Recommendation From the Evangelical Renewal Fellowship
to the California-Nevada Annual Conference
April 1, 1998, Oakdale, CA
Recent events with regard to the trial of the Rev. Jimmy Creech for performing a holy union between lesbians have brought us to a crisis within the California-Nevada Annual Conference. Two District Superintendents have been quoted as speaking in support of clergy who perform same-sex unions. Earlier, our Bishop and our most recently retired Bishop have signed a statement in support of homosexual rights within the UMC. Concurrently, a national dialogue between "liberals" and "evangelical/traditionalists" has concluded that our differences stem from basic disagreements on the nature of revelation. These events have caused California-Nevada evangelicals to face the inescapable truth that our differences with a liberal Conference are insoluble. For more than 30 years, no evangelical has been appointed to the Cabinet and relations between evangelicals and our Conference leadership has alternated between open hostility and uneasy truce. Evangelical theology is incompatible with the dominant values of tolerance and inclusion held by Conference leadership. The difference touches every area of Church life: theology, worship, Sacraments, Christian education, ecumenical relations, missions, pastoral leadership, church growth, evangelism, eschatology, ethics, and morality. We are divided beyond reconciliation.
We evangelicals are tired of fighting. We have no further wish to continue to wage war in Conference agencies and on the voting floor. We are convinced that, just as we will never be swayed from the basic affirmations of our faith, we will never change the minds of those with whom we disagree. We feel that the best option is to respect each other despite our differences and to bring peace to our relationships by pursuing another course. Let us disagree in a Christian manner.
Therefore, we humbly and strongly ask our Annual Conference leadership to join with us in seeking a just way in which we might allow evangelical pastors and congregations the choice to separate from the Annual Conference. Let us design a careful and wise process by which evangelical pastors and churches can responsibly choose to transform their theological reality into an organizational reality. Separation will allow both sides to pursue their vision for ministry without the distraction and injury of an ongoing war of ideas. In disagreement, we will be able to exercise the dictates of our faith without harming those with whom we disagree. We propose that together we might seek outside mediation to establish a just process for evangelical pastors and churches to retain their local property with some just compensation to the Conference. Perhaps, this would involve certain compensation to the Conference for financial assistance in the past. It would serve the just goal of allowing those people of faith who have built a congregation to pursue their faith in freedom.
We realize that those who value organizational unity over peace will oppose such an idea. We believe that organizational unity forcibly imposed does unnecessary injury and violates the desires of either party. Further, we believe that the resultant evangelical and liberal churches will have new vigor and effectiveness once freed from the costs of fighting over insurmountable differences. Consider the energy which could be employed to minister in each context. When we make peace, then we can begin to plant, grow and harvest.
We plead with the Annual Conference leadership to consider this proposal with sincere hearts and open minds. Let us respect each other by allowing each to follow the truth as each receive it. Instead of making winners and losers, let's allow both parties to win.