Former Cal/Nev (Evangelical) Fellowship Seeks Reconciliation With Its Disobedient "Brothers" In Open Letter
Greatly disturbed by the loss of many colleagues from the California-Nevada Annual Conference, more than twenty-five conservative pastors and laity met at Modesto on August 21, to declare that even more conservative pastors and laity are staying rather than leaving the United Methodist Church and to issue a statement to that effect.
It was agreed to change the name of the fellowship from the Evangelical Renewal Fellowship to "The Renewal Fellowship within the California-Nevada Annual Conference." Although part of our heritage from the Evangelical United Brethren, the name, "evangelical" has caused confusion by the lack of a clear definition of its meaning. The basic purpose adopted by the group in 1993 stays the same, namely, "The Renewal Fellowship within the California/Nevada Annual Conference seeks renewal in the United Methodist Church guided by our biblical and Wesleyan heritage." The group seeks renewal based on the Bible and our Wesleyan roots.
The statement, "An Open Letter to the California-Nevada Annual Conference," asks the question, "Will the conflict over the rules of Discipline regarding homosexuality sink the United Methodist Church?" Signers note their sadness caused by the loss of so many colleagues, saying while they understand the frustration of those who have left, the signers choose to remain. "We represent clergy and laity whose covenant is not just with an Annual Conference or a Bishop but with Almighty God and a denomination," and affirming, "While some have abandoned the United Methodist ship of ministry, we do not intend to follow them."
While affirming the "essential doctrines of our faith, as stated in our Articles of Religion and Confession of Faith," they also maintain that "Our healing as a conference must begin first with personal healing." They express the hope that "we can work faithfully with other brothers and sisters in Christ who do not necessarily share our views." When we do this, the group noted, revival can begin and our denomination can be renewed and transformed as we work together to make disciples for Jesus Christ.
The group made plans to mail the letter to every church within the Conference.
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Full text of the statement follows:"It is our hope and prayer that we can work
faithfully with other brothers
The Renewal Fellowship within the California-Nevada Annual Conference
An open letter to the California-Nevada Annual Conference August 2000
Two years ago many of us pondered a weighty question: Will the conflict over the rules of Discipline regarding homosexuality sink the United Methodist Church? The conflict over the rules has grown intense and we have begun to take on water. Some churches and clergy have decided to leave the denomination.
We are saddened by the departure of so many of our colleagues and the laity from the churches they served. Frustrated by a lack of reasonable accountability, disillusioned by conference leadership who did not seem to care, and disappointed by the injustice of a selective enforcement of disciplinary rules, they have felt called to leave the denomination.
While we understand their frustration and disappointment, there are those of us who choose to remain within the covenant of which we are all a part. We represent clergy and laity whose covenant is not just with an Annual Conference or a Bishop but with Almighty God and a denomination. We do so conscious of the fact that the issues surrounding our conflict are far from being resolved. Even after the decisions of General Conference we are deeply divided over some of the rules of Discipline. Some are pushing the church rudder in one direction while others are pushing in the other.
People outside our denomination look at us and see an "untied" rather than "united" Methodist Church. We see the devastating effect that our internal conflict is having on our witness to the world. Have the wounds of battle been so serious that a "united" Methodist Church is no longer possible? Our answer is No!
While some have abandoned the United Methodist ship of ministry, we do not intend to follow them. It is our hope and prayer that we can work faithfully with other brothers and sisters in Christ who do not necessarily share all our views. It is our prayer that a positive ministry environment can be created where the word "trust" has genuine meaning. We will faithfully support The Book of Discipline and what we believe to be the essential doctrines of our faith, as stated in our Articles of Religion and Confession of Faith.
Some of these essentials are:
In accordance with our Wesleyan heritage we seek to "proclaim no personal gospel that fails to express itself in relevant social concerns; we proclaim no social gospel that does not include the personal transformation of sinners." (Book of Discipline 1996 para. 60, p.47 )
But do we not begin this task of rebuilding, of reuniting the United Methodist Church on our knees? Is it not true that we all bear the corporate responsibility for the conflict that has caused so much pain? In an active or passive sense we have all contributed to the wounding of so many people and churches. We have all "sinned and fallen short of the glory of God," (Romans 3:23) Our healing as a conference must begin first with personal healing.
As we are reconciled to God individually then something wonderful may happen within our conference as the Holy Spirit moves. It is called revival. We believe God is waiting for us to respond to his call to re-unite our hearts around the work Jesus has set before us, "to make disciples, baptizing them in the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit," (Matthew 28:19)
Will you join us?
The Renewal Fellowship within the California/Nevada Annual Conference
Rev. Bob Kuyper, President
Background note: This letter was discussed and approved at a meeting held on August 21, 2000 at Centenary UMC, Modesto. There were 27 people present, women and men, lay and clergy.
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