The Monthly Update

December 2005

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ:

Each December, we make our annual request for contributions. We ask that each of you pray and seek the Lord's leading as to how you might support the ministry of Concerned Methodists. We believe that we make the most efficient use possible of the money you entrust to our work. Since we have no paid employees, we are able to translate the maximum amount of donations into our ministry of informing people about what is happening within our United Methodist Church.

We would ask you to come alongside us both prayerfully and financially. We appreciate so much your standing with us in the mission that we believe the Lord has called us to. May we ask for your continued help through your gifts and your prayers?

It is amazing how some "small thing" can have far-reaching results. Consider that

- In 1855 a Sunday School teacher, a Mr. Kimball, led a Boston shoe clerk to give his life to Christ.

- The clerk Dwight L. Moody awakened evangelistic zeal in the heart of Fredrick B. Meyer, pastor of a small church.

- F. B. Meyer, preaching to an American college campus, brought to Christ a student named J. Wilbur Chapman.

- J. Wilbur Chapman, engaged in YMCA work, employed a former baseball player, Billy Sunday, to do evangelistic work.

- Billy Sunday held a revival in Charlotte, North Carolina.

- A group of local men were so enthusiastic afterward that they planned another campaign bringing Mordecai Hamm to Charlotte to preach. During Mordecai Hamm's revival, a young man named Billy Graham heard the Gospel and yielded his life to Christ.

Only eternity will reveal the tremendous impact of that one Sunday school teacher, Mr. Kimball, who invested his life in the life of someone else.

From all of us here, we wish you the very best during this Christmas and throughout the coming year.

In His service,

Allen O. Morris,

Executive Director


"Believing in the ministry of Concerned Methodists, I will":

__________  Make a "Faith-Promise" of $_________ per month.

__________  Send a one-time contribution of $ ____________.

__________  Promise to pray for the work of Concerned Methodists.


December 2005 Update

Bits and Pieces from across the United Methodist Church

Character may be manifested in the great moments, but it is made in the small ones.
  Phillip Brooks

*      *       *      *           *

Of Interest.

+ One of America's best-known and loved preachers of the gospel has died. Dr. Adrian Rogers -- recently retired pastor of Bellevue Baptist Church in Memphis, and host of the program Love Worth Finding -- died overnight. He was recently hospitalized after complications arose in connection with his battle against cancer. Along with being a pastor and Christian broadcaster, Dr. Rogers is credited with leading the battle to ensure the Southern Baptist Convention held to its conservative biblical roots. An announcement on the Bellevue website today declares that Pastor Rogers "fought the good fight and finished the course." His funeral will be held at his home church on Thursday evening. He was 74.
 - Fred Jackson, AgapePress, November 15, 2005.

+ After 86 years of jointly producing the North Carolina Christian Advocate,North Carolina and Western North Carolina conferences will no longer publish the paper. Throughout its 150 years, the paper has experienced name changes and ceased publication because of war, disagreement, and financial problems; it has been produced separately and jointly by the conferences at various times. The latest decision is rooted in financial shortfalls, the conferences said. North Carolina Conference will continue to publish a paper, possibly under the same name, and is considering an online paper. Western North Carolina is considering a separate publication or expanded information online.
 - UMNewscope, November 25, 2005.

+ Michael E. Livingston, a clergyman in the Presbyterian Church (USA) and executive director of the International Council of Community Churches, was installed as president of the National Council of Churches on Nov. 10.
- UMNewscope, November 25, 2005.

+ Newdow Files Suit To Take National Motto Off Currency, Tells ACLU meeting "In God We Trust" must go.

