(Below is a report from Phil Hardt a clergy person in the New York Annual Conference and member of the NYAC Wesley Fellowship. An additional source of General Conference news and updates which may be of interest to you is: http://www.umgc2012.org/)


I attended General Conference from Tuesday to Saturday last week.  The Reform and Renewal Coalition assigned me to observe the “Faith and Order” legislative committee.  This committee met from Wednesday to Saturday afternoon.  I was in the subcommittee on “Ordination” where a number of petitions called for the removal of the language that says “self avowed practicing homosexuals” cannot be certified, ordained, or appointed.  The subcommittee spent most of its time working on one petition that retained the prohibition but seemed to soften what some called “harsh language” against those with same-sex orientation.  When it went to the full committee of “Faith and Order”, it was further weakened.  It still said that only those in a marriage of one man and one woman could be ordained, but it removed the language about “same sex unions”.  This still has to go before the General Conference in plenary session this week.  The Gen. Conf. can approve, reject, and, I believe, can also amend.
Twelve other subcommittees met last week.  Sunday was a day of rest.  The General Conference will continue until Friday.  The Reform and Renewal Coalition held team meetings on a daily basis.  Overall, things are looking good.  Here are a few highlights from the various legislative committees from last week:
Church and Society – more “pro-life” on abortion.  The committee removed the language from the Social Principles that homosexuality is “incompatible” with living the Christian life.  This will have to go before the full conference this week.  That subcommittee vote was 14 – 12 to remove the language.
Discipleship – A petition to have a four year study committee on transgenderism lost.
Finance and Administration – No UMC funds will be given to RCRC (a pro-abortion coalition).  The Women’s Division had been a member of this coalition for many years.  Also, no UMC funding will be allowed to promote the acceptance of homosexuality.
World Service will give five million dollars to the central conference (Africa) for theological education.  Africa has a great need for more theological education as the UMC is growing there.
Global Ministries – The Women’s Division will be separated from Gen. Board of Global Ministries.
The Call to Action plan for restructuring was not accepted nor was Plan B.
A request to add a bishop for South Congo was delayed
Gen. Comm. on Religion and Race and Gen. Comm. on the Status and Role of Women will be reduced in size.
A resolution to lobby the Boy Scouts to admit homosexual leaders was not approved
Judicial Administration – One fifth of Annual Conference now needed for a decision of law from the Judicial Council
Eliminated the “practice of homosexuality as a chargable offense”.  The vote was 27-20.
An attempt to mandate a suspension of one year for conducting a same sex wedding/ceremony was rejected.
Local Church – the minister still has the discretion on when someone is ready for membership.
Other women’s ministries can be established in addition to the UMW.  A big victory!!
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By Dr. Riley Case
    Presently proposed legislation to United Methodism’s 2012 General Conference would greatly expand the role of the bishops in UM life.  This legislation is as follows:
      1) A set-aside bishop, without the responsibilities of an area to serve.  This person would serve as a sort of chief executive officer for the denomination.   Some persons have said this person would feel very much like a United Methodist Pope.
       2) The end of guaranteed appointments.  Presently any ordained member of a conference who is in good standing is guaranteed an appointment, regardless of how effective or ineffective the person is.  The key person in deciding whether a pastor should or should not be appointed would be the bishop.   Since decisions could be made on subjective factors, this would open up the appointment system to abuse.  Meanwhile, the bishops themselves, elected for life, would keep their own guaranteed appointment.
      3) The restructuring proposed by the Interim Operations Team (IOT), which would
increase the presence of bishops in the governance of the agencies.   The proposal would combine nine major general agencies under four “ministry centers,” which would operate under another coordinating agency, a Center for Connectional Mission and Ministry, which would operate with a 15-member board of directors.   The coordinating agency would have authority not only to direct the work of the center but also to allocate funds “in consultation with the bishops.”  It is the “in consultation with the bishops,” as well as the fact that the bishops would have a hand in picking the 15 members board, that bothers people.
     As has been said before, at least from an evangelical perspective, it is not structure that is the church’s major problem.  It is moral and doctrinal confusion and an inability of church leaders to articulate a Biblical vision for the church.  Or to put it another way, it is a 100-year capitulation to theological liberalism and moral ambiguity and compromise.   But having said that, structure matters.  Generally, for evangelicals, the less institutionalism and top-heavy bureaucratic structure, the better.   Many churches feel they pay a lot of apportionments for general church agencies but are not convinced the benefits warrant the expense.  Evangelicals could support any structure that would cut costs, would be theologically balanced, and would benefit the local church. 
    Which brings the matter back to bishops.   There could be support for new structure if it were thought that leaders-in this case bishops-would be committed to the United Methodist doctrinal standards, would be competent in their duties, would avoid the pitfalls of institutionalism, and would be fair toward all theological perspectives, particularly to evangelicals. 
    This, it appears, might be too much to ask, given the church’s history with its bishops.
    Methodism, at least at the beginning, thrived under bishops.  Bishops deployed preachers like commanders deploying troops.  They inspired; they rode the wilderness trails along with their preachers.  They truly did believe the purpose of Methodist preachers was to save souls, and they set the example by their own preaching and convictions.   For the most part they were exceptional men able to assess gifts and graces and to make appointments accordingly.  For all of its claim for reform and its arguments for a more republican form of church government, the Methodist Protestant Church, which had its beginning in 1822 in rebellion against bishops, never did thrive, partly because of the lack of governance authority.
