boards and agencies and within the church structure.

WD’s General Conference Petitions and Resolutions Challenged                                   RENEW has faithfully challenged the petitions and resolutions presented by the Women’s Division to General Conference. We have done this with a comprehensive analysis of their legislation by capable women such as Dr. Janice Shaw Crouse, and by equipping delegates to challenge bad legislation. While the ingrained and ruthless power of the Women’s Division at General Conference is still active, we have defeated some of their legislation and have eroded the confidence delegates have in Women’s Division proposals. RENEW has been persistent in calling for the General Conference to approve the formation of supplemental or alternative women’s ministries, beyond UMW, within the denomination. While the Division has aggressively opposed this legislation, RENEW finally saw the culmination of our efforts with the passage of legislation in 2016.

THE RENEW NETWORK IS WELL-KNOWN AND FULLY APPRECIATED

The letters, card and e-mails that have poured into the RENEW office over the years from women and men expressing appreciation for this ministry has been remarkable. This does not include the thousands of telephone calls that have come from those looking for an affirming voice regarding their concerns, documented information to use to make their case, honest evaluation of WD resources, and supplemental program materials. The relief and joy in finding such a network was clearly expressed.

RENEW AND GOOD NEWS

The RENEW/Good News history reaches back to the 1970’s when the Task Force on Women in the church was formed as a committee of Good News. This relationship has brought United Methodist men and women into a close-working relationship for the renewal of the denomination. The power and influence of the Women’s Division is well recognized as is the fact that RENEW has done much to weaken this monolithic, wealthy organization. The numbers are there to prove it.

What does the future hold for an ongoing relationship between the RENEW Network and Good News? As the denomination catapults toward serious lines of demarcation, we trust Good News and RENEW will be ready to lead the evangelical men and women of the United Methodist Church into a faithful future. If a separation were to ever occur, a complete break with the UMW National and the UMW organization would be absolutely essential for the health of the evangelical component of the church. UMW National continues to advocate for and promote to the women of the UMC the same radical political, social and theological ideology RENEW and its predecessors have fought in the spiritual and natural realm for over 30 years. There would be no room for fellowship with this co-opted organization.

 

Women’s Ministry Survey

This survey has been used by churches to reach out to women in their congregation and their community in order to provide ministry that is Christ-centered, biblically based, and relevant to women’s lives today.  If your women’s ministry is looking to offer a program that will provide opportunity for spiritual growth and meaningful mission projects, this survey will help you target the specific needs of your group.

Women’s Ministry Survey

Please take a few moments to answer these questions concerning women’s ministry at our church. Women’s ministry is about encouraging, enabling, and equipping women for the purpose of developing a closer relationship with Christ, the Church, and the community. Your input is vital in beginning a process of prayer and discernment for the specific spiritual needs of the women at _______________________United Methodist Church.

  1. Age:   __16-21     __21-30   __31-40   __41-50   __51-60   __61-70   __71 plus

 

  1. Status:   __Single   __Married   __Divorced   __Widowed

 

  1. Occupation:   ________________________________

 

  1. Preferred Time for women’s ministry meetings/events:

 

__Morning       __Afternoons   __Evenings

 

  1. Preferred Day for women’s ministry meetings/events:

 

__Monday   __Tuesday   __Wednesday   __Thursday   __Friday   __Saturday

 

  1. Would you need baby-sitting services during women’s ministries meetings/events: _____

 

  1. Are you currently or have you been involved in any of the following at ___________ UMC?

 

Regular worship attendance ___

Sunday School Class ___

United Methodist Women ___

Bible Study ___

Prayer Group ___

Other (please name) ______________

 

  1. If you could have a need fulfilled by a women’s ministry program, what would it be?

(Check all that apply.)

Fellowship with women in my life stage   ___

Fellowship with women of all ages   ___

Introductory/short term Bible study   ___

In-depth/long term Bible study   ___

Single women’s ministry   ___

Mentoring ministry   ___

Annual women’s weekend retreat ministry   ___

Special event ministry (i.e. Beth Moore, Women of Faith conferences)   ___

Christian career women ministry   ___

Abortion Recovery ministry   ___

Mothers of Preschoolers (MOPS) ministry   ___

Community events ministry   ___

Outreach ministry   ___

Other   _________________________________________________________

 

  1. If you are not currently involved in church/women’s ministry, what barriers exist to your involvement? (Check all that apply.)

