July 24, 2013

A New Chief for United Methodism’s Lobby Office

The United Methodist General Board of Church and Society (GBCS), the official Capitol Hill lobby for America’s third largest religious body, has announced its new general secretary will be the Rev. Susan Henry-Crowe, long-time chaplain of United Methodist affiliated Emory University in Atlanta.  She will succeed Jim Winkler, who is term limited after 12 years.   Henry-Crowe has affirmed same-sex unions at the chapel and advocated LGBTQ causes while a member of the United Methodist Judicial Council.  So she is definitely from the liberal wing of United Methodism.  GBCS has exclusively represented the liberal wing of the church for about 50 years, so there is little surprise about the new appointment.

The non-liberal majority within United Methodism has long been ignored by GBCS, which for years has disregarded the church’s official teachings about marriage and opposition to most abortion while strenuously advocating conventionally liberal or left-wing stances on dozens of political issues every year to Congress and the media.  Since GBCS so clearly makes no effort to represent most United Methodists, Congress and the media largely stopped listening to pronouncements from GBCS many years ago.

GBCS has about a $5 million budget and a couple dozen staffers, which is not huge.  But it is the largest denominational lobby in Washington, D.C.  And the resources are not insignificant for a denomination that increasingly suffers from financial limitations thanks to 50 years of continuous U.S. membership loss.   Even if GBCS did represent most United Methodists, it’s questionable how effective it could be while routinely defused across so many different topics.    It’s also true that the vast majority of United Methodists don’t even know their denomination has a lobby office on Capitol Hill.  Clergy, understandably anxious to avoid controversy, do not typically tell their parishioners about GBCS.

So GBCS hums along across the decades, ignored by Congress, ignored by the media, unknown to most of its own church, yet strenuously pushing its usual political menu:  Big Government, Welfare Statism, apocalyptic environmentalism, pacifism, anti-Americanism, open borders, and the Sexual Revolution, including unrestricted abortion.  Its worldview, rooted in an early 20th century modernist, Social Gospel liberal Protestantism that denies the transcendent, is stridently materialist and utopian.  Essentially for GBCS the Kingdom of God is mostly about a massive regulatory state guaranteeing material goods and sexual autonomy to each person.

And even though nearly 40 percent of United Methodists now live outside the U.S., mostly Africa, GBCS remains almost exclusively focused on U.S. politics.   Its theological and sexual liberalism is also starkly at odds not just with U.S. traditionalists but with African United Methodism, where there are over 4 million members, and where the church is growing by over 200,000 members annually while the U.S. church is losing as many as 100,000 members annually.  Meanwhile, GBCS’s governing board of over 60 directors has only 3 Africans.  Last year’s General Conference approved legislation for more proportionate representation, but the church structuring of which it was a part was overruled as unconstitutional by the church’s top court.

GBCS can and likely will continue for a time as the exclusive plaything for U.S. liberal political activists.  But the status quo will not long last.  A smart GBCS would start to reformat its agenda now so as to actually represent most United Methodists.  The denomination includes conservatives and liberals.  But there are important issues for which there is near consensus and that are rooted in historical Methodist social witness.  What if GBCS focused on alcohol and drug abuse, pornography and sex trafficking, and gambling, which are the issues for which GBCS’s predecessor agency was originally founded?  Add to this new menu advocacy for religious freedom, especially solidarity with persons globally persecuted for their faith.  And also include emphasis on global disease eradication and provision of clean water, urgent issues especially in Africa.  About 80 to 90 percent of United Methodists in the U.S. and around the world would support such an agenda.  And a GBCS more exclusively focused on a few issues versus dozens would be effective, respected for genuine expertise, and taken seriously as the legitimate social voice for an over 11 million member global church.

For the moment, GBCS has apparently chosen to continue on its 50 year course of unreality.  But the pretense can only last another quadrennium or two before there is change.  Inevitably the day will come when GBCS is reclaimed for the whole church, a new church, a growing global church that is again rooted in Wesleyan social and personal holiness.