    But bishops, like the church generally, increasingly became attracted to prestige and power, became institutionally protective and cautious, and less effective.   Bishops did not handle prophets and mavericks well.  In the run-up to church division before the Civil War, bishops denounced the evangelical abolitionists as trouble-makers, and thus lost those who formed the Wesleyan Methodist and Free Methodist Churches.   The bishops’ position on slavery was not unlike the bishops’ stand on homosexual practice today.  To appease the slaveholders they took the attitude that there were differences in the church and the church was not of one mind (the same argument used in homosexual practice discussions today).   The bishops, ever protective of their own, refused to hold accountable the slaveholder, Bishop Andrews, despite the Discipline’s stand on slavery.  The bishops’ plan for dealing with the 1844 General Conference crisis was to call for tabling all slavery matters and talk for four more years.   In this leadership vacuum the church split disastrously.  The differences were probably irreconcilable but an amiable division would have been better than the animosity that developed out of a chaotic situation.  The Methodist Protestants, who did divide amiably, were able to reunite in 1878.  It took the M.E.s until 1940.
     The M.E. bishops, both north and south, did not deal with the Holiness Movement well.  At first supportive, the bishops became alarmed when holiness advocates began to develop alternate structures-periodicals, hymnals, camp meeting associations, ministries to the poor, and independent evangelists.   The ensuing purge, in which bishops took a leading role, drove out some of the choicest people in the church during the 1890s and 1900s, resulting in numerous new denominations, and which led eventually to the Pentecostal movement.   That was when Methodism lost its poor.   Bishops became very much a part of an elitist class, elected often from positions as college presidents and book editors, and increasingly isolated from common ordinary Methodists.  There is something ironic about Methodism’s much heralded Social Creed of 1907, pontificated by persons living in the gilded age speaking on behalf of the poor when the church had just driven the poor from its midst.
     In the early 1900s the bishops, always captive to trendy fads, capitulated to theological modernism and were a part of an effort to deconstruct the faith.  In this understanding the goal of the church was not to win souls but to bring in the Kingdom, which looked very much like some form of socialism.  Superstition and ignorance, not unbelief, were the obstacles on the way to the kingdom, and “fundamentalism” a hindrance that needed to be removed.   The strategy during this time was to impose modernism in the seminaries, the course of study, and the Sunday school material, and then force pastors and churches to use only approved “official” resources and training.
      In more recent times, despite a number of excellent bishops, the animosity on the part of some bishops toward evangelicals has been marked.  Good News has documented dozens of cases where pastors and churches were mistreated, often without due process.   Not all of these were evangelicals, but many were.  More discouraging than the mistreatment was the unwillingness of anyone, including other bishops, to hold incompetent bishops accountable.  True accountability for our bishops needs to be part of any restructuring, especially with the increased empowerment they would receive under the plan.     
     In the mid-1980s when the Mission Society for United Methodists was sending missionaries in support of United Methodist and Methodist autonomous churches around the world, the bishops refused to grant special appointments to anyone associated with the board, and discouraged churches from receiving Mission Society representatives in their churches.   In California in 2000 the bishop basically purged 16 evangelical elders and ministerial candidates from the ministerial ranks because they voiced their criticism of the bishop’s handling of ministers performing homosexual unions.  In Fairbanks, Alaska, the bishop and conference forcibly discontinued of St. Paul’s United Methodist Church in 2002, because the church elected church officers that were not acceptable to the district superintendent and the bishop.   When the book United Methodism@Risk, a book which accused all the evangelical renewal groups of undermining the United Methodist Church was published in 2003, bishops were quoted and one bishop wrote the study guide.    About the same time the bishop who chaired the General Board of Church and Society referred to conservative critics of the board as “enemies.” 
      In 2005 Pastor Ed Johnson of Virginia was discontinued as a ministerial member because he resisted the bishop’s orders to go against conscience and the Discipline in determining a person’s readiness for membership.  When the bishop and the conference action was overruled by the Judicial Council, the Council of Bishops defended the bishop and evidently the bishop’s role in reinterpreting the Discipline, criticized the Judicial Council and made sure any council members who voted for the majority would not be reelected.  While no bishops have actively been involved with evangelical renewal groups bishops have continually been identified with groups like Methodist Federated for Social Action, Church Within a Church, Reconciling Ministries and others who have admitted they have problems with the Discipline as it now stands. 
     With this history it is no wonder that many evangelicals in the church (there are others also) are uneasy about giving bishops even more authority under the new proposed structure.    If the bishops were to commit themselves truly to guarding the faith they have promised to uphold,  gave themselves to the mission of the Church which is to make disciples of Jesus Christ, hold one another accountable, and respect theological diversity, especially in regard to evangelical theology, evangelicals would be first to join their support group.
    Perhaps it will be possible to work out a compromise with the proposed structure.  Boards and agencies could be downsized, accountability put in place, and a system of effective governance in which all groups in the church work together in order to make disciples for Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world. 
     (For a file of past Happenings articles, as well as other writings by Riley Case, go to rileycase.com)  

