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Transforming Congregations, Founder
Signs Oakdale Recommendation

Originally from: Robert L. Kuyper
Wed, 8 Apr 1998 19:59:23 EDT

Evangelical United Methodists ask to separate from Conference -A statement from Robert L. Kuyper, Editor of Transforming Congregations, and one of the signers of the document.

First let me say that I signed as an individual pastor, not as a representative of Transforming Congregations. This is a California-Nevada issue, and Transforming Congregations has no official position on this or other political issues facing our denomination.

For those of you who do not know me other than as the founder and editor of Transforming Congregations, let me introduce myself. I have been a member of the California-Nevada Annual Conference since being ordained by Bishop Donald Harvey Tippett in 1968. I have served under six bishops and eleven district superintendents in seven appointments in a variety of situations, rural, urban, and suburban in four of our seven districts. I have also served an eight-year term as Conference Statistician.

I came here in 1968 to a liberal conference to escape the oppressive conservatism of the South at that time, only to find myself more and more a conservative as the years progressed. Many in the South might still consider me a liberal; although, I am really more of a moderate. Over the years I have sadly witnessed a progressive conference become rigid and stuck in the past, so that now today's liberal resembles the uptight conservatives I thought I had escaped in 1968.

Furthermore, many of our conference evangelicals view the United Methodist Church through the lens of our conference. Actually we are moderates in the mainstream of United Methodism. My work with Transforming Congregations outside our conference has convinced me of that. Many California-Nevada evangelicals are angry and would like to leave the United Methodist Church. I would like to see them remain in the United Methodist Church which is our natural home, even though we must leave our conference for conscience sake.

I signed the document because I hope we can find some creative way for us to join the United Methodist Church.

Some thoughts on that. Why not have an evangelical district within our conference? In this day of faxes, e mail, conference calls and easy travel, do districts need to be geographical? I think not. There might be around 50 evangelical churches and pastors in our conference, enough for a district. An evangelical, one respected by evangelicals, could be appointed District Superintendent. Contact could be made by him/her with other evangelicals in the Western Jurisdiction and across the church so that appointments could be made across conference lines. I suspect that some of our problems with appointments to evangelical churches comes from the small pool of evangelical pastors. With long appointments becoming common, many times the right pastor is just not available. Right now, an evangelical pastor in his/her right mind would not transfer into our conference. That might change.

This does not deal with the conflict that takes place on the conference level at the Board of the Ordained Ministry. Our theological divisions have tossed candidates for the ministry into a fire zone. My observation would be that a great deal of our morale problem comes just from this baptism of fire as an introduction to our conference. I have talked with pastors, liberal and conservative, who deplore this disagreeable process and retain to this day a negative attitude toward the conference.

Another solution, which would require the cooperation of the Western Jurisdiction, would solve the Board of the Ordained Ministry problem – create an evangelical conference within the Western Jurisdiction. We have one Bishop who did not sign the Denver 15 Statement. He could be appointed to lead such a conference, or an evangelical bishop could be elected or transferred into the jurisdiction. Conference activities could center on the needs of evangelicals. Instead of one small offering at Pastors' School on topics that were hot in the evangelical world twenty years ago, workshops could be presented on cutting edge issues of actual value to evangelicals today. The Rio Grande Conference would be such an example of a conference which crosses the geographical lines of other conferences.

Such a conference would have a large enough pool of pastors to make appointments, and evangelicals from other jurisdictions would have no concerns in transferring into such a conference. Both the pastors and the churches would be better served. And such a conference could be transferred into another jurisdiction should the Western Jurisdiction decide to leave the United Methodist Church.

This does not deal with the great divide that is developing between our United Methodist Conferences. Unfortunately removing the evangelicals from our conference would widen that divide to the width of the Grand Canyon.

I feel these are creative solutions to our system which keep the strengths of our appointment system while ending the war that we are all tired of fighting. Obviously our system is not working. We cannot expect different results unless we change the system.

I encourage the dialogue on these issues that I know we are capable of in Christian love for one another.

Robert L. Kuyper, Pastor Trinity United Methodist Church 724 Niles Street Bakersfield, CA 93305 (805) 325-0785 Fax (805) 325-0786

April 8, 1998

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