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UM Confessing Movement Issues Statement on Unity

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    From United Methodist News Service. The complete statement is on the Confessing Movement s web site at:
    Message 1 of 1 , Sep 29, 2005
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      From United Methodist News Service. The complete statement is on the
      Confessing Movement's web site at:
      http://www.confessingumc.org/Sept2005UnityStatement.htm

      Confessing Movement issues statement on unity
      Sept. 28, 2005

      By Daniel R. Gangler*

      CINCINNATI (UMNS) - The Confessing Movement within the United
      Methodist Church has issued a proclamation welcoming "serious
      attention to the denomination's unity and the basis of that unity."

      The proclamation was approved Sept. 24 by the more than 300
      participants at the Confessing Movement's national conference.
      According to the two-page document, "Unity in Christ, That the World
      May Believe," the proclamation came as a reaction to discussion at
      the 2004 General Conference - which adopted a unity resolution - and
      the appointment of the Unity Task Force by the Council of Bishops.

      The document was introduced by the Rev. Maxie Dunnam, chancellor of
      Asbury Theological Seminary in Wilmore, Ky., and vice president of
      the Confessing Movement, on behalf of the group's board of directors.

      The document rests on three convictions held by the movement:

      * "There is no authentic unity in the church apart from agreement
      on the truth of the gospel.
      * "Our (United Methodist) constitutionally protected Doctrinal
      Standards are foundational to our agreement in the gospel.
      * "There are inadequate proposals for unity to be named and
      critiqued."

      Doctrine is central to the document, according to Dunnam. "We don't
      want this to be a strident doctrine," he told the conference.

      The proclamation is "not an action plan but a platform for action,"
      he said. The Confessing Movement board members are preparing a letter
      to the Council of Bishops asking for the integrity of the United
      Methodist episcopal leaders, he said. A commentary will be written
      that might suggest actions to be taken, he said.

      The document states, "Genuine unity in the church is not secured by
      religious sentiment, sincere piety, dead orthodoxy, tight property
      clauses or appeals to institutional authority and loyalty." It
      defines genuine unity "as a precious gift of the Holy Spirit . rooted
      in the gospel of Jesus Christ, witnessed to in Holy Scripture,
      summarized in ecumenical creeds, celebrated in worship and
      sacraments, demonstrated in common mission, articulated in our
      teaching, lived out in love, and contended for by the faithful."

      The document proclaims that unity requires official doctrine, careful
      teaching of the apostolic faith by the leaders of the church and the
      maintaining of the denomination's Book of Discipline as a covenant of
      trust.

      The document also cites "practices that contribute to disunity,"
      including neglect of Scripture, disobedience to the church's
      Doctrinal Standards, claims of new sources of revelation that set
      aside the authority of Scripture and the tested morality of the
      church, and "capitulation to lifestyles that are inconsistent with
      Christian discipleship."

      The proclamation says dissent is inevitable. "Principled dissent is
      to be tested in Christian conferencing by its congruence with
      Scripture and the church's Doctrinal Standards."

      The document affirms the Confessing Movement's mission to reform and
      renew the United Methodist Church by advocating doctrinal unity in
      Christ and the church's mission of making disciples. The document
      closes by stating that the movement prays for all United Methodists
      to "join in this holy work of recovering our unity in Christ."

      Several participants at the conference said the section on dissent
      needed strengthening, but Dunnam said those drafting the final
      statement "did not want to send any kind of a warning or threat to
      the church."

      One participant appreciated "the sweet spirit" and said it was
      important to keep that. Another said, "We need a goal-line stance.
      I'm tired of being on the defensive. I'm not afraid to talk
      about 'amicable separation'" - that is, allowing the breakup of
      church membership and property because of theological differences.

      Dunnam reminded the group of its vision of unity. "We are not divided
      from the church," he said. "We are living the book. . We will deal
      with the 'what ifs' when the 'what ifs' come along. ... We will bear
      that cross."

      After the proclamation was confirmed, the Rev. Robert Renfroe, a
      Confessing Movement board member and associate minister at the
      Woodlands United Methodist Church near Houston, addressed the
      conference. "We need to listen as first steps toward unity. Listen to
      others; listen to God," he said.

      "Homosexuality is not the issue," he said, referring to a topic that
      has been a focal point of theological debate in the church. "There
      are deeper problems." He outlined those as the nature of moral truth,
      authority of Scripture, revelatory words of Scripture, and the
      uniqueness of Christ as supreme Lord and Savior of the world.

      "These are the issues that divide the United Methodist Church. They
      must be addressed," Renfroe said.

      The Indianapolis-based organization is an unofficial United Methodist
      caucus supported by 1,526 congregations, 5,025 clergy and 661,804
      laity, according to the group's data.

      *Gangler is director of communication of the United Methodist
      Church's Indiana Area.
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