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THE BARNABAS PLAN

A ministry designed to strengthen the outreach of Christ United Methodist Church, Memphis, Tennessee & the United Methodist denomination.

I. PREAMBLE

  1. God has chosen to use the United Methodist Church as a tool to reach the world for Christ. We celebrate the historic and ongoing ways that the grace of God is communicated through this denomination. But the UMC has severe problems.

  2. We affirm the work of godly, courageous men like Dr. William Bouknight, our pastor. Throughout the history of the Wesleyan movement God has used people like him to guide, strengthen and renew the church - people with vision, integrity, determination and clear Christian commitment. Dr. Bouknight and others in our congregation have urged Christ United Methodist Church to take new, measurable steps to participate in the renewal of our denomination.

  3. The question now before Christ Church regards our response to the struggles of our denomination. After much discussion, prayer and research, the leaders of the Majority and Minority Reports of the Task Force on Apportionments and Bill Bouknight are recommending a new plan of action. Several things influenced the formation of this plan.
    • There are signs that the excess reserve funds issue is being addressed, though it will take the General Council on Finance and Administration several months to responsibly lower these levels. We are still waiting to see what impact the reserve funds levels will have on the reduction of apportionments.
    • The denomination has not officially changed its stance on homosexuality. Reverend Creech was not reappointed. The Council on Bishops recently reaffirmed its stance on the issue. Our annual conference is petitioning General Conference to clarify and strengthen the statements against same sex unions in the Discipline.
    • General Council on Finance and Administration reviewed the content of the film "Adam and Steve" by EcuFilm and ruled that it was in violation of the Discipline's requirement of no money to be used for the promotion of homosexuality. EcuFilm was required to return all money contributed to the project by the United Methodist Church and the film was barred from further presentation by church representatives.
    • There has been further consideration of the teaching of Matthew 18 regarding church discipline.

  4. The plan addresses three urgent concerns:

    • The teaching by official representatives of the United Methodist Church of doctrines that abort human souls by denying Jesus Christ as the Son of God, the Savior and Lord of the world. The Biblical doctrine and ethics delineated in the Book of Discipline are being ignored, disobeyed or otherwise circumvented by many agencies and representatives of the denomination.
    • The retreat by official representatives of the United Methodist Church from the historic Methodist position which regards the Bible as the Word of God and the supreme guide for life, faith and theology.
    • The support of partial birth abortion by official representatives of the United Methodist Church.

  5. Many people in our church are only now learning of the pains and errors of the UMC. To these people the formation of a new committee may seem appropriate. However, many other faithful church members have been "fighting this fight" for years, even decades. A just response at this time has to be more bold and effective than the formation of another committee. The question is "how shall Christ Church respond to these problems within our denomination?"

  6. As we approach the crisis of our denomination we remember the words of Jesus in the Sermon on the Mount. The Kingdom of Jesus goes forward on principles which sound absurd to society. But within this Kingdom of love there is a provision for accountability due to the brokenness and sinfulness of humankind.

  7. One accountability step that has been discussed is the redirection of some of the apportionments that Christ Church is asked to contribute to the work of the denomination. The discussion regarding the redirection of apportionments is not meant to convey an anti-United Methodist sentiment--no more than the scalpel of a surgeon is meant to convey animosity toward the patient during an operation. This step or other actions are not expressions of judgment, but rather expressions of frustration, sadness, and Christian accountability. We are hoping for denominational renewal in order that this God-created "tool" can be even more effective in the hands of the Creator.

  8. The Barnabas Plan does not recommend a redirection of apportionments by Christ Church at this time. The drafters of this plan reached a consensus not because the redirecting of apportionments is claimed to violate the Book of Discipline or because of the negative consequences that our congregation and staff might have experienced if that dramatic step of accountability was taken. Rather, redirection of funds is not considered to be the appropriate action in 1998 because our congregation has not sufficiently pursued other, available alternatives to attain the desired objective. The church is called to follow Christ's teaching on church discipline (accountability) found in Matthew 18. If redirection is ultimately chosen, this step must come only after substantial reconciling efforts by our congregation have been spurned, denied or ignored.

  9. The Barnabas Plan calls for expensive, time-consuming work by our congregation. This plan challenges Christ Church to aggressively work within the system of United Methodism. Many people in the denomination may disagree with our concerns, but those concerns will be voiced. If the plan is followed a clear message will be communicated to the leaders of the United Methodist Church. If this plan is carried out, and the leaders of the denomination do not respond, other accountability steps will have to be pursued.

  10. The Barnabas Plan is not a face-saving compromise. The plan is a genuine effort to follow God’s will. The plan is named in memory of the disciple Joseph in Acts 3. He was renamed Barnabas which means "son of encouragement." It is hoped that the Barnabas Plan demonstrates hope and the belief that our encouragement can make a difference in the witness of the United Methodist Church. May God help our congregation and denomination engage in the task of making, maturing and mobilizing disciples for Jesus Christ. The entire world stands before us!

