Repent, Pray, and Stand for the UMC
No matter your position of influence in the United Methodist Church, your hope in Christ is needed now.
What UMC Leaders Aren’t Saying
There is a “conversation” about the future of the United Methodist Church – as there should be, considering the upcoming special General Conference in St. Louis in Feb. 2019. Pastors and lay leaders are starting to invite WCA representatives and others to explain the history of the UMC’s current crises, and people are talking about what should happen or could happen. People are talking on social media, in church hallways, and in additional meetings. Hopefully, someone out there is praying.
It’s interesting that there was no such “conversation” in 2016 when the historic vote to call for a special General Conference on human sexuality was called for by vote. It’s interesting that there was no conversation after prior General Conferences when votes to change the Book of Discipline to approve homosexuality were achieving double-digit results. It’s interesting that there was no conversation when the official seminaries of the UMC all espoused a progressive theology while the one bright spot churning out large numbers of theologically traditional and accurate ordinands (Asbury Theological Seminary) doesn’t receive the official support of the denomination. That fact alone should have caused full stop call to prayer and fasting years ago, yet most Methodists still don’t know that symptom of how big the progressive cancer has become.
We need more prayer and action now than conversation. The time for conversation was 15 years ago.
It’s interesting that leaders with positions of authority and platforms in the UMC are authorizing this “conversation” now, now that the issue is unavoidable and potentially hits their incomes. Open war has been waged on God’s children within and outside the church all these decades, and now we’re finally inviting the laity to “talk” about it. We’ve neglected our offices, funded half-measures that pretend to train disciples who love Jesus more than their own lives, and failed to protect the governance structures of the church from false teachers unknowingly (or knowingly) serving the enemy of our souls.
Calls for “conversation” are calls for capitulation, failure, and death. Methodists have no problem conversing, especially if food is involved. If you foster conversation, you won’t get prayer, revelation, a heavenly calling, and armaments for war. No, you’ll just have “conversation” and more of God’s tithe money spent. The flesh loves to converse. But if you as a leader passionately preach God’s call to prayer and lead by example, you’ll get all of the above, and conversation to boot. The conversation won’t be missing, it will just be filled with wisdom and divine perspective.
Even in the midst of this precious “conversation,” here’s what our UMC leaders are not saying:
- Using the word “sin” and painting a vivid picture of God’s standard of holiness for the church.
- What progressive theology is in contrast to the truth, and what it’s logical consequences are for human life.
- What God’s interests are in His church, His bride, and what they are for the church in America today.
- What God has wrought throughout history through his church universal and Methodism in particular. We’ve lost sight of the precious history of the faithful ones who stood for the truth before us.
- What God’s victory (not “our side’s victory”) specifically looks like in the upcoming General Conference and beyond.
Each of the above deserves a series of posts on their own, but this post is going to deal only with the final point for now.
The current leadership of the UMC is not capable of describing what victory for God’s interests looks like. Indeed, without Jesus, none of us can. But it appears to me that no one is even asking the question of what victory actually looks like, because I hear no one asking. No one in the UMC is talking openly about victory and defining it specifically. And no group can win a war without a shared, clear picture of victory.
We’re really good at talking about the problem, but contrast the traditionalist camp with what the progressive side is up to. They know precisely what standard constitutes victory, down to the legislative changes, the cultural changes, what they expect to see in their local congregations and globally, etc. Their victory plans are very specific, and they can unify around a tangible goal and invite others in. The traditionalists, like the truth in the famous Mark Twain quote, haven’t even got their shoes tied yet.
Rob Renfroe and Walter Fenton recently wrote a book (Are We Really Better Together?) that masterfully makes the case why the UMC cannot continue forward in pretend unity. I agree with everything written except with the dropped ball conclusion. Near the end of the book, they write about several endgame scenarios at a bird’s eye level. The first scenario is in light of everything we just read, “Liberals Should Leave.” In that scenario, they describe four good reasons why that outcome would be significantly difficult. In the next scenario, well, maybe then “Conservatives Should Leave.” And they go on to describe several reasons why that outcome would be significantly wrong.
