Skip to content

Post Annual Conference Advice (To Traditional United Methodists)

June 11, 2019

 

In the aftermath of General Conference 2019, many Progressives were reeling.

 

In the aftermath of recent Annual Conference elections, many Traditionalists are reeling.

 

In many conferences, Progressives have posted significant gains concerning 2020 General and Jurisdictional Conference delegates.  In these areas, supporters of current church teaching are now woefully underrepresented by their delegations or not represented at all.  Some conferences and clergy sessions formally voted to ignore church teaching on the issues upon which they disagree all together.  I honestly didn’t know you could do that.  If Progressives get control in 2020, they will overturn church teaching on human sexuality and quite possibly close the exit ramp out of the denomination.  If they get control of the United Methodist Church, I am convinced they will immediately demand conformity to the new Discipline.  Obeying church law will suddenly become the most important thing in the world.  For many conservatives, this prospect is untenable.

 

Many traditionalists are smarting.  I didn’t personally run but I completely get it.  It never feels good to lose but we must separate our bruised egos and hurt feelings from our collective reality.  The United Methodist Discipline is still in force and our denominational positions have changed on nothing.  That some bishops and conferences will not uphold the Discipline is not new either.  That being said, recent elections have left many wondering if the future United Methodist church can still be a home for warm hearted, orthodox Methodists with traditional beliefs.

 

Here is the deal: We don’t know yet.    

 

I went into my Annual Conference with a simple prayer for clarity.  I didn’t pray to win or to lose; I just prayed for clarity.  Our WCA delegates were defeated.  Not by much in terms of votes but defeated by a well-organized effort that essentially ran the table.  As I write, things seem most clear.  My conference has made a sharp turn left.  I grieve on one hand but on the other, God has answered my prayer.  Thanks be to God!

 

At present, I am being bombarded by two important questions:   1) How do we respond?  2) What is the plan?  

 

Let’s begin with the first:

 

1) How do we respond?  We must be realistic about what we are feeling but we can’t go squirting weak sauce everywhere.  If we must mourn, we must mourn among friends.  If we must process, we must process among friends.  If we must vent, we must vent among friends.  Public space isn’t safe.  Never has been.  Let’s face it, almost no one wants to hear it and those who do will be glad we are miserable.  We do best to keep to ourselves what we can.

When my elementary aged grandsons take a whooping in baseball, I tell them:

 

  1. Stop crying
  2. Don’t whine about the umpire
  3. Get your chin up
  4. Realize losing is a part of life
  5. Don’t get used to losing
  6. Put a smile on your face
  7. Be better prepared next time

 

I would offer the same advice to my disappointed colleagues.

We got beat.

Shake it off.

We will be just fine.

God is still on the throne.

 

2) What is the plan?

 

Here are my thoughts in the short term:

 

  1. Control your impulses We do well to associate frustration with silence.
  2. Join the Wesleyan Covenant Association (WCA) or Good News or the Confessing Movement Go to their websites. Read their stuff for yourself.  Look at the quality and integrity of their leadership.  If you resonate; join.  If you don’t; don’t join.  It is a good time to network.  It is a good time to find a “herd.”  It is a bad time to be playing “Lone Ranger.”
  3. Wait to get accurate information We don’t have the “big picture” as of yet. There are people who are “counting the votes” and assessing things.  Give them time and hang tight.  We will get information soon enough.  There WILL be a plan.
  4. Don’t make long-term decisions based on short-term emotion You can turn in your orders, transfer to another denomination, retire early, withhold apportionments or lead your church out of the dysfunction but such decisions are not to be made lightly. And there will be ramifications.  Make no mistake about that.  Such weighty decisions require data, well conceived strategy, discernment, networking, fasting and prayer.  Seek the heart of God for a long time before you quickly do something you may live to regret.
  5. Stick together I am on record supporting a strategic separation of the United Methodist Church: (https://revshanebishop.com/2019/05/23/shaking-hands-while-we-still-can-umc/). We need to shake hands and go our separate ways while we can still shake hands.  These recent elections have widened our divide, exacerbated the tension and fried our trust receptors.  2020 may be our last shot at still shaking hands.  For the sake of our mission, traditionalists can not long remain in this climate…and we shouldn’t.   Whatever we do, we need to do together.  Where ever we go, we need to go together.  Whatever we form, we need to form together.  We sons and daughters of John Wesley are sticky by nature.  Always have been.
  6. Get back to work Don’t let this stuff consume you.  There is nothing going on in the United Methodist Church that can keep you from telling people about Jesus, proclaiming the Gospel or making disciples.  I know many of our churches are deeply divided and tired of the scrap and others are entrenched.  I know many pastors are feeling beat up and discouraged.  That being said, there is no down side to re-focusing on your mission and doing effective ministry in your local context.

