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

The UMW Spiritual Life Study: The Bible and Human Sexuality: Claiming God’s Good Gift.

August 3, 2016 Newsletter

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 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 crossroad 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 exclusively by 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.” 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.

Katy Kiser

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 eight 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


Mirrors III – Reflecting on God’s Glory: Spiritual Maturity

Mirrors III – Reflecting God’s Glory: Spiritual Maturity



To have a truly new heart is a wondrous thing. We cannot thank God enough for this miraculous change within us.   It is a change that ONLY God can make within us. No amount of striving on our part can bring about the change that God promises to make in us when we surrender ourselves to Jesus.

In lesson II, we looked at Isaiah 43 and God’s statement that He made us for His glory. We saw how Jesus’ death and resurrection gave to us who trust Him a place in God’s family and the right to call Him Daddy. We saw how sin and hurts turn the good news of God into bad news. And we learned that getting honest with God shatters any walls which we have erected between ourselves and Him.

We are going to look at what the Bible means when it says that we are “created for His glory.”  Since this is our whole purpose for existing, it’s important that we know what that means.  Let’s look at the word “glory,” both in the Old Testament and the New Testament.


God’s Glory

God has chosen to reveal Himself to mankind. He gave His Word so His children might come to understand Who HE says He is. Throughout the pages of the Bible, He reveals Himself to us. The word “glory” is a word often used to describe Him.

Old Testament

Exodus 16:7- In the morning you will see the glory of the Lord….

Psalms 19:1- The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of His hands.

Psalms 24: 7- Lift up your heads, O gates…that the King of glory may come in!

Psalms 29: 9- …in His temple all cry, “Glory!”

Isaiah 6:3 – …the whole earth is full of His glory.

Isaiah 66: 18 – 19 – …the time is coming to gather all nations and tongues. And they shall come and see My glory.

So what does the word “glory” actually mean? Just these verses seem to indicate it means something big. In Hebrew, word kavodh = weight, honor, esteem.  Kavodh actually comes from kavedh = to be renowned…to show oneself great or mighty.

In other words, God’s glory shows who He is. It is the way He makes Himself known – how He shows Himself mighty. His glory is how humans can see Him.


What God Says About Himself and About Us

The word “glory” is important not only so we can understand what God says about Himself but also because of something God says about us! In Isaiah 43:7, God says that He formed us, He created us “for His glory!”

In other words, God created me…He created you…so that we would show Him to the world. We were created to make Him known and honored and esteemed. We exist to make Him recognizable to others – to show His might!   Scripture here is talking not only about our using words but of our lives. It is saying that our very beings will show His might. We are made so as to declare His greatness.


How Can This Be?

Right about now, had I been listening to this some years ago, I would have thought, “How can that be? Whatever was God thinking?” Let’s look back very briefly at our human history before going to the New Testament to see exactly how He means for us to show His glory


Creation, the Fall, and Israel

The first humans had hearts that were turned toward God. They trusted Him and turned to Him for relationship. But Satan, who hates God and us because He knows why we were created, came to Eve with a statement that contained a sly inference about God.   And part of our sin nature ever since has been both to doubt that God is really good as well as to want to be our own gods.

The fact that this happened was no surprise to our Father God. Because He is timeless, He knew before the Fall happened that we humans would both believe the lie AND want to be in charge of our own lives. He knew these would keep us from the purity of His presence. But because He is our Father, He planned all along a Way to draw us back to Himself – and that Way was Jesus.


Historical Picture

But before the time was right for Jesus to come, God gave us a kind of “picture” during history so that humans would recognize Jesus when He came.   God made a covenant with Israel in order that they would be able to have their sins forgiven, that they might be able to approach Him, and also that other nations would see His might displayed on behalf of Israel.



In addition to this covenant, God chose to speak with Moses alone in all of Israel. God’s relationship with Moses is an example for us.

In Exodus 33:7-33, we see two important points. First, Moses desired all of God that he could handle. And secondly, Moses was changed by the very experience of being in God’s presence. He did not realize that others saw the change, but Exodus 34:29-35 tells us that Moses’ face shone, reflecting God’s glory.


Glory in the New Testament

Our Father God knew that we would have issues with trusting Him. He knew that even though we had His Word to tell about His love for us, we would still doubt His goodness. So He sent Jesus that we might “see” what God looks like with skin on. Jesus revealed the glory of God. Remember the Old Testament definition of glory? God’s glory is how He shows Himself mighty.

Well, the New Testament word for glory adds to that of the Old Testament. The Greek word for glory is “doxa,” which means “the true apprehension of God.” So God’s glory is also the way He makes Himself recognizable, the way we know that He is Himself! Jesus, the Son, shows us exactly Who the Father is.


John’s Gospel

Who the Father is can be clearly seen in John 1:14 –

The Word became flesh and made His dwelling among us. We have seen His glory, the glory of the One and Only, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.

We find the first of miraculous sign of Jesus in John 2: 11, where He turned water into wine at a wedding in Cana of Galilee. He thus revealed his glory.

Hebrews 1:3 tells us that the Son is the radiance of God’s glory and the exact representation of his being. Radiance is defined as light coming from the original; Jesus was literally the shining of God’s glory.

Jesus was the exact representation of the Father – just like an impression made in wax clearly shows what the original looked like.   Jesus demonstrates that, unlike mankind’s kings, God’s glory, His might, is not shown by crushing men but in loving and serving them.


Spiritual Maturity and Sanctification

Spiritual maturity is in actuality the process of God’s transforming us. Calvin Miller says in his book Into the Depths of God (p. 14), that when we are born again, “we catch the vision of our significance to God. But the vision leaks out.” In terms of our learning to trust that He is good and that we have high value to Him, it will be a work of God in us over our whole lives.

The church word for this is sanctification. In the book Conversion by E. Stanley Jones, there is this quote: “ ‘We have conceived of the Christian life as an imitation of Christ. It is not an imitation of Christ. It is a participation of Christ.’ When our deepest self is surrendered to Christ, then He moves in and we participate in Christ – His resources become the spring of our actions.”

Calvin Miller’s also writes, “Our hearts are not chambers but doorways to God’s presence.”   God’s intention all along has been to do the work in us that He wants done! If we open ourselves to Him, He WILL come in and change us.

Hannah Whitehall Smith writes about it this way: “Lord, I am yours; I do yield myself entirely to you, and I believe that you accept me. I leave myself with you. Work in me all the good pleasure of your will, and I will only lie still in your hands and trust you.”

Paul says it this way in Philippians 1: 4 –6:

In all my prayers for all of you, I always pray with joy…being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Jesus Christ.

Let’s look together at 2 Corinthians 3: 5 – 18, especially verses 17 and 18.

Paul is saying that we ARE becoming like Christ, right this minute. And we HAVE BEEN becoming like Him ever since we believed in Jesus. It is His will for us that we be progressively transformed into the image of Christ, and He will see to it that we are.


