John Wesley preaching to a crowd

Suffering & Holiness Over Compromise

on January 16, 2020

UM Voices is a forum for different voices within the United Methodist Church on pressing issues of denominational concern. UM Voices contributors represent only themselves and not IRD/UMAction.

This is the second of two articles offering different perspectives on the new “Protocol” proposal to divide the United Methodist Church. You can read the first one here. Kenneth J. Collins is an ordained elder in the United Methodist Church and a professor at Asbury Theological Seminary in Wilmore, Kentucky. Collins serves on the Board of Directors for the Institute on Religion & Democracy and on the advisory committee for the UM Action program.

The people called Methodists were raised up in the 18th century to “spread Scriptural holiness across the land.”  John, Charles, and Susanna Wesley were all transformed in the deepest recesses of their heart, through humble repentance, in order that the holy love of Christ might shine in their hearts so that they could be a blessing to others, especially to the poor among them.   Then as now there is no Methodism apart from holiness.

Consider what United Methodists are being asked to do under the proposed Protocol.  It would hand over virtually all the levers of power to a party within the church that has refused to abide by the Discipline and that has rejected the clear teaching of Scripture, especially in terms of holiness.  Then it would disempower those who have faithfully upheld the Discipline as well as the clear, ethical standards of Scripture continually in both their thoughts and actions.  In fact, it would remove this last group out of the United Methodist Church altogether, and be done with it, and then give them simply money as some sort of consolation.  What’s wrong with this picture?

For those traditionalists who complain that they are tired of this difficult struggle, just remember it took the church over a century to overcome Donatism.  During the fourth and fifth centuries, it was in part the faithful, suffering witness of the orthodox, along with their courage and perseverance, that won the day.  Maintaining an authentic, struggling witness over time, empowered and encouraged by no one less than the Holy Spirit, can bear remarkable fruit as the disobedient and wayward see the gracious witness of what holy love actually looks like in both its beauty and its power.

How can you then claim that you truly love your neighbors if you are unwilling (because you maintain that the cost is too high, the suffering too great), to call the recalcitrant to the same high end, which is fullness in Christ, that you desire for yourselves?  How can you talk about your own suffering without ever once naming the suffering of Christ?  Is your suffering greater than the Savior’s?

Reflect also on stewardship.  The United Methodist Church exists today because the faithful from the past, from the eighteenth, nineteenth and twenties centuries, have bequeathed a sacred trust to those today who should be offering their unflagging witness to the beauty of Christ and to the richness of holiness.  This gracious heritage must be cared for, not surrendered; cherished, not abandoned.  In short, traditionalists have neither the right nor the authority to forsake the precious duties and binding obligations of stewardship, to break the sacred trust that was put in place by the faithful, suffering witness of others throughout the centuries.

The Protocol commends a supposed bright and sunny future in which the pain will stop and in which we will all be able to get on with “real ministry” as if bearing a faithful, suffering, and persevering witness to the truth of Jesus Christ, in the face of vigorous opposition, is not real ministry!  We will be a different people on the other side of the support and execution of the Protocol than we were before, and not in a good way.

Think not simply on the present moment for the church. We must heed the voice of the past, of the faithful sons and daughters whose very sacrificial lives have been, and remain, a beautiful witness. Think also on eternity and that each one of us as the Apostle Paul has cautioned will stand before the judgment seat of Christ: “For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each of us may receive what is due us for the things done while in the body, whether good or bad.” 2 Corinthians 5:10 NIV.

In that glorious presence does anyone really what to confess that we ceded the United Methodist Church, with its emphasis on beauty and holiness, to radicals and revisionists, because we were tired or we had suffered so long?  Would we then be like the unfaithful servant who buried his talent out of fear?  One wonders.

  1. Comment by John Smith on January 16, 2020 at 7:21 am

    A great post that makes a very important point, far better than I could.

