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How Do We Find Unity?

Northern Illinois Conference Chapter
2494 Reynolds Road
Ashton, Illinois 61006
(815) 453-2513

July 19, 2000

HOW DO WE FIND UNITY? [revisited]

Many are concerned about the growing division within our denomination.  At our recent General Conference there were demonstrations and arrests.  There were also outside political organizations, with no connection to the United Methodist Church, working hard to influence the decisions of the conference.  We were all asked to pray and fast for the General Conference that the decisions made there would be in line with God's will. But then when those decisions were made, there were multiple disruptions and in an act of public defiance protesters climbed onto the platform and refused to leave until they were arrested.   So now that General Conference is over, will everything settle down and become peaceful? Evidently not.

  • The Western Jurisdiction has released a statement entitled: WE WILL NOT BE SILENT A DECLARATION FROM THE WESTERN JURISDICTION (Casper, Wyoming, July 12-15, 2000) Here is a short excerpt: “Certain actions of General Conference 2000 have caused tremendous pain for individuals and communities and have resulted in an attempt to suppress our prophetic and pastoral ministries among all people, regardless of sexual orientation. The votes may have been cast but our voices will not be silent.”

  • There is now a public announcement that charges have been filed against our bishop by an attorney who is a United Methodist member from Elgin. The charges: 1. Disobedience to the order and discipline of the United Methodist Church; 2. Dissemination of doctrines contrary to the established standards of doctrine of the church; 3. Disobedience to the order and discipline of the Methodist Church; 4. Failure to perform the work of the ministry.

This is only a particle list of things that are happening across our denomination.  There are also other charges being filed elsewhere and other actions being considered. SO HOW THEN CAN WE FIND UNITY WHEN WE DISAGREE SO STRONGLY ON SO MANY ISSUES?  The answer can be found by identifying a common foundation upon which we can renovate our denomination and prepare it for many more years of witness and ministry.  That common foundation is the Bible.

So what does our Book of Discipline say about the Bible?  “…Scripture is the primary source and criterion for Christian doctrine...The close relationship of tradition, experience, and reason appears in the Bible itself, Scripture witnesses to a variety of diverse traditions, some of which reflect tensions in interpretation within the early Judeo-Christian heritage.  However, these traditions are woven together in the Bible in a manner that expresses the fundamental unity of God’s revelation (my emphasis) as received and experienced by people in the diversity of their own lives.”   (The United Methodist Book Of Discipline 63 pg.75&76)

And what does John Wesley say about the Bible? In 1766 when Wesley was in Dundee Scotland, he answered the objections that were raised to his teaching by saying, " My ground is the Bible. Yea, I am a Bible bigot. I follow it in all things, both great and small."  What an amazing pronouncement coming from a religious leader who was often attacked and ridiculed for his stands promoting equality and social justice.   He evidently felt that every person was equal in God’s eyes, but not every doctrine.  According to Webster’s Dictionary a bigot is someone who “is extremely intolerant of another’s creed, belief, of opinion”.  John Wesley consistently taught the importance of placing the Biblical witness over and above all else.

But today we find within our denomination many new and contradictory teachings and doctrines!  Many of them include teachings that deny the very biblical witness upon which they are supposed to be based. We have allowed the acceptance of these new doctrines to rob us of our doctrinal integrity.  Here is a good example of what I am talking about. At the United Methodist North Central Jurisdictional Conference this year the communion service included a Statement of Faith. So what was that statement of faith?   It was a musician singing the song “I Believe”.  So we have in essence substituted “I believe for every drop of rain that falls a flower grows” for “I believe in Jesus Christ, God’s only son our Lord”!  During one worship service we also had a Confession.  It was not a confession of sins, but just “Our Confession”.  The word sin was never mentioned.  The substance of the recitation called “As Rachel Mourned the Children” was not about what we do as sinners but about what we don’t do because we just “stood by watching”.    In other words no mention of our sinful nature and sinful actions, only our lack of striving for social justice.

So it should be no surprise that we no longer have a way to be unified in our “faith and practice” without being so vague and compromising to the point that it becomes practically meaningless.  Is it any wonder why there are now those who would openly promote what the Bible calls sin and actively work to undermine and destroy the very foundations upon which we stand? Because of our unwillingness to protect our doctrine and support church discipline we now see a growing number of “liberal fundamentalists” who are not willing to submit to either scriptural authority or denominational mandate.   Many of them have worked their way into the upper level leadership positions of the denomination and are attempting to force their liberal agenda on the rest of us.  We are now at a crossroads and the decisions we make now are vitally important to the future of United Methodism.

The recent actions and public comments made by certain denominational leaders have not gone unnoticed by the public.  Many who hear them will believe that if it is said by an official representative of our denomination then it must be an official stand of the denomination. In addition to that, there is evidence of censorship taking place within the official United Methodist news sources.  It the belief of many that the evangelical voice is not being heard and consequently many evangelicals feel betrayed and excluded from the denomination.


I would encourage you to pass this along and share it with your church members and other United Methodists in you area.  Also, consider becoming a part of the Confessing Movement. Finally, if you haven’t already done so, I would encourage you to talk with your pastor(s) and your lay representative(s) to annual conference and find out just where they stand (and why) concerning the important issues which our denomination is facing today.

Rev. Kent L. Svendsen
Northern Illinois Conference Coordinator
The Confessing Movement Within The United Methodist Church