Ad hoc group releases book on 'United Methodism at risk'
5/13/2003 News media contact: Linda Bloom · (646) 369-3759 · New York
NOTE: Photographs are available with this report.
By United Methodist News Service
Methodist Bishop C. Dale White introduces the book United Methodism at
Risk: A Wake-up Call during a conference sponsored by the Methodist
Federation for Social Action and the Reconciling Ministries Network in
Atlanta. The book addresses concerns about attempts to restrict
theological and social diversity, focusing on conservative renewal
movements related to the United Methodist Church. The book was
published by the Information Project for United Methodists, an
unofficial group of clergy and lay people. A UMNS photo by John C.
Goodwin. Photo number 03-177, Accompanies UMNS #278, 5/13/03
No Long Caption Available for this Story
book United Methodism at Risk: A Wake-up Call addresses concerns
about attempts to restrict theological and social diversity, focusing on
conservative renewal movements related to the United Methodist Church.
The book was published by the Information Project for United
Methodists, an unofficial group of clergy and lay people. A UMNS photo.
Photo number 03-178, Accompanies UMNS #278, 5/13/03
No Long Caption Available for this Story
As United Methodists prepare for the 2004
legislative session that will determine future directions of the
denomination, an ad hoc group of clergy and lay leaders has released a
book addressing their concerns about attempts to restrict theological
and social diversity.
The book, United Methodism at Risk: A
Wake-up Call, was published this spring by the Information Project for
United Methodists, an unofficial group led by retired United Methodist
Bishop C. Dale White and Beth Capen, a layperson from Kingston, N.Y.
Financial sponsor was Hennepin Avenue United Methodist Church in
Minneapolis. Leon Howell, former editor of Christianity and Crisis
magazine, is the author.
White provided copies of the book to the
denomination's Council of Bishops during the council's April 28-May 2
meeting in Dallas. He told United Methodist News Service that he wanted
his fellow bishops to know exactly what information the book contained.
on "conservative renewal movements related to the United Methodist
Church," the book outlines the history, funding sources, strategies and
tactics of the renewal groups. Specifically named are Good News, the
Institute for Religion and Democracy, Renew, the Mission Society for
United Methodists, Lifewatch, the Confessing Movement, the Association
for Church Renewal, a Foundation for Theological Education, Transforming
Congregations and the Coalition for United Methodist Accountability.
book's study guide, written by White and the Rev. Scott Campbell,
pastor of Harvard-Epworth United Methodist Church in Cambridge, Mass.,
notes, "The leaders of the conservative renewal groups operate with a
narrowly focused theological and socio-political agenda. Many receive
large grants from non-church organizations with a distinct political and
ideological agenda unrelated to making disciples of Christ."
the critique is not meant to question the integrity of the "sincere,
faithful Christians" who support these groups, White and Campbell write,
those Christians need to make "informed decisions about what it is they
The Rev. James V. Heidinger II, president and
publisher of Good News, called the book a third-rate attempt at an
expose designed to prop up a liberal viewpoint that is, in his opinion,
fading across the church.
"The book is a sustained attack from
the old-guard denominational establishment whose views have been
dominant for the past 30 or more years, during which time our church has
lost nearly 3 million members," he said in a statement to United
Methodist News Service. He also objected to the distribution of a book
published by an unofficial group at the Council of Bishops meeting.
said he hopes the book's release in late April would allow time "for
people to do some critical thinking" as the denomination prepares for
its top legislative body, the 2004 General Conference. The church's
annual (regional) conferences are electing delegates to General
Conference as they meet this spring and summer.
One concern, for
example, is the attempt to challenge "freedom of theological inquiry"
and set up structures "to police the pulpits of Methodism," White said.
book's preface calls upon "those who share our convictions" to insist
that General Conference delegates consider the good of the whole church
in their decisions and be able to "approach that gathering with open
minds and open hearts."
The theological conflict in the United
Methodist Church needs to be addressed "from a perspective that's
broader than that of the conservative renewal groups," the bishop
explained. "We really wanted people to understand where these groups
originated and what is the source of their funding and support."
said he doesn't question the right of such groups to advocate for their
particular theological positions. But he added that he does question
their methods and what he and others consider attempts "to spread fear
and mistrust through the denomination" through intimidation and
In Heidinger's view, the renewal groups
under criticism in the book "are attempting to speak for mainstream
United Methodists across the church. To be sure, we've not always done
that perfectly. But this sweeping assault, under the cloak of
scholarship, seems little more than an attempt to marginalize and
silence groups speaking for the church's mainstream."
E-mail inquiries about the Information Project for United Methodists book can be directed to IPUM@aol.com.