Believe Again! OK! But What Is It That I Am to Believe?

Believe Again!


But What Is It That I Am to Believe?

Bishop Thomas J. Bickerton told 1,800 United Methodists gathered for the 2006 Western PA Annual Conference June 15-19 to lighten up and “freely embrace the joy of the journey.” The theme of the June 15-19 event was “Find Your Path, Share the Journey, Believe Again.”

Conference members took his advice to heart, dancing in the aisles to songs by the Africa University choir and Conference youth praise band and voting overwhelmingly to adopt the strategic plan entitled Believe Again! The plan is aimed at revitalizing ministry and refocusing on local churches and communities as the places where new disciples are made.

“Our God loves to celebrate,” the Bishop said during the opening worship service. “I would take it a step further. Our God is a party animal!”

from InterLink article - July 7, 2006 reporting on
Western PA Annual Conference
June 2006 Session
Grove City College
Grove City, Pennsylvania

We are constantly on a stretch, if not on a strain, to devise new methods, new plans, new organizations to advance the Church and secure enlargement and efficiency for the gospel. This trend of the day has a tendency to lose sight of the man or sink the man in the plan or organization. God’s plan is to make much of the man, far more of him than of anything else. Men are God’s method. The Church is looking for better methods; God is looking for better men………….. What the Church needs today is not more machinery or better, not new organizations or more and novel methods, but men whom the Holy Ghost can use — men of prayer, men mighty in prayer. The Holy Ghost does not flow through methods, but through men. He does not come on machinery, but on men. He does not anoint plans, but men — men of prayer.
E.M. Bounds in Preacher & Prayer

“Believe Again!” It’s a slogan you hear constantly these days in hundreds of United Methodist Churches in the Western Pennsylvania Annual Conference. Geographically this is a piece of territory that takes in about 1/3 of the western portion of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. The newly published W. PA Annual Conference Journal has it's cover adorned in such a way that anyone who picks up that volume of 896 pages will be quickly reminded that we are to "Believe Again!" The Strategic Plan out of which came forth the rallying cry to "Believe Again!" starts on P. 331 of the Journal and meanders all the way through P. 373!

This Gargantuan plan was adopted with great enthusiasm at the 2006 session of the W. PA Conference meeting at Grove City College. As pastors and their congregations get caught up in this maze of points, sub points and sub sub points, it is assumed that the end result will be increased membership, a greater cash flow, and high profile public exposure such as the United Methodist Church in western PA has never experienced before in its entire history!

It is the slogan that needs more than an emotional repetitious shout. A critical question needs to be asked - just what is it that we are to believe in this “Believe Again!” experience?

Oh! So that’s it - we are to believe things that pertain to the Christian faith, our Wesleyan heritage, and social responsibility as spelled out in the Book of Discipline of the United Methodist Church. And, oh yes, don’t forget - the Bible is to be considered in this experience as well!

But that’s where things get more than a tad on the muddy side. Hence the question, “What is it that we are to believe?”

Here is how it shapes up in thousands of United Methodist churches all over this republic with western Pennsylvania being no exception.

A church has a pastor who believes the Scriptures to be of divine origin - inspired by God the Holy Spirit and the final authority on ALL matters of faith and the practicing of that faith in this present world (Note 2 Timothy 3:16,17). That pastor preaches and teaches this basic fundamental truth to the people of the church to which he has been appointed by a bishop.

Then the church has a new pastor assigned to it by the bishop. This pastor does not hold the Scriptures to have been divinely inspired with absolute authority, as did his predecessor before him. So now a theological “can of worms” has been opened up before the congregation as the new pastor “explains” such things as these:

    the first 11 chapters of Genesis are not to be taken literally - rather, they are to be regarded as mythical narratives in an attempt to explain how things seem to have gotten started. This issue actually came up when I was before the Board of Ordained Ministry and stated to that group, which held my destiny as a pastor in their hands, that Adam and Eve were real people living in an actual time period in human history. When asked, “Don’t you have a problem with that?” by a member of the board I responded, “Not me.” The implication in the tone of my answer was that if the questioner had a problem, it was his and certainly not mine!

    miracles recorded in the Scriptures didn’t really happen the way they were reported such as the Red Sea crossing or Jonah being swallowed by a great fish. In the New Testament a number of miracles are called into question such as the virgin birth of Jesus, His feeding of the 5,000, the casting out of demons, and His literal resurrection from the dead following crucifixion.

    there is no real being literally existing who is identified as Satan. I got exposed to this one early on in my ministry when I was part of a group of pastors reviewing a book written by a “distinguished” professor who was on the faculty of a very “prestigious” Methodist seminary. The professor explored the subject of evil in the world and in the process denied the literal existence of Satan and demons. This professor and Jesus are in a state of radical disagreement on this subject, wouldn’t you say? Just who was that fellow who suggested that Jesus turn stones into bread and satisfy His hunger after prolonged fasting? Believe again? What am I supposed to believe about this event and the parties involved?

