Recently Read: Three Requests of My Centrist Friends – An Open Letter


Courtesy of Good News Magazine

By Rob Renfroe

Over the past four years I have had the opportunity to be in dialogue with several leading “centrist” pastors. I have gotten to know them well enough to know that I like them. They are intelligent and thoughtful. They care about people and the vitality of the church. In fact, many of them have built great churches that do much good in the name of Christ. And they are people of deep faith. They love Jesus and they want people to come into a personal relationship with him. In so many ways, I have the utmost respect for them.

Of course, I have also become aware of how differently we see some very important issues and how unlikely it is that we will ever agree on what the church should teach regarding sexuality and marriage. I find their arguments for changing the church’s position lacking biblically, theologically, scientifically, and anthropologically. I realize my arguments are insufficient in their eyes, as well. But I do believe we have created the kind of relationship that we can work together in a positive and helpful way as the church navigates its course into the future.

In that spirit, I have three requests for my centrist friends. And even before making them, let me say that I am open to how they might like me to change the dialogue.

First, please stop referring to us traditionalists as “the far right.” We’re not. In fact, we’re not even “the right.” We believe what the church has taught for 2000 years regarding sexuality and marriage. We are in solidarity with the vast majority of Christians around the world on these issues. At least 90 percent of Christians worldwide share our views. And we hold the majority opinion within the UM Church, an opinion that our denomination has held and reaffirmed for over 40 years. How that makes us “the right” or “the far right” I have no idea.

It was a stroke of brilliance to brand yourselves “the centrists.” That may sound more sarcastic than I mean it. Seriously, it was a smart way of positioning yourselves. But holding a position somewhere between the church’s traditional position and those who would change it radically and immediately doesn’t place you at the center of the church universal or of the UM Church, for that matter.

Actually, I think we who hold to 2000 years of Christian teaching have far greater claim to the term “centrist” than those who stand to the left of it. We are as committed to stating that all persons are persons of sacred worth as we are to stating that the practice of homosexuality is contrary to God’s will for his people. We are accepting of persons who identify as gay in our churches. And we preach that heterosexual sin is a bigger problem in the church than homosexual sin. I am sure there are Christians who are less accepting or more judgmental than we are. Call them “the far right” if you wish, but that’s not us.

I believe that we are the true centrists historically and globally when it comes to the Christian faith. But, we’re friends, so I won’t fight you for the title. And I won’t use pejorative terms to describe you that I have heard some use – terms like “the accommodationists” or “the muddled-middle” or “the every man did what was right in his own eyes crowd.” It wouldn’t be respectful, just as “the far right” isn’t. I am good with “traditionalist,” “conservative,” or “evangelical.” I prefer “orthodox” but I know claiming that term for myself and others like me is offensive to you, so I won’t fight for it. But please, lay off “the far right” moniker. I think we all know it’s not fair or accurate.

Read the rest of the open letter here.

Recently Read

Recently Read

Recently Read posts are stories the editors of The United Methodist Reporter have found interesting from other sites and wanted to share with our readers. The editors do not necessarily endorse the opinions shared in these stories, and referral here should not imply endorsement of that content.

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8 Comments on "Recently Read: Three Requests of My Centrist Friends – An Open Letter"

The United Methodist Reporter wants to encourage lively conversation about The United Methodist Church and our articles in the belief that Christian conversation (what Wesley would call conferencing) is a means of grace. While we support passionate debate, we cannot allow language that demeans or demonizes others, and we reserve the right to delete any comment we believe to be harmful or inappropriate. We encourage all to remember that we are all broken and in need of Christ's grace, and that we all see through the glass darkly until that time we when reach full perfection in love. May your speech here be tempered with love, and reflection of the fruits of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. After all, "There is no law against things like this." (Galatians 5:22-23)
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Paul W.
Rob is right. The 3 factions in the UMC are 1) the far left who view the Bible as a Rorschach test, 2) liberal theologians who hold to a spiritualized non- or semi-historical view of the Bible and emphasize social efforts, and 3) moderates who, while professing conservative theology, sometimes are comfortable skirting the line with liberal theology. There definitely is NO far right in the UMC — sadly, apart from some of the Africans, there aren’t even any organized staunchly conservative theological factions anywhere in the denomination! (As one who affirms the theology of John Wesley, I definitely wish… Read more »
Cheryl Linholm

Well said!


Refreshing to see the truth spoken plainly and without apology to those of the political and social left who seek to redefine their left-wing liberal extremism as the center. This well written post unflinchingly states the hard truth. It will not be well received by those who find such truth inconvenient but that comes as no surprise. (Jn. 3:20, Acts 13:9-10)


If you read the policies of many denominations, their language mirrors the BOD. Just because the Episcopal, PC(USA), and ELC has changed, doesn’t make Methodist’s out of line with the majority of Christians. In the big picture, calling any Methodist “far right” is hyperbolic at best. I guess that label justifies the vitriol toward Rob seen here. How inclusive! Can’t wait to be member of a progressive church!

Jon Altman

As long as you allow me to control the terms of discussion and concede I’m right at the outset, we can have dialogue. Try again, Rob.

eric pone
Rev Renfroe A duck is a duck. You can claim that ducks don’t quack or fly or tast yummy(which they do) but the truth belies the attempt at rebranding. Moderates are not going to buy the arguments. You can try and rebrand yourself all you want. Our EUB bretheran maintained their strong traditions within the denomination and currently control the discussion. But to now try and rebrand themselves as the true moderates isn’t honest at all. Mr. Renfroe make it out like all or at least most Christians buy in to his conservative values. If this were the case we… Read more »

This is nothing more than whining. They stole your favorite word. Sorry about that, Rob. Now pull on your big boy pants and get to work.

jimmie shelby

Hang in there Rev. Renfroe!! Thank you for GOOD NEWS. You all do great/good/awesome/wonderful work.

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