The Monthly Update

November  2002 Update


Bits and Pieces from across the United Methodist Church


You can accomplish more in one hour with God than one lifetime without Him.

                                                                        - God's Little Devotional Book for Women

*           *           *           *           *

(UM) Bishops.

+ Bishop Timothy Whitaker. [Note: Bishop Whitaker offers refreshing honesty.]

LEESBURG -- Florida Conference Bishop Timothy Whitaker set a tone of honesty and apostolic vision for participants at the first gathering of the Florida Conference's Conference Table Aug. 28-29 at the Life Enrichment Center here. The Conference Table was approved at the 2002 Florida Annual Conference Event as a forum for discussing and discerning how the Florida Conference can fulfill its vision to make disciples of Jesus Christ. Whitaker's opening comments challenged participants to be honest in their assessment of the church today and free in visioning what the

church can become.  "Christendom has fallen apart," Whitaker said. "Much of the culture has freed itself from collusion with Christianity...and does not want to be aligned with any one religion. "The missionary church must witness to the kingdom of God in a culture of moral confusion, consumerism, militarism and ethnic hatred. Congregations do not stand alone, but must understand themselves as part of a larger missionary church."

     Whitaker believes the United Methodist connection is not effective in helping churches fulfill their missionary calling.  "The connection is an institutional structure, rather than a web of people in relationship for a common mission," he said.  "There is not a lot of connecting in

the connection." People in the connection need to embrace freedom and "surrender our

defensiveness," Whitaker said. ". . . This does not mean everything old must be discarded.  Freedom is a gift...we're going to have to give one another and..we're going to have to pray for."

     The church must also be focused on transformation rather than growth, Whitaker said.  "What is important is not growth, but it is transformation.  When a church is a healthy, living organism, it grows." The conference must begin to articulate expectations of its congregations and their members, Whitaker said.  "We are not providing Christian direction on how to love God and how to love our neighbors." Congregations should be considered missions, new, transforming, exploring or parish.  Missions and new congregations would be defined as they currently are.  Exploring congregations are those in the process of assessing their mission and future.  Transforming congregations are those in the process of transforming their mission and ministry.  Parish congregations are those participating in worship, pastoral care and some mission, but are not transforming themselves or their members. Whitaker said the conference must be in the process of developing clergy and lay leadership and facilitating better relationships between pastors and congregations.

     Calling clergy the "workforce-spiritual leaders in congregations," Whitaker said the conference must help them develop new skills for ministry, provide periodic brief sabbaticals and relief for spouses and children.  He also said the conference needs to seek new ways to work through conflicts in churches and provide for long-term ministry. The laity are "hungry to be confirmed as ministers and be employed in the adventure of mission in the world," he said. The role of the annual conference in equipping churches to be in ministry must change, Whitaker said.  "There are many resources available to local congregations . . . that don't need to be repeated by

the annual conference." Whitaker said the conference needs to re-examine the connectional giving system and how it funds its ministries.  He said the annual debate over funding campus ministry "shows we're not convinced the current method of delivery is best."

     "The CCOM [Conference Council on Ministries] does its budgeting expecting it will only get 60 percent of its budget," he said.  "This is not a healthy development."

                                                                        - Florida United Methodist Review, editor Michael Wacht.



+ Bishop Joseph Sprague. Methodist Minister Rebels Against Bishop's Heretical Statements

Conservative Leader Says 'No More' to Undesignated Giving to Local Church

A respected and well-known United Methodist minister in Mississippi says he will no longer be giving undesignated funds to his denomination [through the apportionment]. He says his action was triggered by a UMC bishop who recently announced that he rejects the basic tenets of the Christian faith. The "apportionments"...are used to fund such things as the salaries for Methodist bishops. That...category has caused one Methodist leader to take action with his wallet. Dr. Don Wildmon, an ordained Methodist minister and chairman of the American Family Association, says while he will continue supporting his local church financially, his giving will be to designated causes only -- thereby eliminating the possibility that any of his tithes and offerings will go to pay bishops' salaries. Wildmon's decision follows a controversial speech by Methodist Bishop Joseph Sprague of Chicago, who rejects the biblical teaching that salvation can be found in Christ alone. Wildmon says in light of the fact that Methodist bishops are elected for life and supported by local churches, he will only designate his funds to causes that are in harmony with the scriptures. "When a bishop in the United Methodist Church...denies the basic tenets of Christianity -- virgin birth, death, burial, resurrection [of Jesus Christ], the atonement -- and continues in that capacity, then it's time to take some action," he says. " charges have been filed by any of the other bishops. I don't want my money being used to pay this man's salary."