II. WE BELIEVE

  1. Christ United Methodist Church is a Memphis family united by our common commitment to Jesus Christ as the Son of God, our Savior and Lord, to the authority of Scripture, to participation in the Holy Spirit’s work in our world, and to Wesleyan doctrine and theology as defined in our Book of Discipline.

  2. We believe, as Scripture and the Discipline hold, Jesus is "the very and eternal God, of one substance with the Father" (Art. II, Articles of Religion), the "eternal Word made flesh, the only begotten Son of the Father, born of the Virgin Mary" (Art. II, Confession of Faith), whose atoning work on the cross allows believers to be reconciled with the Father. The acknowledgment of Christ as Son, Savior and Lord and the authority of Scripture are non-negotiable essentials of the Christian faith.

  3. Although emotion can cloud communication and decision making, Christian brothers and sisters can disagree in love.

  4. Christ Church and the United Methodist denomination are in need of renewal.

  5. The concerns regarding the deviation of some in our United Methodist family from traditional Wesleyan doctrine, and the corresponding deviation from the church’s positions on homosexuality and the sanctity of life are not new concerns. Some faithful men and women have been acting on these concerns for decades. Other persons are only now learning of these issues. Christ Church became a greater church when she began to invest the time of its members in mission, not just their money. In dealing with the doctrinal and ethical challenges of our denomination, a few members of the church have given significant amounts of time. However, the larger percentage of our congregation has been uninformed and uninvolved. Faithful response to the current denominational challenges must involve the education and mobilization of a much larger portion of our congregation.

  6. Christ Church is called to be faithful to Christ. If there was a conflict between loyalty to Christ and loyalty to our denomination, faithfulness would call for obedience to Christ even if it meant disobedience to the denomination.

  7. These concerns are urgent. Children are being killed through abortion every day. The same sex union movement is growing and being accepted in our secular culture. Errant doctrine is being taught as truth and thus people are being given false hope, while Jesus continues as the Way, the Truth and the Life (John 14:6). An appropriate response by Christ Church must include concerted action, not just more committee meetings and discussions.

  8. There will be a cost to our faithfulness in discipleship.

  9. We feel that we are in agreement with the vast majority of United Methodist Christians, though many may be unaware of the doctrinal and moral crises of the denomination. Others within this majority are choosing not to take any action though they have enough information to be deeply troubled.

  10. United Methodist Christians often speak of our fellowship as connectional. This is true, but a Christian’s first connection is to Christ Jesus. Her first covenant is with the Lord God. His first book is God’s book. The first voice we should heed is His. This priority may at times put us in conflict with Christian family and friends.

  11. Bishops are key in the renewal of our denomination. In The Pastoral Statement from the Council of Bishops this spring they clarified their position on the state of the church. They called for "renewed commitment to our doctrinal foundations as contained in the Articles of Religion, the Confession of Faith and Wesley’s Sermons and Notes." They also called all "to ground the church’s actions more deeply in the foundational doctrines and theological task as set forth in the Book of Discipline." We celebrate their affirmation, but we must now lovingly hold them accountable and encourage them to hold each other accountable.

  12. We have a responsibility to be a part of the renewal of the United Methodist denomination. We cannot close our ears and only focus on our local and international outreach.

III. WE SEEK

  1. We urge all official representatives of the United Methodist Church to proclaim and uphold the basic doctrine of the Church and the position of the Church on the ethical issues of sanctity of life and human sexuality as described in the Book of Discipline.

  2. We seek some recognition by Bishop Carder and the Council of Bishops that there are representatives of the UMC who have taught doctrine and performed in ways that are inconsistent with the "essentials" of our faith and policy as described in the Biblical witness, Wesleyan theology, and the Book of Discipline.

  3. We urge Bishop Carder and the Council of Bishops to provide accountability to persons officially connected with the UMC who knowingly and persistently take such actions and encourage others to do likewise. The Service of Consecration of Bishops (The UM Book of Worship) challenges those in this office "to guard the faith, to seek unity and to exercise the discipline of the whole church."

  4. We want our congregation to take some kind of action that will unify our congregation, be effective in accomplishing the agreed upon goals, and not needlessly or prematurely place our clergy in jeopardy under the Book of Discipline.

