November 26, 2019

Ten Things Traditionalist United Methodists Can Be Thankful for in 2019

What an eventful year 2019 has been in the history of the United Methodist Church! And we will likely see more twists and turns before the year is over.

We are painfully well aware of the many challenges within our beloved, troubled denomination: the dysfunctionality of the Council of Bishops, the demonization of traditionalist believers, etc.

But especially in this season of Thanks-giving, we must not forget about the many things for which evangelical United Methodists should be grateful to God this year:

 

 

1. The adoption of the Traditional Plan by the 2019 General Conference

Our successful efforts to overcome the major barriers we faced in both defeating the liberal plans and enacting the Traditional Plan – entrenched institutional opposition, cynical any-means-necessary parliamentary tactics, an ultimately defeated proposal to delay implementation, etc. – were no small thing. And despite what others may say, this was a MAJOR victory for biblical faithfulness, for accountability, and for bringing some much-needed checks and balances to the overly broad powers of liberal bishops.

Yes, there are many challenges and uncertainties facing us, particularly between now and the May 2020 General Conference. But the passage of the Traditional Plan puts us in a much stronger position for moving forward into a faithful future than any other result from the 2019 General Conference could have done.

 

 

2. The now-widespread recognition of the depth of irreconcilable differences in our denomination

This may seem a bit odd to include in a list of things for which to thank God.

Obviously the depth of our divisions – to the point when we do not have basic agreement among top leaders in our denomination on such core questions as if Jesus Christ was eternally sinless or instead had “his bigotries and prejudices” from which He needed to be converted – are very sad, and truly tragic.

But all of that is nothing new. To paraphrase my late boss, Diane Knippers, you cannot adequately treat a disease without first having a clear diagnosis.  For years, those of us struggling to talk about the deep problems – for the sake of bringing helpful solutions – have continually run against seemingly insurmountable barriers of denialism, avoidance, and subject-changing.

Now at long last, these walls are finally crumbling down, with leaders across our theological spectrum finally admitting what many of us have already known about the depth of our divide.

This growing recognition of reality is essential for forging constructive, responsible solutions for the future.

 

 

3. The 2019 General Conference’s endorsement of “gracious exits”

Yes, I am aware of the problems with the details of the legislation adopted by 52 percent at the 2019 General Conference.

But despite all the entrenched and at times rather ungracious opposition by denominational officials and some liberal activists, it is a rather huge development that our denomination’s highest governing body extensively debated and has now come out as officially supporting the basic concept of gracious exits for congregations who feel a conscience-bound need for them.

Yes, I realize that effective implementation will require some follow-up at the 2020 General Conference.

But hopefully this has set a formidable foundation for the future sorting to come being handled so that we may treat each other with a little more grace and a little less greed, and with a bit more love and a bit less lawsuits, than the ugly debacles we have seen in other denominations of tens of millions of dollars being spent by former co-parishioners suing each other over church properties.

 

 

4. The judicial survival of eight key accountability provisions of the Traditional Plan

Under the leadership of Bishops Bruce Ough of the Dakotas-Minnesota Area and Ken Carter of Florida, the increasingly partisan Council of Bishops has gone to extreme lengths in trying to attack and undermine the Traditional Plan, again and again.

By my count, there were seven separate attempts by the Council of Bishops and other liberal leaders to try to have our denomination’s supreme court, the Judicial Council, heavy-handedly intervene to prevent us 2019 General Conference delegates from enacting part or all of the Traditional Plan.

This includes three separate efforts at the Judicial Council’s last session this fall, all of which failed.

There is now nothing that anyone can legally do before the next General Conference to prevent these eight new accountability provisions – which are so important for protecting our church and its people from further harm – from becoming effective church law on January 1, 2020.

 

 

5. United Methodism being an American denomination no more

It was recently reported that our denomination’s non-American membership is on the verge of surpassing our number of U.S. members, and we may have already passed that tipping point.

The prospect of us being a uniquely global denomination is more than just a coming dream – it is a present reality.