     According to Wildmon, his denomination holds apportionment giving in high esteem. "Giving to the denomination, called apportionments, is the 'sacred cow' in the United Methodist Church," he says. "The leadership does not look kindly when the sacred cow is touched." He indicates that his actions could lead to some type of punitive action by his superiors, although he doubts that will happen. He says one ploy being used by the denomination is to suggest that anyone who expresses concern about apportionments is "suffering from depression." But Wildmon says Sprague's speech was the proverbial "straw that broke the camel's back."

     Wildmon has written to 50 active UMC bishops, asking them why he should pay Sprague's salary. He says although 44 of the bishops did not even bother to respond, Bishop Sprague has been challenged. "One good thing has come out of this," he says. "Bishop Timothy Whitaker from Florida has responded to Bishop Sprague's presentation [and] denial [of basic Christian tenets] -- and to my knowledge, this is the first time ... that one Methodist bishop has challenged another Methodist bishop in public."

     Wildmon also has notified 15,000 local United Methodist churches of his decision, and put supporting material on the website He adds that he has heard from other individuals and local churches that they plan to begin designating their giving as well.                                                   - Jim Brown and Jody Brown; AgapePress;  October 3, 2002.


+ Bishop [Timothy] Whitaker [issued a definitive, orthodox response to Joe Sprague's heretical statements] that was apparently stimulated by a person in his conference who wrote to him and asked why he should continue to support the Episcopal Fund and help pay Joe Sprague's salary for the rest of his life.  Good question. More folks ought to ask their own Bishops the same question, and ask them to give their own response to Sprague's challenge to historic Christian faith.  It's time to ask them to stop the...double-speak response of "Well, the Bishop says he affirms orthodoxy."  In fact, he does not.  He uses the vocabulary of orthodoxy, but he uses an entirely different and essentially contradictory dictionary.  - E-mail from Ms. Helen Rhea Stumbo


+ Council of Bishops' president joins calls for restraint on Iraq

WASHINGTON. The president of the United Methodist Council of Bishops has added a pastoral letter to the voices calling for restraint in dealing with Iraq, and she is asking United Methodists - including the U.S. president and vice president - to join in praying for peace. "A pre-emptive war by the United States against a nation like Iraq goes against the very grain of our understanding of the Gospel, our church's teachings and our conscience," wrote Bishop Sharon A. Brown Christopher, of Springfield, Ill., in a letter issued Oct. 4. "Pre-emptive strike does not reflect restraint and does not allow for the adequate pursuit of peaceful means for resolving conflict," she wrote. "To be silent in the face of such a prospect is not an option for followers of Christ." Christopher acknowledged that Iraqi President Saddam Hussein's treatment of people in his own country and in neighboring nations has been horrifying, but she asserts, "Jesus rejects the violent response to evil." [Note: This reflects inadequate examination of the facts; for eleven years of Iraqi violations our national leadership has exercised considerable restraint.]

                                                - UMNS; Joretta Purdue; Washington; 10-21-71BP{454}; Oct. 7, 2002.


(UM) General Board of Church and Society (GBCS).

HERNDON, Va. [UMNS] - Members of the United Methodist social action agency have passed a resolution offering a vision of peace as they seek to call the nation away from war with Iraq. "We must never forget that war is not the only option," said the Board of Church and Society in the resolution, passed at its Oct. 10-13 meeting. That week, the U.S. House of Representatives had voted 296-133 to grant President Bush the authority to make war on Iraq. Later, the Senate

voted 77-23 in favor of the authorization. Undeterred, the board passed its resolution Oct. 12.