 

Times not convenient ___

Family/Work Demands   ___

Health Issues   ___

Transportation Issues   ___

Financial Issues   ___

Nothing offered of interest   ___

Other   __________________

 

  1. What 3 things would make your life more meaningful?

 

Close, personal relationship with God   ___

Close, personal Christian friendships   ___

Learning to study the Bible ___

Setting specific spiritual goals   ___

Better physical health   ___

Better time management   ___

Better marriage   ___

Better prayer life ___

Stronger spiritual leadership in the home   ___

Better relationships with children   ___

Healing from past mistakes   ___

Healthy finances   ___

Finding a spouse   ____

Career success   ___

Better psychological/emotional health ___

Help with aging parents ___

Prayer/Accountability partner   ___

 

  1. Do you have a “passion” for participating in a women’s ministry in your church?

 

 

  1. Would you be willing to serve on a women’s ministry steering team to see this “passion” fulfilled in your church? If so, please provide your name and phone number so we may contact you. If you would like this survey kept anonymous, please contact _____________ to express your interest in serving.

 

 

 

  1. What mission projects both in our community and beyond would you like to see our Women’s Ministry become involved in?

 

 

  1. If you could choose one goal that women’s ministries should attain, what would it be?

 

  1. Contact information (not required):

 

Name:

Address:

Phone:

E-mail:

 

 

Thank you so much for your participation in this women’s ministry survey. It will be very beneficial in gathering information about the specific needs of the women in our church. It is our prayer that a vibrant, fruitful women’s ministry will glorify God and enrich the families of ______________United Methodist Church.

How to Start a Women’s Ministry

This important area of the ministry of RENEW is in offering guidance and encouragement to local churches in the process of forming life-changing women’s ministry programs.  We have already begun the process of producing a comprehensive women’s ministry handbook that we pray will be a useful and vital tool to women of the church.  Every church is unique, every group of women is unique, and every women’s ministry program should be unique.

In the meantime, we will be posting information and articles concerning the formation of women’s ministries.  We are also available to assist you by consultation or through workshops on women’s ministry topics.

I.  The first and most important step in beginning this process is PRAYER.  If God has given you a heart for the women of your church, begin to have intentional prayer time and ask Him to guide your steps.  Also ask  Him to reveal other women  who share this same heart and passion for ministering to the needs of women, children, and families within your church.  Be patient, wait on the Lord, and He will answer your prayers.

II.  Once the Lord brings together a core group of women who are called to begin this journey, it is important to meet together for regular pray and study time.   There are several books available which can help you grow together and discern God’s direction for your women’s ministry.  Several recommended titles include: Becoming a Woman of Influence by Carol Kent , Transformed Lives: Taking Women’s Ministry to the Next Level by Chris Adams, and Having a Mary Heart in a Martha World by Joanne Weaver. As this core group studies and prays together, the Lord will move among you and begin to guide and direct your every step.  Wait expectantly for Jesus to speak to you in a powerful way.

III. Develop a name and mission statement for your ministry.  Having a mission statement are very important when developing a women’s ministry.  This statement reveals the core purpose and vision for the ministry and provides a plumbline by which all aspects of the ministry can be evaluated and measured.  Before any new component is added to the ministry, make sure it honors and enhances the mission of your women’s ministry.  This critical step will keep the women of your congregation focused on your core values and beliefs.  It is also helpful that the mission statement of your women’s ministry complement the mission statement of your church, so that all your endeavors are an integral part of the life and vision of the entire congregation.

IV. Assess the needs of the women in your congregation.  This can be done two ways.  One is to distribute a survey to the women of the church.  RENEW has several examples of surveys that are good and can help you formulate one that is appropriate for your size church.  It is important that the survey not be too lengthy and time-consuming to fill out, as this may hinder women’s likelihood of participating.  Make it easier for them to hand the survey back in by including an addressed envelope for them and providing drop boxes at the church for them to use.  Make this process fun and consider little incentives for them to respond quickly, like maybe a small token of appreciation like a bookmark or coupon for a free coffee.  Another important way to get to know the women of your church is for each member of the leadership team to invite several women to lunch individually.  This will give you a way to get to know the women in your midst and speak with them candidly about what their deepest needs are.  Choose women from different backgrounds and stages of life and start forming these relationships that are the heart and soul of women’s ministry. The information gleaned from these surveys and interviews will be vital in enabling your team to offer ministry components that have the most impact within your church.  Developing a unique women’s ministry for your unique church family is a vital component to a fruitful women’s ministry program.  Remember, this is a process, and will develop as God provides leadership and opportunity for ministry.

Here is an example of a Women’s Ministry Survey (PDF File).