The Monthly Update

December  2002 Update


Bits and Pieces from across the United Methodist Church


Christ often uses the smallest tools to perform the largest task.

        As quoted in the November 2002 edition of “Lovelights Newsletter”

pub. by Mrs. Betty Linthicum

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Of Interest. Commentary: Is renewal occurring in the church?

A UMNS Commentary by the Rev. Riley B. Case

Could it be that the United Methodist Church is experiencing renewal? Consider: an analysis of the 2001 annual conference statistics reports indicates that the United Methodist Church in the United States is showing its most significant worship increase in more than 30 years.
     The reports are unofficial, and there will be adjustments and corrections yet to come (there always are), but at the moment, it appears that:
·     The Southeastern Jurisdiction is showing an attendance increase of more than 34,500.
·     The South Central Jurisdiction, an increase of about 14,000.
·     The Western Jurisdiction, an increase of 1,326.
·     The North Central Jurisdiction, an increase of about 2,000.
·     The Northeastern Jurisdiction, an increase of more than 1,000.

     We would do well to mark the significance of these statistics. We have, in recent years, lamented our continuing membership losses (as well we should). If we judge health solely by membership, the best we can speak of is a slowing rate of decline. Let's adjust our thinking. Church-growth people tell us the best indicator of church vitality is worship attendance.
     By this indicator, our United Methodist Church is turning the corner! Let's praise God! Actually, for the past 10 years, the worship attendance in the denomination has kept steady. While we have lost members, the number of people in worship has at least remained constant. We reported 3,478,894 average attendance in 1991 and 3,489,961 in 1999 (the last year for which we have official statistics).
     During the 1990s, we stopped the discouraging decline that had characterized our church since the 1960s. But now we claim something better than just "remaining even." Consider this statistic: in 1999, 17 of 61 annual conferences showed an attendance increase. In 2000, 25 of 61 annual conferences showed an attendance increase. In 2001, 44 of 59 conferences showed an attendance increase.
     Of course, much of this increase has been regional. Let's give credit where credit is due. The Southeastern Jurisdiction, with its 37,000 additional worshippers, added more attendance in 2001 than the total numbers of worshippers in the entire Pacific Northwest Annual Conference. From 1993 to 1999, the Southeastern and South Central jurisdictions added more than 100,000 new worshippers (while the other three jurisdictions all showed decline). There are now more United Methodists in either Georgia or North Carolina than in all the Western Jurisdiction. The two Southern jurisdictions are also home to the big churches. Florida has more churches with an attendance of over 1,000 (22) than all of the Northeastern, Western and North Central jurisdictions combined (20, according to 1999 statistics).
     Thanks to the Foundation for Evangelism, we have funded chairs of evangelism in our seminaries, and at the present time, 11 of the 13 United Methodist seminaries have those chairs filled. We have thought evangelism is important enough that we are now requiring a course in evangelism for every person seeking elder's orders.
     Our Board of Discipleship has encouraged programs like Disciple Bible Study, Christian Beliefs, Alpha, Emmaus and Witness.
     We have been willing to listen to people like Lyle Schaller, George Barna, Herb Miller and others to determine how to make our message attractive to non-believers.
     We have been willing (in some instances where it is appropriate) to try new music and worship styles; we have been willing to be part of a growing evangelical and charismatic renaissance across the nation (and the world).
     We have moved from "pluralism" in our doctrinal understanding to a new doctrinal statement that stresses "primacy of Scripture."

     We have sought to balance (at least on paper) our prophetic social witness with high personal moral standards, including a nuanced stand on abortion (which should not be considered "pro-choice") and a biblical stand on homosexuality.
     We are back again in the church-planting business, and we have been blessed with strong, and in many cases evangelical, leadership in these and other fast-growing churches.
     Is this good news just wishful thinking? Do the statistics simply represent a one-year bump, perhaps the result of 9-11? The next few years will tell for sure. In the meantime, we rejoice in what God is doing in the United Methodist Church.
[Note: Dr. Riley Case is a member of the North Indiana Annual Conference.]

- The Hoosier United Methodist News as reported by the United Methodist News Service

       (UMNS); Tim Tanton; Nashville, Tenn.; 10-71BP{534}; Nov. 19, 2002.

(UM) General Board of Global Ministries (GBGM).

+ Mission agency adds voice to concern over Iraq
 STAMFORD, Conn. - The United Methodist Board of Global Ministries has added its voice to denominational groups concerned about the threat of war with Iraq. "We stand with churches throughout the world who are speaking out against war," said the Board of Global Ministries' resolution on Iraq. "We pray especially for the people of Iraq and stand in solidarity with all whose lives are at risk from war." Church members are urged to contact all governments and express opposition to the use of pre-emptive military strikes; call upon the Iraqi government
to allow U.N. weapon inspectors back into that country; and call for the immediate lifting of all economic sanctions against Iraq.