Becoming Transformed

The key is that we will be transformed more and more as we look at Him – as we think about Him and fix our gaze on Him and read about Him and put Him before ourselves again and again.   As we do so, we are changed by His power. If we try to live in our own strength, we put ourselves back under the law – and that will lead to either rebellion or legalism. But where we let the Spirit do His work, we become free. The words in 2 Corinthians 3:18 show us how this is happening.

But we all, with unveiled face, beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as by the Spirit of the Lord.

John Piper elaborates on this transformation described in 2 Corinthians 3:18.

“How shall that happen? It will happen, as verse 18 says, by steadily looking to Jesus, the Lord.

“The Holy Spirit — the Spirit of the Lord — has one main task, to glorify Jesus (John 16:14). To help us see him and to show him. Therefore when we turn to the Lord and set our hearts on Jesus, the Spirit works to help us see him. He opens the eyes of our hearts to apprehend and appreciate and savor and cherish and treasure the glory of the Lord. And then by that means he changes our inner drives and desires and longings so that we want what Jesus wants and are free.

“When Jesus says, love your enemy, we are free because the Spirit is working this very love in our hearts as we look to Jesus. When he says love your neighbor as you love yourself, we are free, because the Spirit is working in us this very love as we look to Jesus.

“The fruit of the Spirit is love. When Jesus says love one another with tender, family affection, we are free because, even though this does not lie in our power to do, we can, degree by degree, grow into this freely, because where the Spirit of the Lord is there is freedom. He is in us awakening those very affections as we steadfastly look to Jesus.

“The Spirit is not working this transformation in us without reference to Jesus. Not while we watch endless hours of empty, trifling TV; not while we dribble our hours away aimlessly exploring the World Wide Web; not while we set our minds on things that ignore Christ. No.

“The Spirit moves and works and frees in a very definite atmosphere, namely, where we are ‘beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord Jesus’ (2 Cor. 3:18). The Spirit exalts Christ. The Spirit opens the eyes to Christ. The Spirit applies the image of Christ to our soul.”

Always remember that Jesus IS already making you like Himself and that you ARE showing His glory, His might and His power in your brokenness. 



Let’s ask our Father in prayer to give us more of Himself, to show us His glory that we might be changed. Let us choose to be like Moses – not content to stay where we have been or where we are, but asking Him now for more of Himself.


Study and Discussion Questions

The following questions can be used for individual or group study. For group study, it is recommended that copies of each of the three Mirrors teachings be copied and given out at least a week prior to a meeting. At a meeting, it may be helpful to divide into small discussion groups, since the answers to some of these questions are very personal.

Each Teaching can be easily divided by reading two or more sections each day and answering questions that pertain to the corresponding reading.

Day One – Read Introduction; God’s Glory; What God says about Himself and About Us; and How Can this Be.

Answer questions 1 and 2.

Day Two – Read Creation, the Fall and Israel; Historical Picture; and Moses.

Answer questions 3 and 4.

Day Three – Read Glory in the New Testament; and the section titled John ‘s Gospel.

Answer questions 5 and 6.

Day Four – Read Spiritual Maturity and Sanctification; Becoming Transformed; and Conclusion.

Answer questions 7 and 8.

Study Questions

1.) To understand how our lives are to reflect God’s glory, we must understand and experience His Glory. Choose two or more Old Testament scriptures from the list in Day One’s reading. How do they speak to your understanding of God’s glory?

2.) Write out Isaiah 43:7. Invite the Lord to show His glory through you this week. Write down a brief description of how He answers this prayer.

3.) Think of a time when you were tempted to doubt God’s goodness or attempted to solve a problem or change a situation in your own strength.

4.) Read Exodus 33:7-33. What about Moses’ experience speaks to you?

5.) Write down the meaning of the Old Testament Hebrew word and the New Testament Greek word for glory. How does the New Testament word add to our understanding of glory?

6.) List the attributes of God that are given in John 1:14. What is the main attribute that distinguishes God’s glory from the world’s understanding?

7.) Re-read Philippians 1:4-6. How does this passage encourage you?

8.) Reflect on the times God moved in your life and showed His glory by doing that which you could not do for yourself.

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

“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


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.



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.



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?

Mirrors II – Broken Mirrors

Mirrors #2 – Broken Mirrors by Jeannine Fogwell

Seeing In the Mirror

C.S. Lewis, in his book Mere Christianity, writes that when God is given lordship over our lives, He does indeed direct what happens. We think He plans to make us into a charming little cottage, maybe a little paint here, a hedge there, and a few flowers to make us look cheerful. But as we live our lives, we begin to feel major discomfort! What is happening to us? Let’s look at Lewis’s words:

Imagine yourself as a living house. God comes in to rebuild that house. At first, perhaps, you can understand what He is doing. He is getting the drains right and stopping the leaks in the roof and so on: you know that those jobs needed doing and so you are not surprised. But presently he starts knocking the house about in a way that hurts abominably and does not seem to make sense. What on earth is He up to? The explanation is that He is building quite a different house from the one you thought of – throwing out a new wing here, putting on an extra floor there, running up towers, making courtyards. You thought you were going to be made into a decent cottage: but He is building a palace. He intends to come and live in it Himself.

 . …If we let Him – for we can prevent Him, if we choose – He will make the feeblest and filthiest of us into a …dazzling, radiant, immortal creature, pulsating all through with such energy and joy and wisdom and love as we cannot now imagine, a bright stainless mirror which reflects back to God perfectly (though of course on a smaller scale) His own boundless power and delight and goodness. The process will be long and in parts very painful; but that is what we are in for. Nothing less. He meant what He said.

While we had thought we’d be a little scrubbed-fresh dwelling, He planned all along that we would be a huge and lovely castle, with His flag flying high and His light burning brightly on the high walls and from the tall windows, so that others would see Him.

Lewis says that God MUST make these deep changes in us so that we can leave our cracked shell and fly like a bird is supposed to. The alternative is to remain an egg and eventually start to stink!

Reflecting God’s Glory

Isaiah . 43: 1 – 7 says that we are created to reflect God’s glory.

1 But now, this is, he who formed you, O Israel: “Fear not, for I have what the LORD says– he who created you, O Jacob redeemed you; I have summoned you by name; you are mine. 2 When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you. When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned; the flames will not set you ablaze. 3 For I am the LORD, your God, the Holy One of Israel, your Savior; I give Egypt for your ransom, Cush and Seba in your stead. 4 Since you are precious and honored in my sight, and because I love you, I will give men in exchange for you, and people in exchange for your life. 5 Do not be afraid, for I am with you; I will bring your children from the east and gather you from the west. 6 I will say to the north, ‘Give them up!’ and to the south, ‘Do not hold them back.’ Bring my sons from afar and my daughters from the ends of the earth– 7 everyone who is called by my name, whom I created for my glory, whom I formed and made.”

This is His plan for every single person who accepts Jesus as personal Savior. But a problem arises between what He has created us to be and how we see ourselves. He knows that we are created to show His glory. But we know that we are cracked mirrors.