"Christians must confront the powers of evil and injustice with a different set of tools - tools that make for peace," the board said. "We applaud the U.S. administration for seeking (U.N.) Security Council enforcement of its disarmament resolutions toward Iraq," the board stated. "We do not believe that peaceful means have been exhausted. Further, we do not believe that war would achieve a safer or better world." [Note: As has been stated previously, these people do not have sufficient expertise in international relations to give responsible counsel in these areas.]

   - United Methodist News Service; Joretta Purdue; Washington; 10-21-71B{474}; Oct. 16, 2002.


(UM) General Board of Global Ministries (GBGM). The Rev. R. Randy Day is the nominee for chief executive of the GBGM. Day, who currently oversees the mission agency's program areas of

Evangelism and Church Growth and Community and Institutional Ministries, was among three finalists for the top staff position of general secretary. Board directors will vote on Day's nomination at the October annual meeting in Stamford, Conn. If approved, his nomination would be forwarded to the denomination's General Council on Ministries for final action. He would

succeed the Rev. Randolph Nugent, who is retiring after 21 years as chief executive.

            - UMNS; Linda Bloom; New York; 10-21-71B{393}; Sept. 5, 2002.


(UM) General Conference.  2004 General Conference planners promise 'holy conference'

PITTSBURGH (UMNS) - Planners of the 2004 General Conference hope logistics for the upcoming legislative assembly of the United Methodist Church will allow more time for prayer, biblical reflection and non-political fellowship - and will foster less divisive politicking - than at previous global law-making sessions. The 16-member Commission on General Conference said that the church's top law-making gathering, held for two weeks every four years, should embody Christian fellowship, worship and face-to-face discussion about important church and social issues. Instead, commissioners lamented, recent sessions of the quadrennial gathering have degenerated into a morass of dueling theological and political factions, exhaustive parliamentary quagmire and contentious caucusing and debate. At their Oct. 3-5 meeting in Pittsburgh, site of the 2004 assembly, commission members said they hope to restore the spirit of  "Christian

conferencing" at the upcoming General Conference by recommending:

- Open seating in daily worship services. In past sessions, the 1,000 voting delegates to General Conference were seated by regional (annual conference) delegations.

- Bishops serve as chair people of the 11 legislative committees. Instead of electing delegates to oversee the work of the committees - which review, amend and forward petitions to the whole assembly - bishops would lead, with a secretary elected to report to the whole conference.

- Daily Bible study and time for meditation, discernment and conversation before voting on tough issues.


     These changes would become effective at the next General Conference, set for April 27-May 7, 2004. The group also voted to move the Episcopal Address from 8 p.m. the first evening to earlier that afternoon, and to limit the address to one hour. The group forwarded to the rules committee a recommendation about the 2008 General Conference requiring that individual petitions to change church law be filtered through an annual, jurisdictional or central (outside the United States) conference, or through a churchwide agency.

     Gail Murphy-Geiss of Centennial, Colo., and adjunct professor at Iliff School of Theology in Denver, chairs the ad hoc subcommittee that suggested several changes in the way General Conference runs. Rancor and divisiveness marked the 2000 assembly, she said, with heated

demonstrations and debate on the issue of homosexuality and other hot-button topics. "We're assuming that all people come to the conference with open hearts and that they want more dialogue and less political posturing," she added. [Note: This is far from reality; many delegates go to the conference with the most serious intent of passing their key issues.]

     Likewise, commission members hoped assigning bishops to preside over the 11 legislative committees would de-politicize and ensure more consistent administration of the legislative process. (Currently, bishops preside only at the plenary sessions in the second week. Bishops still would have neither voice nor vote.)

 [Note: This will tighten control over the legislative process and is not seen as a good change.]


In other action, the Commission on the General Conference:

- Unveiled the 2004 General Conference logo, under the theme "Water Washed, Spirit Born." The emblem features the United Methodist cross-and-flame symbol centered in the globe, with Pittsburgh's three converging rivers - the Allegheny, the Monongahela and the Ohio - flowing

from the foot of the cross.