    As I posted elsewhere in this debate; if the new denomination is successful the LGBTQ+ community will come for it as well. Given that it was started by a “give up and run away” mentality should we not expect them to repeat their performance?

  2. Comment by Jeff on January 17, 2020 at 5:06 am

    >>”…should we not expect [the Alphabet Militia] to repeat their performance?”

    We can be sure that they will! Not only are we running away, but we’re essentially endorsing their behavior by failing to call out their heresy. Instead, we coddle them as righteous and just… merely “moving in a different mission direction”.

  3. Comment by Rev. Dr. Lee D Cary (ret. UM clergy) on January 19, 2020 at 5:44 pm

    Yep. I think you correct.

  4. Comment by David F Miller on January 16, 2020 at 9:27 am

    Not sure I agree. If Luther did not leave Roman Catholicism, if Wesley did not leave Anglicanism we Methodists would not exist. In an abusive marriage there comes a time the abused spouse decides to leave the marriage to save themselves. Progressives have abused the sacred teachings for quite some time. Could it now be necessary for Traditionalists to leave in order to retain the integrity of the Church?

  5. Comment by Janice on January 16, 2020 at 9:18 pm

    There are also those who fight for the right cause and resist being bullied and abused. Traditionalists need to stand firm, uphold our values and not be pushed out our church. Our church has been hijacked and the Progressives should not be rewarded.

  6. Comment by John Smith on January 17, 2020 at 6:25 am

    I seem to remember Luther getting kicked out and Wesley remaining an Anglican until he died but the proper analogy is not marriage but parenting. The kids have picked up bad ideas, bad manners and bad habits from the neighborhood. So instead of standing firm in love and discipline (admittedly this should have started 40 years ago) the orthodox are going to walk away from the home, leave the car keys and deed on the hallway table because its too hard to deal with the kids.

  7. Comment by Chris Gabel on January 16, 2020 at 10:57 am

    I have to disagree that separation means “giving up.” It’s simply a recognition that the Bishops and Boards and Agencies are not on the same mission and do not merit our support. A new denomination enables us to move forward in a more unified manner, letting go of institutional assets that actively oppose the Gospel.

  8. Comment by Dan W on January 16, 2020 at 11:02 am

    My suggestion to the UMC for consideration at General Conference 2020 – sell everything! Give all proceeds to the poor, and start over as strong, local congregations. (And fully fund the pension fund for retired and retiring clergy and staff.)

  9. Comment by Houston Parks on January 17, 2020 at 9:45 pm

    A bold and decent idea.

  10. Comment by Josh on January 16, 2020 at 11:08 am

    As an Asbury alumni, I really appreciate Kenneth Collins but c’mon, the UMC is NOT the second century church and the topic of Donatism and that specific time in Christian history is NOT parallel to this situation. I mean, come on.

    As a pastor, the situation in the UMC is really jacked up. And it is not getting any better, despite all the advances by the traditional side. And also, a shake up is needed for everyone involved. Everyone is way too comfortable. Even among the traditionalist/ conservative side, there is just too much spiritual “deadness” around.

    Wesley and other Methodist leaders conceded that there was a time to separate from the Anglican church and that reason was mission. UMC churches are shrinking and very little mission is being done. Heck, there is no consensus about what “mission” is in the UMC. There needs to be shake up. It will be good for everybody.

  11. Comment by Jeff on January 17, 2020 at 5:00 am

    >> UMC churches are shrinking and very little mission is being done.

    Except that our brothers and sisters in Africa — who stand on the Word, call Jesus LORD, and insist upon practicing Spirit driven holiness — are growing by leaps and bounds, even in the face of oppression, sometimes brutal oppression.

    If we’re patient, and “…earnestly contend for the faith which was once delivered unto the saints”, together with our global family we could be that Light and Salt that Jesus called us to be.

    Instead, we’re throwing Africa and Asia under the bus with this surrender protocol.

    I wonder how that’ll go for us when we answer to our Lord.