Agents of Prevenient Grace:  Some steps to effective pre-evangelism


This past July I entered the retired status after serving as a United Methodist Pastor for 42 years.   This summer and fall my wife and I have been looking for a church, a new spiritual home.  We have visited at least a dozen churches.  What we have found has thrilled and disappointed us.    We have visited three United Methodist Churches, an American Baptist Church, an Evangelical Lutheran and Epscopal congregation also a summer chapel all within a 45 minute ride from our new home.


What have we found?   First I had to deal with me.  I had to discipline my mind from wandering to comparison, and the feeling that I would have done it differently.   That is a personal battle all Christians face when looking for a new church.   But it is especially endemic among retired Pastors!  Every worshiping Christian congregation has its unique characteristics.  Some of them have the power to drive one to distraction.  Then I remembered the marvelous introduction to CS Lewis’ Screwtape Letters.  He writes about a new Christian attending church and how one of Satan’s junior tempters can win this new believer back to the dark side.  He is advised to have the new believer focus on the “sweaty grocer, or one’s hungry stomach” etc.   The first major battle when going to church is keep the focus on Jesus and not self.


In visiting these churches we witnessed that God is at work no matter how varied and different.   We have experienced Christ centered preaching,  good music and solid God focused worship.   Sadly, we have worshiped, in one or two places where we rarely heard the name of Jesus  However, the most amazing and disappointing was the lack of welcome and hospitality.   How is it possible to go to a Christian church and not be welcomed?  It saddens me to say we have attended some churches where there is not one person to greet you with a hello or even a smile. Even those places that had greeters.  Most were busy visiting with their friends and couldn’t take time to even say hello.  We attended two churches where one person came up and took the time to say hello and that one person made you feel this is a place where I can attend.