- Approved plans to translate the 2004 Advanced Daily Christian Advocate (containing petitions and reports to the General Conference) into German, French, Portuguese and English, and to provide language interpreters on site to translate the proceedings into those languages plus Spanish and Swahili to accommodate delegates from outside the United States.

- Recommended to the church's fiscal agency a $6 million budget for the group's work in 2005-08. - UMNS; M. Garlinda Burton; Nashville, Tenn.; 10-21-71BP{453}; Oct. 7, 2002.

*           *           *           *           *

Tact is the art of making a point without making an enemy.

                                                - God's Little Devotional Book for Women, p. 246


Global Outlook


A father is a man who expects his son to be as good a man as he meant to be.

                                                - The Navigators' Daily Walk, February 1993.

*           *           *           *           *

The Episcopal Church. Episcopal Bishop Ousts Priest Called Defiant

PHILADELPHIA. An Episcopal priest who says the church has become too liberal on issues like the ordination of women and the recognition of same-sex unions was defrocked today by the bishop of Pennsylvania. The priest, the Rev. David L. Moyer of the Church of the Good Shepherd in Rosemont, is a leader of Forward in Faith, a 19,000-member conservative movement in the church. Bishop Charles E. Bennison Jr. said it was not Mr. Moyer's beliefs but his rejection of the bishop's authority that prompted his dismissal from the ministry. Bishop Bennison supports ordaining women and recognizing homosexuals in committed relationships.

     Nationally, the Episcopal Church allows the ordination of women. It officially opposes same-

sex relations, but in practice brings no sanctions against those who ordain actively homosexual clergy or conduct same-sex unions. [Note: This action promises serious problems in our own denomination if this is the "logical" progression of the controversy over homosexuality.] The Internet link to the ousted priest's traditional movement within the Episcopal church:

                                                                                                -The Associated Press, September 6, 2002


Islam. ...let me highly recommend a book just released--Islam at the Crossroads: Understanding its Beliefs, History and Conflicts; it's written by Paul Marshall (of Freedom House), Roberta Green and Lela Gilbert. Islam at the Crossroads is short and very readable; you can very likely read it in an evening or two. The conflict with radical Islam is going to be with us for many years--when you read this book you will understand why.                           - E-mail from Ms. Helen Rhea Stumbo


Macedonia.  [At a meeting of the] World Methodist Council the World Methodist Peace Award [was presented] to Boris Trajkovski, president of the Republic of Macedonia, on Sept. 18. He expressed his heartfelt appreciation to executive committee members the next day. "That a Methodist lay leader could be elected as president of Macedonia shows God's hand at work," he said. Bishop Walter Klaiber of Germany quoted an article on Trajkovski that had appeared in a leading German newspaper: "The president is a Methodist lay preacher, and he speaks like a Methodist lay preacher. This may be the reason he dares to try the impossible."

                                    - UMNS; Kathy L. Gilbert; Nashville, Tenn.; 10-71BP{446}; Oct. 2, 2002.


The National Council of Churches (NCC).

+ Falwell's words on Islam are 'not Christian,' NCC says

NEW YORK (UMNS) - The Rev. Jerry Falwell's "hateful and destructive" statements about Islam and the Prophet Muhammed do not represent the views of most Christians, according to the National Council of Churches. The council's executive committee, meeting Oct. 7-8 in New York, voted unanimously to "condemn and repudiate" statements made by Falwell during an interview with CBS-TV's "60 Minutes," broadcast on Oct. 6. The leader of the conservative Moral Majority group labeled the Prophet Muhammed a "terrorist." Such inflammatory remarks have put the lives of Christians around the world at risk, the executive committee declared. "His statements about Islam and the Prophet Muhammed are not only factually untrue and offensive but are

dangerous to the national security of every nation where Christians and Muslims are seeking a peaceful relationship," said committee members in a resolution. Such remarks "create ideal conditions for breeding terrorism among those who may not understand that he does not represent the majority of Christians or Americans."

     Representing 36 church bodies and more than 50 million U.S. Christians, the NCC leaders declared that Falwell's words were "not Christian and shockingly uninformed."