  12. Comment by Josh on January 24, 2020 at 11:54 am

    Thank God for what is happening in Africa and other countries but the UMC in America is broken and it’s brokenness is killing our local churches. That’s a reality.

    We only have so much energy. Do you spend it fighting with liberal/ progressives . . . or spreading the Gospel, making disciples, etc.?

    There is only so much energy to go around. What would be the wise thing to do?

    Did Jesus spend his time in Jerusalem having a political war with the religious leaders? No. He told the truth and dropped the mic.
    He left Jerusalem and went out into the villages, calling people to enter into the “kingdom of God.” He established communities centered around God who were to live by an ethic of love and holiness. He cast out demons, evil spirits, and darkness because real people are afflicted by such things.

    Others can go fighting in Jerusalem all they want. I don’t want any part of that. I want to be down in the trenches winning souls and working side-by-side with the Lord.

  13. Comment by Gary Bebop on January 17, 2020 at 11:15 am

    You got it right, Josh. Keep posting!

  14. Comment by Gary Bebop on January 17, 2020 at 11:39 am

    D. Collin’s proposal sounds similar to Rod Dreher’s Benedict Option, where traditional Christians hunker down while the wave of anticulture passes over them. But where are those bunkers? And does such a strategy apply when traditionalists cannot agree amongst themselves? Traditionalists are a fissiparous lot. I have great respect for Asbury and United (Dayton) but their voices have limited command.

  15. Comment by Fr. Timothy Cremeens, PhD on January 21, 2020 at 12:53 am

    The bunker is the Orthodox Church. Come on over, we have plenty of room and you are welcome!

  16. Comment by Charlotte on January 28, 2020 at 6:18 pm

    When you mention Orthodox, which is broad, which are you speaking of? Please enlighten me. Some this “fight” is just overwhelming for me. I was an EUB until 1968. Thanks.

  17. Comment by Dr. Timothy Cremeens on January 29, 2020 at 11:30 pm

    The “Greek” , or “Russian” or Orthodox Church in America. Over the last 30 years, thousands of Evangelicals, Episcopalians, Presbyterians & Lutherans have found a home in the Eastern Orthodox Church. It’s a natural for Methodists because John Wesley LOVED to read the Eastern Church Fathers!

  18. Comment by David Rash on January 29, 2020 at 4:22 pm

    Does the Orthodox faith allow for the ordination of women? That has been a part of my “Methodism” from a child up.

  19. Comment by Joan Wesley on January 17, 2020 at 12:48 pm

    My big picture problem with the UMC is not the sexuality debate but rather that I unknowingly spent my life part of an ill conceived experiment in theological plurality that is now failing spectacularly. Having monitored the development of this situation for quite some time, my take is that it took a lot of misconceptions, underestimations and miscalculations on the part of every body concerned to create the current situation. The only thing that surprised me about the outcome of GC2019 was that centrists/institutionalists and progressives were surprised. The major pushback afterwards was not a surprise either since leadership has been doing their best for years to keep the church from going in a traditionalist direction. Although I theologically align with the traditionalist faction, their decades long effort to reclaim Methodism’s historic theology has been spotty at best. I had to finally wander off to gain a clear understanding of historic Christianity and it took Christians from centuries to straighten out the tangle of understanding I had been trying to makes sense of for most of my life. The only thing wrong with historic Christianity of the Methodist persuasion is that it has not had a clear consistent presence in the American UMC since before I was born; as a result, all sorts of understandings have been allowed to take root and the UMC has become a veritable menu of what it means to be a Christian of the Methodist persuasion. To say I am a United Methodist means absolutely nothing. The denomination is so divided it needs to rewrite the membership vows so people can identify which faction of United Methodism they choose to be part of. In other words I question if there is really anything to stay and fight for beyond a 50 year old name and insignia.