    Jesus isn’t literally coming back to earth again. So if you have a pastor or a bishop who tells you that, will you believe him? Is this part of what it is to “Believe Again?” Are we to conclude that Jesus was mixed up, confused, or just didn’t know what He was talking about when He stated more than once that He would return to this sin ravaged planet?

    there is no Hell and everyone will make it to Heaven. At a session of the W. PA Annual Conference years ago a visiting “preacher” stated that we all have been reconciled to God - some people just don’t know it yet, and it’s our business to announce to them that they have been reconciled! Oooops! Here we go again - what do you do with Jesus’ statements regarding only a “few” enter the narrow way to eternal life and “many” are entering the broad way which leads to destruction? Anyone out there able to settle what we are to believe on this matter of who gets to Heaven, and are there specific conditions to be met before one enters that paradise?

    sexual morality has never been a more controversial issue than now. One pastor teaches sexual immorality, including homosexuality and lesbianism, to be absolutely wrong. Another pastor teaches that we now have “new light” and some persons are “born” with an orientation that results in being attracted to members of the same sex. One high profile United Methodist clergyman has gone on record as declaring that God is giving us new “revelation” - as you might conclude, this new “revelation” tells us that sodomy and lesbianism are quite normal and acceptable now!

    Further, 2 men or 2 women living in a committed “relationship” is just as normal and legitimate in the eyes of God as it is with a married heterosexual couple in their relationship within the home. Same-sex “oriented” persons should have the right to marry, raise adopted children, and be recognized as a genuine All-American family. Ah, on the children thing - it’s kind of difficult for a male homosexual “couple” to conceive and bear children. In the case of lesbians, one or both might conceive a child but as painful and embarrassing as that might be, they still have to have a bit of help from a male in such a project! Even our massive knowledge in fields of science and technology hasn’t found a way around God’s original design which requires an egg cell produced by a female to be fertilized by a sperm cell from a male in order to conceive children!

    episcopal leadership in the United Methodist Church is another area where one is left at numerous cross roads in the experience of “believing.” In recent years some bishops have been “converted” - they had opposed same-gender coupling for a time but now wholeheartedly support it. See UMC Episcopal Endorsement of Same Gender Coupling!

    If we are to “believe again” one has to wonder if that involves NOT believing God’s revelation on the boundaries He has set for all sexual behavior and relationships due to an action taken by all active United Methodist bishops in the fall of 2005.

    The bishops issued a “pastoral letter” in which they took issue with a Judicial Council ruling that ordered the reinstatement of a pastor who had been suspended for refusing to receive a practicing homosexual into the membership of the church. Not only was the pastor to be reinstated but he was also to be reimbursed for lost salary and benefits - a most appropriate rebuke given to Charlene Kamerer and the members of her conference executive session!

    But the bishops’ message is this as they whine about the terrible decision of the Judicial Council - if a practicing sodomite or lesbian wants to join your church, then he or she should be received into the membership without any objection whatsoever - after all, we are a “diverse” community of faith - we have open doors, open hearts, and open minds, do we not? Now what is it that I am to believe at this point?

    Hold on - there’s more - at the episcopal level we’ve been told that we ought not to confront other cultures with the claims and call of Jesus Christ. Those people in those other cultures have their ways of faith and practice and those are just as valid as is Christianity. So if I am to “believe again,” what do I do with Jesus’ command to go into all the world and preach the Gospel to everyone - since there is a vast difference here, should I believe Jesus or a UMC bishop who is clearly opposed to Jesus on this issue?

    And then there’s the bishop who is really hung up on literal acceptance of statements made in the New Testament about Jesus - such as His birth, miracles, substitutionary atonement for the sins of the entire human race, resurrection from the dead, and promised return to earth as King of kings and Lord of lords!

