The Monthly Update

March 2005 Update

March 2005

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ:

At times it may seem as if we allocate "too much" attention to what is going on in Iraq, but we believe that the battle there and in Afghanistan are crucial in our war on terrorism. This is a fight that is every bit as important to the future of freedom in our country and around the world as those so-important battles in World War I and World War II. The elections recently held in that country testify to the need for what our courageous men and women are doing in that area of the world.

The Iraqi people are also to be commended for their bravery in showing up to vote. Make no mistake about it; what they did took courage. This is something that they had never done before, in addition to the threats that many of them faced. We all know of the random acts of terrorism that occurred as people were randomly shot and killed, and terrorists set of bombs at polling places. What some do not know is that many Iraqis were given to understand that if they voted, they would be followed home by someone who would then kill that person’s whole family. Despite all of this, the voting rate in that country was as high as the voting rate in our own country during a national election – yet we face no threats to our lives, not to speak of the lives of our families.

Indeed, we should be thankful for what the brave men and women in our armed forces are doing in the Middle East and around the world as for the freedom we enjoy.

This edition of the Monthly Update contains more information on Iraq as past issues have of matters important to our United Methodist Church.

We continue to be grateful for the record mailing of The Christian Methodist Newsletter, our website activity, and the continuing demand for our books and reports. Last night, I read one of the e-mails from a visitor asking for the Stewardship Update; I regretted having to tell him that we had completely sold out of that book

We also continue to be grateful for your continuing support for the ministry of Concerned Methodists in prayer and with your finances. In addition, if there are others whom you would like to receive The Christian Methodist Newsletter, please let us know and we shall be glad to put them on our mailing list.

In His service,

Allen O. Morris,

Executive Director

March 2005 Update

Bits and Pieces from across the United Methodist Church

To be persuasive, we must be believable; to be believable, we must be credible; to be credible, we must be truthful.

– Edward R. Murrow.

* * * * *

Of Interest.

+ U.S. Church Membership and Attendance Continues Its Decline

UM membership in the United States declined by more than 65,000 people from 2002 to 2003, according to the latest data available from the General Council on Finance and Administration (GCFA). The February issue of Background Data for Mission, published by the General Board of Global Ministries, analyzed this data by conferences along with statistics on worship and church school attendance. According to the report, every annual conference in the North Central, Northeast, and Western jurisdictions reported a decline in membership. Of the 13 annual conferences with membership growth, ten are in the Southeast. Meanwhile, seven annual conferences reported worship attendance growth. However, GBGM's Office of Research says some of these increases, along with some of the decreases, are due to reporting inconsistencies. The office's analysis claims only four annual conferences (Western Pennsylvania, Peninsula-Delaware,

Mississippi, and Alabama-West Florida) had actual increases.

  Church school attendance is less consistently reported than worship attendance. Nevertheless, three jurisdictions (Southeast, South Central, and Western) reported an increase in such attendance. Across the United States, an overall decline of 186 churches occurred, leaving 35,273 churches in 2003. Every jurisdiction reported a decline in the number of local churches. Average membership of local churches remains at 231, with attendance at 97. According to the report, half of U.S. churches have membership of 110 or less and an attendance of 51 or less. - UMNewscope, February 18, 2005.

+ Bit of History, Please - Bish or Cut Bait by Benjamin S. Sharpe Jr.

[Editor’s Note: Benjamin S. Sharpe is a former UMC ordained elder who has left the UMC and is now ordained in the Anglican Mission in America (AMIA) denomination. An outstanding young man, his leaving is a loss to the United Methodist Church.]


"The best lack all conviction, while the worst

are full of passionate intensity."

