The Monthly Update

September 2004 Update

September 2004
Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ:

This edition of the “Monthly Update” contains summaries of results from the various annual conferences around the country and a perspective on the Southeastern Jurisdictional Conference in one area. In addition you will find continuing information on the Iraqi situation.

We are continuing to follow the situation with St. Paul Church (formerly St. Paul United Methodist Church) in Fairbanks, Alaska. We really do need to remember those fine people in our prayers as they worship in another church building, a courtesy offered from those in their community who saw the unjust situation with which they were faced. Their building that was seized by the conference is unoccupied. We have two other cases of fights between the conferences and local churches. In the case of Elo United Methodist Church, the Wisconsin Supreme Court decided 3-2 against the local congregation; the people are in the process of raising $126,000 to buy back the property which they themselves constructed and cared for. St. Luke Church (formerly a United Methodist church) in Fresno, California won their case – with the California-Nevada Conference pondering whether or not to appeal the decision. Let us pray that this congregation will continue to prevail. Their case is discussed further in the Update.

One change that you will see in this Update is that it is shorter. We have received several comments as to length and amount of data, such as that from the lady in Florida who said, “I read part of your letter, put it on the shelf, and then come back to read more later.” Another wrote that she “read it in spurts” to fully digest it all. As a result, we are trying to compact the information into a shorter letter to make it more digestible. Please let us know which format you prefer.

We also ask that you continue to pray for our troops – those men and women who are in harm’s way overseas in Afghanistan and Iraq. The battle in which they are engaged is for the safety of us all and the survival of our country as we know it.

We thank you for your continuing faithful support and ask that you would pray for us in the days ahead. Assuredly, we are living in exciting times. We especially ask that you pray that a godly man will be elected president.
In His service,

Allen O. Morris,
Executive Director

September 2004 Update

Bits and Pieces from across the United Methodist Church

The Gospel does not consist of what we can do for ourselves,

but of what God stands ready to do for us.

- Arkansas Methodist

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Of Interest.

+ Iraq - Did You Know?

1. The garden of Eden was in Iraq.

2. Mesopotamia, which is now Iraq, was the cradle of civilization!

3. Noah built the ark in Iraq.

4. The Tower of Babel was in Iraq.

5. Abraham was from Ur, which is in Southern Iraq.

6. Isaac's wife Rebekah is from Nahor, which is in Iraq.

7. Jacob met Rachel in Iraq.

8. Jonah preached in Nineveh - which is in Iraq.

9. Assyria, which is in Iraq, conquered the ten tribes of Israel.

10. Babylon, which is in Iraq, destroyed Jerusalem.

11. Daniel was in the lion's den in Iraq!

12. The three Hebrew children were in the fire in Iraq. (Jesus had been in Iraq also as the fourth person in the fiery furnace!)

13. Belshazzar, the King of Babylon saw the "writing on the wall" in Iraq.

14. Nebuchadnezzar, King of Babylon, carried the Jews captive into Iraq.

15. Ezekiel preached in Iraq.

16. The wise men were from Iraq.

17. Peter preached in Iraq.

18. The "Empire of Man" described in Revelation is called Babylon, which was a city in Iraq! Israel is the nation most often mentioned in the Bible. But do you know which nation is second? It is Iraq! But that is not the name that is used in the Bible. The names used are Babylon, Land of Shinar, and Mesopotamia (which means "between the two rivers," more exactly between the Tigris and Euphrates Rivers. The name Iraq, means country with deep roots; this is a country with deep roots and very significant in the Bible. Here's why!

