Thursday, August 16, 2007

Is Methodism a Movement?

I once again received an interesting email from Dr. Riley B. Case, the Assistant Executive Director of the Confessing Movement Within the United Methodist Church. It's contents are below. I feel the "sadness and anger" that is felt by the Pacific Northwest, but for different reasons.

Dr. Donald Haynes, in a June article in United Methodist Reporter, makes reference to the United Methodist idea of "conferencing” and observes that our 2007 annual conferences should reveal whether we are, as in early Methodism, a “movement” or, as in more recent years, a “denomination.” He observes, as of late, our conferences, whether annual conferences or general conference, “have focused on clergy benefits, guaranteed appointments, institutional quotas and social-justice rhetoric, written from five-star hotel conference rooms, offices of endowed professors and delegates who were paid to come to the meeting espousing causes of the poor.” Would this year's round of conferences be any different?

Well, the annual conferences are over and from the reports there is little to suggest that anything has changed. A New England Conference task force called for divesture from 20 US companies doing business in Israel because of Israel"s “illegal occupation” of Palestine lands. The Detroit Conference passed a resolution urging boards and agencies to refrain from using water bottled by the Nestle Corporation. Iowa, along with several other conferences, called for troops to be withdrawn from Iraq. North Illinois wants members to contact Burger King to use its influence to improve tomato pickers’ wages and working conditions. New York wants General Conference to pass legislation that would ensure that persons transferring from other denominations would not be subject to the evaluation of the receiving pastor as to their fitness for membership. Several conferences, in fact, want to restrict and remove any authority of the pastor in regard to determining whether prospective members are ready for membership (an authority entrusted to pastors since 1784). Desert Southwest wants to require boards and agencies to meet at times when youth can attend. Wyoming passed a resolution urging parsonages, churches, and conference facilities to use energy-efficient appliances and bulbs. Yellowstone wants the denomination to rename the church’s “Crusade Scholarship Program” since the word “crusade” is offensive to Muslims. Oregon-Idaho wants General Conference to remove restrictions on same-sex marriages. Pacific Northwest expressed “sadness and anger” at the Judicial Council ruling 1032 (which affirmed the pastor’s right to determine when a person seeking membership has met the church’s criteria for membership).

Altogether the conferences mentioned lost 22,000 members last year.

Meanwhile, the Assemblies of God, at their National Youth Convention meeting in Indianapolis August 7-11, responded to a vision to reach one million teen-agers for Christ and have them grafted into the church by 2015. On Friday evening of the gathering the largest campus commissioning service in the history of the Assemblies movement was held to send out student evangelists. The Assemblies, with a Methodist-holiness background, has grown in membership from 50,386 in 1927 to 2,830,861 members in 2006.

Dr. Riley B. Case is a retired member of the North Indiana Conference. He is a graduate of Taylor University and Garrett-Evangelical Theological Seminary, with a graduate degree from Northwestern University and an honorary degree from Taylor University. Dr. Case’s appointment before retiring was St. Luke’s United Methodist Church Kokomo. Before that he was the district superintendent of the Marion District of the North Indiana Conference. He represented the conference five different times at the General Conference and seven times at the North Central Jurisdictional Conference. At the general church level he served as a consultant on the Hymnal Revision Committee (1984-1988) and was a member of the Curriculum Resources Committee of the Board of Discipleship.

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