One extremely critical area on what one is to believe in the United Methodist Church has to do with regard for the unborn -- there are those in high leadership positions who are very silent about the massive destruction of the unborn -- millions have been exterminated since the infamous Supreme Court decision in 1973 which in effect said a female has the "constitutional right" to destroy her unborn child if she so chooses! The UMC Book of Discipline in the Social Principles contains statements which in effect give a green light to the ongoing practice of destroying unborn children. Bishops are very tight lipped when it comes to this subject. There are still a few pastors who are opposed to abortion but the ranks seem to be dwindling. See the latest statistic on the victims of the United States' unique version of "holocaust" below....

Unborn Babies Brutally
Mutilated and Murdered

since Roe vs. Wade
January 1973

Watch this for 60 to 90 seconds
and see what happens!

What am I to believe about human life as God forms it in the womb? By the way, He claims to be involved in this process! Do I settle for the commonly accepted "belief" that the mass of blood and cells in the female womb is a commodity that can be removed and destroyed without blinking an eye! Or will my "belief" be a reflection of God's view and identity of human life before conception of that human even takes place?

Believe again? Oh, my experience of the living presence of Jesus each day and my privilege of being in regular conversation with Him is just a psychological delusion - is that it? I’ll have to consult with Dr. Phil on that and see if he can counsel me a bit on “believing again.”

In an effort to try to avoid conflict over this issue as to who believes what, we have had a top heavy emphasis on “diversity” within the United Methodist Church for some time. Especially do we hear this song and dance routine at the higher levels.

Strategy in this is to reinforce the idea of how “accepting” we are of all persons no matter what they believe or what “lifestyle” they have chosen. Therefore we “lovingly” agree to disagree on matters pertaining to our belief systems much the same as family members accept each other’s differences in regard to food. Dad likes T-bone steak, mom likes chicken, Johnny likes hamburgers, Susie likes fish, and Jr. likes nothing but hot dogs! Keep in mind now that this is a happy family that accepts and respects each other’s divergent points of view in food preferences.

But does it work when episcopal leaders and pastors present a kaleidoscope of teachings about Jesus Christ, some of which are true but others amount to nothing less than apostasy with an unbearable stench? Consider some questions on this issue:

    Is Jesus Christ the literal Son of God Who atoned for the sins of the entire human race or is He not?

    Three days following His crucifixion was He literally resurrected from the dead or was He not?

    Does He dwell in the lives of His followers in the Person of the Holy Spirit or does He not?

    Is He going to return to planet earth at some point in the future, as He explicitly promised, or is He not?

    Is Christianity the only faith that is true, standing separate from and superior to all other religious expressions in the world or is it not? A review of the absolute “I am” statements of Jesus is most helpful in answering this question. And it is wise to remember that you won’t win any popularity contests if you fully agree with all those statements made by Jesus! In fact He guaranteed we would incur the wrath of the world and all its bitter hatred if we fully identify with Him - see John 15 and opening statements of John 16 as well as a statement in Matthew 24 about being hated by all nations!

    Is His parting command to confront the entire world with His claim and call - that is, to repent of all known sin and receive Him as Savior and Lord - still in effect or has it been rescinded?

It is claimed that there are many “interpretations” of Scripture in an effort to try to justify such matters as the “differences” over whether Jesus was literally resurrected from the dead or not, as well as other statements about Him or made by Him in the Scriptures.

We not as free to “interpret” as some may like to think. Dragging in the “scholars” for their opinions does not help, unless you are deceived into thinking they, with all their education, are an authority on Scriptural interpretation.

It is far wiser to always keep in mind that the Author of the book is the very One totally qualified to interpret it to those who in humility of spirit with openness of mind and heart hunger to know the truth. Jesus’ promise was that the Holy Spirit would teach us and guide us into the truth. One great impact of His guiding us into the truth is that He will bring God’s faithful people into agreement on the core doctrines of the faith that is centered in the Lord Jesus Christ!

Oh yes, this same Holy Spirit will help us to identify the wolves in sheep’s clothing - you know, the ones whom Jesus clearly warned us about. Was it not He Who said,

"Be careful of false prophets. They come to you looking gentle like sheep, but they are really dangerous like wolves."
(Matthew 7:15).