* Eden was in Iraq - Genesis 2:10-14

* Adam and Eve were created in Iraq - Genesis 2:7-8

* Satan made his first recorded appearance in Iraq - Genesis 3:1-6

* Nimrod established Babylon & The Tower of Babel was built in Iraq - Genesis 10:8-97; 11:1-4

* The confusion of the languages took place in Iraq - Genesis 11:5-11

* Abraham came from a city in Iraq - Genesis 11:31; Acts 7:2-4

* Isaac's bride came from Iraq - Genesis 24:3-4; 10

* Jacob spent 20 years in Iraq - Genesis 27:42-45; 31:38

* The first world Empire was in Iraq - Daniel 1:1-2;2:36-38

* The greatest revival in history was in a city in Iraq - Jonah 3

* The events of the book of Esther took place in Iraq - Esther

* The book of Nahum was a prophecy against a city in Iraq - Nahum

* The book or Revelation has prophecies against Babylon (Iraq's former name) Revelation 17 &18 - No other nation, except Israel, has more history and prophecy associated it than Iraq.

- Received by E-mail from Mrs. Ann Allnutt.

+ Local Church May Revoke Trust, California Appeals Court Says

A California appellate court has unanimously ruled in favor of a Fresno congregation seeking to control its property and not be subject to the Discipline and the authority of the California-Nevada Conference. The Aug. 13 ruling by the Fifth District Court of Appeal stated that while a trust did exist in favor of the UMC, St. Luke's UMC had the right to revoke that trust as the legal owner of the property. According to California law, and as interpreted by the court, the trust can be revoked by the one that created it. The court's ruling said, "This trust was created by St. Luke's manifested intention to hold the property in trust for the benefit of itself and of the United Methodist Church . . . and that St. Luke's could and did revoke the trust when it amended its articles of incorporation in December of 2000." The court acknowledged that California law does not assume that a trust is irrevocable, as do many other states. According to the ruling's statement of facts, a dispute arose in 1999 and 2000 regarding doctrinal issues. After Bishop Melvin G. Talbert, then the episcopal leader for the area, appointed a new pastor to the congregation in the summer of 2000, the congregation changed the locks and later the church's articles of incorporation. As late as June 2000, the court ruling says, St. Luke's board of trustees intended to include the trust clause in all property deeds. The clause, previously included in five of the church's nine grant deeds, was unintentionally deleted in new documents recorded in May 2000, according to testimony by the trustee chairperson. New documents to correct this information were prepared but never recorded.  - Umnewscope, August 27, 2004.

+ Court rules Fresno church may keep its property

The 5th District Court has ruled that St. Luke's UMC is not the property of the denomination. The decision, the latest in a four-year battle between the church and the denomination, was issued Aug. 13. St. Luke's severed its affiliation with the United Methodist Church in 2000 but continues to meet on its property. Attorneys for the California-Nevada Conference are reviewing the decision to determine what options they will exercise. The Rev. Kevin Smith, pastor of St. Luke's, said he feels the conference will probably appeal but he wishes they would not. "Enough money has been spent in this case already," he said. A split between members of St. Luke’s and the denomination led to a court battle over who owns the property. The conference and members of St. Luke's have been struggling with each other for four years, ever since the congregation withheld apportionments in protest of the conference's decision not to discipline pastors for participating in a same-sex union service. "I love the United Methodist Church," Smith said. "But they can’t just pick and choose which parts of the Discipline they want to adhere to. This has never been just about homosexuality."

In the 2002 ruling, the judge said the state Corporations Code supported the denomination's Book of Discipline. The latest ruling, however, agrees with St. Luke's contention "that it could and in fact did revoke the trust which had existed in favor of the United Methodist Church." Smith said California’s corporate laws have always been on the side of the congregation. "California corporate law allows us, as owners of the property, to change terms of the trust in which we hold the property."

The trust clause, declaring that the title to all local church property is held by the annual (regional) conference, has been upheld by a variety of U.S. courts during the 200-plus history of the denomination in the United States.

- By Kathy Gilbert, United Methodist News Service (UMNS); Nashville {381}; Aug. 23, 2004.