Michael Newdow, who has already filed a suit to take "under God" out of the Pledge of Allegiance, is now suing to remove our national motto from our currency. He told the ACLU of Oklahoma that the national motto on U.S. currency is a violation of the separation of church and state. He is offended because he is an atheist. He wants to use the Federal courts to make his atheism the official religion of America. Newdow filed in the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals which recently ruled that judges, not parents, have the final say in what will be taught school children concerning sex education. These same liberal judges supported Newdow and ruled that the phrase "under God" in the Pledge of Allegiance was unconstitutional. That suit was dismissed due to a technicality so Newdow sued again. The 9th U.S. Circuit is expected to agree with Newdow. The case will then go to the U.S. Supreme Court for final action.
- American Family Association; received by E-mail; 11/14/2005

+...Some members of Congress charge that proposed Air Force guidelines would restrict service members' rights of religious expression. The Air Force unveiled an interim set of rules in August after claims that senior officers and cadets were imposing Christianity on others at the Air Force Academy. The guidelines generally discourage public prayer. But in a letter to President Bush, Kansas Senator Sam Brownback says, "Freedom of religion as protected in the U.S. Constitution does not require the removal of all religion from public settings." In a separate letter to the Secretary of the Air Force, 35 House members charge that: "The Air Force leadership has reacted to a small problem at the Air Force Academy by creating a different set of problems in these guidelines."
 - AP, as reported in AgapePress, November 15, 2005.

(UM) Bishops.

Bishops elect Huie president, Palmer president-designate

Bishop Janice Riggle Huie of Texas will take office as president of the United Methodist Council of Bishops during a milestone year in which the church marks the 50th anniversary of full clergy rights for women. The council elected Huie as its next president and Bishop Gregory V. Palmer of Iowa as president-designate, effective in May. Huie, 58, will succeed Bishop Peter D. Weaver of the Boston Area as president for a two-year term. Palmer, 51, is in line to succeed her. Palmer and Huie were elected during the council's Oct. 30-Nov. 4 meeting in Lake Junaluska. Though the leadership change occurs in May, a formal ceremony probably won't be held until the full council meets again in fall 2006. The bishops are forgoing their regular spring meeting because their fall gathering will be in Mozambique.
- By Tim Tanton, UMNS #625; Nov. 7, 2005.

+ United Methodist bishops affirm church membership open to all

[Editorial comment. This is extremely troubling in its entirety. This evades the central question, "Is the practice of homosexuality a sin?" The Book of Discipline and more importantly the Bible have spoken on this. The United Methodist Hymnal provision for receiving new members and stated under the services of "Reception into the United Methodist Church" and "Reception into a local Congregation" starting on page 45 have the following question found on page 46, "Do you truly and earnestly repent of your sins?" with the expected answer of "I do." How can we expect to be able to receive new members with integrity if we overlook this obvious conflict with homosexual practice? It is also not just coincidental that Bishop Huie was the presiding bishop at General Conference when the pro-homosexual demonstrators illegally invaded the conference floor in Pittsburgh. This entire situation is extremely problematic.]

Lake Junaluska, N.C. Homosexuality is not a barrier to membership in the United Methodist Church, the denomination's bishops said Nov. 2, two days after the church's top court supported a pastor's refusal to allow a gay man to join. "While pastors have the responsibility to discern readiness for membership, homosexuality is not a barrier," the bishops said in their pastoral letter to the people of the United Methodist Church.

In a ruling announced Oct. 31, the Judicial Council supported the Rev. Ed Johnson of South Hill (Va.) United Methodist Church in his decision not to allow a gay man to join his congregation. The man was a choir member and had been meeting with Johnson about transferring membership from another denomination. Johnson was placed on a yearlong involuntary leave of absence by fellow pastors during the clergy session of the Virginia Annual (regional) Conference last June. The Judicial Council upheld Johnson's action, citing the authority given to clergy by the church's Book of Discipline. The court ordered that the pastor be reinstated to his previous status.

The council spent at least four hours in closed session working on a statement responding to the ruling. "With the Social Principles of the United Methodist Church, we affirm 'that God's grace is available to all, and we will seek to live together in Christian community,'" the bishops said, quoting from the Social Principles in the Book of Discipline. "'We implore families and churches not to reject or condemn lesbian and gay members and friends. We commit ourselves to be in ministry for and with all persons.' "We also affirm our Wesleyan practice that pastors are accountable to the bishop, superintendent and the clergy on matters of ministry and membership," the bishops said.