Christianity is all about relationship, and that relationship begins with God. God wants relationship with us, but our sin nature cannot be in the presence of His holiness. God the Father specifically sent Jesus to deal with this problem, a problem that is impossible for us to fix. Jesus’ death and resurrection make an actual new life possible. When we accept Jesus as our Savior, a fundamental and seismic change happens in the relationship between God and us as well as within us. Because of Christ, we become children of God.

Being A Child of God

The term “children of God” can truly only legitimately be used by believers. There are rights and privileges, which exist for a child in any family. With Jesus as our older brother, the Firstborn, we enter the family of God. Reconciliation with God replaces antagonism towards Him. Peace with God replaces fear of His judgment. Because of Jesus, when God looks at us, He sees ONLY Jesus’ righteousness: Christ within us.

Gal. 3:26 – 27:For you are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus. For all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ.

Gal. 4: 4 – 7 But when the fullness of time came, God sent forth His Son, born of a woman, born under the Law, so that he might redeem those who are under the Law, that we might receive adoption as sons. Because you are sons, God has sent forth the Spirit of His Son into your hearts, crying “Abba! Father!” Therefore you are no longer a slave, but a son; and if a son, then an heir through the gracious act of God.

As His child, we have both the right and the privilege to enter His presence, run into His arms, and sit in His lap to talk with Him whenever we want to!

At the same time that this huge change takes place in our relationship with God, there also occurs an enormous shift within us. Our sinful hearts are changed in such a basic way that the process of being transformed can begin.   Where once we were quite content to let ourselves be queen of the universe (It’s all about ME), we now begin to realize that there is something better! Our hearts begin to comprehend, through the working of the Holy Spirit, Who God really is.

With Jesus’ death and resurrection the New Covenant was established. This New Covenant had been spoken of in the Old Testament and is especially clear in Jeremiah 31: 33 – 34:

“But this is the covenant I will make with the house of Israel after those days,” declares the Lord, “ I will put My law within them, and on their heart I will write it; and I shall be their God, and they shall be My people.”

Our hearts that were stone – hard and unreceptive to Him – now are softened to receive Himself in our inner man.

Ezekiel 11:19 states, “ I will put a new spirit within them; I will remove from them their heart of stone and give them a heart of flesh.”

Changing – a Gift of Grace

These two changes – that of our relationship to God and the change within our hearts – happen totally apart from our own striving. They are gifts of grace. But this truth is not so easily grasped within. While we accept it gladly with our minds – rejoicing even – the truth takes longer to reach our hearts. Head knowledge does not automatically create heart knowledge. For a great many believers, the distance between head and heart is measured in years.

For many years as a believer, I knew the Truth of God’s Word concerning Who God is. I knew intellectually what His Word said, and I wanted to follow Jesus wherever He led…just as the song said. In my mind, I believed He could do anything, but I lived my everyday life not expecting Him to. I could quote Scriptures about God’s love for us and fervently believe the verses for you, but in my heart I feared that God was just waiting for me to do something wrong.

When I tried to read the Bible on my own, the “judgment” verses seemed to hit hard, while the “grace” verses were not to be found (although in sermons and Bible studies led by others, I could hear that grace was there). I would have told you with utter certainty that God’s grace is sufficient for salvation, but my heart did not understand that His grace is ALSO sufficient for changing me into the person I longed to be.

In my eyes, I failed to live the life described in God’s Word. You see, the God of the Bible was not the “god” I saw in my heart. Although I had accepted Jesus’ free gift of salvation, I was still in bondage. Although He had thrown open the doors for me to a life of freedom, I remained in a cell, locked from the inside.

Set Fre

The apostle Paul speaks of having been imprisoned but set free by God. We know from his writings in the New Testament that his life was one of much hardship, including being beaten, shipwrecked, and put in prison. But Paul knew that God had not only set him free several times from a literal prison; he knew that God had set him free from the prison of legalism – from trying to work his way to heaven and from attempting to be perfect on his own steam by rigidly keeping laws and rules. He, too, was locked in an internal prison until Christ set him free.

So I realize that I am not alone in this experience. If it is not your experience, it is the experience of someone you know and love. For many of God’s people, there is a serious disconnect between what they sincerely believe with their minds and how they live, that is their actions, which show what is REALLY believed in their hearts.

God created us to be whole, but our own sin nature along with Satan’s lies to us create a divide in our beings that only Jesus can heal. That is why believers can love Jesus but not be too sure they want to be around God the Father. And yet it is the Father who planned all along for us to show His glory and made the way for us to do so

In his book Experiencing the Father’s Embrace, Jack Frost writes of how he accepted God’s grace for salvation but did not live in the grace God provides for us as His children.

  1. First, because of my childhood filter system of performance, I thought that through my rigid life of prayer, study and religious discipline and duty I was making myself more acceptable in God’s eyes.
  2. As soon as I left the way of grace, I could not pray enough, study enough or do enough to ever feel accepted by God, so I never attained the sense of closeness with God that I longed for.
  3. So I worked harder at making my soul spiritual. I tried praying more, fasting more, doing more, being better.
  4. After several years I got so weary and the Christian walk became so hard.
  5. I felt guilty and ashamed for not being good enough….
  6. I felt unworthy to be loved by God….

Finally, after becoming completely burned out trying to live the Christian life on his own and loving his family with the same conditional love he thought he had from God, Jack stopped. And God miraculously met him in his pain, showing His boundless love and grace and releasing Jack from the lie he had believed: that God expected him to work for His love. Now understanding God’s amazing grace, Jack could then let the Holy Spirit work within him to bring needed changes. And he began loving his family with the same grace and unconditional love with which Christ loves him.

My Story

I grew up in a Christian home and can’t remember a time that I didn’t love Jesus. I formally invited Him into my heart as a teenager at my Confirmation in the Lutheran Church. Later, as a young adult in a Bible study, I realized that I had never given Him control of my life and yielded this control to Him as my Lord.

However, like Jack Frost, I somehow missed that in yielding control to Him, I could then rest in Him to change me. Instead, I tried to work hard at the Christian disciplines to become what I thought He wanted me to be. But although I loved Jesus, I felt very distant from God the Father and that He must certainly be disappointed in me and my failures. I worried about everything, had no peace, and was concerned because I would feel intense anger when one of our daughters disobeyed me. Where did that anger come from? But I couldn’t seem to change.

Some years later, our pastor’s wife wanted to begin a prayer ministry to those wounded people who were unable to forgive and unable to draw close to God. In looking for those who would be trained to pray with the wounded, she looked for one of two things: 1) was God calling us to prayer, OR, 2) were we the kind of people to whom complete strangers would share their life’s troubles as we stood in the grocery line? I fit the second, so I attended the first meeting. There I learned that in order to pray with others, I first had to pray with someone myself, to open my life to the Holy Spirit to show any unhealed wounds in my own life. Although scared to death at what the Holy Spirit might find and reveal, I went to pray with a seasoned prayer warrior.