+ Two SoCal Parishes Leave ECUSA, Align with Anglican Province in Africa

Two biblically orthodox parishes in Southern California have dropped their affiliation with the Episcopal Church USA (ECUSA) over the denomination's move away from scriptural authority and its stance on the role of homosexual clergy. All Saints Church of Long Beach and St. James Church in Newport have aligned themselves with the worldwide Anglican Communion and are now under the jurisdiction of the Diocese of Luweero, Anglican Province of Uganda. Rector William Thompson of All Saints says the Church of Uganda was the appropriate place to seek "safe harbor" from a denomination that has moved away from the teachings and the authority of scripture. I developed a friendship with Archbishop Henry Orombi [of the Church of Uganda]." Thompson says his parish recognized that no matter what it did, the Episcopal Church USA was not going to repent of its support for homosexuality and other forms of heresy. He adds that the decision to leave is a "step of trust in Jesus Christ" -- and that his church does not fear a property dispute, a potential outcome of the decision. "From our perspective ... they are our buildings; it was our money over the years that constructed them," he says. "The flow of money [historically] from the diocese has always been from us to them -- not the other way around. We feel that our property belongs to us"…and that the church is seeking to follow Christ no matter what the cost may be.

In an interview with the Los Angeles Times, Father Praveen Bunyan of St. James explained that his church has been a long-time proponent of biblical orthodoxy. That is why, he says, many of his parishioners questioned him regularly about the church’s continued affiliation with a denomination that has "departed from the authority of Scriptures."

The Times reports that in both cases, the vestries -- or board of directors -- of each parish voted unanimously to break from ECUSA, and that the parishioners backed those decisions overwhelmingly (131-10 at All Saints; 280-12 at St. James). Bunyan states that "many times" during the Monday night vote, members of his parish responded with great emotion, "in standing ovations, raising their hands, with tears rolling down their cheeks." According to the LA Times, the move by the two parishes took Los Angeles Episcopal Bishop J. Jon Bruno by surprise. [Note: The churches needed more than a "band-aid" approach to the denomination’s systemic problems. They need for the Episcopal Church to be obedient to the teachings of the Bible. Otherwise, how could they give their congregations’ money into a hierarchy that was rebellious?]

- By Jim Brown and Jody Brown, August 19, 2004

+ Annual Conferences Reorder Ministry for New Quadrennium

This May and June, 63 U.S. annual conferences gathered in their respective regions to adopt legislation. Twenty-one bishops retired this year. All newly assigned bishops will begin their service Sept. 1. Sexual misconduct was addressed in Arkansas, where the conference adopted a revised policy. Iowa supported a three-year training cycle for dealing with situations of abuse. Various annual conferences took positions on the issue of marriage. Arkansas, North Georgia, and South Georgia voted to support state constitutional amendments on marriage. Virginia Conference opposed the Virginia Marriage Affirmation Act, and Detroit Conference stated that marriage should be between a man and a woman. In a related issue, Kansas East expressed its disagreement with the General Conference position on homosexuality, while Mississippi affirmed it. California-Nevada said it would continue its efforts toward full inclusion. Illinois Great Rivers decided to table all motions containing the words "homosexual" or "heterosexual." West Michigan urged church leaders to denounce and report hate crimes toward individuals based on sexual orientation. The conference also urged prayer and study on a variety of issues where there is disagreement within the church. 

- August 20, 2004 Umnewscope.

+ UM Worship and Attendance Figures Continue to Drop

The UMC in the United States is continuing its slow decline in membership and worship attendance. With 62 of 63 conferences reporting, membership at the end of 2003 has declined by approximately 60,000 persons, or 0.7%, from the year before. Average attendance at the principal worship service declined by about 60,000 persons, or 2% (these are un-audited figures representing 61 conferences). Fifteen conferences reported a growth in membership with North Georgia Conference reporting a 1.64% increase, or 5,399 persons, though worship attendance within the conference declined by 0.05%. The largest percentage decline in membership

(6.05% or 3,895 persons) was reported by the Wyoming Conference, covering parts of New York and Pennsylvania. In order of total membership, the top three conferences are Virginia (342,106), North Georgia (333,664), and Florida (329,018). West Ohio, with a 6,767-member drop to 243,888, declined to seventh in membership, behind Oklahoma (248,364). Kansas East Conference did not report membership or attendance information.  - August 19, 2004 Umnewscope.

