|Evangelical event focuses on church?s critical issues|
United Methodist delegates to the 2008 General Conference and
jurisdictional conferences attend the 2007 Renewal and Reform Conference
in Memphis, Tenn. UMNS photos by Kathy L. Gilbert.
By Kathy L. Gilbert*
Oct. 30, 2007 | MEMPHIS, Tenn. (UMNS)
Six conservative evangelical United Methodist renewal organizations
asked delegates elected to the 2008 churchwide and jurisdictional
conferences to pray and plan for a "renewed and dynamic United Methodist
The Renewal and Reform Coalition sponsored the conference Oct. 26-27
at Christ United Methodist Church in Memphis. The coalition includes the
Confessing Movement, Good News, RENEW, LifeWatch, Transforming
Congregations and UMAction.
The meeting's purpose was to address what the groups consider the six
most critical issues coming before the church's top lawmaking body:
General Conference in the context of a global church; advocacy for women
and children; the role of the Judicial Council; doctrine,
accountability, leadership and the Council of Bishops; membership
standards; and empowering the central conferences.
Patricia L. Miller is executive director of the Confessing Movement, a member group of the Renewal and Reform Coalition.
The 2008 General Conference will meet April 23-May 2 in Fort Worth,
Texas. The 1,000 delegates elected by annual (regional) conferences will
decide policy and approve a denominational budget for the next four
years. Jurisdictional conferences will meet in July to elect new bishops
for the five geographic conferences in the United States. Ninety-eight
delegates, including alternates, registered for the Memphis event, said
Patricia L. Miller, executive director of the Confessing Movement.
"You don't have to have a sense of direction as bad as mine to know
The United Methodist Church is going the wrong way," said the Rev. Rob
Renfroe in opening the first session called "General Conference in the
Context of a Global Church."
The Rev. Eddie Fox speaks to the gathering as the Rev. Rob Renfroe listens.
"In terms of membership, we are going the wrong way; in terms of
attendance, we are going the wrong way; in terms of being able to raise
up young men and young women who want to give their hearts and their
passion and their lives to the cause of Christ in ministry of The United
Methodist Church, we are going the wrong way," said Renfroe, a pastor
at the Woodlands (Texas) United Methodist Church.
Praising the central conferences
Renfroe said United Methodist evangelicals are indebted "to our
brothers and sisters in the central conferences" — which are in
Africa, Europe and Asia — because of their commitment to the poor
and to Scripture.
The Rev. Eddie Fox, world director of evangelism for the World
Methodist Council, praised the central conferences and cautioned
delegates about a proposal that may go to General Conference to make the
United States a central or regional conference as well.
The proposal comes from the United Methodist Council of Bishops and
would change the constitution of The United Methodist Church.
"It is not the time to talk about dividing the church," said Fox.
One-third of the General Conference comes from outside the United
States. The church is global and has been from the beginning, he said.
"Why change the constitution without knowing what the consequences
are? Can you imagine the amount of time and debate we will spend trying
to decide what belongs in a national conference and what belongs in a
regional conference? Becoming a national entity sets us on a track to be
more divisive than it is to create unity for us in our church."
Judge Ron Enns, Northwest Texas Annual (regional) Conference, told
participants the most important votes that will be cast at General
Conference will be for spots on the Judicial Council, the top court of
"Five people on the Judicial Council can change church law," he said. "It is imperative we elect evangelicals to the council."
The Rev. Maxie Dunnam held a session on "Doctrine, Accountability, Leadership, and The Council of Bishops."
The Rev. Maxie Dunnam (left) introduces speaker Les Longden at the
Oct. 26-27 event.
"Am I misreading the signs?" asked Dunnam, an author and speaker who
will serve as a General Conference delegate from the Kentucky Annual
Conference. "I am not hearing words like dynamic or life-changing to
describe The United Methodist Church in the U.S. and Europe. People are
asking for bread and too often are given a stone."
Dunnam said the church's media campaign of "Open hearts. Open minds.
Open doors." would be "genius" if presented with orthodox and Wesleyan
"Open hearts, open minds, open doors to whom and to what purpose?" he asked.
"I join Mr. Wesley," said Dunnam, quoting Methodism founder John
Wesley. "I am not afraid that the people called Methodist should ever
cease to exist either in Europe or America. But I am afraid lest they
should only exist as a dead sect, having the form of religion without
the power. And this will undoubtedly be the case unless they hold fast
to the doctrine, spirit and discipline with which they first set out."
Renewal and transformation
The Rev. Jerry P. Kulah, superintendent in Monrovia, Liberia, of the
Africa Annual Conference, presented a plan for renewal and transforming
"I am delighted to inform you that United Methodists all over Africa
strongly hold the conviction that there is hope and a future for global
Methodism through our Wesleyan heritage," he said. "But the fulfillment
of this hope and realization of the anticipated future critically depend
upon the quality leadership that provides direction for the future, and
the choices we make as a church regarding biblical doctrine, Christian
discipline, our devotion to the Lordship of Jesus Christ, our submission
to the control and empowerment by the Holy Spirit and our commitment to
the fulfillment of the Great commission (Matthew 28:19-20)."
Kulah said when Jesus was threatened by King Herod, the holy family fled
to Africa. "Today the church in Africa offers itself as a sanctuary for
God's Word for the renewing of his church around the world," he said.
"Today the church in Africa offers itself as a sanctuary for God's Word …," says the Rev. Jerry P. Kulah of Liberia.
Other sessions included a presentation on legislation aimed at
advocacy for women's and children's issues and membership standards.
The coalition also offered an orientation to its six organizations
and invited delegates to join them during General Conference, where
daily briefing breakfasts will provide highlights of the previous day's
activities and offer delegates a "spiritual lift," according to
Audio and text from the conference can be found on the Christ United Methodist Church Web site .
*Gilbert is a United Methodist News Service news writer based in Nashville, Tenn.
News media contact: Kathy L. Gilbert, Nashville, Tenn., (615) 742-5470 or firstname.lastname@example.org .
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