CA Evangelical Fellowship Meet, Work for Separate Conference, File Complaints, Elect Officers
The Evangelical Renewal Fellowship (ERF), meeting February 1-3 at Redwood Christian Park, greatly deplored the recent performance of a "homosexual union ceremony" by their clergy colleagues. Feeling that this had breached the pastoral covenant upon which our connection is based, they were pleased to learn that complaints had been filed, although saddened that such legal action was even necessary to enforce what should be a voluntary covenant. In the light of this breach of the covenant, they reaffirmed their resolve to ask the 2000 General Conference to create an evangelical conference in the Western Jurisdiction for those who cannot stay in what many believe is a corrupt conference. This effort began when the ERF met April 1, 1998, in Oakdale to discuss the California Nevada Annual Conference cabinet's support of the Rev. Jimmy Creech who was acquitted in a church trial for performing a homosexual union ceremony in Nebraska.
At that time the ERF voted to seek means of leaving the conference. After a meeting with the cabinet and ministry staff of the conference on May 20 which rejected this request but gave acquiescence for the ERF to seek the evangelical conference, four pastors left the United Methodist Church. Plans were set in motion at the February meeting to seek this conference.
Evangelical pastors across the nation would be encouraged to become "missionaries" to restore Wesleyan theology and practice to the west. The keynote speaker for this annual retreat was the Rev. Scott Field of Napierville, Illinois, who serves as the Political Strategy Coordinator for Good News, a renewal movement within the United Methodist Church based in Wilmore, Kentucky. Also present at the meeting were the Rev. James V. Heidinger, Executive Director of Good News, and Ira Gallaway of Albuquerque, New Mexico, who represented the Confessing Movement which seeks doctrinal renewal in the United Methodist Church. The ERF also welcomed participation at the event from a number of evangelical United Methodist pastors from other conferences in the Western Jurisdiction.
Scott Field compared our present situation to that of Elijah who faced opposition from the institution for his faith in God. He reminded the group that the prophet shared the punishment of his people, but God took care of his prophet. He stated that revival was happening in our church. The Internet and e mail has made communication easier, and he encouraged those present to network with others. "We have to agree that we will walk together," he said. Moses and the people of Israel wandered in the wilderness for forty years, but at least they wandered together.
He found a conflict between the democratic proceedings at General Conference and a top-down hierarchy which often fails to implement what was passed at General Conference. Now he said, the battle has moved to the judicial process. He noted that the United Methodist Judicial Council, which is the "supreme court" of United Methodism, had found the ban on homosexual union ceremonies is a chargeable offense and that this ban conforms to the United Methodist constitution. Speaking of those who would continue to violate this ban, he said, "We cannot operate as a church when they will not obey the covenant."
Jim Heidinger apologized for the lack of attention from the rest of the church to the plight of the Western Jurisdiction evangelicals. He said that was now changing. He told of evangelicals organizing in other jurisdictions, noting the presence of people from other conferences, he encouraged us to do the same in the west. He encouraged those gathered to ". . . stay together and pray together."
Ira Gallaway said his life changed when he learned to preach God's worthiness, not his own. He said "Don't let your vision of the world be too small," and listed many ways in which renewal is happening across the church. He affirmed, "Find a way to stay together to save the church."
Scott Field also spent some time going over the complaint process in the United Methodist Church. His conference, the Northern Illinois Annual Conference, has seen a similar breech of the covenant by the Rev. Gregory Dell of Broadway UMC in Chicago. He said that his conference has already spent $20,000 in legal fees and the trial has not yet been held. He said Dell and the Rev. Don Fado, the Sacramento pastor who organized the January 16 event, ". . . want to bring the denomination to a halt. They believe they understand the will of God better than the rest of us." They have broken the covenant and confused the public. "We should join them in bringing everything to a halt," he exclaimed.
The group resolved to follow the judicial process very carefully to assure justice and fairness at every step. During the meeting the group was deeply saddened to learn of the death of Bishop Talbert's wife, Ethelou. They urged persons not to file any more complaints with the Bishop until March 1 to give him a period of mourning and time of peace from this taxing problem created by those who organized the January 16 event.
The group was also inspired by Milt Freisen of Visalia UMC, who led worship at every session. The nearly forty participants went away stimulated and renewed.
In other business, the lecture at the University of the Pacific jointly sponsored by ERF was set for Monday, October 25, and possible speakers were discussed. Last year, Richard Hayes, Professor of New Testament at Duke Divinity School, was well received. They also voted to send the ERF position paper on homosexual unions to Annual Conference for discussion. Action regarding the recent Judicial Council decision which declared that this conference was no longer a Reconciling Conference was discussed. Some new board members were elected, and Robert L. Kuyper, pastor of Trinity UMC in Bakersfield, was elected President. He is also the founder of the Transforming Congregation movement and continues as the editor of that newsletter. He takes the place of the Rev. Harry Wood of Visalia UMC, who goes off the board this year. Harry was thanked for his leadership the past six months during the time leading up to the January 16 homosexual union. Harry had organized an effective press conference and worship service which helped to get our message out across the church. The Rev. John Motz, of Atwater UMC, was elected Vice President, and the Rev. Ron Greilich, retired of Clovis, was elected Administrative Secretary.
For further information, contact:
Robert L. Kuyper (805) 325-0785
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