Renewal Group Leader Sees "conservative backlash" At UM National Meeting, Makes Plea To Take A Stand
From: Mark D. Tooley [mailto:email@example.com]
Sent: Wednesday, April 21, 2004 12:23 PM
Subject: Florida newspaper article
Northwest Florida Daily News April 20, 2004
Church speaker expects a conservative shift
T Watchdog tells Destin Methodists a church split over gay issue is unlikely.
By JULIE HATFIELD Daily News City Editor
DESTIN — The United Methodist church has been sliding on the slippery slope toward liberalism for years, and recent talk about homosexuals’ role in the church is the latest example of that, said a professional church watchdog.
But Mark Tooley, whose full-time job at the Washington, D.C-based Institute on Religion and Democracy is to push for reform in the Methodist church, told local parishioners Monday that he is expecting a conservative backlash.
"The numbers (of new members) are going to churches that are traditional," he said. "The future is more orthodox here and around the world."
Tooley visited Destin United Methodist Church at the request of a church member familiar with his work at the institute, a conservative ecumenical Christian group that promotes reform to the church.
Much of the discussion centered on reaction to the March trial of a Washington pastor who formally admitted she is a practicing lesbian.
Although the church’s Book of Discipline declares homosexuality to be "incompatible to Christian teachings," a jury of pastors voted to allow her to continue her ministry.
That upset Destin resident David Turner, who said he has read the Book of Discipline and believes in it.
"It’s a book that thick of things we’re supposed to do," he said, holding his fingers two inches apart, "and if we’re not going to follow it we might as well throw it in the trash."
Turner’s fear is that Methodists will have to endure the conflict now faced in the Episcopal church. Its members are discussing breaking away after a General Conference vote last August to elect an openly gay bishop.
"I just have a heart for saving the church," Turner said. "I don’t want to see us go the way of the Episcopal church."
Methodists will certainly discuss their position on homosexuality at their General Conference, which begins next week in Pittsburgh, Tooley said.
The issue comes up at each conference and the vote gets closer each time, Tooley said, although he expects the recent trial to widen the margin this year.
"I think it will work to strengthen the hand of those seeking to affirm current church teachings," he said, adding he doesn’t foresee a split in the church’s future.
Tooley encourages Methodists who hope otherwise to consider the writings of the Bible’s New Testament.
"The advice never comes … to leave the church or start a new one," he said, "but to strengthen what remains."
Tooley discussed other reforms he hopes the nation’s third-largest church will pursue, including the way it funds missions and its need to return to an emphasis on the Scriptures.
He told the crowd of about 75 that they could work to reform the church by staying informed, writing letters to bishops and volunteering to serve as delegates to the national conference.
Destin resident Shirl Boddie said reforms are necessary to help members "stay focused on the purpose of the church … to save souls."
"We hear all the time in sermons you have to stand up for religion, stand up for God," she said. "Now, we have the chance."
Mark D. Tooley
UM Action Executive Director
The Institute on Religion & Democracy
1110 Vermont Avenue NW Suite 1180
Washington DC 20005
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