As she gently questioned me about my family and my relationships with my parents and siblings, when she asked specifically about my father, I began sobbing. I was astonished, and my prayer warrior looked as surprised as I felt!   We agreed that we would give God time to work during the next few days and planned to meet the next week.   But God worked far before that next meeting. A few short days later, when I was home alone, I knelt by our couch and asked God to please show me what I needed to know.

Immediately, I knew that I was angry at God for not giving me a father who could “be there” for me emotionally.   As I then shared my great anger and sadness with God, I again immediately knew two things: 1) The only perfect father would have had to be God since no human father is perfect, and 2) that I had buried my anger and unforgiveness very, very deep.   In prayer, I repented and then forgave my father for being human, and I asked God to forgive me for my anger and unforgiveness.   An enormous wall came down within me. God’s unconditional love flooded my being. God the Father loved me, broken and sinful as I was (and am). God was calling me to pray, not because I was perfect but because I now understood His grace in the midst of sin, His goodness in wanting always the best for us, and His love that pursues us even when we don’t know it.

When I knew that God accepted me exactly as I was…that I didn’t have to try to clean myself up…that I wasn’t supposed to try, in fact, the cell door not only opened, it disappeared. Satan truly has no power over us, but he can certainly use our fears. That’s why the Word is so clear, “Perfect love casts out all fear.”

When I knew that God accepted me exactly as I was…that I didn’t have to try to clean myself up…that I wasn’t supposed to try, in fact, the cell door not only opened, it disappeared. Satan truly has no power over us, but he can certainly use our fears. That’s why the Word is so clear, “Perfect love casts out all fear.”

When we let God into the places of guilt and shame and fear, when we share those things with Him, we are letting go of the very things that have kept a door between us. He will forgive us everything, even our not believing He is good, and at the same time assure us in a deep, deep way that we are loved — very individually and uniquely — by Him.

In Messy Spirituality, Mike Yaconelli wrote:

Messy spirituality is the place where desperation meets Jesus…. It is amazing how few of us believe in the unqualified grace of God. But it turns out that that what disqualifies you and me from ‘spirituality’ – the mess of our lives and the crippledness [sic] – is what most qualifies us to be chosen by Jesus…. Some of us actually believe that until we choose the correct way to live, we aren’t chooseable [sic], that until we clean up the mess, Jesus won’t have anything to do with us. The opposite is true. Once we admit how unlovely we are, how unattractive we are, how lost we are, Jesus shows up unexpectedly.

How do I know that He really does have freedom for us?

Because He has set me free! I am not a worrier anymore. I am not bound by anger. I know deep inside that He is good. And I have a deep peace and joy within that did not come from me.   All of these are inexplicable outside of the mighty hand of God. God’s glory is shown in each of us by the fact that what we cannot do, HE DOES IN US.

I have a small candle holder made of broken pieces of dark-colored glass. By itself, it looks like a lot of dark glass stuck together. But when a candle is lit inside of it, light streams through the pieces, illuminating the rich colors of the glass. In just the same way, God shines through our redeemed brokenness to show His glory.

Dragging Around Old Skin

I never liked reptiles, never wanted to go into the snake house at the zoo. But a summer in India changed that. Our little home on the orphanage grounds was two rooms – one a large bedroom, which we used as a medical clinic, and the other, a bath. It had running water – little girls ran water in every morning and evening. We ate our meals with the founder of the orphanage in an outdoor, covered pavilion.

The first few days I was enormously uncomfortable because there were lizards running all over the walls. But then my husband told me that their presence meant that the bug population would be seriously decreased, and they instantly became my friends!

Lizards, like snakes, molt. Lizards totally shed their old skins when the new skin is grown. When the old skin is totally shed, the lizard can get on with life – finding food, enjoying the sun, and keeping a careful watch for enemies. Imagine the mess a lizard would be in if it attempted to move around with the old skin still attached! Finding food would be difficult if it had to drag along the weight of the old skin. And if an enemy came, the old skin could keep the lizard from maneuvering to either flee or fight.

But as new creatures in Christ, we too often do that very thing! We are clothed with the eternal. We are bright-shining, new creations, but we drag around our old selves – our past, our worries, our sin, our guilt – and Satan knows how to get at us as we are lugging around our stuff.

For many years I was a believer. I loved Jesus and I wanted to know God. But I was trapped in my old skin – longing to be free to soar, to enjoy the Father-ness of God, to find rest and joy as Jesus and the disciples had obviously experienced.

What old skin are you lugging around?

Is there some hurt in your past that you have not been able to forgive?

Share that hurt with Jesus now. Tell him how you felt; invite Him into your pain. He died so you could be free to bring hurts to Him. Share your hurt with Him. Then let Him heal your hurt, give you His perspective, and help you to forgive.

I read once that having unforgiveness toward someone is like letting them live rent-free for life in your mind. But if you choose to share that pain with Jesus, your heart will learn that He understands. Knowing that He understands makes it possible to forgive.


Let us be clear about what forgiveness is and is not. Forgiveness is not overlooking the wrong done to me or by me. It is not excusing the wrong. It is not taking blame that isn’t yours: we must confess our part in a wrong done, but we should not carry the whole blame if others had a real part. And forgiveness is not explaining away a wrong. We cannot always wait to understand a wrong done to us; sometimes there is no reason that we can see, but God still calls us to forgive.

Here is a good definition of what forgiveness is: forgiveness is facing a specific wrong that we have done or that has been done to us AND releasing it to God. He calls us to forgive unconditionally and completely, regardless of whether the one who has wronged us ever acknowledges it. HE is the one who gives us the grace to do so. And if we are the ones who have done the wrong, then we need to repent and confess it to our Lord.

Have you committed some sin in the past that either you or Satan keeps beating you over the head with? Share it with Jesus now. The truth is that if we do not confess our sins, He cannot forgive them, though He stands ready to. But…

1 John 1: 9 says that If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness

He is amazingly willing to forgive, but we need to take that thing out of the darkness where it’s been hiding and let His light shine on it. When we do so, He frees us of its hold. Then we are able to receive His total forgiveness.

A really scary but good prayer that I prayed before God brought deep healing of hurts and the ability to deal with my deepest unforgiveness is found in Psalm 139.   This is the wonderful psalm that speaks of God’s calling us into being, of His always being with us all through life, everywhere, and then it concludes with these verses:

Search me, O God, and know my heart;

Try me (examine and refine me) and know my anxious thoughts;

And see if there be any hurtful way in me (either hurts that have come from others OR hurts that I have inflicted upon others),

And lead me in the everlasting way.

Psalm 143: 6 – 10 says,

I stretch out my hands to You; My soul longs for You, as a dry

and weary land.

Let me hear Your lovingkindness in the morning; For I trust in You;

Teach me the way in which I should walk; For to You I lift up my soul.

Deliver me, O LORD, from my enemies; I take refuge in You.