Those lines from Yeats' poem, "Second Coming," come to mind in the wake of the recently reported comments of United Methodist bishop, C. Joseph Sprague. Sprague made the news in the last week of November 1999 when he, along with a group of Chicago area religious leaders, went on record opposing Southern Baptist plans for an evangelistic effort in that city set for the summer of 2000. Responding to the Southern Baptist plans, the bishop remarked, "I'm always fearful when we in the Christian community move beyond the rightful claim that Jesus is decisive for us, to the presupposition that non-Christians...are outside God's plan for salvation... That smacks of a non-Jesus-like arrogance." According to the United Methodist News Service Sprague went on to assert that "Traditional proselytizing [evangelizing] would...create yet another potential for violence. (United Methodist News Service, Chicago religious leaders make plea against proselytizing, Nov. 30, 1999)"

Bishop Sprague's public statements referring to traditional Christian evangelism as arrogant and linking it with hate crimes brings up a question I have asked many times: Why does it seem that the farcical fringe element of the Council of Bishops has cornered the market on episcopal backbone?

Please forgive my choice of words. "Farcical" just seems appropriate when a United Methodist bishop says, in essence, "We don't mind the Southern Baptists coming to Chicago. We just don't want them to talk about Jesus while they're here." Doesn't that seem just a little bizarre? So I ask again, why are these peripheral bishops the only ones who seem willing to defy the herd mentality of the Council and valiantly take a principled, if misguided, stand?

Remember the Denver Fifteen? At the 1996 General Conference fifteen bishops of The United Methodist Church were willing to break ranks with their fellows, spurn the jealous god of collegiality, and passionately speak in opposition to The Book of Discipline's classical, biblical view of sexual morality. They were in error, but they were bold, courageous, and passionate in their cause. They were willing to appeal to what they regarded as a higher moral authority than The Book of Discipline, even if it was the fickle authority of experience.

Why is it that the bishops who seem to want to undermine the very Faith they are sworn to protect and transmit are the only ones who appear to be "full of passionate intensity" for their convictions? Although they frequently plead for the unity of the Church they seem to have no compunction about publicly reneging on the collective statements of the Council of Bishops, defying the spirit (if not the letter) of the Discipline, making schismatic statements, and teaching doctrines that separate us from the mainstream of the classical Christian faith. Conversely, why is it that the best among us – those who actually believe the apostolic faith they guard – seem, in the words of Yeats, to "lack all conviction?"

I realize that these reflections appear to present a rather stark, simplistic dichotomy. Yet, all I can do is observe and comment on what I see in our denominational press and the secular media regarding the position of the United Methodist bishops. Perhaps there are blazing firebrands among the traditionalists on the Council – but they are carefully hidden. Indeed, if there is a passionate bishop willing to stand alone against the rising tide of heterodoxy he or she* is practically invisible. We don't hear a peep from them in the United Methodist News Service or religion sections of our local newspapers.

When will an orthodox United Methodist bishop be consumed with such zeal for the living God in the face of destructive and false doctrine coming from the extreme Left of the Council, that s/he declares, "Collegiality be damned! Such teaching is rank heresy!"? Well, I'm not holding my breath. Not while the traditionalist, orthodox, and evangelical bishops seem more driven by a sentimental notion of collegiality than by a yearning to see a sanctified Church. Not while they say things like, "Bishop So-and-So is a deeply spiritual person. S/he is a person of good will with the best intentions." This is an appeal to sentiment, and does not deal with the fact that the hypothetical Bishop So-and-So denies the Nicene formulation of the two natures of Christ and has overtly rejected Christ's claim to be the Savior of the world.

"Deeply spiritual" is not the same as being a Christian disciple. There are plenty of neo-pagans who are deeply spiritual people of good will. They're nice. They have the best of intentions (whatever that means). They're just not Christian. Could it be that the same is true of certain bishops of The United Methodist Church? That's the question that someone on the Council of Bishops should be bold enough to ask about bishops such as C. Joseph Sprague. I don't mean that anyone should be gauche enough to inquire into the condition of the Bishop's soul or his eschatological destination. Heaven forbid! We haven't done that since the embarrassing days when we actually required Methodists to make a weekly account of their spiritual health to their Class Leader.

Rather, what I mean is that perhaps a colleague on the Council of Bishops ought to ask if Bishop Sprague is a Christian in the classical sense of the term as defined by the creeds and practices accepted by the Church down through the ages. For instance, is it problematic that Bishop Sprague apparently rejects the Church's claim that Jesus is the "only name given under heaven by which we must be saved (Acts 4:12)" and believes that such a claim, "smacks of un-Jesus-like arrogance?"