Some understandably feel threatened with this development. We see some reacting with plans and efforts to protect and restore liberal white American supremacy in our denomination, by systematically segregating and marginalizing non-American United Methodists.

But our denomination’s increasingly global nature is a great gift.

And we must remember that this development comes primarily as a result of God working powerfully through African United Methodism, winning so many people into lives of Christian discipleship and into our churches.

We American United Methodists could learn much from our African brothers and sisters in effective disciple-making if we would only be willing to share more seats at the table and avoid unwise, already-rejected proposals to create unnecessary new committees, conferences, or other structures structures to segregate American and African United Methodists from each other.

 

 

6. The shift of General Conference power to the Global South

The 2020 General Conference will have 20 fewer American voting delegates and up to 50 more voting delegates from the Global South (Africa plus the Philippines) than the 2019 General Conference.

The more international General Conference becomes, the less influenced we can expect it to be by negative trends in U.S. secular culture, and the better prepared it can be to respectfully challenge the blind spots all of us have within our respective cultures.

 

7. The diverse strength of theologically traditionalist United Methodism

For all of the unpleasantness, the 2019 General Conference prominently displayed how the theologically traditionalist United Methodism is a global rainbow coalition of men and women of all ages and backgrounds from Africa, Asia, Eastern Europe, and around the USA. We can expect this global nature to continue into any new context for traditional United Methodism that may emerge within the near future.

In the increasingly ethnically diverse mission field of the United States, we have earlier reported how adopting the proposals of liberal caucuses like UMC Next is a proven recipe for making denominations become older, whiter, and less reflective of the growing demographic diversity around us.

We can imagine a very different long-term future for theologically orthodox United Methodism.  We have already seen a Hispanic caucus, the National Chinese Caucus of The United Methodist Church, and the Association of Korean United Methodist Churches all recently take official steps to align themselves with other theologically traditionalist United Methodists.

 

 

8. The continued growth of Asbury Theological Seminary

This fall, Asbury Theological Seminary in Wilmore, Kentucky reported its sixth consecutive year of consistent growth in enrollment.

While this is not a narrowly United Methodist development, we can certainly celebrate the growing influence and strength of this multi-denominational bastion of evangelical Methodism, which is now one of the largest seminaries in America of any stripe. This reflects rather well on the good work of key evangelical United Methodists steering the school, such as President Timothy Tennent, and IRD board member Kenneth Collins (Professor of Historical Theology and Wesley Studies).

And the growing strength of Asbury can only bode well for its continuing positive influence in our denomination.

 

 

9. Continued evangelical leadership of fastest-growing congregations

Year after year, Len Wilson, Creative Director at St. Andrew UMCin Plano, Texas, has taken the time to compile a list of the top-25 fastest growing large United Methodist congregations in America.

And year after year, we have consistently found that, despite some exceptions, the overall trend has been clear of a strong majority of these fastest-growing large congregations being shepherded by senior pastors known to be theologically orthodox.

The 2019 edition of Len’s List is no exception to this continuing trend.

 

 

10. The faithful ministry continuing to happen in congregations around our denomination

While most of it makes no headlines, God is continuing to work powerfully in tens of thousands of United Methodist congregations around the world. People are being saved. Relationships are being restored. Our brothers and sisters in Christ are growing into deeper lives of Christian discipleship. Powerful impacts are being made in communities.

As my friend, WCA Council member Chris Ritter reported a couple weeks ago: “People can still find Jesus in a broken, divided, and dysfunctional denomination.  I meet this week to prepare for our 28th baptism in 2019.”

To God be all the glory!

 

Happy Thanksgiving.

 

 


9 Responses to Ten Things Traditionalist United Methodists Can Be Thankful for in 2019

  1. Lynn says:

    Our future does not look encouraging belonging to a UMC in rural Minnesota with Bishop Ough leading the annual conference. https://www.minnesotaumc.org/blogdetail/living-into-our-inclusive-vision-13042379

  2. td says:

    Thanks for providing this.