Teach me to do Your will, For You are my God;

Let Your Spirit lead me on level ground.

What worries have you been hauling around like an old dead skin rather than putting in God’s hands for Him alone to carry?

Guthrie said in his commentary on Hebrews 3 that in a sense one can say that all sin originates from thinking that God has less than our best interests at heart.

If I am worrying about a situation, it reflects the truth that I am not trusting that God has my or someone else’s best interests at heart. He has said in Romans 8:28 that He causes ALL things to work together for good to those who love God.

God WANTS to carry our burdens and, besides that, He is BIG enough to be ABLE to carry them! Our job is by prayer to bring the situations and people to HIM to carry.   I have learned that if I am worrying about something, it is a signal that I have made a decision that God has less than my best interests at heart

He doesn’t say He will work ALL things for our good IF we pray right or IF we are faithful in our quiet times or anything else! He says if we love Him, messes that we are, He WILL work all things for our good and His glory. Let’s pray and ask Him to hold us close while we share with Him our hurt, our sin, our worries.


Study and Discussion Questions

The following questions can be used for individual or group study. For group study it is recommended that copies of each of the four Mirrors teachings be copied and given out at least a week prior to a meeting. At a meeting, it may be helpful to divide into small discussion groups, since the answers to some of these questions are very personal.

The Each Teaching can be easily divided by reading two or more sections each day and answering questions that pertain to the corresponding reading.

Day One – Read: Seeing in the Mirror and Reflecting God’s Glory. Answer questions 1 and 2

Day Two – Read: Being a Child of God and Changing: A Gift of Grace. Answer questions 3 and 4.

Day Three – Read Set Free and My Story. Answer questions 5 and 6.

Day Four – Read Dragging Around Old Skin and Forgiveness. Answer questions 7 and 8.

1.) Do you see yourself as a cottage or a castle or perhaps something in between?  What renovations or deep changes do you recognize need to be made? Has the Lord wanted changes that you are not ready for?

2.) Read Isaiah 43:1-7 again. Make a list of “…what the Lord says, He who created you…and redeemed you.” How do these verses speak to you about how He sees you and His plans for you?

3.) Some Christians believe that everyone born is a child of God. Look again at Gal. 3:26 – 27 and Gal. 4: 4 – 7. What stipulations do these verses put on the term “child of God?”

4.) Describe the “heart change” that has occurred in you since you became a believer. Is there any part of your heart that you have held back?

5.) Jeannine writes under My Story, “How do I know that He really does have freedom for me? Because He has set me free! I am not a worrier anymore. I am not bound by anger. I know deep inside that He is good.”  Think of some changes God has made in you. How do you see God working to change the image you have of yourself?

6.) You are a new creature in Christ. Is there any aspect of your old self (your past, worry of any kind, hurt, sin or guilt) that you are still dragging around? How might forgiveness help you to let go of “old skin?”

7.) Can you share an example of a time when you asked for forgiveness and it had remarkable results?

8.) There is an old saying, “Blessings in Disguise” that was used to describe the good that God can bring out of all things. Recall something God used for good in your life.

Mirrors I

Mirrors I

Speak That Which We Know:

If You Look For Me, You Will Find Me

by Jeannine Fogwell

Mirrors have become an important part of decorating our homes in the last few years. Where once mirrors lived solely on medicine chests in the bathroom, suspended over chests in the bedroom, or hung above fireplaces, they are now showing up all over the house as decorative pieces, just as a painting or picture.   As far as I can tell, there is no place where mirrors are outlawed by the interior design authorities, although they rarely appear in garages.


Mirrors can be of any size or any style, from tiny in a simple frame to huge and gilt-edged. Mirrors are wonderful pieces because they reflect any available light, making a room appear larger or lightening a dark corner. As I was thinking about mirrors, I realized that there is a parallel to believers in Christ.

Christians, like other humans, come in all shapes and sizes. Our physical bodies may be short or tall or anywhere in between. Our hair might be dark or light, any color at all or non-existent.   Our personalities may be gentle and quiet, or we may be incredibly animated and boisterous. We may be more comfortable wearing pastel colors, or we may choose the deep royals. We may wear only a simple necklace or solitary ring, or we may shimmer from top to bottom with jewels or metal. But we are certainly not rubber-stamped!

However we are, inside or out, we are created to bring light to a darkened world. We are made to bring to the world hints of a greater life, a deeper life, an expanded life – the kind of life Jesus displayed while here on earth.

This is why Jesus compared us to a light on a hill or one not hidden under a bushel. Candlelight and electric lights don’t have to work like mad to shine in the darkness. They just do. And when Jesus is comparing us to the light, He is also implying that we do not have to stress over shining – that we just will shine because He is in us.


Some years ago, a video was made called “Matthew.” It was called the Visual Bible and made by Nest Family Entertainment. (It is still available at Christian Book Distributors.) It is the book of Matthew, narrated by an aged Matthew, with people speaking only the dialogue that was written in the gospel of Matthew. Bruce Marciano, a believer in Christ, was chosen to portray Jesus. His portrayal, after long months of memorizing the whole of the book of Matthew and praying for God’s guidance, is a Jesus full of energy and JOY. I think he captured the truth of Jesus’ humanity – that He was more ALIVE than any other human ever was before or will be again.

We look at Jesus in the Scriptures, and we are told that HE was the very essence of God. Hebrews 1 says He was the exact representation of God the Father.

The Bible gives us many names for God. These names help us to understand Who He is – His character. But there is one name that is extremely hard for us to believe about Him, especially when we think of Him in relation to ourselves. That word is GOOD.

In The Chronicles of Narnia, written by C. S. Lewis, four siblings are transported through a magical wardrobe into another world called Narnia. They are found by some talking beavers and are taken into the beavers’ home. Mr. And Mrs. Beaver tell the children that the very fact of the four of them appearing together in Narnia shows that the wicked queen’s rule will soon be over. Plus, they add, “There are rumors of Aslan being on the move.” Now as the beavers talk about Aslan, it becomes apparent to the children, and the reader, that Aslan is the rightful King of Narnia, and that the wicked queen has usurped His throne. The beavers obviously love and respect their King, who is a picture of Christ. However, the children are suddenly taken aback when the beavers speak more of Aslan.


“Is-is he a man?” asked Lucy.

“Aslan a man!” said Mr. Beaver sternly.  “Certainly not.  I tell you he is the King of the wood and the son of the great Emperor-beyond-the-Sea.  Don’t you know who is the King of Beasts?  Aslan is a lion – the Lion, the great Lion.”

“Ooh!” said Susan, “I’d thought he was a man.  Is he – quite safe?  I shall feel rather nervous about meeting a lion.”

“That you will dearie, and no mistake,” said Mrs. Beaver; “if there’s anyone who can appear before Aslan without their knees knocking, they’re either braver than most or else just silly.”

“Then he isn’t safe?” said Lucy.