  20. Comment by Dean on January 17, 2020 at 12:59 pm

    Good Point
    Kinda makes you think about that parable about the seeds falling on different ground. The UMC is undoubtedly the good ground where the weeds (all these unbiblical positions) came up and strangled the seedling.

  21. Comment by mountaingirl on January 18, 2020 at 12:58 pm

    In this case the UMC situation came about by watering the weeds and starving the seedling!

  22. Comment by JR on January 17, 2020 at 4:48 pm

    “The denomination is so divided it needs to rewrite the membership vows so people can identify which faction of United Methodism they choose to be part of.”

    I actually agree. Had the tenets that have been fought over in the last few years been set as core beliefs, I’d have never joined the Methodist Church.

    Pick your rock and stand on it. And don’t shy away from it.

  23. Comment by Lee D. Cary on January 19, 2020 at 5:39 pm

    Joan: I share your sentiments, though you wrote them much better than I could. Thank you.

  24. Comment by Houston Parks on January 17, 2020 at 8:48 pm

    Amen. Shame, shame, shame on our disobedient bishops and our feckless traditionalist leaders. This will be an immense tragedy.

  25. Comment by Rev. Dr. Lee D Cary (ret. UM clergy) on January 19, 2020 at 5:41 pm

    Tragedy? Yes. Unnecessary? No. Inevitable.

  26. Comment by Paul Prose on January 17, 2020 at 9:13 pm

    Around 1988 / 1989 I was attending a Wesleyan Church. When I told some church members that I was going to start going to a Methodist Church, they’ve warned me about how liberal it was. Looking at the book of discipline and the other documents I didn’t see that it was much different. Now I finally get it. Historically we are traditional and Bible-based and our documents reflect that, but we’ve been infiltrated by a society that wants to take over and diminish our faith and witness. It is so sad that it has come to this. The points regarding our stewardship of a church that’s been handed down to us makes good sense to me. Should we walk away and leave those resources to the unfaithful to expand their witness? That doesn’t sound like a faithful warrior for Christ to me. We need to fight the good fight and prevail, not surrender to evil.

  27. Comment by Mike on January 18, 2020 at 12:13 am

    In response to a few comments here that blame traditionalists for losing the church to liberals… it seems to me we traditionalists are being accused of not being political enough and not being power hungry enough (because that’s how liberals have come to control so much of the church’s bureaucracy).

    Instead, we (for the most part) have been focused on serving the local church, loving our flocks and seeking to make converts and disciples of Jesus. If that’s why we are where we are today, so be it. In past years I worked with other evangelicals in our conference to try to push back against the liberal power, and while we made some advances (e.g., got some good folks elected to GC a couple times), for the most part it was a losing battle, and we all grew weary of what we were becoming in the process.

    Which is why many of us would simply prefer to leave rather than continue this bloody battles for at least 2-3 more decades!

  28. Comment by barbara walts on January 19, 2020 at 4:27 pm

    AMEN to that!!!

  29. Comment by Scott on January 18, 2020 at 8:49 am

    The choice is this; spend the next 20 or 30 years or never gaining a 2/3rds majority so we can drive out errant bishops, reform agencies, and replace progressive professors in our seminaries, or spend the next 20 plus years saving souls and spreading the gospel. I choose souls over a human institution. If this issue isn’t solved at GC then I will find a denomination that focuses on saving souls to be a pastor in or an active lay member. We have a solution, either we take it or die due to ego. Life is not fair. Deal with it and remember why we are here!

  30. Comment by John Kenyon on January 18, 2020 at 10:35 am

    As a father of six children, I asked myself whether I wanted to raise them in a church where the leadership did not know how to fight against those teaching them it was fine if they wanted to be gay or lesbian and have a same sex marriage. I said no while in the PC(USA). The lion of Judah had spawned cubs not ready for the battle but wanted peace with hyenas. I left the PC(USA) to protect them.