The Council of Bishops unanimously adopted the pastoral letter in closed session.

The announcement of the court's ruling caused "considerable conversation within the council," said Bishop Janice Riggle Huie, who led the seven-bishop writing team that worked on the statement. Huie oversees the church's Texas Annual (regional) Conference. "We wanted our response to be thoughtful, prayerful and to speak to the church," she said.

As the bishops worked on the statement, it became clear that there was unity within the council regarding the membership of gays in the United Methodist Church, she said. "I don't think it's going too far to say the council is of one mind that gay and lesbian people can be members of the United Methodist Church."

The Book of Discipline affirms homosexuals as people "of sacred worth." It also holds the practice of homosexuality incompatible with Christian teaching, and it bars the performance of same-sex unions by the church's clergy and in the church's sanctuaries.

The Council of Bishops comprises the top clergy leaders in the nearly 11 million-member United Methodist Church. The council has 69 active bishops and about 100 retired bishops from the United States, Africa, Europe and the Philippines.
- By Tim Tanton, United Methodist News Service (UMNS) #619; Nov. 3, 2005.


This is the statement approved by the Council of Bishops on Nov. 2.

              A Pastoral Letter to the People of The United Methodist Church From the Council of Bishops

By grace you have been saved through faith. -Ephesians 2:8

Grace to you from Jesus Christ who calls his church to welcome all people into the community of faith as it proclaims the Gospel.

The Judicial Council, our denomination's highest judicial authority, recently issued a decision regarding a pastor's refusing a gay man's request for membership in the church. In the case, this man was invited to join the choir at the United Methodist Church in the community. As he became more active in the choir and the church, he asked to transfer his membership from another denomination to The United Methodist Church. Because he is a practicing homosexual, the pastor refused to receive him into church membership. The Judicial Council upheld the pastor's refusal of membership.

While pastors have the responsibility to discern readiness for membership, homosexuality is not a barrier. With the Social Principles of The United Methodist Church we affirm:

 "that God's grace is available to all, and we will seek to live together in Christian community. We implore families and churches not to reject or condemn lesbian and gay members and friends. We commit ourselves to be in ministry for and with all persons." (Para. 161g, 2004 Book of Discipline of The United Methodist Church)

We also affirm our Wesleyan practice that pastors are accountable to the bishop, superintendent, and the clergy on matters of ministry and membership.

The United Methodist Church is committed to making disciples of Jesus Christ with all people. We, the bishops of the Church, uphold and affirm that the General Conference has clearly spoken through the denomination's Constitution on inclusiveness and justice for all as it relates to church membership:

 "The United Methodist Church acknowledges that all persons are of sacred worth.  All persons without regard to race, color, national origin, status, or economic condition, shall be eligible to attend its worship services, participate in its programs, receive the sacraments, upon baptism be admitted as baptized members, and upon taking the vows declaring the Christian faith, become professing members in any local church in the connection." (Article IV, Constitution of The United Methodist Church)

We believe the ministry of the local church, under the guidance of the Holy Spirit, is to help people accept and confess Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior. We call upon all United Methodist pastors and laity to make every congregation a community of hospitality.

Nov. 2, 2005

Lake Junaluska, N.C.

Bill Norton|
Director of Communications
NC Conference - UMC
PO Box 10955 / 1307 Glenwood Ave.
Raleigh, NC  27605


+  Methodist Pastor: Bishops Off-Base on Membership / Homosexuality Stance

The head of a United Methodist renewal group says he's troubled that the denomination's bishops have unanimously declared that homosexuality is not a barrier to church membership in the United Methodist Church. Pastor Jeff Switzer with the Mississippi Fellowship of United Methodist Evangelicals fears the bishops' letter leaves the door open for people to form their own impressions as to where the church stands. And while Switzer says church doors should be open to all individuals, he feels membership should not be given to individuals who are in active defiance of God's Word and the denomination's Book of Discipline. "That is not what our Book of Discipline clearly states," Switzer says emphatically in reference to the bishops' statement. "It seems the bishops just can't seem to unambiguously embrace what the Church has taught for 2,000 years, and to embrace what most United Methodists believe."