+ Allegations of Racism Arise Amid Conferencing, Acts of Repentance

 While delegates to the 2004 Southeastern Jurisdictional Conference celebrated the [episcopal] elections, some were also left hurt by proceedings they felt were unjust and racist [despite the election of a Black man as bishop]. Geraldine McClellan, a clergy member of the Florida delegation to the July 14-17 session, said racism was blatant at the conference, both in the balloting and in the way delegates interacted with each other. Referring to the record 34 ballots taken to elect the slate of six bishops, McClellan said the balloting went on so long "for one reason--the SEJ refuses to elect a qualified, visionary African American woman." Roger Hopson, Memphis Conference's director of connectional ministries and a Memphis delegation member, said he didn't think the racism was conscious and believes it came out of a rush to get through the process. "The great majority of Euro-Americans weren't consciously trying to keep African Americans out," he said. "For the majority, I think it was unconscious racism. We are so programmed to think of only one [minority] and one [woman]. There were too many competent African Americans to elect only one. [Note: As one who was there and witnessed the whole process, there were several issues at play. Since we really do need to address what happened, it did seem apparent late in the voting after five bishops had been elected - to include Hope Morgan Ward as the first nominee elected and later a Black candidate - that a group was determined to elect a second female as bishop. Three very qualified men (one a Native-American) were considered, two being close to election during several ballotings but could never muster the required number of votes. After one of the men had declined precipitously in the voting, it was discovered that false information had been spread about him. Rev. Arnetta Beverly did come close several times. Finally, late on Friday night, the sixth and final candidate – a female – was elected. I was very disappointed by the process during the latter stages. It really is extremely sad when the gender or ethnicity of a person is the primary factor in the decision; why shouldn’t qualification be the primary goal?]

- August 6, 2004 Umnewscope, With contributions from Florida Conference delegate Michael Wacht

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The world appears very little to a soul that contemplates the greatness of God. My business is to remain in the presence of God.

- Brother Lawrence

Global Outlook

We can learn nothing of the gospel except by feeling its truths.

There are some sciences that may be learned by the head,

the science of Christ crucified can only be learned by the heart.

- Charles Haddon Spurgeon

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Cuba. Sent: Thursday, July 01, 2004 9:40 AM

"My address will stay the same for church interests. But also know that I'm a deployed Army Reserve chaplain stationed in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. We are praying in earnest for all the things you mentioned and request your prayers for our work here. Were taking quite a beating in the media and can't respond in any way. Just know that were "doing the right thing" and that [a] United Methodist chaplain assists here seeking justice, being merciful, and walking humbly with our God.

- Chaplain Kent Svendsen, JTF-GTMO (Chaplain Section), APO AE 09360


+ I don't know about the rest of you, but I have watched and listened with deep interest as the new Iraqi government official have been making statements about the kind of government they desire, and what they hope to do in their respective positions of responsibility. I hope we will continue to cover that whole process of transition with prayer--a lot depends of what happens in that country from this point forward. Having a functioning democracy (Israel currently being the only one) in that part of the world could have enormous implications for Christians--not only in Iraq but in other Islamic countries as well. Thanks!

- Received by e-mail; On Thu, 1 Jul 2004 08:40:54 -0400.

Nigeria. His Eminence Sunday Mbang, prelate of the Methodist Church of Nigeria and chairperson of the World Methodist Council, is calling on all Methodists to join the International Day of Prayer for Peace on Sept. 21. The observance is the World Council of Churches' effort to coordinate with the International Day for Peace established in 1981 by the United Nations. Methodist leaders are asked to include prayers for peace in worship observances and prayer vigils on Sept. 21, as well as the Sundays before and after the International Day of Prayer for Peace. UM Women also is calling upon its membership to participate in group and individual prayer vigils and services on Sept. 21. -UMNS, as reported in Umnewscope, August 27, 2004.

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The very word "God" suggests care, kindness, goodness; and the idea of God in His infinity is infinite care, infinite kindness,

infinite goodness. We give God the name of good; it is only by shortening it that it becomes God.

Henry Ward Beecher