 

Courageous people know they may die for their convictions but cowards die a thousand deaths.  If we are called to sacrifice and suffer persecution for the historic Christian faith; we must be ready to do so.  Joyfully.  If God calls us to a new collective future, we must stand ready to embrace it.  But until we have all the facts, hear God clearly and are ready to move collectively; we do well to, “Wait upon the Lord.”  And let’s face it, we could all use a renewing of our strength right now!

Take a breath.

Exhale.

God has this.

Always has.

Always will.

img_1351

-Rev. Shane L. Bishop, A Distinguished Evangelist of the United Methodist Church, has been the Sr. Pastor of Christ Church in Fairview Heights, Illinois since 1997.  Christ Church was featured as one of Outreach Magazine’s Fastest Growing 100 Churches in America in 2018.

 

19 Comments
  1. Robert Souders permalink

    Thanks Shane. My prayers are daily with you. I know you because of God’s blessing Christ Church you are going to be a target. We must not become weary in well doing. I’m old but there is still fight in me. Till last breath He is Lord and His word is sacred. Thanks for your hard work. Souders

  2. Dorothea Schweitzer permalink

    Thanks you for your words of truth and encouragement. I believe the key is to stay connected with God and one another.

  3. Roger Dressler permalink

    Sounds like excellent advice! Thanks

  4. Thomas Forsberg permalink

    Amen well said trust God to do his will.

  5. Peter Paulson permalink

    Wonderful! All of it! Thanks, Reverend!
    Pete Paulson

  6. Benjie Bernardo permalink

    Yes, I truly believe our Mighty God us in control!
    We must remain…Be strong and take courage!
    Thank you reverend for this much needed encouragement & anticipationary attitude. Lets all have faith that our Savior Jesus Christ is more mightier than these and surely the Holy Spirit will intervene for His greater glory. Praise be to God!

  7. FrAchilles Karathanos permalink

    Rev. Shane, greetings in the Lord! I support your sincere desire to maintain traditional and Scriptural moral values from the unchanging Word of God. Have you ever considered the perspective of the Eastern Orthodox Church which has clung to, preserved, and lived the unchanging Apostolic Faith now for 2000 + years? https://www.ancientfaith.com/

  8. Darlene W Craver permalink

    Thank you for reminding us that God is still in command. We can’t see the big picture, but He can! Your words have helped me have peace about all this – It’s hard to stay calm, but we must.

  9. LaVon Bayler permalink

    Thanks for your words. Wait is important but so is working for the right. Our hearts are troubled because our Church is in trouble.I will pray with the rest for the right outcome.

  10. Mary Meier permalink

    Well, I can’t beat what anyone else has said. This was actually needed by me about a week ago because I’m dealing with some stuff that is not related to the UMC, but I’ll take what I can get when I can get it – God knows when I really need something. Excellent work!

  11. Pattie Malina permalink

    God is good ALL the TIME. He has a plan and it will be accomplished no matter what. This I firmly believe and to this end I will follow his command to “feed my sheep” and spread the word. Thank you Pastor Shane for your leadership.

  12. Jesse Douglas permalink

    Our church will continue to make disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world. God bless you.

  13. Rom Pegram permalink

    “There’s no crying in baseball!” – Tom Hanks as Coach Jimmy Dugan in A League of Their Own… Thanks for the wisdom, Shane!

  14. While this is disheartening for me, I struggle with what to do next. Your words are right on.

  15. Daniel Godwin permalink

    Thank you brother. I believe the seed has died, and soon the new life will emerge. The church has often been under siege, only to come back stronger than ever. God is always purifying. God is always clarifying. I think it always to be a painful process. So be it. With the help of Christ, we will stand firm.

  16. Angie Cadwallader permalink

    Thank you Shane Bishop. As a Progressive I thank you for your kind words and your explanation and suggestions. I never wanted to be in a position where I had to take sides. When you have a Theological Issue and a Social Justice issue that cannot be reconciled unless both sides make a major compromise; and you know that isn’t going to happen. It seems we are waiting for GC2020 to happen and by then the anger and hateful words will leave such scars that will never heal. I only see a separation/divorce of the two groups. I wish we could move forward and start the process with a plan that will allow us to start the process so we can go on and do the good work the UMC church has always been committed to. The process may be painful for all, but in the long run it might be better. God bless.

  17. Very well stated. Compassionate, full of the fruit of the spirit and unwavering .

  18. Harry J Lyness permalink

    True words of Godly wisdom. Thanks for this writing and keep up the good work, we especially need direction at this time. God is and will always be in control.

Trackbacks & Pingbacks

  1. UM Fallout: A Compendium – People Need Jesus

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: