UM Confessing Movement Issues Statement on Unity
- From United Methodist News Service. The complete statement is on the
Confessing Movement's web site at:
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
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
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
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
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
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.