“Safe?” said Mr. Beaver, “don’t you hear what Mrs. Beaver tells you?  Who said anything about safe? ‘Course he isn’t safe.  But he’s good.  He’s the King, I tell you.”

(from The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, C.S. Lewis, 1950, HarperCollins Children’s Books, New York)

Within ourselves, we also ask of God, “Is He safe?”

Somehow, whether due to our sin nature or to wounds very early in life from all too imperfect family members, in our deepest hearts we doubt that God is good. The sneering question that Satan raised in the Garden of Eden appears to be also raised in our hearts. When Satan asked Eve, “Did God say…,” he was implying that God was not acting in the best interests of Adam and Eve. He was implying that God’s motives toward them were less than stellar. And just as Eve bit the lie as she bit the fruit, so we also receive that lie.

The older I become, the more convinced I am that the process of sanctification is not only to change us but is also to clear up the faulty views we have of God. I am not saying our theology is bad. Often, our theology is excellent. But our actions reveal what our hearts really believe.

John 3:11 states, “Truly, truly, I tell you, we speak that which we know and bear witness of that which we have seen.”

I would like to tell you some of my story.   Just as the verse from John states, I wish to bear witness to what I have seen of God. I wish to share what I now know of His goodness.

In 2002, I went to have a mammogram. After the mammogram, I returned to the dressing room area, where about eight of us women waited, still in our hospital gowns, for the radiologist to tell us that our mammograms looked good and we could get dressed to go home. As I sat waiting, I realized that I could literally feel fear in the room, although I was at peace. One woman began to gently cry. I asked if I could pray with her, and she agreed. I prayed for her and for all of us. I then was cleared to go home, so I began to change into my clothes. As I did, a thought hit me: “What if I had had cancer?” Immediately came the thought, “Then God would walk through it with me.” And I went home.

Two years passed quickly, with our two daughters’ weddings in those two years and the death of my father.   After a trip to take my mother to visit my out of state brother, I returned home in early December. Since I was now a year late for a mammogram, my doctor said I should really have a sonogram.   As the tech ran the probe over my right breast and then my left and then my right again, very slowly and carefully, I knew. Yet I felt at peace.

Fairly quickly, a biopsy and a PET scan followed, along with visits to a surgeon and an oncologist.   Otherwise, life continued normally.

When I was a young mother, and never having been a “morning person,” I often talked with the Lord while driving around running errands after dropping our daughters off at school. This “prayer time with eyes wide open” has continued since then. A few days after the biopsy, I was driving, and a phrase came to mind: “the LORD in the land of the living.”   It certainly sounded Biblical, but I couldn’t place it and forgot about it.

But the next day while driving, the phrase came again. This time I decided I had better look it up! It took awhile, but I finally found the phrase in Psalm 27. I read the first part of the Psalm but didn’t especially remember it, although I eventually found written down in another Bible that I had memorized verses 1-6 in 2003. As far as I can remember, I didn’t pay attention to the end of the Psalm when I was memorizing the first six verses. But when I read the end of the Psalm at this point in my life, I understood immediately why God had brought it to mind: He was telling me that I should rest in Him during my cancer journey and that I should look for evidences of His Presence with me. And those evidences were everywhere throughout the nine months of treatment. In giving me the certainty of His Presence, He gave me the gift of immense JOY.   Psalm 16:11 is true: In Your presence is fullness of joy.

Let’s look together at the Psalm 27.

1 The LORD is my light and my salvation; Whom shall I fear?
The LORD is the defense[1][Or refuge ] of my life; Whom shall I dread?
2 When evildoers came upon me to devour my flesh,
My adversaries and my enemies, they stumbled and fell.
3 Though a host encamp against me, My heart will not fear;
Though war arise against me, In spite of this I shall[2][Lit am confident ] be confident.
4 One thing I have asked from the LORD, that I shall seek:
That I may dwell in the house of the LORD all the days of my life,
To behold the beauty[3][Lit delightfulness ] of the LORD And to meditate[4][Lit inquire ] in His temple.
5 For in the day of trouble He will conceal me in His tabernacle[5][Or shelter ];
In the secret place of His tent He will hide me; He will lift me up on a rock.
6 And now my head will be lifted up above my enemies around me,
And I will offer in His tent sacrifices with[6][Lit of shouts ] shouts of joy;
I will sing, yes, I will sing praises to the LORD.
7 Hear, O LORD, when I cry with my voice, And be gracious to me and answer me.
8 When You said, “Seek My face,” my heart said to You,
“Your face, O LORD, I shall seek.”
9 Do not hide Your face from me, Do not turn Your servant away in anger;
You have been my help; Do not abandon me nor forsake me, O God of my salvation!
10 For[7][Or If my father…forsake me, Then the LORD] my father and my mother have forsaken me,
But the LORD will take me up.
11 Teach me Your way, O LORD, And lead me in a level path
Because of my[8][Or those who lie in wait for me ] foes.
12 Do not deliver me over to the desire[9][Lit soul ] of my adversaries,
For false witnesses have risen against me, And such as breathe out violence.



Joy and Strength

Besides God permitting me to feel His Presence so deeply, He also used other believers to encourage me on the path set before me. Many years before, I had received a small book entitled Joy and Strength. I read it casually upon receiving it, but after my cancer diagnosis, I picked it up again and read it daily. On each page is a Bible verse and a quote from a Christian of long ago. What a treasure it became to me, as I read the words of those who are now the “cloud of witnesses” mentioned in Hebrews. Two of the writers quoted in the book are Saint Bede and John McCleod Campbell.

Saint Bede was a priest and scholar (lived 673 –735AD) who wrote, “Unfurl the sails and let God steer us where He will.” What a wonderful picture of the freedom we have in Christ – to let Him carry us in His hand wherever He chooses to take us!

John McCleod Campbell, a nineteenth-century (lived 1800 – 1872) Scottish minister and theologian who is most often remembered for his thoughts on the doctrine of atonement, wrote the following: 

“All things…work together for good to them that love God. …therefore, there is a good in all things, to be extracted from each thing as it comes, by receiving it in the light of love….that love which receives God Himself as the portion of every cup….”

In his book Nevertheless , Mark Rutland shared an important scripture: 2 Tim. 1:12 – “…I know Whom I have believed and am persuaded that HE is able to keep that which I have committed to Him against that day.”

Also meaningful for me was a book by david Jeremiah, entitled A Bend in the Road.  While discussing his won unexpected cancer, his own ‘bend in the road,” Pastor Jeremiah shared meaningful thoughts on different Psalms.

Christian music surrounded me throughout that time. I had chemo every three weeks for six months. Two of those weeks I had to remain at home because the risk of infection, from a low white cell count, was too high to be out among a lot of people. Reading and music filled me with His Word.

And finally, I had been teaching a small group the gook of Hebrews, which reminded me that Jesus is our High Priest, Who understands!

Our Scars – His Faithfulness

After chemotherapy, I needed to have a mastectomy and radiation. Both left scars.