- UMNS; Linda Bloom; New York; 10-21-71B{491}; Oct. 25, 2002.

+ Budget woes continue to plague mission agency
Despite severe cuts to staff and programs, the United Methodist Board of Global Ministries continues to struggle with its finances. In his report during the Oct. 21-24 annual meeting, Board Treasurer Stephen Feerrar summarized the decline in assets and outlined challenges for 2003, including constraints on cash flow, the need for ongoing cost containment and the importance of future financial development for program initiatives. Feerrar said he struggled with the fact that the denomination gives less than $4 per member to its international mission agency and seems inclined to reduce that figure even further. As he had in his report last spring, Feerrar showed directors how the downward financial spiral occurred for general board funds, excluding funds of the Women's Division and Health and Relief division. Finance committee minutes from the April 2000 board meeting forecast that the agency's unrestricted funds would be reduced from $128 million to $34.6 million by 2004. In reality, the unrestricted net assets had nearly dropped to that level by August 2002. [Note: This information does not portray the complete financial picture.]

-          UMNS; Linda Bloom; New York; 10-21-71B{492}; Oct. 25, 2002.



The Good Stuff. Sniper’s Arrest is the Answer to Truck Driver’s Prayers  
A truck driver who is just five runs away from retirement had a prayer meeting last week with 50 other drivers, just 20 miles from the spot where the arrest took place. The drivers met to pray that the sniper would be caught. "We knew the prayer was going to be answered. One time or another. That's the way we believe." Driver Ron Lantz left Wilmington, Delaware last night and pulled into the rest area at Myersville and spotted the suspect's car immediately. When he mentioned it to another driver on his radio the man asked, "What are we going to do?" "I said I'm going to call 9-1-1. So I called." The 15 minute wait was a long one, Lantz admitted, and during the wait, the drivers worked together to block the exit to the rest stop.

     The snipers killed 10 and wounded 3 around our nation's capital over the past three weeks, leaving the entire region in a state of terror.
     Does Lantz want to be called a hero? The Presidential Prayer Team would call him a man of character, because in his words, "I just want people to think what I did is what I should have done. I am no hero at this, no hero whatsoever. I don't even want to be [thought] of as a hero."   

- E-mail from the Presidential Prayer Team, October 25, 2002. 


(UM) Judicial Council. Judicial Council decisions carry added concurrence, dissent
BALTIMORE - The fall session of the United Methodist Church's equivalent of the U.S. Supreme Court will perhaps be most remembered for the number and content of concurring and dissenting opinions filed on a docket of 25 items rather than the actual content of some of the decisions. Both dissenting and concurring opinions were filed on two docket items related to whether or not an annual conference's clergy session (formerly called executive session) has the authority to ask the council for declaratory decisions without  the vote of the full conference session, including lay delegates.
     One such case originated in the California-Pacific Annual Conference. Its 2002 clergy session asked for a declaratory decision on whether a bishop and district superintendents are permitted to vote in an administrative hearing about placing clergyperson on involuntary leave of absence. The council decided that the bishop and district superintendents "shall not participate as voting members" and may not be present before and after the hearing has concluded prior to the issuing of the decision. "To do so would violate fair process," the council said in its decision.
     The other case came from the Illinois Great Rivers Annual Conference. There, the clergy session of the conference perceived a potential conflict between two paragraphs of the church's rulebook. The session asked the Judicial Council to decide if an administrative complaint must contain the words "administrative complaint" to be valid.  The council said the two paragraphs are not in conflict.

     In both cases, a concurring opinion was signed by four members of the council: the Rev. Keith Boyette, the Rev. C. Rex Bevins, the Rev. John G. Corry and James W. Holsinger. In their concurrence for the Illinois Great Rivers case, they said, "The Judicial Council has jurisdiction in this matter ... because the request for declaratory decision was made by the clergy session during its meeting on matters solely with the province of the clergy session and ... constituted an action for and on behalf of the annual conference."  Sally Curtis AsKew, Mary A. Daffin, Sally Brown Geis and the Rev. Larry Pickens signed a dissenting opinion, adding "The Judicial Council does not have jurisdiction ... when the request comes from the clergy session only