[Note: It should be observed that the speaker's choice of words give the impression that he speaks for 50 million Christians; this is not the case. In reality the denominations making up the NCC comprise approximately one-third of America's Christians. As far as Islam, it is important in light of today's dangerous world to view Islam with a realistic objectivity, not with "political correctness." While Rev. Falwell's choice of words may have been injudicious, this religion does need to be recognized for what it is. In addition Rev. Falwell's words have not increased the danger of Christians around the world; the NCC's silence on Islam has.]

                                                            - UMNS; Linda Bloom; New York; 10-21-71B{461}; Oct. 8, 2002.


+ NCC asks Bush to hear faith community on Iraq

NEW YORK (UMNS) - Leaders of the National Council of Churches's executive committee sent a letter to President Bush during its Oct. 7-8 meeting in New York, signed by the ecumenical body's president, Elenie Huszagh, and its chief executive, the Rev. Robert Edgar, a United Methodist pastor. "On many occasions, you have cited your reliance on principles of faith," the leaders wrote to Bush. "It is just such principles that have motivated the letters from the many Christian leaders and their constituents who oppose such a strike. Millions of American Christians are members of the churches whose leaders have written to you in this moment of grave decision-making." United Methodist expressions of concern include statements from Bishop Sharon Brown

Christopher, president of the denomination's Council of Bishops, and Jim Winkler, chief executive  of the United Methodist Board of Church and Society. The NCC executive committee urged Bush to "reverse the momentum" toward a war with Iraq.

     NCC members also will join others in the religious community to press for alternatives to a U.S. attack on Iraq through a seriesf of events Oct. 9-11 in Washington. The events include a 6:30 p.m. prayer vigil Oct. 10 on the lawn of the United Methodist Building at Capitol Hill. [Note: Of course, this would have already been held.]

                                                             - UMNS; Linda Bloom; New York; 10-21-71B{463}; Oct. 9, 2002.


Sudan. ...the Sudan Peace Act was passed on October 10th! The week long Vigil for Sudan organized by IRD [the Institute on Religion and Democracy] helped heighten awareness of the desperate plight of Christians in the southern Sudan...People came from all over the country to participate.  You can read the actual provisions of the act at, by clicking on the Center for Religious Freedom section.  Many of you have prayed for this for many months, and grieved over the fact that its passage last year was derailed by the aftermath of 9/11.  Those of you in [the] South Georgia [Conference] will remember that our annual conference passed a resolution in June of 2001(!!)  supporting the passage of this bill--it's been a long time coming, but we can rejoice. As Christians in Muslim lands continue to suffer for their faith, the Sudan Peace Act will make a difference for Christian brothers and sisters in that tragic land.  Your prayers and contacts with your Congressmen/women and Senators contributed to this victory.

                                                                                                            - E-mail from Ms. Helen Rhea Stumbo


The World Council of Churches (WCC). 

World Council of Churches delegates ponder group's future

While tackling global issues and addressing relations between denominations, participants in the recent World Council of Churches Central Committee meeting faced a larger question: What is the future of the ecumenical organization? UM representatives were among those pondering the answer at the Aug. 26-Sept. 3 gathering in Geneva. The WCC represents a fellowship of

342 church bodies in more than 100 countries. Although dwindling financial support for the 54-year-old council is a very real issue, it is not the only one that needs examination, according to

Lois Dauway, an executive with the Women's Division of the United Methodist GBGM. "The world is changing, and many of the organizations that the WCC helped give birth to are growing in strength and vitality," she said. Perhaps the council should reshape itself to work in partnership with these regional ecumenical groups and not duplicate their efforts, she said. Such partnerships were endorsed by the Rev. Konrad Raiser of the Evangelical Church in Germany, the WCC's chief executive, who called for a "new ecumenical configuration" for the 21st century during his opening report to the 158-member central committee. He pointed out that the ecumenical

movement is no longer drawing enthusiastic support from youth and has always been shunned by some conservatives within the church.

                                                - UMNS; Linda Bloom; New York; 10-32-35-71B{400}; Sept. 10, 2002.

*           *           *           *           *

Worth repeating:

Have you no wish for others to be saved?  Then you are not saved yourself.  Be sure of that.

                                                                                                            - Charles H. Spurgeon