Switzer, who pastors Sandtown United Methodist Church in Philadelphia, Mississippi, is convinced the letter will only create more confusion in the denomination. He feels the bishops are attempting to speak with one voice -- "but they're struggling to do that," he says. "I know that a number of the bishops, especially in different parts of the country, will take this statement to their annual conferences and to their churches and to their pastors and say, 'You see? You can still do what you want to do,'" the Mississippi pastor states. Switzer says for some United Methodist bishops, the letter on homosexual membership was an act of defiance against the Judicial Council. And because of the bishops' statement, he predicts the ruling handed down two days earlier by the Judicial Council will have "minimal effect" on day-to-day practices or decisions at the local church level.

- By Jim Brown, AgapePress; November 9, 2005. The organization's website is: http://www.msfume.org/

+ 96 bishops decry 'unjust and immoral' situation in Iraq

[Editorial comment: This is a bit odd the good bishops in an earlier statement "Homosexuality is not a barrier to membership in the United Methodist Church" treating this practice as benign and ignoring moral aspects of it, and issues a statement opposing a war for the survival of this country and toppling a murderous dictator calling it "immoral"! One can only wonder what their concept of reality is. Is it any wonder that we have sustained decline in our denomination?]

Ninety-six United Methodist bishops have signed a statement repenting "of our complicity in what we believe to be the unjust and immoral invasion and occupation of Iraq." The signers include more than half of the denomination's active and retired bishops, both within the United States and in the Central Conferences outside the United States. Bishop Kenneth Carder, one of the signers, told United Methodist News Service on Nov. 11 that the statement had been nearly six weeks in the making. The statement confesses "our preoccupation with institutional enhancement and limited agendas while American men and women are sent to Iraq to kill and be killed, while thousands of Iraqi people needlessly suffer and die, while poverty increases and preventable diseases go untreated."

While the sacrifices of military personnel are valued, true security does not lie in the weapons of war, the bishops pointed out. The bishops committed to praying daily for the end of war in Iraq and all wars in general, reclaiming the idea of living "faithfully in the light of God's new creation" and pledging to peacemaking as an "integral component of our own Christian discipleship." They also called upon United Methodists to object to "solutions of war that conflict with the gospel message of self-emptying love" and work toward "unity in a world of diversity."

On Nov. 4, the Council of Bishops adopted a resolution calling on President George Bush to draw up a plan and timeline for withdrawing all U.S. forces from Iraq. Another statement on Iraq had been issued by the council a year and a half earlier. The resolution stated that "the continuing loss of Iraqi civilian lives, especially children, and the increasing death toll among United States and coalition military, grieves the heart of God." The bishops said the U.S. government's reasons for war - "the presumption of weapons of mass destruction and alleged connection between al-Qaida and Iraq" - have not been verified, and that the violence in Iraq has created a context for "gross violations of human rights of prisoners of war." [Note: This is an extremely unwise thing in for warfare telling the enemy when you will leave.]

In October, the United Methodist Board of Church and Society passed a resolution calling on the United States to withdraw its troops from Iraq. "As people of faith, we raise our voice in protest against the tragedy of the unjust war in Iraq," the resolution stated. "We urge the United States government to develop and implement a plan for the withdrawal of its troops. The U.S. invasion has set in motion a sequence of events which may plunge Iraq into civil war."

- UMNS #638; Nov. 11, 2005.

(UM) General Conference.

The 2012 General Conference will be held in Richmond, Va.; the Commission on General Conference made this decision during its meeting. The gathering of 1,000 delegates from the U.S., Europe, Africa and Asia will be held at the Richmond Convention Center, April 25-May 4, 2012. In addition to delegates, about 4,000 additional persons are expected to attend and participate in the conference. The General Conference is the United Methodist Church's top legislative gathering and meets every four years to consider changes to church law and to take positions on theological and social issues related to the church's work around the globe. The next conference will be April 23-May 2, 2008, in Forth Worth, Texas.

