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CONFLICT FACES NORTHERN ILLINOIS EVANGELICALS IN THE NEW MILLENNIUM
|NEWS FROM THE FRONT
Dateline: Jan 1st, 2000
Rev. Kent L. Svendsen
Northern Illinois Conference
United Methodist Church
Now going directly to 25 states: CA, CO, CT, DE, FL, GA, IL, IN,
"When religious groups compromise their foundational beliefs in order to co-exist with the late sensate culture rather than challenging it or standing against, they in effect consent to their own liquidation." --Harold O.J.
This next year will be very difficult for us, especially the next six months. It will be filled with confrontation and frontal attacks aimed at gaining political ground and wearing down the opposition. The idea of confrontation is not something that I run from. In fact, in this situation, I am even drawn into it. Some would see this as a thing to down play and perhaps even a character flaw. There are those who see the "way of the cross" as a willingness to be wronged and not to resist evil. But I am convinced that it is the "zeal for the Lord" that now propels me forward. That is why I resonate so well with the above quote. Because of what is happening within our conference, I have come to the point that personal integrity is forcing me into action. Even if no one else will take a public stand with me, I will stand alone and face the consequences if necessary. It is at this time that the words of John Wesley should be our guide:
This quote from John Wesley is one that both propels and concerns me. Many years ago I made a vow to God. I told God that I would go anywhere I was sent, say anything God had given me to say, and do anything God told me to do. I have surrendered my will to Jesus Christ and continue to work toward complete trust in God. Perhaps it is arrogant and insulting to say (and if so please forgive me), but I guess I simply don't understand why anyone who takes faith in Christ seriously would do anything less.
The biggest problem we face is the fact that while the evangelicals were busy saving souls and building up the church, some of the liberal elements within the denomination were figuring out how to get control of it. Now that they have a power base within the Council of Bishops, any reformation actions will be profoundly difficult since at this point they are only accountable to themselves. The bishops have the power to silence the opposition and at the same time have the plausible deniability to show righteous indignation at any suggestion that such a thing could be happening. What is in fact happening is that the people in the pews are being held as bond servants while the Lords and Ladies living in the big house up on the hill dictate to them what to do with their land and who will be their leaders. When outrage is expressed over the fact that many of our bishops are no longer willing to be accountable to the Book of Discipline or to hold others accountable to it either, cries of "creeping congregationalism" are loudly proclaimed. But God has called us to be accountable to each other and that means that the bishops need to be accountable to the laity within the denomination. Unless we are willing to hold them accountable for their actions now, evangelicals will find it harder and harder to remain faithful members of the United Methodist Church.
Rev. Kent L. Svendsen