They conclude that one side or the other can’t leave, but they inaccurately equate difficulty with injustice/sin/tragedy, which western traditionalists/conservatives seem predisposed to do. It is morally, spiritually, and in every way correct for adherents of the faith to remain in their own church in submission to God and for those who foster rebellion toward God and His church to leave. The truth is that one side ought to leave, but unlike the way the Baptists handled it, the progressives should leave progressivism or the UMC by the power of God and not the power of man. It doesn’t take deep prayer to discern that simple conclusion.
The conclusion of the book makes the argument – in light of those “reasons why we can’t fight” for progressives or traditionalists to leave the UMC – to work for an amicable split where the conservatives go their way and the liberals go their way. How horrible of a result! Why give up the opportunity for spiritual ministry to our brothers and sisters entrapped in progressive ideology and condoning the sin and false teaching by the laying down of our arms.
Rob Renfroe and Walter Fenton are not talking about victory. At least, I haven’t heard them or anyone in the WCA talk about what victory looks like and how to pursue it. So I’m going to continue saying what needs to be said in this little corner of Methodism where God has placed my family. Thinking, praying, and writing on these topics have nothing to do with my day job I’m interrupting now to write, but this situation in the UMC requires a degree of stopping, praying, and action – not just “conversation” on Sunday mornings.
The WCA by all appearances looks like a contingency plan in the event of an unexpected church split or forced ejection of conservatism from the UMC. Maybe that will be useful, but for every large-scale initiative devoted to picking up the pieces, we need a minimum of two initiatives whose sole focus is unfettered, decisive victory. I believe some people are genuinely called by God to build contingency plans like the WCA, and I will not question their anointing or devotion, but will instead honor and aid. I myself have joined the WCA. But right now the WCA has no plans or even “conversation” for victory, but it’s main usefulness now is creating a gathering point for traditionalists to begin mobilizing in this late hour.
Again, please note that the reasons Renfroe and Fenton outlined for the UMC not working toward excising progressivism were merely difficult, not wrong. It would be wrong on many levels for traditionalism to leave – which progressives and the majority of the Council of Bishops are advocating. But it is not wrong for progressives to leave, willingly or by force. Even Renfroe and Fenton didn’t propose a reason why it would be wrong – they merely equated difficulty with injustice, which is sad and unfortunate. Though traditionalist Christians are rightly opposed by instinct to the use of violence, violence is being used against us and God’s interests. There is a Spirit-led response of violent action before the throne of God that has a holy place right now. “From the days of John the Baptist until now the kingdom of heaven has suffered violence, and the violent take it by force” (Matthew 11:12, ESV).
Options 2 and 3 at the General Conference, as well as many other possibilities, accomplish the abolishment of the historic Christian faith from the institution of the UMC. The road to destruction here is broad. It is a difficult road ahead, but the conditions for victory are:
- A large majority passage of Option 1 at the Feb 2019 General Conference, which maintains the current language of the BOD and adds governance improvements to enforce church doctrine.
- The spiritual renewal of our church such that many progressives willingly convert to the church of Jesus Christ within or beyond the UMC, willingly leave the UMC for a season or a lifetime, or are removed from UMC fellowship by loving but firm action.
- The establishment of the UMC institution as one of God’s useful tools in the imminent, at-our-doorstep end-time harvest that requires laborers! The UMC is not the only instrument available for His use, but the question is will we as a large body with great influence join what He is eager to do in this age?
Will any UMC leaders with paid positions or platforms please talk about the victory conditions above? Anyone? If there’s a conversation needed now, this one defining a clear picture of victory for God’s interests is certainly one of them. Your time begins now.
The method of victory is this: Assuming you had a position of prayer, influence, and leadership in God’s perfect church after a hypothtical, so-called UMC church split, what are the things you would do to build up, shepherd, and protect God’s holy church? What are those things? Do them now.