With more than 340,000 members, the Virginia Annual (regional) Conference is the largest in the U.S. There are more than 1,200 local churches served by nearly 1,800 clergy. It covers the entire state except for the southwestern corner, which is part of the Holston Annual Conference. Gail Murphy-Geiss of Centennial, Colo., chair of the Commission on the General Conference, said Richmond was chosen because of the strong United Methodist presence in the region, its convenient location for many U.S. travelers, and the city's easy-to-use convention facility.

One of the benefits of the 600,000 square foot convention center, she said, is the potential for holding worship in the nearby arena while plenary sessions take place in the large convention hall. There is a United Methodist church nearby, and all hotels for delegates and visitors should be within an eight-block radius. Janene Charbeneau, spokesperson for the Richmond Metropolitan Convention Center and Visitors Bureau, said the bureau has conservatively estimated the 2012 General Conference will add at least $12 million to the region's economy.

The site of the General Conference traditionally has rotated between each of the five U.S. jurisdictions of the church. The 2004 General Conference was held in Pittsburgh in the church's Northeastern Jurisdiction. In 2000, it was held in Cleveland in the North Central Jurisdiction; 1996 Denver, Western Jurisdiction; and in 1992, Louisville, Ken., Southeastern Jurisdiction.          -UMNS #655, Nashville, News media contact: Stephen Drachler, Nashville, Tenn.


It is never too late to be what you might have been. George Eliot

Whatever you are, be a good one. Abraham Lincoln


Global Outlook

China. An activist dedicated to exposing the truth about Communist China does not believe the State Department truly recognizes the threat posed by the Beijing regime. D.J. McGuire, president of the China e-Lobby, says he is pleased that in a meeting in the Chinese capital last month, U.S. Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld asked Chinese military officers why their government is expanding its military. "Secretary Rumsfeld has generally made it clear that he, at least in part, sympathizes with those of us who believe that greater vigilance must be maintained against Communist China," McGuire observes. But the activist says it is unfortunate that that guardedness no longer prevails with anyone in the State Department. John Bolton, who had been in the State Department, was "shipped off" to the United Nations, McGuire says, rather than being allowed to stay at his post in Washington. He says he is not happy with the outcome of that move -- a decision by the U.S. to go along with China's plan to give economic concessions to North Korea in exchange for Pyongyang supposedly beginning to dismantle its nuclear program.

- Chad Groening, as reported in AgapePress, November 15, 2005.

The Episcopal Church. 

+ 'Extinct' Episcopal Parish Refuses to Hand Over Keys to Property

An Episcopal congregation in Rochester, New York, is determined to hold on to its property -- despite being declared "extinct" by its diocese. Bishop Jack McKelvy with the Episcopal Diocese of Rochester recently declared All Saints Episcopal Church "extinct" because of its opposition to the denomination's homosexual rights agenda. But the attorney for the parish says it is "alive in Christ" -- and anything but extinct. While Bishop McKelvy wishes to take over the parish's property, the parish claims the diocese has no legal right to do so.

Attorney Raymond Dague, who will represent All Saints should the congregation be sued by the diocese, says McKelvey came down on the parish like a "SWAT team." "When the bishop came asking for the keys, we sent him packing with nothing but a handshake," the attorney explains. "We were very polite. He brought his chancellor, meaning his head lawyer, with him, and we shook hands, we exchanged business cards. "He asked for the keys to the church," Dague continues. "He wanted possession of it, he wanted to install his pastor there. And we politely told him, 'No, you're not going to do that.'"

Dague says the standard under New York law does not allow the parish to be declared "extinct," so he does not believe the diocese can seize the parish's property through civil recourse. And while the dispute may eventually be hashed out in court, the attorney says he hopes that never happens. "We're not going to sue the bishop," Dague says. "Will he sue us? Generally Christians are not supposed to be suing one another. I would hope that he would abide by that scriptural admonition -- but I am a little bit concerned because there was a very thinly veiled threat that a lawsuit may be coming. It's not coming from us."

