Evangelicals address critical issues


By Kathy L. Gilbert
United Methodist News Service

MEMPHIS — Six conservative evangelical United Methodist renewal organizations asked delegates elected to the 2008 churchwide and jurisdictional conferences to pray and plan for a “renewed and dynamic United Methodist church.”

The Renewal and Reform Coalition sponsored the conference Oct. 26-27 at Christ United Methodist Church in Memphis. The coalition includes the Confessing Movement, Good News, RENEW, LifeWatch, Transforming Congregations and UMAction.

The meeting’s purpose was to address what the groups consider the six most critical issues coming before the church’s top lawmaking body:

  • General Conference in the context of a global church
  • Advocacy for women and children
  • The role of the Judicial Council
  • Doctrine, accountability, leadership and the Council of Bishops
  • Membership standards
  • Empowering the central conferences.

The 2008 General Conference will meet April 23-May 2 in Fort Worth, Texas. The 1,000 delegates elected by annual conferences will decide policy and approve a denominational budget for the next four years.

“You don’t have to have a sense of direction as bad as mine to know The United Methodist Church is going the wrong way,” said the Rev. Rob Renfroe in opening the first session called “General Conference in the Context of a Global Church.”

“In terms of membership, we are going the wrong way; in terms of attendance, we are going the wrong way; in terms of being able to raise up young men and young women who want to give their hearts and their passion and their lives to the cause of Christ in ministry of The United Methodist Church, we are going the wrong way,” said Renfroe, a pastor at The Woodlands (Texas) United Methodist Church.

Renfroe said United Methodist evangelicals are indebted “to our brothers and sisters in the central conferences” – which are in Africa, Europe and Asia – because of their commitment to the poor and to Scripture.

The Rev. Eddie Fox, world director of evangelism for the World Methodist Council, praised the central conferences and cautioned delegates about a proposal that may go to General Conference to make the United States a central or regional conference as well. The proposal comes from the United Methodist

Council of Bishops and would change the constitution of The United Methodist Church.

“It is not the time to talk about dividing the church,” said Fox. One-third of the General Conference comes from outside the United States. The church is global and has been from the beginning, he said.

“Why change the constitution without knowing what the consequences are? Can you imagine the amount of time and debate we will spend trying to decide what belongs in a national conference and what belongs in a regional conference? Becoming a national entity sets us on a track to be more divisive than it is to create unity for us in our church.”