15 Responses to A New Chief for United Methodism’s Lobby Office

  1. Rev. Roger Wolsey says:

    The GBCS takes their cues for their legislative advocacy work right from the UM Book of Resolutions which are the product of the majority of the delegates at each of our General Conferences. They speak for me and they do it well. God bless the GBCS & may God bless Rev. Crowe’s leadership and ministry.

    • Robert Swanson says:

      Most of the Social Principles and Resolutions are the result of well planned efforts and manipulations crafted by the GBCS. You know this very well.

      • Greg Paley says:

        That is so true. I used to work for the UM Board of Discipleship, and there is nothing even remotely democratic about the national boards and their agendas, and they have nothing but contempt for the moderates and (even worse) conservatives in the denomination. I can still remember how BOD staffers would practically spit when referring to “those fundamentalists” (they refused to use “evangelicals”). The bigwigs in the UM do a lot of talking about “diversity” and “inclusiveness,” but their definition of “diversity” is “liberals with different skin colors.”

    • cleareyedtruthmeister says:

      If you asked the delegates what was in the Resolutions many wouldn’t have a clue. Quite a few Resolutions have been passed as part of a sweeping consent agenda, in which they have been bundled with other items.

      And, as Robert rightly points out, the GBCS has been behind many of the more controversial ones, often working in covert ways to get them passed.

    • Robert Thomason says:

      Finally, I now have a concrete example of who they represent and speak for. Thanks.

  2. Marco Bell says:

    It is true that in time, the Church will evolve into another organizational form.
    If we are to lament the current losses of parishioners to the ‘Nones’, then we have only to recognize that the change is because of a policy that isn’t compatible with Time.

  3. cleareyedtruthmeister says:

    In the recent past Ms. Henry-Crowe invited “death of God” advocate J. J. Altizer to Emory: http://www.emory.edu/EMORY_REPORT/stories/2011/11/event_thomas_j_j_altizer_visit.html

  4. Robert Swanson says:

    The selection of Rev. Dr. Susan Henry-Crowe seems to be part of a growing trend, if not a calculated tactic, the progressives in the UMC are using. They are retiring the confrontational, outspoken activists like Jim Winkler and replacing them with a kinder, gentler social activist whose agenda is hidden under a soft, warm blanket of love, appreciation for all faiths and approval of all things dystopian and universal.
    If the new secret weapon happens to be a woman with a great educational pedigree then that is even better. After all, anyone who challenges their doctrine or direction is seen as a bully making a personal attack on a kind woman preaching love.
    I’m a Soldier and I’ll admit I only became aware of the GBCS after Winkler was arrested and then described military personnel as dysfunctional murderers and said he was proud to be unpatriotic. That set me on a path to learn that they were the source of nearly every instance where the UMC had turned from Christian tradition. Since then, I’ve worked to end the GBCS and I’m certainly not alone.
    We’ll no doubt see more people like Henry-Crowe take the reins of our boards and committee chariots while the liberal warriors stay hidden in the stables with the doors and windows closed and only come out under the cover of darkness to do the dirty work.

    • Donnie says:

      Their subterfuge won’t work on me. After a few courses with radical professors in college (not by my choice) I’m pretty good at picking out the buzz words from the Marxists, post-modernists, structuralists, etc, etc…

      It’s good to know your enemy and how they speak.

    • Greg Paley says:

      Robert, you might be aware that when the UMs published their new hymnals a few years ago, they planned to dump “Onward, Christian Soldiers,” as the other mainlines had all done. But word got out, and a major letter-writing campaign convinced them to retain the hymn. Sad that the liberals are not only anti-military but apparently too stupid and literal-minded to grasp that “Onward Christian Soldiers” and “The Son of God Goes Forth to War” are referring to spiritual warfare.

  5. Zabrina says:

    I wouldn’t say the GBCS is ignored by Congress. Didn’t Nancy Pelosi thank them for helping pass Obamacare? Or did she just generalize her thanks to the United Methodist Church as a whole?