In fact in Matthew 24 Jesus placed a very strong emphasis on being aware of the invasion of false prophets and teachers -- the warning is clear -- watch out that you do not become a victim of deception as is the case with far too many who claim to be "Christian!" A number of statements throughout the New Testament sound the warning trumpet in regard to false teachers and the peddling of deadly doctrine -- note the following:

But I fear, lest somehow, as the serpent deceived Eve by his craftiness, so your minds may be corrupted from the simplicity that is in Christ. For if he who comes preaches another Jesus whom we have not preached, or if you receive a different spirit which you have not received, or a different gospel which you have not accepted, you may well put up with it..... For such are false apostles, deceitful workers, transforming themselves into apostles of Christ. And no wonder! For Satan himself transforms himself into an angel of light. Therefore it is no great thing if his ministers also transform themselves into ministers of righteousness, whose end will be according to their works.
(2 Corinthians 11:3,4,13-15).

I charge you therefore before God and the Lord Jesus Christ, who will judge the living and the dead at His appearing and His kingdom: Preach the word! Be ready in season and out of season. Convince, rebuke, exhort, with all longsuffering and teaching. For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine, but according to their own desires, because they have itching ears, they will heap up for themselves teachers; and they will turn their ears away from the truth, and be turned aside to fables.
(2 Timothy 4:1-4).

.....for prophecy never came by the will of man, but holy men of God spoke as they were moved by the Holy Spirit. But there were also false prophets among the people, even as there will be false teachers among you, who will secretly bring in destructive heresies, even denying the Lord who bought them, and bring on themselves swift destruction. And many will follow their destructive ways, because of whom the way of truth will be blasphemed. By covetousness they will exploit you with deceptive words; for a long time their judgment has not been idle, and their destruction does not slumber.
(2 Peter 1:21 - 2:3).

Beloved, while I was very diligent to write to you concerning our common salvation, I found it necessary to write to you exhorting you to contend earnestly for the faith which was once for all delivered to the saints. For certain men have crept in unnoticed, who long ago were marked out for this condemnation, ungodly men, who turn the grace of our God into licentiousness and deny the only Lord God and our Lord Jesus Christ. But I want to remind you, though you once knew this, that the Lord, having saved the people out of the land of Egypt, afterward destroyed those who did not believe. And the angels who did not keep their proper domain, but left their own habitation, He has reserved in everlasting chains under darkness for the judgment of the great day; as Sodom and Gomorrah, and the cities around them in a similar manner to these, having given themselves over to sexual immorality and gone after strange flesh, are set forth as an example, suffering the vengeance of eternal fire. Likewise also these dreamers defile the flesh, reject authority, and speak evil of dignitaries.
(Jude 1:3-8).

While some United Methodists will be told that they should “believe again,” there will be at least a few of us who will counter that we have “believed” for years, having been in daily communion with our Lord Jesus, and are practicing Peter’s admonishment,
"You therefore, beloved, since you know these things beforehand, beware lest you also fall from your own steadfastness, being led away with the error of the wicked; but grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To Him be the glory both now and forever. Amen." (2 Peter 3:17,18).
And also that of the apostle John as he cautioned,
"Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits, whether they are of God; because many false prophets have gone out into the world. By this you know the Spirit of God: Every spirit that confesses that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is of God, and every spirit that does not confess that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is not of God. And this is the spirit of the Antichrist, which you have heard was coming, and is now already in the world. You are of God, little children, and have overcome them, because He who is in you is greater than he who is in the world. They are of the world. Therefore they speak as of the world, and the world hears them."
(1 John 4:1-5).

A Significant Selah Moment!

O LORD, how long shall I cry, and You will not hear? even cry out to You, "Violence!" And You will not save. Why do You show me iniquity, and cause me to see trouble? For plundering and violence are before me; there is strife, and contention arises. Therefore the law is powerless, and justice never goes forth. For the wicked surround the righteous; therefore perverse judgment proceeds.
Habakkuk 1:2-2 (NKJV)

For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who suppress the truth in unrighteousness....

It is time for You to act, O LORD, for they have regarded Your law as void. Therefore I love Your commandments more than gold, yes, than fine gold! Therefore all Your precepts concerning all things I consider to be right; I hate every false way.

Romans 1:18; Psalm 119:126-128 NKJV

November 2, 2006
Clayton D. Harriger
Elder in Full Connection
Western PA Annual Conference
The United Methodist Church
and presently pastor of
Gipsy Christian Church (Disciples of Christ)
Gipsy, PA
AND Non-Affiliated registered voter, Cambria Co. PA

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