Foreword

Acknowledgements

Julie

Visible Problem Indicators

Stewardship

Agents of Change - Issues

Institutional Dynamics

The Institutional and the Local Church

Operative Theology

Prognosis for the Future

Revival - What is Needed?

Closing Remarks

Foreword

I was speaking to a congregation of people on a sweltering summer night at a United Methodist Church in South Georgia. I was about to conclude an evening session on issues facing our denomination and was pleased at how the evening had progressed. Even though I have a policy of welcoming all questions and challenges in a spirit of openness, the people had been cordial - reflective of the gracious courtesy common to those living in that part of the country.

Then, in the back, one man raised his hand to be recognized. After I called on him, in a loud voice he said , "I was raised an Episcopalian. Tell me, with all of the problems in the United Methodist Church, why should I stay?"

I thought to myself, "How can I answer that? Yes, how could I answer that question?...."

First Beginnings

When three other men and I met in 1988 to discuss concerns that we shared in our two United Methodist churches, little did we know to what extent our efforts would carry us. We had shared these concerns with our pastors. We believed that these clergy would discuss the issues with our bishop and the problems would be corrected. Not so. Instead, we were told in so many words that we were mistaken in our beliefs, did not have a grasp of the problems, should go along with those who "knew better," and were the only ones who shared the concerns.

We discussed it among ourselves and weighed what we had been told. First, all of us were certain of our perceptions because we had done our homework and knew that our data was reliable. Secondly, we had traveled through much of the world, had a solid base of experience, and were well-versed in the problem areas, sometimes having been personally involved in that part of the world; some of us had worked at the highest levels in our professions and made significant contributions in our specialty areas. Third, we saw no reason to "just go along"; we could think for ourselves. Finally, we conceded that even if we were the only ones who had these concerns, we would do what we could to influence our denomination as much as possible.

We were happy to learn that we were wrong in two ways: 1. as soon as we "went public" with our information and our organization, we learned that we were not alone - there were hundreds of thousands of people who shared similar concerns; and 2. all of the clergy had not "sold out" their integrity to enhance their "upward mobility" within the system; there are many who stand firm for their faith - with integrity and often in the face of intimidating pressure.

Commitment to Truth

Sensing that the task of reforming our denomination would be too great for any group, much less the four of us, we based our efforts on four principles: lifting up our United Methodist Church in prayer; maintaining a strong relationship with the Lord; having a passion for the truth; and communicating as much information to as many people as possible. Chuck Swindoll states, "Being a loving Christian doesn't excuse us from reporting the hard thing. The river of love must be kept within its banks. Truth on one side, discernment on the other."(1)

Methodology

In problem solving, there are good secular models: for the scientist, there is the "Scientific Method"; for the doctor, there is the medical diagnosis; for the military man, there is the "Estimate of the Situation"; and for the business executive - corporate problem solving. Jesus has instructed us to "inspect fruit" (Matthew 7:15-23). All have in common observing facts, events, and symptoms; formulating different theories to explain what has been observed; deciding what is the most logical explanation, and then proposing solutions.

It must be observed that there are many good things happening in local churches; the problems tend to be in our institutional church. We proceed in the spirit of examining past actions and offering our view on where the Church is headed. I believe it was George Santayana who said, "Those who do not remember history are doomed to repeat it."

We believe it necessary to do this so that we can face the problems; this sometimes painful first step is necessary if we are to reverse our over-30 year decline. It is also important to observe that people do not always operate from a base of sound logic and can be influenced by emotional appeals. Two principles effectively used by Dr. Paul Josef Goebbels and numerous others since he formulated them in the 1930s were:

  1. A truth can be so big and unpleasant that people will refuse to believe it.

  2. A lie can sound plausible and be repeated so often that it will be believed.

Looking to the Future

"We are convinced that The United Methodist Church faces a crisis unequaled to any since the schism preceding the Civil War. The continued membership decline is the major symptom of this crisis, but the issues are deeper and more complex than the loss of members. In any organization, when things are not going well, there are always those who urge silence, unquestioning loyalty, and the suppression of all criticism. But our church is too important to be allowed to wither if there is some means of giving it new life."(2)

We invite you to examine what has been written here. This is not so much a "this is the way it is" work, but more akin to an anthology of data prefaced by an extended series of observations and commentary. If it upsets you, we recommend you focus on the factuality of the information and who caused it to happen, not those of us who are the messengers. We have considered the history of the church over the past nineteen years; researched voluminous amounts of information; spoken with thousands of people from all walks of life; and correlated a multitude of factors together. We present what we have concluded, proffer theories as to the causes of our past decline, and offer what we see as the future of our denomination. Don't be surprised if a lot of this information comes as a surprise to you. We often say that the people in the pews are unaware of over 99% of what happens in the United Methodist Church.

Caution!

To make this as clear as possible, we have included names, dates, and specific information as necessary. We believe this to be more beneficial than to write in nebulous terms such as "a bishop said" or "a laywoman did" in clarifying the very real problems of our church. This may not be pleasant reading, but it is necessary; reading it may have all of the interest of a surgeon poring over a manual on how to excise malignant growths.

We ask that you would read what we have presented here with this background in mind, research the truth for yourself, and be assured of our love for the 8.4 million members who call themselves "United Methodist." You owe it to yourself, your children, and to the future of the United Methodist Church.

Notes:

  1. "Letters of Reference" from Come Befored Winter by Charles R. Swindoll; Multnomah Press, Portland, Oregon; 1985; page 201.
  2. From the Preface to Rekindling the Flame, by by Professor William H. Willimon and the late Professor Robert L. Wilson, 1987, p. 9. This book is available for reading on the Concerned Methodists website at: http://cmpage.org


    Web Site Designed and Maintained by JCN

|| Home || Introduction || Stewardship Report || The Unofficial Confessing Movement || Lifewatch ||
|| Independent Committee on Alcohol and Drugs || News Update || Advisory Board ||
|| Case Studies || Testimonies || Interconnection into the United Methodist Church ||