Should it concern us that Bishop Sprague has overtly renounced the Nicene formulation of the two natures of Jesus Christ in favor of the "christology from below? (Bishop C. Joseph Sprague in the Northern Illinois Reporter, May 1997) Does this place him outside the company of faithful witnesses to the apostolic Faith? Does the fact Bishop Sprague has admitted that, when a pastor, he performed marriage-like ceremonies for persons in homosexual relationships call his interpretation of Scripture and Tradition into question?

Does Bishop Sprague's teaching have more in common with Paul, Irenaeus, Athanasius, Augustine, John Wesley and Francis Asbury than Marcion, Arius, Pelagius, Friedrich Schleiermacher, or C.T. Russell?

I suppose it would be considered impolite, probably even "hateful" or "spiritually violent," to ask such questions in today's United Methodist Church. Instead, we are supposed to just "go along and get along." Indeed, that's just what the classical Christians on the Council of Bishops seem to be best at doing. Along these lines, I have heard the warnings of some of our conservative bishops who maintain that asking such questions and insisting upon proper teaching within the Church would endanger us of becoming doctrinaire. I am convinced that the real danger is not that we will become doctrinaire, but that Methodism acts like it is founded on a doctrine of air: tasteless, invisible and having little substance.

The traditionalists among the Council of Bishops should be very careful about congratulating themselves for the way they avoid disrupting the unity of the Council. Why? Because by appeasing their less orthodox colleagues they may, in fact, be violating the essence of the episcopal office. The duties of the episcopal office are clearly stated in The Book of Discipline. Among these duties, bishops of the Church are enjoined: "To guard, transmit, and proclaim, corporately and individually, the apostolic faith as it is expressed in Scripture and tradition, and, as they are led and endowed by the Spirit, to interpret that faith evangelically and prophetically. (Paragraph 415.3, The 1996 Book of Discipline)"

That certain bishops have ignored this solemn injunction and have opted to exchange the apostolic Faith in favor of their own designer theologies is irrefutable. However, what is not being said is that there are disturbing implications for those orthodox bishops who, for whatever reason, are accommodating their heterodox counterparts by refusing to publicly disavow theologically outrageous statements made by the likes of Sprague.

The traditionalist bishops fail "to guard, transmit, teach and proclaim" the apostolic faith when they leave unchallenged public statements from their colleagues who link evangelism to hate crimes, who are offended by the very notion of conversion, and who are embarrassed that Jesus claims to be the Savior of the world and not just of those who find him "decisive" within the Christian community. God does not call bishops to remain passive and silent in order to appease shepherds who bleat about unity while poisoning the fold with their toxic teachings. There is no biblical or disciplinary requirement that places the collegiality of the Council above contending for the faith once and for all delivered to the saints. Indeed, it is an immoral act – a sin of omission – for our theologically sound bishops to remain quiescent while their heterodox colleagues ravage the Church.

The good news is that the bishop who actually does, from the heart, what paragraph 415.3 of The Book of Discipline says will be marked by a passionate intensity and still be among those Yeats calls "the best." A bishop of passionate intensity for the apostolic faith may find himself or herself standing alone against the accommodationalist forces on the Council. He or she may lose the warm, fuzzy collegiality of his/her less orthodox fellows. Yet, standing for the Faith in the face of opposition from within and from outside the Church is a part of a bishop's job -- it's a part of "bishing." And, in the words of Albert Outler, it's time for our orthodox, traditional, biblically faithful episcopal leaders to "bish or cut bait."


*It should be noted that the UMC is similar to the Montanists, the sect with which Tertullian eventually identified.

- Source: The Voice; evangelical website for The Northern Illinois Conference;


The Good Stuff.

+ For the second year in a row, Florida-based Liberty Counsel has declared February 14 as a "Day of Purity." So, once again, young people across the United States made a public statement by celebrating sexual purity this Valentine's Day.

AgapePress, February 14, 2005.


The Christian relief organization Samaritan's Purse is helping provide new jobs for thousands hit hard by December's tsunami in south Asia. Workers from the ministry have been involved in the disaster response and recovery efforts from the outset. More details: - AgapePress, February 23, 2005.

Homosexuality. Stroud appeal hearing set for April 28

[Note: This is an issue decided over two thousand years ago. The fact that we are still wrangling with various aspects of it reflects negatively on our denomination. We need to accept biblical morality and do what God has called us to do.]

An April 28 hearing date has been set for the appeal of a former United Methodist clergywoman who lost her credentials after a church trial. The hearing for Beth Stroud will be 9 a.m. to noon at the Sheraton International Hotel on the grounds of Baltimore-Washington Airport. Stroud, who was serving as associate pastor of First United Methodist Church of Germantown in Philadelphia, was found guilty Dec. 2 of violating the denomination's prohibition of "self-avowed practicing homosexuals" in the ordained ministry. Since losing her clergy credentials, she has remained on staff at that church as a lay member. The December trial was conducted by the Eastern Pennsylvania Annual (regional) Conference, which is a part of the denomination's Northeastern Jurisdiction. The jurisdiction's committee on appeals will hear the appeal. The committee will meet in private on April 27 to consider questions for the hearing, said the Rev. William "Scott" Campbell, committee chairman and pastor of Harvard-Epworth United Methodist Church in Cambridge, Mass. Committee members already will have received briefs from Stroud and the conference as well as transcripts of the trial.

According to the United Methodist Book of Discipline, Paragraph 2715.7, "the appellate body shall determine two questions only: (a) Does the weight of the evidence sustain the charge or charges? (b) Were there such errors of church law as to vitiate the verdict and/or the penalty?"

The committee's clergy members hearing the appeal will be Campbell; the Rev. LaGretta Bjorn of Spring Valley, N.Y.; the Rev. Ronald McCauley of Buckhannon, W.Va.; and the Rev. John Topolewski of Owego, N.Y. Lay members will be Joy Wilcox of Etters, Pa., diaconal minister; Dale Dobbs of McVeytown, Pa., full-time local pastor; Julius Archibald of Plattsburgh, N.Y.; Sharon Bassett of Cicero, N.Y.; and N. Sharon Leatherman of Williamsport, Md.

- By Linda Bloom; United Methodist News Service (UMNS); New York {05097}; Feb. 16, 2005.

(UM) Judicial Council. Judicial Council's spring docket includes new pension plan

The United Methodist Church's highest court will hear 12 cases during its spring meeting, with topics as diverse as clergy benefits, handicapped accessibility in local churches and the Girl Scouts, meeting in Arlington, Va., just before the United Methodist Council of Bishops meets in the same location. The chancellors from the denomination's annual conferences will also hold their biannual United Methodist Legal Forum, and Judicial Council members and bishops have been invited to participate. The nine-member court will hear items from various annual conferences and an appeal of the Rev. Ngoy Daniel Mulunda Nyanga on actions taken by the West Congo Conference and the Central Conference of Africa regarding his ministerial credentials. His appeal initially went to the committee on appeals of the Central Congo Central Conference. Oral arguments have been requested in this case. The Judicial Council meets twice a year. Last October in Philadelphia, the council ruled on 16 docket items. - By Neill Caldwell; UMNS; Nashville {05109}; Feb. 22, 2005.

Women's Issues. The General Commission on the Status and Role of Women has developed four bulletin inserts in recognition of Women's History Month this March. In the late 1980s, the National Women's History Project petitioned the U.S. Congress to expand the national celebration from one week to the entire month of March. The celebration originally began as one day-March 8, 1908. That date is now observed as International Women's Day. [Note: When we separate ourselves into special groups, compete, and lobby for special recognition, we focus inward and lose the cohesion that has made our nation great. - UMNS; UMNewscope, February 25, 2005.

* * * * *

You get the best out of others when you give the best of yourself.

- God’s Little Devotional Journal for Teens, January 8th


Global Outlook

Large meetings are often used to share the blame. – Paul Foley

* * * * *


+ The Unborn Child Pain Awareness Act is moving steadily through the federal legislative process; however, the key sponsor of the bill is calling for more help. Kansas Republican Senator Sam Brownback says a key element in the passage of the bill is educating the public about the legislation, which mandates that all women who seek abortions 20 weeks or more after fertilization be informed that an unborn child suffers greatly during the procedure. Brownback points out that abortion involves "extraordinary pain for the child," and the anesthesia that may be given to the mother is not sufficient to anesthetize the child. "This bill" the senator explains, "would simply require that the mother be informed of the pain the child will experience and offered anesthesia for the child in going through this abortion. It does not eliminate or limit any abortion procedures. It really is about being humane." Brownback's bill currently has 33 co-sponsors in the Senate, and he believes there could be more if people would call their senators and voice support for the legislation.

- AgapePress, February 14, 2005.

+ The attorney general in Kansas says his office is investigating a report of a patient's death at an abortion clinic in Wichita. Attorney General Phill Kline held a news conference on Tuesday (February 22) to announce the investigation. Kline says a 19-year-old developmentally disabled woman from Texas died after receiving services at Women's Health Care Services, Inc., in Wichita. Kline says the man who owns the clinic is being sought. "The Texas attorney general and the State of Texas have issued a material witness subpoena to Dr. George Tiller, and our office has filed a complementary action in Sedgwick County District Court to give full faith and credit to the Texas subpoena," Kline said. "And it is my hope that the clinic complies with the Texas subpoena." Currently Tiller is refusing to appear, citing privacy matters about patients. Kline says he hopes this case will encourage Kansas Governor Kathleen Sebelius to approve a bill requiring abortion clinics to be licenses. Last year, Governor Sebelius vetoed the measure. - AgapePress, February 23, 2005.

Congo. David Kikomba Yemba, dean of the faculty of theology at Africa University in Zimbabwe, was elected bishop by the Congo Central Conference after a delay in voting. A large number of delegates had been stranded by a train derailment between Kamina and Kantanga. An air lift brought them to the site so they could participate in the election. Yemba succeeds Bishop Onema Fama as leader of the Central Congo Area, comprised of four annual conferences with a combined membership of 200,000 persons. Yemba has been moderator of the Faith and Order forum of the World Council of Churches and is currently vice president of the World Methodist Historical Commission.

- UMNewscope, February 18, 2005.

The Episcopal Church.

+ The treasurer of the Episcopal Church USA says giving by local dioceses to the denomination dropped roughly four million dollars last year. That is about a 12 percent decline in the first full year after the denomination confirmed its only openly homosexual bishop. Since New Hampshire Bishop V. Gene Robinson was confirmed in 2003, many Episcopalians have withheld or limited donations to the national church in protest. Some entire dioceses, including Pittsburgh and Dallas, have refused to send any money to the national church. - AgapePress, February 14, 2005.

The Evangelical Church of America (ELCA).

The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America this week will release its three-year study on sexuality, including recommendations on whether the church should change its policies on the blessing of homosexual unions and ordination of homosexual ministers. Clergy and lay leaders of the five million-member denomination will act on the proposals at their Churchwide Assembly in August. The Evangelical Lutherans currently have no official policy on blessing same-sex relationships. The denomination allows members who identify themselves as homosexual to be ordained but expects them to remain celibate. - AgapePress, January 11, 2005.


+ An e-Review Commentary, by the Rev. James Lewis

BAGHDAD, Iraq — The air was thick with tension as the Baghdad night fell Jan. 29, in anticipation of the long anticipated and, by some, feared election. The terrorists had threatened in words and heinous deeds, with posters, fliers and decrees, that those who vote would die and the streets would be covered in their blood. Coalition Forces had been working quietly in the background in the weeks leading up to this ominous day, sapping what resources of the terrorists they could. The enemies of democracy were being slowly whittled away, either being captured or killed by freedom's fight, yet painfully making themselves the all-consuming reality in the city. All indicators were the election would go forward and, as promised, drenched in the blood of brave voters. The Arab press throughout the region was grave, holding out little hope, but the voice of the people would finally be heard, and the end result would be a costly, if subdued, victory. Despite our best efforts, all expectations were that blood would indeed flow in abundance on election day, with vast numbers of potential voters staying away from the polls in a very real fear for their lives. In the classic tradition of war, this victory would not be without its cost.

