How do you work for renewal and reform in a mainline denomination where the leadership is primarily set against your cause? Such is the question faced every day by a group like Good News, a renewal ministry begun in 1967 to help awaken the United Methodist Church to the good news of Christ and the requirements of Christ’s law for those who follow him as his disciples.
I am convinced that of all the various renewal groups in the mainline none has done more good, and produced better resources, than Good News. Because of a growing friendship with James V. Heidinger II, the president of Good News, I was afforded the great thrill of speaking to the board of Good News this week (August 1-3) in Wilmore, Kentucky. I was asked to talk about staying in the mainline and working with Christian courage to reverse the secularizing tendencies of a denomination. I also fielded questions for several hours alongside one of the best Wesley scholars I have ever met, Professor Kenneth Collins of Asbury Theological Seminary. I highly recommend Ken’s work as well. I was kindly received and treated with real respect by all. I hope I made some new friends for the cause of renewal. I know that I was deeply impressed by what I saw and heard.
One of the boundary issues that every mainline group must face is the homosexual question. Should practicing and unrepentant homosexuals be ordained to the ministry and/or received into the church? A Methodist pastor in Virginia recently refused membership to a man who was living in a homosexual relationship. For this action he was removed from his ministry, without pay, by his bishop. This man was not looking for a fight or angling for a political struggle. He was simply seeking to be faithful to the gospel. Eventually his bishop was overruled by the national governing council, but only by a 5-4 vote. This action in Virginia was at, or just below, the surface of every issue we discussed this week. These Good News folks are courageous and wise, but they are weary and frustrated as well. (I will say more about this in due time.) For now I urge you to pray for them. Methodism needs their witness desperately.
The homosexual issue is not about "orientation" or "sexual preferences." For people like those at Good News it is about the seventh commandment. The church that fails here will become an apostate church since we can’t afford to treat the commandments of God as inconsequential in terms of their moral claims on the lives of Jesus’ followers.
The Good News movement presents itself as “is a voice for repentance, an agent for reform, and a catalyst for renewal within the United Methodist Church.” You can learn more about Good News at www.goodnewsmag.org. Their magazine, also called Good News, is very, very good. I heartily recommend it to anyone interested in solid Christian thought that is confessionally Wesleyan, faithfully evangelical, and insightfully well-presented.
May God bless the board and staff of Good News with fresh grace and real courage as they seek to serve the church of which they are a vital part.