    As an aside, i think traditional leaders is the UMC are limiting their attractiveness to many midwestern and northern umc congregations and members when they embrace the term evangelical as equal to traditional. In many of these areas, there are many traditional believers but they do not identify as evangelical and have an aversion to the term.

    I am concerned that this is becoming a cultural war along worship style lines instead of a division along theological lines.

    • Terry says:

      The term, “evangelical” deals with the matter of personal faith in the truthfulness of holy Scripture, particularly those parts dealing with salvation. “Evangelism” has to do with actually spreading that message to those needing salvation. Worship styles have more to do with evangelism than with being evangelical. It is an unfortunate, but common, confusion of similar terms.

      • td says:

        Thanks for your explanations – all of which i am aware. My point is that there are many traditional-believing umc congregations in the US that will not want to have evangelical in their name or be labeled as evangelical- and that that may affect how those congregations align. My contention is that it would be wise to not use the term “evangelical” as an official title or label.

  3. john mushenhouse says:

    so Jesus Himself is no reason to be thankful. If the new break offs are consumed with their causes and views, even if they wish to seem conservative, and forget their first love (Jesus), they will very soon have their candlestick removed if they even get one.

    • mountaingirl says:

      Truly, John, the Lord Jesus, and His taking our sins to the cross to offer us forgiveness, sonship and new life is our absolute first and foremost reason to give thanks. He is the foundation and cornerstone of our faith, so it is upon Him that our “evangelical” or “traditionalist” faith rests. So we must never forget that He is both the reason and the focus of our thanksgiving. However, I believe our focus on Him at this special season must not blind us to the incredible, miraculous blessings God has graciously intervened this year to grant, in the workings of our denomination-wide Body of Christ, the church (and by extension, our particular United Methodist denomination). You are correct that in giving thanks, we look first and foremost to Jesus, without whom we have nothing — but then we must look around us, to identify His blessings found in the faithful actions of our GC delegates whose commitment to the commands of His Word enacted faithful results at GC 2019. God is doing a mighty work in our worldwide UMC, for which we must not neglect to offer fervent praise and thanks. This year, after decades of struggle with what seemed to be a growing and massive surge of opposition to biblical Christianity which seemed to become too powerful for us to defend against, we have witnessed with our own eyes the profound, tangible
      beginnings of a great rising-up of His people, to stand for biblical truth within our own UMC!! This is no less than a mighty and profound parting of the United Methodist Red Sea for His people to surge forward into strength and new life as His church, HIS denomination , prepared and willing to function according to His Word! Amen, Amen!! To Jesus we give the glory for salvation and new life — and to Jesus we give the glory for this biblically faithful stand in the life of our troubled United Methodist Church.

      If we can take hold of this miracle God handed to us, and move forward, united in the power and truth of His Word, there is the hope of new life, not just our individual magnificent new life in His salvation, but the magnificence of a whole new life collectively as the people of His great worldwide Church! Just as we must receive and grasp onto His salvation in order to move forward into growth in discipleship, we as His UMC must also now grasp onto what we received through His power at GC 2019, and actively walk forward, firmly grasping it, into the new life of discipleship as His UMC. We must give a mighty shout of thanks for what He has done and is now doing in our UMC, and not just sit pondering it, but move forward as the people of God. We must honoring Him in decisions made at every level, offering grace to those who feel bewildered and hurt, while collectively growing up and forward as disciples into Him, as this historic denomination embraces its gift of new life. We have a fresh opportunity now, after decades of turmoil and attempts to weaken UMC’s biblical doctrine, its message and practice, to take hold of this very practical, against-all-odds new life for our denomination. It’s time to give profound thanks to God, then rise and walk, UMC.

  4. Skipper says:

    That’s a lot to be thankful for. Praise the Lord!

  5. John Smith says:

    I confused on one point: How would the UMC be uniquely global? There are other global denominations. Please don’t say because it would be Methodist or Wesleyan because as far as anyone can tell the only difference between the 7 sisters is the names. They tend to act and preach with only minor variations, when they appear, from each other.

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