In the church our chief concern is helping to discover Jesus as personal Lord and Savior.  Churches that are growing have learned that the Gospel starts with friendliness.  These churches have put into practice what this means.  How will anyone come to love and serve Jesus if His people are not open to guests that come to His house?   It took me a while to figure out that not everyone can get “out of their skin” and walk across the room to welcome a stranger. I am reminded of Bill Hybels powerful sermon made into a book, Just Walk Across the Room.  Check out the utube: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ikiiIf5Semo   Hybels identifies simple things people can do to welcome others and help them on the path to the Father.  I would recommend this series to those who want to raise the evangelical temperature of their church.   While hospitality is a natural gift of some, it needs to be learned and developed by all of us.  Pastors need to train their people in the art of hospitality and welcome.


The other amazing thing I discovered was this: Even in the places where you identified yourself by signing a visitor’s pad or book there was no follow up.  Not a note, not a phone call, not even an email.  Not one pastor followed up with a call and only one with a letter of welcome.



Of course the message is:  WE DON’T WANT YOU HERE!   Jesus welcomes all.  Shouldn’t we His people do the same.    Has the church forgotten that the first step towards faith in Christ is a simple hello, a smile a word of welcome?   Ask anyone who loves God and they will tell you that the reason they affiliated with a particular congregation was because some one cared to welcome them.


We all know that there is a serious decline in the church today.   In my own conference there are few churches that are growing in attendance or membership.  Our own United Methodist Church has lost millions since the 1960’s.  There are many reasons for this decline but certainly one is that we have forgotten is how to welcome the stranger.


There is a frightening narrative at the end of Matthew’s gospel where Jesus speaks of the judgment.  You remember the scene:  On the right those who will inherit the Kingdom and those on the left who will not.  To those who did inherit the Kingdom said, “Lord when Our Lord Jesus when was it that we saw you a stranger and welcomed you…..?”  Jesus answered, “When you did it to one of the least of these who are members of my family, you did it to me.”   To those who did not inherit the Kingdom Jesus said, “when I was a stranger ……..you did not welcome me.  Then Jeus said, “Truly I tell you just as you did not do it……you did not do it to me.”



Faithful Christians are always in the minority.   The whole prophetic tradition makes this so clear.   God’s prophets (a minority of one) called the people of Israel (majority) back to God.  When the people refused, the Prophets spoke God’s truth of judgment.   In this post-Christendom era our culture is abandoning so much of what it is we have believed and lived for ages.  In Christendom the culture supported many of the good values we see abandoned today.

I thank God for my seminary education at Union Theological Seminary I am thinking especially of the courses in Church History.  I was fascinated with Athansius, the faithful Bishop who was a minority voice in the wilderness for truth in a time when the whole church went after the heresy of Arianism.   There stood Athanasius contra mundum (against the world) speaking and living out the truth when the church abandoned it.  Athansius was the force behind Nicea, the Church Council which resulted in the Nicene Creed, a statement of orthodox truth.  And yet Athanasius saw this consensus fall apart followed by Arian emperors.  We owe much to Athanasius because he preserved the tradition that was handed down to us from the early church.

All of this is to say that we need to continue to be faithful and not fear being used by God.  Remember, this comes with a cost, as it did for Athanasius and other faithful prophets.   But you know this.  Did not Jesus warn us that persecution would come?  In our day it is the “progressives” who have abandoned “the faith once delivered.”  They may mouth the words of the Nicene Creed and say they hold to the tradition of the church, but they don’t.  The “progressives” have lifted experience as the lens through which they see scripture, reason and tradition.  How ironic, these progressives think that they are truly prophetic in standing against the culture.   But the unvarnished truth is they have jumped into the same boat of the godless culture.  Their latest attempt is to convince us that we need to be “accepting” and “affirming” of what God labels sin. After all they say, “How can we be truly inclusive and not discriminatory if we not bless. But I ask you how can we bless and affirm what God doesn’t? Telling us that “scripture’s clear teaching really doesn’t mean what it says.”