  31. Comment by JR on January 22, 2020 at 9:08 am

    “…teaching them it was fine if they wanted to be gay or lesbian and have a same sex marriage.”

    What if they are gay, whether they want to be or not?

    I can guess, honestly, that you won’t find out for a couple of decades if they are. I’ve seen this pattern before.

  32. Comment by John Smith on January 24, 2020 at 6:05 am

    Because personal experience, preferences and desires should overrule God?

  33. Comment by JR on January 24, 2020 at 2:09 pm

    Interesting point.

    I’m sure God would rather have them dead, too.

    I’ve seen the scriptures. And if you believe that the Word of God is timeless and not to be questioned, you know it too.

    Maybe you could just sell them into slavery, God is just fine with that option.

  34. Comment by John Smith on January 24, 2020 at 3:27 pm

    So who said anything about dead? Of course we all die, we all face judgement but really you make my point. Personal feelings overrule everything, especially God.

  35. Comment by Matt M on January 18, 2020 at 1:37 pm

    Your heart is as my heart, Ken Collins! This is a dissident voice to the current enthusiasm over the apparently inevitable Protocol, and I am grateful to the IRD for publishing it!

  36. Comment by Jeffrey Eastlick on January 19, 2020 at 8:54 am

    We are called to be heirs to the throne. When we start acting like heirs, we’ll be ready for the New Jerusalem. Jesus will come back, only when we are ready to take on leadership in the New Jerusalem. I believe this split is inevitable and in the end, a culling of the sheep and the goats. Decide now. Are you acting like a leader in the New Kingdom or being conformed by the world to its debauchery and immorality? Kingdom preparation is at hand. Choose now whom you will serve.

  37. Comment by Rev. Steven W. Greer on January 19, 2020 at 12:28 pm

    Professor Collins,
    Thank you for voice and articulation concerning this “Protocol” and Spiritual discernment for the membership of the United Methodist Church! We need to hear those voices cry out in the wilderness: “Prepare ye the Way of the Lord.”
    I am a 1981 graduate of ATS and my heart is like yours. I am glad to hear your voice on this matter. It seems so many like-minded members of the UMC would rather fly than fight. I believe God is leading like-hearted and minded believers to stand firm and fight against the power and principalities of darkness within our denomination. Also, like our Jude called his generation to defend the gospel which has been handed to us. Jude 1:3-4 (NIV):
    3 Dear friends, although I was very eager to write to you about the salvation we share, I felt I had to write and urge you to contend for the faith that was once for all entrusted to the saints.
    4 For certain men whose condemnation was written about long ago have secretly slipped in among you. They are godless men, who change the grace of our God into a license for immorality and deny Jesus Christ our only Sovereign and Lord.

  38. Comment by Penny on January 21, 2020 at 12:37 am

    Jesus definitely warned us. We should not be surprised. “Keep watch over yourselves and the entire flock of which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers. Be shepherds of the church of God, which He purchased with His own blood. I know that after my departure, savage wolves will come in among you and will not spare the flock. Even from your own number, men will rise up and distort the truth to draw away disciples after them.” Acts. 20:28-29

  39. Comment by Margaret on January 21, 2020 at 5:13 pm

    Good points, all of you. Remember Acts 15:39 ? The split between Paul and Barnabus ? “… they parted company. “ Perhaps parting company is absolutely the way forward for a stronger denomination to uphold Biblical truth and not worldly political lies and unnatural aberrations.

  40. Comment by Margaret on January 21, 2020 at 5:19 pm

    Spelling error. Barnabas !

  41. Comment by Gary Bebop on January 23, 2020 at 9:55 pm

    Just remember that church struggle takes place on the earthly stage, not inside a heavenly bubble. We don’t get a big screen, a soundtrack, and special effects. Church politics has always been about real people, not glass saints, often outnumbered, often betrayed. The struggle is neither merciful nor romantic. It’s often conducted by hairpulling and skullduggery. That’s why getting a mediated Protocol is precious mercy.