IV. WE ACT

In keeping with the principles of church discipline found in Matthew 18, and in order to encourage the Bishops, Boards, Agencies, and other official representatives of the UMC to remain loyal to the doctrine and ethics of our Wesleyan faith and discipline as described in our Book of Discipline, and in order to make our contribution to the renewal of the United Methodist denomination, Christ Church will:

  1. Create a new standing committee to direct the renewal ministry of Christ Church--the Barnabas Committee. This group will organize prayer for the denomination, do research, respond to questions, distribute information, confirm or clarify "hearsay," receive ideas, recruit volunteers, draft resolutions, and organize and publicize other opportunities for involvement. The Barnabas Committee will work in many different ways to encourage renewal in the United Methodist Church including:

    1. Send vocal and informed laity and staff to the open meetings of the General Board of Global Ministries and the General Board of Church and Society.

    2. Keep our District Superintendent and Bishop informed of our work and findings.

    3. Begin work now on resolutions for the meeting of the Memphis Annual Conference in 1999 and the General Conference in 2000.

    4. Make information readily available to our membership so that they have a conduit to act on their concerns. This will also involve easy access to the staff person that is directing our renewal ministry. The Christ UMC home page on the Internet will be used to give updates, addresses, phone numbers, etc. of persons, boards and agencies.

    5. Include an update on Christ Church’s participation in the renewal of the United Methodist Church at each regularly scheduled Administrative Board meeting and communicate same in Tidings. The reporting should include progress as well as problems.

    6. Involve youth and young adults in discussions regarding action steps that our congregation may take. Across the world and the centuries youth have generally led movements of renewal, revival and awakening.

    7. Coordinate and expand our involvement in The Confessing Movement within the United Methodist Church.

    8. Invite Bishop Carder to participate in a seminar at Christ Church on the topic "unity in essentials." The dialogue on unity sponsored by the General Commission on Christian Unity has illumined the doctrinal/theological chasm in United Methodism and has clearly stated the extremes sustained in the Church. In response to the commission’s paper "In Search of Unity," we ask Bishop Carder to address our church and community.

    9. Give input to the General Council on Ministries. They are working on a "common vision" that they will propose for the denomination’s mission and ministry at the General Conference in 2000.

    10. Explore the procedures and reasons for bringing charges or otherwise holding accountable representatives of the UMC as provided in the Book of Discipline. Be prepared to use the provided methods and help others do so as well.

    11. Give input to the Connectional Process Team which was formed by General Conference in 1996. Among other things they are exploring new ways to fund the work of the denomination. The hope is that a way can be found which will allow local congregations to have some decision in the support they will provide for the various aspects of the General Church’s structure and ministry.

    12. Participate with other United Methodist members and groups who will be petitioning General Conference to restructure the church to provide accountability from the Boards and Agencies.

    13. Use our connections with UM churches in other countries. Offer them the chance to create and submit petitions to General Conference with us.

    14. Encourage Bishop Carder to respond to Bishop Talbert’s recent statements regarding same sex unions. Bishop Talbert’s comments seem to be a breach of the covenant that the Council of Bishops created in their last meeting. His statements also seem to dispute the Pastoral Statement signed and released by all the bishops following that meeting.

    15. Write Bishop Talbert and all the other bishops in the Western Jurisdiction and respectfully voice the concerns of our congregation regarding same sex unions in light of the teaching of the Book of Discipline and the Scriptures.

    16. Ask Bishop Carder to talk with us about his view on partial birth abortion in light of Scripture and the Book of Discipline. Encourage him to communicate his concerns with Dr. Thom Fassett, the General Board of Church and Society and the Council of Bishops.

    17. Write Dr. Thom Fassett and the Board of Directors of the General Board of Church and Society and respectfully voice the concerns of our congregation regarding partial birth abortions in light of the teaching of the Book of Discipline and the Scriptures.

    18. Ask Bishop Carder and the Council of Bishops to respond to statements and actions emanating from the Women's Division of the Board of Global Ministries that deviate from biblical teaching and ignore the theological doctrines in the Book of Discipline.

  2. Staff Parish Relations Committee of Christ Church will need to provide professional and support staff assistance for the work of the Barnabas Committee.

  3. As a human organization the United Methodist Church will always have struggles due to the sinfulness and limitations of its members and leaders. However, we, the Administrative Board of Christ United Methodist Church, feel that it is not unreasonable to expect some measurable, positive response to our stated concerns by the leaders of the denomination. In keeping with the Barnabas Plan, the Administrative Board will periodically evaluate the response of the denomination and take action as it deems appropriate. If, after a reasonable period of time, Christ Church sees neither an adequate response nor substantial improvement by the denomination and our efforts to renew the denomination have failed, the congregation will seriously consider using the redirection of apportionments or other methods to restore the denomination. Consistent with the accountability guidelines Jesus provides in Matthew 18, after the other reconciling steps have been taken, a faithful and loving response involves more radical action. Due to the structural changes necessary for denominational renewal, it may be the end of the year 2000 (after General Conference) before significant progress is achieved.

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