Rev. Roy E. Jacobsen

Northeastern Jurisdiction Evangelical Connection Meeting

Nov. 1-2 in Owego, NY

– By Phil Hardt

Fifteen persons attended the fall NEJ Evangelical Connection meeting at the Treadway Conference Center in Owego, New York.  Leaders and representatives of conference renewal fellowships from New York, Upper New York, Eastern Pennsylvania, and Western Pennsylvania attended.  The spring meeting will be held in Willow Valley in the Lancaster area of Pennsylvania.  The Fall, 2012 meeting is planned for the New York City area.  The main speaker was Rev. Tom Lambrecht, vice-president of Good News, who oversees logistics for General Conference.  Tom was also the church counsel in the Amy DeLong trial in Wisconsin last spring.

Tom’s first talk was about three study committees that will bring proposals to the 2012 General Conference in Tampa, Florida.  The first commission he mentioned was the “Study Commission on the Worldwide Nature of the Church”.  He mentioned how in recent years we have become more of a global church, not just one based primarily in the United States.  This has led to different proposals on how to structure the United Methodist Church.  One proposal is that the UMC would have “central conferences” in which the church in the U. S. would become a central conference.  He did not think this was a good idea since it could lead to “national churches” and less global unity.  Next, he mentioned the Study of Ministry Committee which is attempting to make the ordination process occur more quickly.  One proposal calls for “Commissioning” for be eliminated.  Persons would be ordained and then have a two to eight year period of probation before they are made full members of conference.  The final commission mentioned was the “Call to Action Commission” which the Interim Operations Team has been overseeing since 2009.  The Call to Action report attempts to refocus the local church on its mission.

Tom’s second talk was entitled, “The Church Addresses Homosexuality”.  First, he talked about “Why It Matters”.  He gave four reasons for supporting the church’s position.  First, heterosexual marriage portrays the image of God.  Second, heterosexual marriage portrays the relationship of Christ with the Church (Ephesians 5).  Third, heterosexual marriage is the best environment for the raising of children.  He referred to several recent sociological studies that support this position.  Fourth, it is important to submit to the authority of Scripture.  He said undermining of Scriptural authority undermines the Gospel.  Then he gave several ways the church can respond to the issue of homosexuality.  First, we must remain faithful.  It is also an opportunity for the church to get our theology of human sexuality right as we confront a theological error.  Third, this issue is an invitation to Christian discipleship as it calls us to avoid heterosexual immorality and have proper sexuality within marriage.  Finally, we can offer ministry to those afflicted with same sex desires.  The last part of his talk focused on what he called five “options for the future” as we face the possibility that some UM clergy will conduct same-sex marriages in defiance of the church’s teaching.

His final talk focused on several issues facing the 2012 General Conference.  First, he mentioned the need for international delegates to have better translations of the sessions,earlier access to General Conference documents, more funding for theological education in the Central Conferences and two additional Central Conference bishops in the Congo.  The second concern was to amend our denomination’s mission statement to read “making disciples of Jesus Christ for the salvation of souls and the transformation of the world”.  This would restore the urgency of proclaiming the Gospel.  The third area was the effort to have our denomination be more consistent in supporting pro-life matters  and opposing abortion.  He listed several efforts in this area that are underway.  The fourth area was about effective leadership as it related to retired bishops and the University Senate.

Rev. Larry Baird, a former district superintendent in the Wyoming Conference (now part of the Upper New York conference) spoke about renewal efforts in the newly aligned conference.  Although attendance was small, the meeting provided much encouragement as we seek to be better organized and involved on both the conference and jurisdictional levels.

Same Sex Marriage

(The following letter from Bishop Park was originally posted on the NYAC website.)


Dear United Methodists of the New York Annual Conference:

I greet you in the name of Jesus Christ our Lord and Savior, Prince of shalom, Healer of our brokenness and Hope of the world!

Last Friday Governor Andrew Cuomo of New York signed a bill that will make same-sex marriage legal in New York effective July 24th. Because same-sex marriage is already legal in the state of Connecticut, same-sex marriage will soon be legal within the boundary of the New York Annual Conference.