Before morning's dawn, soothing calls to prayer echoed across the city, along with the harsh sound of explosions and scattered gunfire. And we waited.

The polling places, every one threatened with death and destruction, were anxiously manned by brave Iraqi's risking their own lives and the lives of loved ones by their mere presence. Yet, they were there, the sweat of fear beading on hopeful faces in the cool of the dawning morning. Yet, they were there. They heard the gunfire; they heard the explosions, some in the distance, some close at hand. Yet, they were there, standing their ground.

The voters came, first in a trickle. Most of the bullets and blasts were off their mark, only shaking the nerves, not touching the soul. Then, first blood was spilled early in the day, then more, and the story was the same across the city: Death would come to the voting line; the line would break; those unharmed bent to the wounded and maimed, cared for their hurts, then returned to the line to proudly, bravely cast their votes. The lines grew. Death would come again, but the story remained the same — step out of line to care for the wounded and maimed, get back into line to vote.

Fathers came carrying their children, braving the danger that they, too, could be a part of this historic event. The women came, especially from the north and the south, in numbers no one expected. Everyone proudly, even gleefully, waving fingers dipped in blue ink, the mark of courage. For a few, the blue fingers were the mark of death, as desperate terrorists tried in vain to stop the veritable tidal wave of Freedom. They came on foot, they came with children, and they came in wheelchairs or were carried. One old man was seen to kiss the ballot box before depositing his vote. Hands shaking in fear for their lives, they cast their votes, then beamed with the knowledge that, indeed, a new day was dawning.

Women went out courageously, leaving behind husbands too timid to vote. Dancing broke out in the streets. The people on the street pushed past flying explosives to grab terrorists and drag them to the police. Coalition forces looked on in satisfaction from a distance — their place was not on the front lines. Iraqi forces, Iraqi police, protected Iraqi voters in this historic Iraqi election. Coalition forces stayed in the background, lending confidence and occasional aid to freshly trained troops. Iraqi soldiers' blood was spilled protecting the Iraqi vote, as Coalition forces wept with resolve at the brave human blood splattered to cleanse the land from terrorist oppression. Coalition forces smiled inwardly in satisfaction — "THIS is why we came!"

The blood and death was real, and yet ... it was to be a day of miracles. The day being bathed in the prayers of the world prevented terrorists' hopes of streets being bathed in blood, for Death went away hungry this day. Death could have feasted on hundreds of souls, or more. Yet, less than 30 Iraqis died this day for their freedom. The war is not over, more death will come, yet their voice had been heard, not in frightened whispers, but in proud, ringing shouts, as millions cast their votes, with a nearly 70 percent voter turnout and some areas having more than 90 percent turning out to vote, refusing to be silenced anymore.

Thanks to countless prayers, thanks to brave souls throughout Iraq and from across the globe, the voice of freedom now rings more clearly across desert sands and to every corner

From Internet website: . Wacht is director of Florida United Methodist Communications and managing editor of e-Review Florida United

Methodist News Service. Lewis is a chaplain serving in the 111th Chaplain Detachment in Baghdad, Iraq.


+ A former official with the Israeli prime minister's office says there is feeling of optimism in the Jewish state about the victory of Mahmoud Abbas in this past weekend's Palestinian election. Victory Mordecai will soon be in the United States speaking to Christian groups about what Abbas' election means to the peace process. The author and lecturer says Israel hopes Abbas will be different then former PLO leader Yasser Arafat. "The optimism on the Jewish side is that maybe Mahmoud Abbas will be able to reign in the fanatic Moslem terrorists," Mordecai explains. "He got 62 percent of the vote, so actually the Palestinians are the pride of the Islamic world. They are the only ones who have their own kind of democracy." But Mordecai says Abbas, who is also knows as Abu Mazen, has made demands that are not acceptable to Israel. "Will the world crush Israel into going back to the borders of 1967? Should Israel take four million Palestinian refugees?" he asks. "Everybody understands Israel would be committing suicide [by doing that] because then the population balance would be in favor of the Moslems. And of course, giving them Jerusalem is something that no one in Israel would agree to." Mordecai says the key to success for Abbas will be if he is actually willing and able to reign in the terrorist attacks -- something Arafat refused to do. - AgapePress, January 11, 2005.