  42. Comment by Loren Golden on January 25, 2020 at 12:47 pm

    In January 2010, the Session of Colonial Presbyterian Church in Kansas City, Missouri (in Presbyterian parlance, the Session is the governing board of pastors and lay elders), went on retreat to discuss the Biblical role of elder. While there, the men and women of the Session became convinced that the Holy Spirit wanted instead to address the issue of Colonial’s relationship with Heartland Presbytery and the Presbyterian Church (USA) (in Presbyterian parlance, the Presbytery is a diocesan-type body, similar to an Annual Conference in the United Methodist Church, with oversight over a number of congregations in a certain geographic region, and consists of all the ordained ministers within the region and an equal [or greater, depending on the denomination] representation of lay elders from each congregation) and the debt the church had accrued several years earlier in purchasing a sizeable plot of land to establish a second campus in the suburb of Overland Park, Kansas, and to address these two issues in that order. When they came back, they announced to us the congregation that we would be entering into a season of discernment regarding our denominational affiliation. Heartland Presbytery was informed of this, and an Administrative Review Committee (ARC) was appointed to work with the church. There were four town hall meetings held between March and May that year, in which a member of the Session would outline the reasons the Session believed the Holy Spirit was calling Colonial to separate from the PC(USA) and to seek affiliation with another Reformed denomination, followed by a member of the ARC who presented arguments for why Colonial ought to remain affiliated with the PC(USA), after which was a time during which members of the congregation could ask questions and make statements. After the town hall meetings, the members of the congregation were polled, and over 90% of us stated that we would prefer to seek gracious separation from the PC(USA) and affiliation with another Reformed denomination, after which the Session asked Heartland to appoint an Administrative Commission authorized to negotiate for terms of separation. Heartland balked, essentially refusing to negotiate in good faith, and Colonial called a congregational meeting, in which we voted overwhelmingly to separate from the PC(USA) and affiliate instead with the Evangelical Presbyterian Church.

    In his article above, Dr. Collins states that “traditionalists…complain that they are tired of this difficult struggle.” In the argument the Session made to us for a change in denominational affiliation, they did not make this claim. Rather, it was that the ongoing conflict over ordination standards with a Presbytery and a denomination that truly did not care to listen to what we had to say, and from which we were theologically estranged because of all the worldly compromises the denomination had made over the past century and more, were distracting us from our mission to proclaim the Gospel of Salvation from sin and death through faith in the atoning work of Christ alone to a city and a world lost in sin. In 1983, when the Presbyterian Church in the US (the Southern Presbyterian Church, with which Colonial was then affiliated) reunited with the United Presbyterian Church in the USA (the Northern Presbyterian Church), the PCUS churches were given an eight-year window in which to withdraw from the denomination with their property, after which the PC(USA) would enforce the property trust clause in its Book of Order. At the time, Colonial believed that God was calling her to stay to be “salt and light” to the denomination. Twenty-seven years later, we had come to see that our continued affiliation with the PC(USA) had made no lasting or significant difference in the denomination that we were seeking to influence by our continued presence. The Presbytery with which we were unequally yoked appreciated our monetary contributions, but not our dedication to the Gospel and our insistence on holding ordained leaders to a higher standard of holiness, as required by God in His Word (I Tim. 3.1-13, Tit. 1.5-9). The denomination was not becoming more holy because of our continued presence in it, and the constant infighting was distracting us from our God-given mission. Is it truly any different with traditionalists in the United Methodist Church today?