As you know, the Social Principles of The United Methodist Church affirms that “all persons are individuals of sacred worth,” (Paragraph 161.F of The Book of Discipline) and directs us to honor the basic rights and civil liberties of all persons. Still, our Book of Discipline declares that “Ceremonies that celebrate homosexual unions shall not be conducted by our ministers and shall not be conducted in our churches.” (Paragraph 341.6)

To be very sure, United Methodists in the New York Conference are not of one mind about homosexuality and same-sex marriages or unions. I respect people on both sides of this issue. It is clear to me that two people can study the same Bible, pray to the same God and come to different conclusions about this and many other matters. As difficult as it is for persons who feel passionately about this issue, such openness to other opinions and beliefs and respect for persons who hold them is one of the hallmarks of being a United Methodist Christian. We believe that God’s church is large enough that all of us have a place and a voice and find affirmation as God’s beloved as we “go on to perfection.”

It is my hope and my prayer that no matter where one stands on the issue, the occasion of the legalization of same-sex marriage within both states of the New York Conference will be an opportunity for us to “embody a beloved community of hope,” as the Vision Statement of our New York Annual Conference declares. May God help us to embrace the fullness of God’s grace and extend God’s love to all our brothers and sisters in Christ, particularly those with whom we disagree, for such a time as this.

In Christ,

Jeremiah J. Park

By: Bishop Park On 6/27/2011

Newsletter #1


The Wesley Fellowship is an association of clergy and laity

of the New York Annual Conference that has been in existence since the late 1970s.  Wesley Fellowship is focused on church renewal, mutual support and encouragement of evangelical and orthodox pastors and churches in the Wesleyan tradition within the conference.



This is the first of occasional e-newsletters being e-mailed to all in the confines of the New York Annual Conference about news, concerns and events with in our Conference and in the general Church of interest to evangelicals.  You are getting this newsletter because of your interest in this work.



Send an email to StJake45@aol.com  with your ideas for a name for this newsletter.



In order for us to get the word out we need to get email addresses of those who are interested in the work of Wesley Fellowship and the stand we are taking for Christ.  Encourage pastors and laity who are of like mind to send their email to us so we can put them on our elist.   Send to StJake45@aol.com



Bishop Park has invited clergy and pastors who are in support of our Church’s position on heterosexual marriage and the Discipline to meet at the Conference Center, 20 Soundview Avenue on Monday, November 14th at 2pm.    It is very important that all the clergy and laity in our conference who are opposed to UM Pastors doing homosexual ceremonies in our church be present.   Pastors we are asking you to carpool and bring your lay leaders to this meeting.   If you cannot make this meeting please contact the Bishop at:  bishop@nyac.com   and your DS



Led by pastors from our largest UM churches in the US has been a call to our Bishops to take a support our Discipline and the teaching of the Scripture about  marriage.   You can sign this statement by going to:   http://www.faithfulumc.com    To date over 2500 United Methodist Pastors and 11,000+ laity across our land have signed this statement.  Go to the site and add your name.



We sadly report  that a group of laity and 160 pastors in our conference have signed a Covenant of Conscience indicating their opposition to our church’s stand that marriage is between one man and one woman and their willingness to perform homosexual unions which is strictly forbidden by our Discipline and the teachings of scripture and Jesus himself (see Matthew 19:5ff).

Wesley Fellowship has stated its opposition to this move in a press statement in the September issue of the Vision, our Conference newspaper see:  http://nyac.com/pages/detail/1552

Wesley Fellowship has also issued another statement which will be in the December issue of the Vision.  Our next newsletter will feature this statement and a report of our meeting with Bishop Park including next steps.


Wesley Fellowship Leadership Team:


Rev. Dr. Charles Ferrara,  Pastor, New Life Community Church   pastorchuckjn316@aol.com

Rev. John Gerlach, Pastor, Trinity UMC, Windsor, CT   jgerlach316@gmail.com

Rev. Dr. Philip Hardt, Pastor, Glendale-Maspeth UMC  philhardt@aol.com

Rev. Kent F. Jackson, Pastor Trinity U. M. Parish, Newburgh, NY wesleyfellowshipnyac@gmail.com

Rev. Roy E. Jacobsen, Retired Pastor   StJake45@aol.com

Rev. Sandra Mantz, Pastor, Setauket UMC sbmantz@yahoo.com

Rev. Dr. Randy Paige, Pastor  Christ Church, Port Jefferson  randy.paige@yahoo.com

Rev. John Roy, Westhampton UMC    PastorJohn@optonline.net




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