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|Northern Illinois Conference Chapter
2494 Reynolds Road
Ashton, Illinois 61006
e-mail firstname.lastname@example.orgJuly 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.
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 Gods 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 Gods eyes, but not every doctrine. According to Websters Dictionary a bigot is someone who is extremely intolerant of anothers 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, Gods 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 dont 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.
WHAT CAN I DO?
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 havent 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