Apportion Reduction Initiative Responds to Criticism
Dear United Methodist Pastor,
A few weeks ago, you and all the other active pastors in Iowa received a letter from the Apportionment Reduction Initiative. That letter was not signed--by simple oversight--not by deliberate action or due to lack of courage about what we have done. We are not professional PR people. We are businessmen and women, farmers, teachers, stay-at-home moms, and retirees. We are representative of the people in the pews of United Methodist churches all over Iowa and the nation, who are no longer willing to keep writing the checks to finance questionable ministries and the promotion of non-Scriptural-New Age-anything-goes "Christianity". We very much regret our error in not including our names. You will find them at the end of this letter. We doubt that many of us will be familiar to you. We are part of the faceless crowd of ordinary United Methodists who sit in the pews on Sundays, who participate in Bible studies, who serve on committees, who take part in mission outreaches, who pray daily for our church and its leadership, and who want to trust that our church hierarchy is faithfully executing its mandates from The Book of Discipline, from the teachings of John Wesley, and most importantly, from the Holy Bible. We want the United Methodist Church to be scriptural and Wesleyan. We want The United Methodist Church to exist for our children.
All across the nation today individuals, churches, and annual conferences are rising up against abuses of our beloved United Methodist tradition by the church hierarchy. Many are leaving The United Methodist Church, finding it no longer worth fighting for. We are saddened by those decisions and hope that a time might come when The United Methodist Church is attractive to them again. Many are calling for a split, allowing the focus to go back to winning souls for Christ, rather than on the constant in-fighting that has occurred in some conferences for years. We are also saddened by demands for splitting the church, but we know that other conferences have been in deep conflict for a long time and that years of turmoil and in-fighting do not help promote the business of making disciples for Christ.
We, of the Apportionment Reduction Initiative, are not calling for a split and we do not want to leave our church. In hindsight, we have discussed that we should have called our initiative, the Apportionment Redirection Initiative, to more clearly show that we have not suggested that people discontinue giving to the church--only that they take a personal hand in choosing what areas are funded. We will be using this new title, Apportionment Redirection Initiative, in any future communication. There are many places for our monies to be invested in God's work and ministries. The Book of Discipline states in Para. 811.6, that an individual or local church can choose to direct the monies "to the support of any cause or project that is a part of the work of any General Church Agency."
We are asking for accountability on the annual and general conference levels. The laity have little chance to talk directly to district superintendents or bishops, but we are expected to pay the bills. A single vote by a lay delegate at Annual Conference can't do much to promote change. Unfortunately, the full ramifications of Annual Conference actions are sometimes hidden from the delegates in fancy "church-ese", keeping them from fully understanding what they are voting on.
We feel that the best way to get the attention of those who are allocating and spending our money is to keep some of that money from them and to force them to reevaluate what they are doing and why they have made those choices.
Recent evaluations of the 1996 United Methodist Treasurer's report have reported that the largest divisions of the General Board of Global Ministries have accumulated over 300 million dollars in assets and reserves. We feel that some hard questions have to be asked. Why is a missions agency saving money? This amount equals over seven years worth of apportionments. Are there no mission needs in the world today? Why are we still asked to contribute apportionments? How many local or state missions and ministries could have been funded with those dollars? How many souls might have been saved?
We simply want to get the attention of the church's hierarchy about matters such as the missions funding, that are important to us. In our local church, we have tried on various occasions to dialogue with representatives of the church hierarchy. We have sent letters, made phone calls, and asked for special meetings with our district superintendents and officials from Des Moines. We do not feel that any of these attempts have ended in satisfactory answers or solutions. We have done and continue to do much research about the issues we hold as concerns. Despite the often high-handed way in which our concerns have been treated, we are not contemplating leaving The United Methodist Church. We feel that there is still time for change to occur. However, time is getting short. As reports roll in from across the nation of laity and pastors saying, "Enough," the church's hierarchy must respond and soon. There is no more time for ten year studies or for "hoping" that General Conference will make decisions at some time when they meet.
The ARI did not just happen overnight. The action was preceded by months of prayer and fasting, seeking God's Will as to what direction to take. The ARI was not an action taken directly as a result of the Creech decision in Nebraska. If you were to talk to our church members who have signed the document, you would find that only one or two have the homosexual issue as their most abiding area of concern. While we are troubled by the Creech decision, our concerns have as much to do with the erosion of the authority of The Book of Discipline and of the Scriptures, as with homosexuality itself. We are afraid that the decision which resulted from this trial drives a wedge into the authority of The Book of Discipline and of the Holy Bible from which the church may never recover.
The United Methodist Church is in danger of becoming the Ephesian church in Revelation that had lost its first love. "The principle threat to United Methodism at the present time is not doctrinal rigidity or narrowness, but theological confusion and fragmentation." (Bishop Joe Pennel, Jr., Virginia Conference.)
Please join us in our attempt to get the The United Methodist Church in Iowa back on the path that leads to our first love .... Jesus Christ.
Mavis E. Diment Bruce Schmadeke Dwight Moats Tom Dorr
Hope Schlenger Anna Schmadeke Renea Ogren Bob Cave
Jim Leavitt Belinda Leavitt Lorna Leavitt Sue Cave
Barb Moats Dorothy Gabel Nancy Hier
Letter to Rev. Darline Balm-Demmel
April 7, 1998
Dear Rev. Balm-Demmel,
We are writing to apologize for the lack of signatures on the ARI letter that we sent out. You were very correct in pointing out how irresponsible that was. It was simply an oversight. Many of the responses we have been getting are also concerned about this mistake. We have included our names on the back of the enclosed history.
I think you know that we are certainly not a group of polished professionals or political strategists. We are an ordinary group of United Methodists, who have felt led to be more accountable for our own personal stewardship. We are Sunday School teachers, UMW ladies, MYF leaders, and others who are working in the ministries of our local church. As we hear about some of the things that are being said and done at the Annual and General conference levels, it makes us realize that some of our gifts are being used to promote ideas that we strongly disagree with.
We appreciate and understand that there will be those who have other opinions within our denomination. This initiative is our attempt to respect those other perspectives while not supporting them financially. In this way, we hope we can allow people to stay in the United Methodist denomination and work together to find unity in our common mission, "... to make disciples of Jesus Christ."
Enclosed is the history that resulted in this action. We felt it was important to document the steps that preceded the formation of this task force. We have sincerely tried to work within the connectional system for many years. We feel that a single vote at Annual Conference cannot make the kind of difference that will satisfy our sense of stewardship responsibility. If you find inaccuracy in the following history, please contact us.
Ric Olson was here for worship Sunday morning. Several people had hoped to visit with him, but he left immediately after the service. We were puzzled by the presence of a conference representative when there was no apparent purpose or opportunity to touch base with him. Is there a way that we could continue to work to improve communication especially during this critical time?
cc: Bishop Jordan
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