The Episcopal bishop of Connecticut recently seized the property of an orthodox parish in Bristol. That parish, along with five other like-minded congregations, has since sued the diocese.
- By Jim Brown, AgapePress, November 28, 2005

 

+ A Virginia congregation says it has withdrawn from the Episcopal Church USA. South Riding Church is the first congregation to leave the Episcopal Diocese of Virginia after two years of conflict over the consecration of an openly gay bishop in New Hampshire. Rev. Phil Ashey says his church is now under the authority of the Anglican bishop of Uganda. The Episcopal Church is the U.S. branch of the worldwide Anglican church. But Episcopal Bishop Peter Lee of Virginia says he does not recognize South Riding's withdrawal. Lee says the bishop in Uganda has no authority in the Diocese of Virginia.
-AP, as compiled by Jody Brown; Commentary & News Briefs, AgapePress; November 17, 2005.

France.. A national security expert believes the rioting in Europe by Islamic teens must be viewed for what it is: a war for the free world. Frank Gaffney of The Center for Security Policy is warning the United States that it must take off the blinders and objectively view the European riots and what is at the heart of the unrest. "These Islamofacists, as I call them, are on the march in Europe today," he says. "They are torching the cities of France; they're beginning to move in other areas -- and they are heading our way as well." Gaffney expects the violence in Europe to expand throughout the world.
- Bill Fancher, as reported in AgapePress, November 15, 2005.

Venezuela. Venezuela's interior ministry has given Americans with the New Tribes Mission three months to leave areas where they've been working, according to an order published by the state-run news agency. President Hugo Chavez has accused New Tribes missionaries of destroying Indian cultures and spying for the CIA and foreign commercial interests. The Florida-based group, which has 160 missionaries and staff in Venezuela, has repeatedly denied accusations of wrongdoing in Venezuela and has urged Chavez to reconsider. New Tribes officials have said they are willing to open their camps to government observers to quell suspicions. Many Indian leaders have also defended the group. [AP]
- Compiled by Jody Brown; Commentary & News Briefs, AgapePress; November 16, 2005.

Iraq.

+ The producer of a new documentary on Saddam Hussein says there is no question that the deposed Iraqi dictator possessed weapons of mass destruction. The question, he says, should be: where did the WMDs go? Former real estate broker Brad L. Maaske interviewed dozens of Iraqis in producing his DVD Weapon of Mass Destruction: The Murderous Reign of Saddam Hussein. He says it is absurd that the American Left continues to get away with their claims that the former dictator did not possess WMDs. "There's interview after interview of people who say they saw truckloads of something going out through Syria and into the Bekaa Valley of Lebanon," he recalls. "And of course we've tried to track that as best we can. The U.S. military can't go into Syria; it can't go into Lebanon. But the question is, where did those weapons go?" Maaske says it does not take much to create a weapon of mass destruction. "There didn't have to be massive stockpiles of chemicals," he explains. "A few 55-gallon drums of a nerve gas could kill a million people if properly dispersed, so it's not that difficult for him to get rid of what he had." Maaske says U.S. officials discovered that more than one-third of the WMDs turned over by Libyan dictator Moammar Gadhafi came from Iraq. [Chad Groening]
- Compiled by Jody Brown; Commentary & News Briefs, AgapePress; November 16, 2005.

+ Some interesting information you won't hear on the News.

  • Did you know that 47 countries have reestablished their embassies in Iraq?

  • Did you know that the Iraqi government employs 1.2 million Iraqi people?

  • Did you know that 3100 schools have been renovated, 364 schools are under rehabilitation,   

  •  263 schools are now under construction and 38 new schools have been built in Iraq?

  • Did you know that Iraq's higher educational structure consists of 20 Universities, 46 institutes or colleges and 4 research centers?

  • Did you know that 25 Iraq students departed for the United States in January 2004 for the reestablished Fulbright program?

  • Did you know that the Iraqi Navy is operational?  They have five 100-foot patrol craft, 34 smaller vessels and a naval infantry regiment.

  • Did you know that Iraq's Air Force consists of three operation squadrons, nine reconnaissance and three US C-130 transport aircraft which operate day and night, and will soon add 16 UH-1 helicopters and four Bell jet rangers?