The Presbyterian Church U.S.A. has concluded a three-day conference designed to justify its decision to divest from companies that do business with Israel -- a nation the denomination's officials have called an "apartheid state."

More details: - AgapePress, February 14, 2005.

The National Council of Churches. A group of theologians convened by the National Council of Churches USA released an open letter Feb. 14 calling Christians to repent of "social and ecological sins" and to reject teachings that suggest humans are "called" to exploit the earth without care for how our behavior impacts the rest of God's creation. The statement, "God's Earth Is Sacred: An Open Letter to Church and Society in the United States," points out that there is both an environmental and a theological crisis to be addressed. Among the co-signers are three members of the faculty at UM-related institutions: Karen Baker-Fletcher, Perkins School of Theology; John B. Cobb Jr., Claremont School of Theology; and Jay McDaniel, Hendrix College. [Note: There is no mention of other, more-serious issues such as the persecution against Christians. This is symptomatic of the long history of misguided priorities exhibited by the NCC.]

- UMNewscope, February 25, 2005.

Sudan. Sudanese Church Leaders Meet to Consider Future

A meeting of Sudanese Christian leaders in Nairobi, Kenya, has ended with a warning that churches risk being marginalized if they cannot draw up a clear strategy following an agreement by the Sudanese government and rebels to end a long-running civil war. "Sudan is at the most dangerous stage now," said Mvume Dandala, a Methodist and chief executive of the Nairobi-based All Africa Conference of Churches, which hosted the two-day meeting that ended Feb. 8. "The churches must unite to fortify the peace." The 21-year-long civil war, in which the southern Sudanese who are predominantly Christian and followers of traditional religions, have struggled for autonomy from the mainly Islamic north… - UMNewscope, February 18, 2005.

The World Council of Churches (WCC). World council seeks new vision for new century

Members of the World Council of Churches' Central Committee want a new vision for a new century. Efforts to shape a new ecumenical vision, as well as confront the world's continuing crises, topped the agenda when the council's decision-making body met Feb. 15-22 in Geneva, Switzerland. It was the committee's last gathering before the World Council of Churches' 9th Assembly, set for Feb. 14-23, 2006, in Porto Alegre, Brazil.

Retooling the ecumenical vision for the new century is not only "a matter of structures" but also "a process of transformation," the Rev. Samuel Kobia, a Methodist pastor from Kenya, told the 150-member central committee in his first report as the organization's top executive. Such transformation, he added, "must be rooted in the conversion to the source of our lives and the life of all creation, the Triune God whom we confess together." Shaping a new vision also means streamlining the council's activities to better deal with new patterns of church life and an ever-changing world context. Part of the process is affirming the role of the Roman Catholic Church and the Pentecostal movement "at the forefront of the ecumenical movement in the 21st century," he said. "We also learned of significant work that is taking place with respect to engaging Pentecostals in dialogue, according to (UM) Rev. Larry Pickens." [Note: The WCC is in dire need of reform. They have an historical record of supporting left-leaning causes to the neglect of true Christian mission. - By Linda Bloom, UMNS; New York {05115}; Feb. 24, 2005. 

* * * * *

Everything I need to know about life, I learned from Noah's Ark...

One: Don't miss the boat.

Two: Remember that we are all in the same boat.

Three: Plan ahead. It wasn't raining when Noah built the Ark.

Four: Stay fit. When you're 600 years old, someone may ask you to do something really big.

Five: Don't listen to critics; just get on with the job that needs to be done.

Six: Build your future on high ground.

Seven: For safety's sake, travel in pairs.

Eight: Speed isn't always an advantage. The snails were on board with the cheetahs.

Nine: When you're stressed, float a while.

Ten: Remember, the Ark was built by amateurs; the Titanic by professionals.

Eleven: No matter the storm, when you are with God, there's always a rainbow waiting.

E-mail received from Wanda Metcalf.