I was getting dressed the other day, and my 6 year old grand-daughter was with me. I have been her babysitter once or twice a week since her birth. This was not the first time for her to have seen the remains of treatment. But, apparently, it was the first time for her to apprehend the meaning of the scars. She said, “Neen (my grandmother name)!!! Part of your body is gone! You have scars!”

I reminded her of my cancer, something we have spoken of off and on over the years, and then I told her that the missing piece needed to be taken off so that the sickness wouldn’t spread. The missing piece of body and the scars may look bad, but to me they are a reminder of God’s love for me. He draws close when hard things come. He gives unexpected, special gifts in the midst of suffering to those who love Him. And these gifts help others to see that God is real.

Warren Wiersbe, a former pastor of Moody Church in Chicago, wrote, “When God permits His children to go through the furnace, He keeps His eye on the clock and His hand on the thermostat. His loving heart knows how much and how long.”

The psalmist says, “Taste and see that the LORD is good!”

I have been blessed beyond measure to walk where I have walked. I KNOW at the deepest level of my heart that God is good.   A. W. Tozer wrote, “The sovereign God wants to be loved for Himself and honored for Himself, but that is only part of what He wants. The other part is that He wants us to know that when we have Him, we have all the rest.”

Having cancer was a mountain top experience for me, even with the physical hardness of chemo, surgery, and radiation. I knew from the beginning that God was calling me to REST in Him and keep Him alone as my focus.

In the 1800’s Andrew Murray wrote, “Abiding in Jesus is…an entrusting of oneself to the keeping of the Eternal Love. …And so the heart has rest and peace and joy in the consciousness of being kept when it cannot keep itself.”

Never has my heart known so well that it couldn’t keep itself!   And until the chemotherapy knocked my system silly, I did not once have trouble going to sleep or falling back asleep if I awoke in the night.

But you need to know that I do not believe that this mountain top experience could have been mine had God not worked a deep healing in my life some fifteen years before. In Lesson Two, we’ll look a little more at mirrors and what God’s Word says to us about how much He loves us. There is more to follow.


Study and Discussion Questions:

1.) Jeannine tells us that the Lord used Psalm 27:13-14 to personally reassure her of His goodness. What other scriptures come to your mind that remind us of His goodness?

2.) How has the Lord used illness, tragedy, disappointment or other challenges in your life?

3.) Read Jesus’ invitation in Matthew 11:28-29. How does this passage expand your understanding of resting in the Lord?

4.) Read Philippians 4:7. Recall a time when you had peace in the midst of a trial

The Power of Forgiveness

The Power of Forgiveness

I know all members of the Renew Network share my shock, dismay and grief over the killing of 9 innocent men and women of the Emanuel AME Church on June 17, 2015 in Charleston, South Carolina. The shooting was particularly shocking because it happened in a church, during a Bible study. It was one more incident in a string of incidents where loss of life occurred in the African American community.

In the last ten months or so, it appeared to me that we were going backward, not forward, in the struggle to eliminate racism. Demonstrations have occurred in Ferguson, New York, Baltimore and other cities. The strides we had made in eliminating racism, seemed to be slipping away. But that perception was turned on its head by the truly Christian reaction and witness of the victims’ family members and the church family of Emanuel AME Church. What happened in Charleston was an example to the world that when we live out the love of Christ and His teaching on forgiveness, it brings triumph out of tragedy.

After his arrest, the shooter was arraigned in court. He turned out to be a white male in his early twenties. Usually in such cases, the victims’ families are not allowed to speak until the sentencing phase. But for some reason, the presiding judge allowed the nine victims’ families to speak directly to the alleged shooter at the bond hearing. Some people present did not speak, but five relatives chose to do so.

What they said to the shooter was truly Christ-like, for each that spoke forgave the shooter and asked for mercy on his soul. The grandson of one victim urged him to repent and turn his life over to Jesus Christ. A granddaughter of another victim said that the pleas for the shooter’s soul were proof that “Hate won’t win.” She went on to say that God’s mercy is even there for him, and she prayed that at some point he would find God’s mercy. Then she said, “I am ready to forgive him. I have to, because that (unforgiveness) would block so many blessings. Nothing grows positive out of hate.”

And hate did not win! There was no denial of the pain and loss by those who spoke, but there was testimony to a higher reality. The reality that love and forgiveness will do more to eliminate racial hatred than all the laws we pass, all the demonstrations, and all the blaming of the other side or the blaming of our system that so often accompanies these tragedies.

The judge at the bond hearing called attention to the family of the shooter. He reminded us all, that they too are grieving the actions of the young man. They too will suffer loss. They too need our prayers, our forgiveness and the love of Christ showered on them.

I could not help but think of the passage in Hebrews 10 where the writer exhorts true believers to draw near with a true heart of faith and hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering. The writer goes on asking us to “…consider one another in order to stir up love and good works…”   Indeed the members of Emanuel AME Church held fast their confession as they spoke to the young man who took from them their beloved family members.

But their demonstration of love and forgiveness was not confined to the shooter.

These families stirred up much love and good works in their community and even beyond. Large banners appeared on some buildings urging racial harmony, and many churches hosted prayer vigils. When Sunday came, Emanuel AME Church held church as usual. Their faith was not shaken. Worship that morning was particularly vigorous as those gathered danced, sang hymns and shook tambourines.

The Rev. Norvell Goff brought the sermon. He too reached out with words of hope, love, and thankfulness. Early in the sermon he said, “We still believe that prayer changes things. Can I get a witness?” The congregation responded with a rousing, “Yes.” “But prayer not only changes things, it changes us,” he continued.

He thanked law enforcement specifically, and the city for responding with love and compassion. Pastor Goff put it really well in his sermon when he said, “A lot of people expected us to do something strange and break out into a riot… Well they just don’t know us. They don’t know us because we are a people of faith…What was meant to divide us has united us.” And how true those words proved to be.

As the Emanuel Church goers left the service, outside on the sidewalks, they were greeted by a large crowd of mostly white people singing Amazing Grace. Many were moved to tears as the love of Christ which the families had extended to the shooter was extended to them.

That same Sunday, some 20,000 people of various races walked across Charleston’s Ravenel bridge, some arm in arm, to show the world that blacks and whites stood in solidarity.

Of course there were the detractors who seized upon this situation with the hopes of pushing through their agendas. There were those who bemoaned that racism was embedded in the heart of our system. But far more powerful was the witness throughout the weekend following the shooting that demonstrated the power of Christ when He is embedded in the hearts of men and women.

Can there be justice without repentance and forgiveness? If we learn anything from this evil, racist, senseless shooting of nine innocent blacks gathered to study God’s Word, it should be that the power of forgiveness brings about real change. Change can be mandated; it can be legislated; but unless it is written on the hearts of us all, it can never be truly experienced.

