Northern Illinois UM Evangelicals Fail To Support Words With Action, Faithful Move On
From: Rev. / Chaplain Kent L. Svendsen
Sent: Thursday, December 13, 2001 10:09 AM
Subject: DEAR NICEA
Dear Northern Illinois Conference Evangelical Association
As you know I will most likely be leaving for six months starting in January to serve overseas with my National Guard unit which has been called to active duty for the "War on Terrorism". So I thought I would tie up any lose ends before leaving.
Let me be quite blunt. The last NICEA meeting I attended might just be my last. I believe that its newly established mission and purpose are in fact diverting peoples energies away from the actions we need to take in order to bring reform to our conference and our denomination. I love everyone involved with the group and will always be your friend, support your conference programs, and encourage your efforts to elect evangelicals to general conference. However, I will be directing all my energies towards doing many of the things NICEA has decided should not be done. I brought to the group the actions of a courageous individual, pastor, and church concerning their attempt to hold our bishop accountable for his teaching of doctrines contrary to those established within our Discipline. In my opinion, your response was a message to our bishop that anyone who attempts such a thing will be on their own to face the power of our conference and our bishop alone. If supporting and helping to protect those who are working "in harms way" toward reform is "not what were all about" then NICEA is "not what I'm all about". I offered a action (letter writing) campaign in which we could encourage our denominational bishops to provide evangelical leadership in bringing reform to the denomination. But there was little interest that I could see, so I guess that's not what were all about either.
Here was the rationalization for my letter writing campaign:
Part of the problem we have is the image which the NIC has in other conferences. Our bishop in essence has stated in the news media that he has the full support of the conference and that any actions taken to hold him accountable to the discipline are just trouble makers from outside our conference. That would tend to lead the bishops to believe that they should just stay out of it since what we have, is what we all want. This would lead them to believe that the majority of United Methodists in our conference are just like our bishop. In my opinion, that's why the cabinet became so hostile to me concerning a letter to the editor I wrote to the Rockford paper in response to an interview the bishop gave them in which he claimed to have the support of the people in the conference. That is the image they want everyone in the conference and beyond to see. It is an attempt to convince everyone that the majority opinion is in fact a very small minority one and in doing so discourage them from taking the necessary actions needed to create reform.
Here is what we face. We have a "denomination within a denomination" which has been created by liberal clergy activists who have migrated from more evangelical jurisdictions into those in which they can establish control over the election of General Conference clergy representatives, dramatically effect through the local pastorates the election of liberal lay activists, and in doing so control the election of bishops. Because of this, the problem will only grow worse if we don't take direct action to correct it. I attended the last jurisdictional conference. At one worship service I was pleased to see in the bulletin that there would be a "affirmation of faith". Do you know what it was?! It was a musician singing the sappy song: "I Believe". You know the words. "I believe for every drop of rain that falls, a flower grows.....etc." Sorry I don't believe that. God can do anything. I believe that God can make a virgin pregnant, take on the form of a human being with its limitations while still running the universe, heal the sick, raise the dead, open the eyes of the blind, be raised from the dead, and establish a kingdom in which all of creation stands before the judgement seat of Jesus Christ and is held accountable for their actions. All of that I can believe and I don't have to "spiritualize" any of it in order to maintain my ordination vows. But I suppose in our present situation we can all read just about any statement of belief in a public worship service and whether we can affirm anything within it or not it will be considered acceptable. It has become a "let's all just get along at any cost". We no longer have the luxury to do that unless we want to see another exodus of evangelicals who get tired of being embarrassed and humiliated by a system which has solid Biblical doctrines and rules to protect those doctrines, but not the will to enforce those rules. One statement I am hearing more and more is this one. "Just what will it take before we do something!" The answer is simple. We must join together as a whole in mutual support of each other and with a determination to defend our doctrines and disciplines, because if not, what will happen is a continual deterioration of The United Methodist Church as one by one people finally get so embarrassed and humiliated by our lack of resolve to hold people accountable that they leave. Its happening even as I write this!
Rev. Kent L. Svendsen
NIC Coordinator The Confessing Movement Within The United Methodist Church
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