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Honoring the Legacy of Bill Hinson

by James Gibson

I first became acquainted with the problems confronting the United Methodist Church in 1988 when a group of Methodist evangelicals issued "The Houston Declaration," a clarion call to biblical orthodoxy prior to that year's General Conference. As pastor of First UMC in Houston, Dr. Bill Hinson was a leading light in the drafting of that document. Reading it and studying the issues surrounding it was a seminal moment for me in discerning a call to the ministry. As the years passed, I moved away from the idea of institutional reform which seemed to be the main agenda of renewal leaders, including Hinson. Over the past two years, I have discerned a deeper call to a ministry beyond the institutional UMC in a new and emerging expression of the Anglicanism which first birthed the Methodist movement through its founder John Wesley. But I have never forgotten the impact of that moment when I first read "The Houston Declaration" and heard the voice of God calling me to preach the Gospel and to offer Christ to the lost of the world.

On December 26, I preached my last sermon as a United Methodist minister. That same day, Bill Hinson, after a month-long battle to recover from a massive stroke, entered into his eternal rest. Some who are still fighting the battle within the old system may now see it as imperative to pursue one of Hinson's last initiatives: an "amicable separation" between conservatives and revisionists within the UMC. But in the same address in which he made that fateful suggestion, he also made what I believe was a far more insightful comment. He said his was the last generation to remember Methodism as a movement.

More than just the passing of a giant among Methodist preachers, Hinson's death reminds us all that the generation which so many of us looked up to for so long is not going to be here forever. If Hinson and his generation could only "remember" Methodism as a movement, what is now left for those who come after them?

Does Methodism have a future as a vital part of the Body of Christ? I firmly believe it does. But the legacy of Bill Hinson and others of his generation will not be honored by pouring new wine into old wineskins. Methodism began as a movement, and it is always at its best when that movement is not merely a memory in hearts of a passing generation. We honor the legacy of those who have gone before us by following obediently wherever the Holy Spirit leads us, taking with us the very best of the Methodist movement to the place where its message of Scriptural holiness can best move others by the grace of God to repentance and saving faith in Jesus Christ.
James Gibson

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