The Plight of Displaced Christians

We read about persecuted Christians and see horrible images in the media.  Have you ever asked, “What can I do about it?”  Jessi Emmert shares a story in Good News Magazine about one woman, Juliana Taimoorazy who did do something, and you can too. To learn more about Taimoorazy’s work with the Iraqi Christian Relief Council and to get involved with helping Middle Eastern Christians, visit

The Plight of Displaced Christians
April 28, 2015 By Jessi Emmert

“I lived in Germany during the Nazi holocaust. I considered myself a Christian. I have attended church since I was a small boy. We had heard the stories of what was happening to the Jews, but like most people today in this country, we tried to distance ourselves from the reality of what was really taking place. What could anyone do to stop it?

“A railroad track ran behind our small church, and each Sunday morning we would hear the whistle from a distance and then the clacking of the wheels moving over the track. We became disturbed when one Sunday we noticed cries coming from the train as it passed by. We grimly realized that the train was carrying Jews. They were like cattle in those cars!

“Week after week that train whistle would blow. We would dread to hear the sound of those old wheels because we knew that the Jews would begin to cry out to us as they passed our church. It was so terribly disturbing! We could do nothing to help these poor miserable people, yet their screams tormented us. We knew exactly at what time that whistle would blow, and we decided the only way to keep from being so disturbed by the cries was to start singing our hymns. By the time that train came rumbling past the churchyard, we were singing at the top of our voices. If some of the screams reached our ears, we’d just sing a little louder until we could hear them no more. Years have passed and no one talks about it much anymore, but I still hear that train whistle in my sleep. I can still hear them crying out for help. God forgive all of us who called ourselves Christians, yet did nothing to intervene.”

(An elderly man told the preceding story to author Penny Lea, It is reprinted here with her permission.)

A Broken Land


Jeff Gardner, Picture Christians Project,

Juliana Taimoorazy’s family has paid a heavy price for their Christian faith. Her great-grandmother and great-grandfather died in a refugee camp. Her grandmother had two sisters who were kidnapped and killed. Her great uncle was cut into pieces.

Taimoorazy is an Assyrian Catholic Christian who grew up in Iran. “When I would go to school, my middle school was a Muslim school, a public school,” she said. “I was mocked for my faith. They always told me I would burn in hell for my Christian name and that I was not good enough to play with the Muslim kids.”

In 1989, when she was 16 years old, Taimoorazy’s father worked to create a fake visa and passport for her so she could be smuggled out of Iran. She made it to Switzerland and then went on to Germany. She stayed as a refugee in Germany for one year before traveling to the U.S. in 1990.

In the U.S., she invested in her education, earning both a bachelor’s degree and master’s degree from Northeastern Illinois University. She was living in Chicago when the U.S. went to war in Iraq in 2003. “When America went to war we [Assyrian Christians] supported the war and wanted Saddam gone,” she said. “Al Qaeda had found a home in Iraq and started systematically killing Christians. They started by sending threat letters to families, telling them they would be targeted if they didn’t convert to Islam. If they ignored this command they were killed. Hundreds of Assyrians were killed because of this. Then they started attacking the churches. Our churches have been bombed over a hundred times. They’ve either been destroyed or turned into mosques and worship centers for themselves. They started killing clergy. All of this was happening and the world really didn’t pay any attention.”

Taimoorazy was frustrated by the lack of action to help Christians in the Middle East. She was attending a parish in the Archdiocese of Chicago and spoke to Cardinal Francis George about her concerns. He invited her to come in and have a meeting with him, during which she asked him what the Vatican was doing to protect Middle Eastern Christians. It was through this conversation that Taimoorazy decided to start the Iraqi Christian Relief Council to help people suffering in the Middle East.

“Cardinal George encouraged me to start this organization,” Taimoorazy said. “So I wrote a letter to God and I said ‘Lord I just wanted to be a link and this came. I have no idea what you’re asking me to do here, this is so big. Please bring me the right people. I cannot do it without you and I cannot do it without the right people.’”

Searching for Hope


Jeff Gardner, Picture Christians Project,

Though the organization has existed and been providing assistance since 2003, Taimoorazy explained that much of their support has come in the last few months as a result of the ISIS atrocities. “The media is just now starting to shed light on it, I think because of the level of the atrocities,” she said. “That’s when the world started paying attention. Otherwise, I really believe because it’s a Christian issue, the world has ignored it because of anti-Christian sentiment. We’re afraid of offending the other side who are Muslims. We try to appease them by not talking about it and covering the whole genocide up. It is genocide. The Iraqi government has called it a genocide against minorities of the country.”

The council supports two organizations on the ground, the Assyrian Aid Society of Iraq and the Dominican Sisters of Saint Catherine of Siena — Iraq. These organizations are helping to take care of more than 200,000 displaced Christians, and the council has been able to help more than 130,000 of them through donations.

“There are people living in Jordan, Turkey and Syria and Iraq who are completely displaced,” Taimoorazy said. “The living conditions are horrid. I’ve seen pictures and heard horror stories. Chicken pox is running rampant in the refugee camps. The basic necessities are food, medicine, clean water, blankets, and warm clothing, because it’s still winter in Iraq.”

The tragedy is personal for Taimoorazy and her family, but she has also seen it impact the lives of those she works with. “One of my board members, her family was attacked in Syria. Seven family members were kidnapped by ISIS and two were executed just about a month ago.”

The Assyrians were one of the first to convert as a nation to Christianity through St. Thomas, Taimoorazy explained. “We took Christianity to the East, to India, to China. But we paid a heavy price when Muslims came through and destroyed our villages and killed our monks and nuns and burned all the manuscripts.” This devastation continues today, she said. ISIS has ruined historical monuments that have stood for thousands of years. “They want to completely eradicate the name of Assyrians from the face of the earth. So even history books will not talk about it because there’s nothing left to point school kids to,” Taimoorazy said.

The sex trade is another disaster being fostered by the displacement. Women are sold to men who make orders for what age girl they want or what hair color she should have, Taimoorazy explained. This grotesque trade is lucrative, with the price for a child ranging from $175 to $66,000.

Singing drowns out cries

Taimoorazy emphasized that Christians can no longer sit by and allow this to happen. She is working to spread the word about the persecution in several different ways. One is through a memoir about her life and the persecution that she hopes to complete this year. Another is through a documentary project.

“The documentary is called ‘Sing a Little Louder,’” she said. “It highlights how the churches in Germany would literally sing louder and louder to drown out the cries of the Jews and others being taken to death camps on the trains. This is a true-life story written by Penny Lea after a man approached her with his story. It was meant to be a pro-life movie, meaning anti-abortion, but it’s turned into a pro-life movie in an all-encompassing way.

“It’s about taking innocent lives,” Taimoorazy concluded. “We’re linking it to churches here that sing louder through their choirs, drowning out the cries of the Christians in the Middle East.”

Jessi Emmert Hooley is the editorial assistant at Good News.

The documentary will be released through viewings in several cities during 2015. The trailer and more information can be found at To learn more about Taimoorazy’s work with the Iraqi Christian Relief Council and to get involved with helping Middle Eastern Christians, visit

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