     The council agreed with the bishop's decision of law in the East Ohio Annual Conference, where a member of the conference asked at the 2002 session if the substitution in the 2001 ordination service of the words "in the name of the Triune God" for the words "in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit" was in violation of the church's rules. The



council ruled that it does not have jurisdiction in such cases, but five members attached a concurring opinion adding that the substitution, although used in many United Methodist worship services, "is not language which the General Conference has approved for the consecration of bishops, the ordination of elders and deacons, the consecration of diaconal ministers and the commissioning of deaconesses and missionaries." Signing the opinion were Holsinger, Bevins, Boyette, Corry and Daffin.
     On an entirely different matter from the East Ohio Annual Conference, the council agreed with Bishop Jonathan L. Keaton that a question about using interest generated from capital raised for funding pre-1982 pension liability to fund health care costs, as raised in the 2002 session, is moot. Again a concurring opinion was written delving into the "significant issues raised by the precedent that has been set ... regarding the use of funds raised to pay pre-1982 pension obligations." The opinion, signed by Pickens and Boyette, cites earlier council decisions noting that it is appropriate for the conference to use funds from its capital funds drive "to provide for
pre-1982 pension obligations and any reserves needed to assure that the obligations will be met.

     Council member Sally Brown Geis, who is from the Denver Area, recused herself from the three cases originating in the Rocky Mountain Annual Conference. Bishop Warner H. Brown Jr.'s responses to questions of law about the presentation and publication of the annual conference budget drew mixed support from the council, affirming one and not affirming two others. The council ruled that a conference is not required to publish its annual budget in its conference journal, but "best practices would suggest that it do so."

     "Bishop Edward W. Paup is not affirmed in his decision of law and is directed to answer the questions that were posed to him" during the regular session of the Alaska Missionary Conference, the council has decided. He is to submit his answers to the conference journal and to the Judicial Council within 90 days of the publication of the decision.
     Cases deferred until spring 2003 include a request from the General Council on Finance and Administration for a declaratory decision relating to the number of bishops assigned to each jurisdiction, a review of the Virginia Conference bishop's decision of law related to clergy retiree health plan eligibility and consideration of the bishop's decisions of law regarding the West Virginia Conference plan for pension and health care funding. A related question in the West Virginia case was determined to be a parliamentary ruling and out of the council's jurisdiction. The council plans to meet in Fort Worth either just after or just before the Legal Forum in April.

- UMNS; Joretta Purdue; Washington; 10-71B{500}; Oct. 29, 2002.


(UM) Youth Ministry Organization (NYMO)

+ Weekend of worship helps young people hear God's call
CHICAGO - The O'Hare Hyatt Regency Hotel was rocked by shouts of praise as 1,400 high school and college students considering ordained ministry met for Exploration 2002. The biennial event is a weekend of worship, study, prayer and small-group discussions designed to assist youth and young adults who might be sensing God's call or wondering about ministry in the United Methodist Church. The denomination's Board of Higher Education and Ministry sponsored the Nov. 15-17 gathering. Opening worship began with the energy of the praise and worship team led by the Rev. Cynthia Wilson-Hollins, pastor of music, worship and communication at Ben Hill United Methodist Church in Atlanta. She sang "Calling My Name," a song with lyrics and rhythms punctuating the conference's theme: "Is God Calling You?"

     The Nov. 16 evening worship included a sermon by Iowa Area Bishop Gregory Palmer. Taking his text from the biblical story of Samuel and Eli in 1 Samuel, he encouraged the students to think seriously about their call and urged, "Don't say, 'Speak Lord,' if you're not ready to go."


     Preaching at the Nov. 17 closing service, the Rev. Grant Hagiya, of the California-Pacific Annual Conference told the young people what they need for ministry. "You don't need a 1,600 score on your SAT or a 5.0 GPA to be in ministry," he said. Smiling, he continued, "What you do need is your humanity, to get in touch with who you are as a human being, as a person and as a child of God." He told students to approach the church in humility, and the church would welcome them. [Note: Shouldn’t God’s call on one’s life be a factor, and shouldn’t the students approach God rather than the “church” in a spirit of humility?]
        - UMNS, by Pamela Crosby; Kathy Gilbert; Nashville, Tenn;10-71BP{541}; Nov. 22, 2002.

+ Youth Jam brings life-changing experience to 3,000
AKRON, Ohio - Amid the stage lights, smoke machine and thumping bass, lives were changed. And that was the point at Youth Jam, which drew 3,000 youth and youth leaders to the John S. Knight Center in Akron Nov. 15-17. Sponsored by the East Ohio Conference on Youth Ministries, Youth Jam is a yearly event that began in 1991 as a way to bring young people together for workshops and Christian entertainment. The 2002 event was sold out.  
     The Youth Jam is "a model of what youth events can be," Kara Lassen Oliver, an executive with the United Methodist Youth Organization in Nashville, Tenn. said, noting that it has been used as an example for national-level youth gatherings. Powerful preaching by the Rev. Stephen Handy culminated in an altar call that drew hundreds of youth to the front of the stage. Handy, assistant pastor of Gordon Memorial United Methodist Church in Nashville, challenged the youth to make their commitment to Christ "not a memory but a lifestyle."
     The weekend was filled with concerts, workshops and worship
  - UMNS, By Kay Panovec and Matthew Laferty; Nashville, Tenn;10-71BP{540}; Nov. 21, 2002.