  6. Robin says:

    Sadly, this is no surprise to me. As a delegate to the 2012 GC, I spoke very boldly to the 3 churches in the charge I WAS apart of. I attended every Illinois Great River’s GC meetings to warn the people…..no one wants to know the truth! Much of the clergy hide their heads and act like if they just ignore it – it will go away. Then there is the clergy who outright lie to the people. Woe to both! They have blood on their hands.

  7. Rev. Greg Rowe says:

    Trouble in the family

    34 “Don’t think that I’ve come to bring peace to the earth. I haven’t come to bring peace but a sword. 35 I’ve come to turn a man against his father, a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law. 36 People’s enemies are members of their own households.[c]

    37 “Those who love father or mother more than me aren’t worthy of me. Those who love son or daughter more than me aren’t worthy of me. 38 Those who don’t pick up their crosses and follow me aren’t worthy of me. 39 Those who find their lives will lose them, and those who lose their lives because of me will find them.

    Maybe Jesus meant that there will be issues that will force all of creation into dialogue? We have to be committed to God first, then these issues. But it has been noted that the “poor” will always be with us. Poor in spirit, or poor as in economy.

  8. Robin says:

    Ezekiel 13
    The word of the LORD came to me:“Son of man, prophesy against the prophets of Israel, who are prophesying, and say to those who prophesy from their own hearts: ‘Hear the word of the LORD!’ Thus says the Lord GOD, Woe to the foolish prophets who follow their own spirit, and have seen nothing! Your prophets have been like jackals among ruins, O Israel. You have not gone up into the breaches, or built up a wall for the house of Israel, that it might stand in battle in the day of the LORD.They have seen false visions and lying divinations. They say, ‘Declares the LORD,’ when the LORD has not sent them, and yet they expect him to fulfill their word. Have you not seen a false vision and uttered a lying divination, whenever you have said, ‘Declares the LORD,’ although I have not spoken?” Therefore thus says the Lord GOD: “Because you have uttered falsehood and seen lying visions, therefore behold, I am against you, declares the Lord GOD. My hand will be against the prophets who see false visions and who give lying divinations. They shall not be in the council of my people, nor be enrolled in the register of the house of Israel, nor shall they enter the land of Israel. And you shall know that I am the Lord GOD. Precisely because they have misled my people, saying, ‘Peace,’ when there is no peace, and because, when the people build a wall, these prophets smear it with whitewash, say to those who smear it with whitewash that it shall fall! There will be a deluge of rain, and you, O great hailstones, will fall, and a stormy wind break out And when the wall falls, will it not be said to you, ‘Where is the coating with which you smeared it?’ Therefore thus says the Lord GOD: I will make a stormy wind break out in my wrath, and there shall be a deluge of rain in my anger, and great hailstones in wrath to make a full end. And I will break down the wall that you have smeared with whitewash, and bring it down to the ground, so that its foundation will be laid bare. When it falls, you shall perish in the midst of it,and you shall know that I am the LORD. Thus will I spend my wrath upon the wall and upon those who have smeared it with whitewash, and I will say to you, The wall is no more, nor those who smeared it, the prophets of Israel who prophesied concerning Jerusalem and saw visions of peace for her, when there was no peace, declares the Lord GOD. “And you, son of man, set your face against the daughters of your people, who prophesy out of their own hearts. Prophesy against them and say, Thus says the Lord GOD: Woe to the women who sew magic bands upon all wrists, and make veils for the heads of persons of every stature, in the hunt for souls! Will you hunt down souls belonging to my people and keep your own souls alive? You have profaned me among my people for handfuls of barley and for pieces of bread, putting to death souls who should not die and keeping alive souls who should not live, by your lying to my people, who listen to lies. “Therefore thus says the Lord GOD: Behold, I am against your magic bands with which you hunt the souls like birds, and I will tear them from your arms, and I will let the souls whom you hunt go free, the souls like birds. Your veils also I will tear off and deliver my people out of your hand, and they shall be no more in your hand as prey, and you shall know that I am the LORD. Because you have disheartened the righteous falsely, although I have not grieved him, and you have encouraged the wicked, that he should not turn from his evil way to save his life, therefore you shall no more see false visions nor practice divination. I will deliver my people out of your hand. And you shall know that I am the LORD.”

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