January 3, 2013

United Methodist Evangelist Eddie Fox Defends Methodist Doctrine


United Methodist evangelist Eddie Fox defended the importance of sound Christian doctrine in the first of three speeches to the United Methodist Congress on Evangelism this week outside Atlanta.

Fox has been World Director of Evangelism for the World Methodist Council since 1989 and is a revered evangelical leader within United Methodism. He’s the Harry Denman Lecturer for this year’s gathering of several hundred evangelism-minded United Methodists.

“There are essentials on which we stand,” Fox declared. “God willing, General Conference and the Judicial Council will never overturn them.”

Fox noted that the global Methodist movement, of which 12 million member United Methodism is one part, now has 80 million adherents and is the world’s fourth largest communion. This family of churches descending from John Wesley is growing 1 million members annually.

“I was a Methodist before I was born,” Fox smilingly recalled. “My family was Methodist when John Wesley was still alive.”

Fox recalled that when Methodist theologian Albert Outler addressed the Congress on Evangelism 40 years ago he rued that modern Methodism was no longer based on grace but on a new optimism centered on social and political change. Outler called for a new Great Awakening similar to early Methodist revivalism that left one of every three Americans Methodist.

Decades ago, Fox remembered, United Methodism’s old Board of Evangelism employed 50 people. When Fox headed the evangelism office there were 16 people. Today there is one.

“We’re not going to transform anything,” Fox said. “Only the power of the Gospel can do that.” A “spiritual cliff” is more dangerous than a financial cliff, he warned. Yet places in Methodism today are a “dead sect,” against which Wesley had inveighed. There are also Methodist places “alive, growing, vibrant.” The world is in “desperate need of salvation,” he said.

Wesley had urged speaking “plainly for plain people,” Fox noted. Doctrine has fallen into “bad repute” today for supposedly meaning doctrinaire. But doctrine “simply means sound truth,” Fox observed. “I’ve heard it said that a Methodist can believe anything sincerely,” he said. “But you can be sincerely wrong.”

“Serious problems haunt our movement,” Fox lamented. “We’re not certain in what we believe.” The Mainline churches are no longer mainline because, as even secular media have noticed, they are “unsure what their message is.” Methodism “sometimes looks like collection of slogans,” Fox said. “We struggle with truth decay.”

Too many in the church believe that “enough people with the same opinion equals truth,” Fox warned “That’s not a living faith,” which should be built on the Holy Bible and revolve around Jesus, he said. “I was challenged by a bishop about my emphasis on doctrine,” he recounted. “There’s a new Bible now,” that bishop had claimed. “I’ll stick with the old Bible,” Fox had responded. Clear “apostolic preaching is focused on the centrality of Christ.”

Recalling that a Methodist church in old Czechoslovakia unveiled a banner after Communism’s fall declaring, “The Lamb Wins,” Fox concluded, “Evil never has the last word.” Fox told that 51 percent of Africa now “believes in Christ as Lord and Savior,” while also describing the recent murders of Christians in Nigeria. The motto of Methodists in Nigeria is “Worthy is The Lamb.”

Fox implored: “Lets hold fast to our doctrine.”

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11 Responses to United Methodist Evangelist Eddie Fox Defends Methodist Doctrine

  1. I pray that the UMC will center herself with a balance of Social Action and Evangelism without neglecting either. I fear the other Methodist-type churches who are currently faithful to the Bible and orthodox doctrine may follow the UMC’s path to irrelevance in society if she does not.

    • Donnie says:

      I wish they would redefine social action as something the majority of people can embrace. Helping the poor and homeless is always good, but too often “social action” in the UMC deals with supporting abortion, or gun control, or hating Israel or supporting every other radically left position imaginable.

      • Donnie, You’ve got a point. I guess I should have clarified my understanding of “social action” as the Luke 4:14-21 kind. Perhaps the leadership of the UMC are too far left for an “Evangelical” Social Action (?). While a grassroots effort to make a difference in the UMC might be possible, the way the far left hijacked this past General Conference, I’m not sure it would have much success.

  2. […] via United Methodist Evangelist Eddie Fox Defends Methodist Doctrine. […]

  3. John S. says:

    Notice the fear (and truth) that correct doctrine can be overturned by majority vote at the GC or JC. If “sound truth” is that which need only command a majority vote where is its power and how does that make the UMC any different than numerous civc clubs?

    If there is one overriding view of the UMC it is that one can believe anything and be a UM. Remember “Open Doors, Open Hearts, Empty Minds”?

    • Gabe says:

      Well put, John. This theologian hit the point right on the head. Truth is truth whether it is believed or not. It may sound nice to believe that there are many paths to God or that there is no hell or whatever is the “nice” theology of the day, but we must care if the belief is true because the application of beliefs (whether incorrect or correct) have major impacts on our lives. I may sincerely believe that 2+2 is 3, but if I try to do my taxes under that assumption, I will have some dire consequences.

      I pray that the United Methodist Church listen to this theologian and get rid of the “Open Doors, Open Hearts, Open Minds” nonsense

    • Donnie says:

      Sadly, many UM churches exist simply as social clubs. At least in the USA.

      Part of this is certainly due to weak theology in our seminaries and national leadership. Another part is due to our “numbers at any cost” philosophy that caused preachers to forsake the truth for something that sells to people and won’t make them uncomfortable.

  4. Roger W. says:

    “Thank You” Evangelist Eddie Fox for an excellent article. How many Bishops are listening to you and applying your insight to their decisions and responsibilities in the Church? Today, many of our local ministers do not mention Wesley or his principles in their sermons. Also, we do not have best selling books by Methodist writers on major outlet shelves. Delegates to our General Conference, or District Conference are ill prepared to do critical thinking about legislative and spiritual matters. We need to go from “survival mode” to a “revitalization mode” in our church. It appears that the person in the pew knows we are headed in the wrong direction but the Clergy and high Officials can not discern an adequate and righteous solution.

  5. Kepha says:

    Back when I was a youngster, it seemed that the only sin known to the Methodist Church was being white and middle class. Hence, after Christ’s Word and Spirit called me to saving faith, I moved towards the more conservative Presbyterian/Reformed sorts of churches. Had I known of people like Eddie Fox back in my youth, I might be a Methodist today–albeit more Whitfieldian than Wesleyan.

  6. SAM says:

    The church serves those not in need. They are the airbrushers of life.

    You better have a Mercedes or something if your park there

    It is a social club-JESUS NEED NOT APPLY

  7. Gail Rupprecht says:

    Why are United Methodists moving away from Biblical doctrine?

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