Women's Issues.  Reform of the Women’s Division
he Good News web site has launched a new web site in connection with RENEW called “Call4Reform.” This site is intended to seek renewal in the women's ministries of the United Methodist Church. The Call for Reform web site is a gathering place for women of the United Methodist Church who seek to love and serve God together. We believe we are called to:

(1) Lift up Christ and make sharing the gospel our mission focus,

(2) Reform and reorganize the Women's Division so that it is accountable to the whole church,

(3) End unbiblical advocacy of radical feminist theology, unrestricted abortion, and homosexual


(4) Offer real, local choice for an alternative women's ministry or UMW, or both; Discontinue undesignated pledge to mission and put designated giving in its place.

- Source: E-mail received containing comments from Dr. James Heidinger. 

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Satan never fears the Christian whose Bible is covered with dust.

- The Navigators’ Daily Walk, December 30/31, 1993


Global Outlook


Do what you can with what you have, where you are.

- Theodore Roosevelt

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United Methodists accept new mission churches in three countries
Churches in Cambodia, Honduras and the Cote d'Ivoire have been formally approved as "mission



churches" by the United Methodist Board of Global Ministries. The fledgling congregations in Cambodia and Honduras have sprung from the mission agency's work in those countries. But the Protestant Methodist Church of Cote d'Ivoire (Ivory Coast) is an autonomous, 1.4 million-member Methodist communion that grew out of the British Methodist tradition. Methodists in that French-speaking West African country are divided into three districts - Grand Bassam, Dabou and Abidjan - and the two missionary districts of Bouake and Daloa.

- UMNS; Linda Bloom; New York; 10-21-71B{497}; Oct. 29, 2002.


The National Council of Churches (NCC).

Working through the United Nations Security Council, President Bush and Congress should do everything possible - short of going to war - to ensure that Iraq complies with U.N. mandates, U.S. religious leaders say. Delegates to the National Council of Churches' General Assembly in Tampa, Fla., also urged the U.S. government to use the context of the United Nations to play an active role "in working toward a peaceful and just resolution of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict."
Both issues were part of a resolution, "After September 11, 2001: Public Policy Considerations for the United States of America," adopted unanimously by delegates Nov. 16. The ecumenical organization represents 36 Protestant, Orthodox and Anglican member communions, including the United Methodist Church.
     But delegates also expressed concern about the rise of militarism and escalation of violence during the past year and the tendency to divide people into camps of good and evil. "Demonizing adversaries of enemies denies their basic humanity and contradicts Christians' beliefs in the dignity and worth of each person as a child of God," they stated. The loss of civil liberties and U.S. efforts to pursue economic and political goals in unilateral fashion also were concerns.
     Besides working through the United Nations on the Iraq and Israeli-Palestinian conflict, Bush and Congress are urged to pay the U.S. arrears to the United Nations.
     Member communions are encouraged to participate in the World Council of Churches' Decade to Overcome Violence and to invite overseas partners to help interpret for U.S. churches the consequences of the "war on terrorism" in other places.
     In a Nov. 15 keynote address, Tarek Mitri, an Orthodox Christian from Lebanon and World Council of Churches staff executive, warned against pitting "Islam" and "the West" against each other, noting that they "are not two monolithic blocks confronting each other." Tracing the history of Christian-Muslim relations through the centuries and beyond the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, he explained that terrorist violence does not reflect traditional Islamic values but rather a loss of those values. Both Christians and Muslims, he said, can uphold their own religious values and ideals by taking a stand in solidarity with victims of oppression and exclusion. Promoting human rights for both Muslim majorities and Christian minorities in certain countries, he added, helps safeguard those minorities.  [Note: As stated in the November “Update” letter, these individuals and agencies do not have an adequate understanding of international relations. The
NCC, The World  Council of Churches, and the leaders of our denomination do not have a good record in public political advocacy in the area of international relations. Again, it must be stated that the members of the NCC have a record of decline in their denominations. Perhaps it would be best if they got their own “houses in order” before presuming to advise the President on how to best run the country.]

- UMNS; Linda Bloom; New York; 10-21-71B{536}; Nov. 20, 2002.
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Have a belief in yourself that is bigger than anyone's disbelief.  - August Wilson

As quoted from Chicken Soup for the Preteen Soul, p. 16