    Consider also that Theological Liberalism has been afflicting the Mainline Protestant denominations in the US since the end of the Civil War. The problems facing the UMC and the PC(USA) did not appear overnight but grew over time. Theological Liberalism (or Progressivism, as it is now more commonly called) has a downward influence on the Christian, dragging him or her down to the base standards of the world. People go from Traditionalist/Orthodox/Evangelical churches to either Theologically Liberal/Progressive churches or the unbelieving world, and vice-versa. But people go from Theologically Liberal/Progressive churches to the unbelieving world, but not the other way around. Theologically Liberal churches are a comfortable home for those who no longer believe primary doctrines of the Christian Faith, but who are not ready to dispense with all the benefits of Christian community. Their children quite often leave such churches, bound either for Traditionalist/Orthodox/Evangelical churches or the world, leaving an aging, dying congregation behind. Theological Liberalism grows not by generational propagation or by bringing men and women in from the world, but by subverting Traditionalist/Orthodox/Evangelical churches—Adam Hamilton’s United Methodist Church of the Resurrection in the Kansas City suburb of Leawood, Kansas, being a case in point. The Mainline denominations are littered with old, dying churches that once strongly opposed Theological Liberalism but later capitulated to it.

    Yes, the early Church overcame the ancient heresy of Donatism after more than a century of effort, but the early Church was also still organizationally one at that time. The Church split into the Eastern Orthodox and Roman Catholic Churches in 1054, and the Western Church split into the Roman Catholic Church and a multitude of Protestant denominations and non-denominational churches during and after the Protestant Reformation in the 16th Century. Will the continued presence of traditionalists in the United Methodist Church reform the denomination after another hundred years? Could the Roman Catholic Church (which still denies the doctrine of Justification by Faith Alone to this day) have been reformed, had Luther, Calvin, Zwingli, and others not led churches out of her? Or will traditionalist congregations remaining in the UMC continue to be subverted to the Theological Liberalism that is destroying the denomination (or at least the American portion of it)? Forty years ago, the Southern Baptist Convention was beginning a slide into the same Theological Liberalism that has consumed all the Mainline denominations, but through a concerted effort, Evangelicals in the SBC were able to turn that around. However, Evangelicals held greater clout in the SBC at the time than Traditionalists/Orthodox/Evangelicals in the Mainline denominations.

    United Methodism is growing exponentially in Africa, and combined with American traditionalists, they hold a majority in the UMC and are able to keep Progressive ideals of moral relativism from coming to fruition. However, Progressivists still have an iron-fisted control of the UMC bureaucracy, and most of the Bishops, who have authority to appoint clergy to whichever congregation they think best, are Progressivists. Now, it could be that traditionalist Methodists in America, working in conjunction with their brothers and sisters in Africa, could eventually grow powerful enough to disenfranchise the Progressivists and appoint men and women of God to fill those offices. Yet this is what Progressivist bureaucrats fear most, and they will do their utmost to prevent it. Seeing that a coalition of traditionalist American and African Methodists is inevitable, they have offered the Protocol to separate the UMC into two denominations, without pressing property trust clauses against those congregations wishing to separate. If their political enemies leave peacefully of their own accord, then they can consolidate their power in the much smaller (and faster dying) denomination in the aftermath. If few of their political enemies leave, there will be civil (or perhaps uncivil) war in the UMC, as Progressivist bureaucrats strive to hold onto their political power. Is this the public witness that traditionalist Methodists want to present to the world? Is institutional integrity of one fragment of the Church of Jesus Christ, a fragment already riven with strife over hopelessly divided doctrinal and cultural priorities, truly worth the cost of bitter, open conflict in the Church for the world to see, or would the advancement of the Kingdom of God be better served if traditionalist Methodists peaceably withdrew, to focus their efforts, without the distraction of constant infighting, on their mission to proclaim the Gospel of Salvation from sin and death through faith in the atoning work of Christ alone to local communities and a world lost in sin?

  43. Comment by Pam Evans on January 27, 2020 at 4:26 pm

    Brilliant explication of your position! I pray readers find it helpful as they make up their minds.
    Do you blog anywhere?