  • Did you know that Iraq has a counter-terrorist unit and a Commando Battalion?

  • Did you know that the Iraqi Police Service has over 55,000 fully trained and equipped police officers?

  • Did you know that there are 5 Police Academies in Iraq that produce over 3500 new officers each 8 weeks?

  • Did you know there are more than 1100 building projects going on in Iraq? They include 364 schools, 67 public

  • clinics, 15 hospitals,  83 railroad stations, 22 oil facilities, 93 water facilities and 69 electrical facilities.

  • Did you know that 96% of Iraqi children under the age of five have received the first two series of polio vaccinations?

  • Did you know that 4.3 million Iraqi children were enrolled in primary school by mid October?

  • Did you know that there are 1,192,000 cell phone subscribers in Iraq and phone use has gone up 158%?

  • Did you know that Iraq has an independent media that consists of 75 radio stations, 180 newspapers and 10 television stations?

  • Did you know that the Baghdad Stock Exchange opened in June of 2004 and that the Iraqi economy is BOOMING?

  • Did you know that two candidates in the Iraqi presidential election had a  televised debate recently?

The lack of accentuating the positive in Iraq serves only one purpose - it undermines the world's perception of the United States and our soldiers.                                                                                                                                                     - Received by e-mail.

Vietnam. Cure for the IDOP Holiday Blues.  A different kind of story needs to be told; the kind that a Vietnamese pastor known as Silas recently told. Local authorities warned that if his church continued to meet without a permit, he could expect to see trouble. "Be careful," one official told him.

"Watch out." This was a threat as much as a warning. In Vietnam, as in many other Communist (and some Islamic) countries, governments commonly deny or delay church permits, then jail Christians for meeting without a permit. Silas shot back: "I don't have to watch out or be careful; God will care for us." He went on to thank the official for the harassment and opposition that Vietnamese authorities had meted out, as it unified the country's Christians. "Your persecution has made us stronger," he told the officer. Moreover, the pastor told him that he loved him. "You can shut down our churches, jail us, torture us, it doesn't matter, because we'll still love you," he said. "We'll love you, because God loves you and wants to see you come to know Christ's salvation." Then he delivered the final, loving blowasking the official if he didn't feel badly about mistreating Christians. Silas told him he suspected it was tearing him up inside.

The official stalked away.

Late one night, he came back. When the pastor heard him knock on the door, he assumed he was going to be hauled off to jail. But the official's manner was more like that of Nicodemus visiting Jesus, the pastor said; he needed to talk. He was depressed. Silas invited him in, and in tears the officer told him how he did, indeed, feel badly about forcibly restraining Christians from worship. Most upsetting, though, was that he feared for his job if he did not beat and otherwise harm Christians. He himself felt mistreated at the office; peers who were lesser officers than he looked down their noses at him, advancing through the ranks by purchasing successively higher positions; the force was rife with such corruption. Silas told him that God had a sterling plan for his life, and that he would care for him and guide him if he would only follow his son, Jesus. Before the night was over, the official prayed to receive Jesus.

The next miracle was that the official advanced to a high position, without bribes. He advanced high enough to know when church raids were about to take place, so he could tip off Silas. "He would tell us on Saturday that the police were coming on Sunday morning, so they'd come and find nobody there," the pastor said. "Then we'd meet for worship in the afternoon."

These miracles, the pastor concluded, could not have happened without the prayers of believers worldwide. Many other oppressed believers tell of receiving supernatural consolation in the midst of their ordeals. Suffering Christians are actually protected, comforted, and rescued through our prayers. That's probably the best reason to pray during IDOP this year.
- It's not just about hearing sad stories and lamenting.  by Jeff M. Sellers; Christianity Today, November 16, 2005. Website: http://www.christianitytoday.com/ct/2005/146/32.0.html

 

Courage is the price that life exacts for granting peace. Amelia Earhart


Published by Concerned Methodists, P.O. Box 2864, Fayetteville, NC 28302. Tel. 910/488-4379; FAX: 910/488-5090

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