  44. Comment by Carole Bergman on January 30, 2020 at 1:05 pm

    or would the advancement of the Kingdom of God be better served if traditionalist Methodists peaceably withdrew, to focus their efforts, without the distraction of constant infighting, on their mission to proclaim the Gospel of Salvation from sin and death through faith in the atoning work of Christ alone to local communities and a world lost in sin?
    It seemed to me as a lifelong (82) years, a first to believe that the progressives should go, not us! It’s they who don’t like Our way of doing Church, so they should start another church…Then it seemed to me that perhaps Grace is saying, “Be the adult. Show grace by leaving and beginning again.”

  45. Comment by Roy E. Jacobsen on January 28, 2020 at 6:12 pm

    What Collins fails to see is the continued and growing loss of committed Christ followers in most traditional evangelical UM churches. This fight had gone on for, at minimum 50 years and longer if you count the ascendency of theological liberalism. Frankly the lampstand has been removed from the UMC. The gospel of redemption has become the gospel of inclusion. The cross has now become the rainbow. We are in a Paul/Barnabas or Wesley/Whitfield moment. its time to shake the dust iff our feet and move into a new methodism. Otherwise we wither and die.

  46. Comment by John Fraser on January 29, 2020 at 11:44 am

    Recently I read an article by one of the leaders of WCA which described the very substantial recent accomplishments of the conservative part of the UMC, but was utterly astounded when he concluded his very well written article with the idea that we conservatives should just give up. I much prefer the conclusion of Mr. Collins. This is no time to wave the white flag of surrender. Continue the mission.

  47. Comment by Jim Radford on February 1, 2020 at 10:58 am

    Dr. Collins more-or-less reiterates what I have always maintained, and continue to: “Stay and fight.” I believe that the most articulate and thoughtful historic and creedal Christians are stronger and smarter that the “other side,” that is, those who have refused to live by the Discipline and who tend to discount scripture. I am not comfortable, now nor will I ever be, with handing over the reigns and “levers of power,” as Dr. Collins states, to those who shouldn’t be granted that power. I do not believe that the Traditionalists, be they Wesleyan Covenant people, or IRD people, or Good News People are going to turn the tide for the better. Forgive me for being pessimistic here, but all you who want to depart (and I myself don’t want to stay within the Progressive position, but nor I am not on board with leaving), and who naïvely seem to believe that all will be well if we can just start again and do what we believe is the right thing. We will still be human beings (sinful, egotistical, territorial, legalistic, punitive, factionist, you-name-it) and Methodists, we will still be arguing over this-or-that, and I also maintain, just on a personal level, that even within our supposedly “pluralistic” beliefs (that there is room for everyone), I somehow suspect that even among the so-called “traditionalists” there is no room for me. I believe in the absolute sovereignty of Jesus Christ as the express invisible Image of God, and that our salvation is in Him and in no other, and that our wholeness and completion–again, salvation–is dependent on our connection, through His Spirit, with Jesus himself. And yet I know that many so-called “traditionalist” Christians, many of the them “cessationists” and dispensationalists–biblical literalists–by-pass this emphasis on the work of the Holy Spirit. And, from my viewpoint, these folks are hottest for a departure. I understand the frustration expressed by those who are bone-tired of having to fight these battles of dogma and doctrine, but I do not believe that a split is going to make things better. It is still a schism, and they are never good. But–reluctantly–I do know that sometimes these things are inevitable, e.g. the Reformation. Though nonetheless a schism, which is the opposite of the true I believe God-in-Christ is calling us to. My two cents

  48. Comment by Ken Collins on February 10, 2020 at 10:35 am

    Jim Radford wrote: “I somehow suspect that even among the so-called “traditionalists” there is no room for me.”

    I have that same feeling as well!

The work of IRD is made possible by your generous contributions.

Receive expert analysis in your inbox.

 ⏰ Partner in the work of IRD!

IRD uniquely reports on the latest happenings in U.S. Christianity thanks to your support. Please help with your special gift of $50, $75, $100 or whatever you are called to give!

Make your gift