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Faithful Methodists Call for Ouster of Chicago Bishop Who Questions Jesus’ Resurrection
Concerned Women for America ^ | 2/5/2003 | Al Dobras

Posted on 02/07/2003 3:52:45 PM PST by Remedy

A group of Methodist clergy and laity filed a formal complaint calling for the removal of Bishop Joseph Sprague last month, on the grounds that he questioned the physical resurrection of Jesus Christ and made other comments questioning Biblical tenets of the faith.

The complainants based their charges on comments that Bishop Sprague made last year in a speech at the UM Iliff School of Theology in Denver.

In his January 28, 2002, speech, Affirmations of a Dissenter, which was taken from his forthcoming book of the same name, Bishop Sprague staked out a theological position that many believe to be outside the bounds of Christian orthodoxy. In his opening remarks, the bishop dismissed charges of heresy previously leveled against him and stated, "my hope is to encourage confused believers or those who yearn to believe, especially those who want to affirm Jesus but find little meaning in the stilted Christological language of the ancient creeds." In this context, the bishop opined:

Twenty-eight people from 11 annual conferences (regions) of the denomination signed the complaint against Bishop Sprague. The Rev. Thomas Lambrecht, pastor of Faith Community United Methodist Church in Greenville, Wisconsin, and spokesman for the group, said:

Bishop Sprague appears to deny the apostolic, orthodox, and ecumenical Trinitarian understanding of Jesus as God in favor of a form of Unitarianism or 'adoptionism' that denies the virgin birth and full deity of Christ. ...These positions of Bishop Sprague are all contrary to the standards of doctrine established by the United Methodist Church, particularly as stated in the Articles of Religion and the Confession of Faith.
Bishops take debate public
The speech by Bishop Sprague has ignited an unprecedented public debate among several of his colleagues within the UM Council of Bishops. In a delicately worded open letter, Bishop Timothy Whitaker of Florida Area praised Bishop Sprague as "person of deep faith." Nevertheless, he expressed serious reservations about his theology:
I must admit that I find Bishop Sprague's comments on the divinity of Jesus to be rather incoherent as he stated them in his speech. He is not as clear to me as is the consensus of the tradition that affirms that Jesus Christ is the Son of God by nature, whereas we are the children of God by grace, even though as the incarnate Son of God Who submitted to be obedient to God the Father, He experienced the normal process of human growth by grace. ... He rejects the virgin birth, or more accurately, the virginal conception of Jesus, as a historical fact. He prefers to think of it as a way to express 'poetically the truth about Jesus as experienced in the emerging church.' This is a commonplace point of view among Protestants who are captive to the presuppositions of the Enlightenment.
Other UM bishops jumped into the fray offering statements both in support and opposition to Sprague's views. Bishop John McCleskey of South Carolina came to his defense, characterizing as "literalists" those who reject the bishop's theology: "Extreme commitment to such literalism says that those who do not affirm these perspectives are unfaithful and should get out of the church."
Bishop Marion Edwards of North Carolina has added his voice to that of Bishop Whitaker in publicly criticizing Bishop Sprague's theology. He said that Sprague's comments "strike at the heart of our ecumenical and United Methodist Church doctrine." Edwards accused Sprague of teaching the 2nd-century heresy of "adoptionism" (a theory that Jesus Christ was not born the Son of God but rather "became" the Son of God).
In May 2000, Sprague was among those arrested in Cleveland, Ohio, during the UM General Conference, for demonstrating in favor of homosexual ordination. He has also acknowledged celebrating same-sex unions prior to becoming bishop. The current public debate he precipitated has now boiled over in the United Methodist Church, revealing how deeply divided the church is over fundamental issues of Christian doctrine.
Perhaps this debate will serve as a theological catharsis and refocus the denomination's perspective of its historic confession of faith

TOPICS: Apologetics; Current Events; Mainline Protestant; Theology
Is Jesus the Only Way to God? Jesus said, "I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father, but through Me" (Jn. 14:6). He also said, "For unless you believe that I am He, you shall die in your sins" (Jn. 8:24).

The Apostle Peter echoed these words, saying, "Neither is there salvation in any other: for there is none other name under heaven given among men whereby we must be saved" (Acts 4:12). St. Paul agreed saying, "There is one God and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus."(I Tim. 2:5).

The resurrection of Christ is one of the best-attested events in human history. Thomas Arnold, author of the famous three-volume History of Rome, appointed to the chair of modern history at Oxford, and certainly a man well acquainted with the value of evidence in determining historical facts, said: "I have been used for many years to study the histories of other times, and to examine and weigh the evidence of those who have written about them, and I know of no one fact in the history of mankind which is proved by better and fuller evidence of every sort, to the understanding of a fair enquirer, than the great sign which God hath given us that Christ died and rose again from the dead." Numerous other prestigious scholars of history and law down through the centuries would concur.

Indeed, Jesus is the only way to God! In the days of Noah, there was no salvation outside of the Ark. In the days of Moses, there was no deliverance except for those who were under the blood. And in our day, there is no redemption outside of Christ.

Jesus' Resurrection: Fact or Figment?: A Debate Between William ... is a lively and provocative debate between Christian philosopher and apologist William Lane Craig and New Testament scholar and atheist Gerd Ludemann. This published version of a debate originally set at Boston College invites the responses of two additional scholars on either side of the debate. Robert Gundry, a New Testament scholar, and Stephen Davis, a philosopher, argue in support of a historical and actual resurrection, while Michael Goulder and Roy Hoover, both New Testament scholars, offer their support for Luedemann's view that the "resurrection" was based on the guilt-induced visionary experience of the disciples.

The Historicity of the Empty Tomb of Jesus An examination of both Pauline and gospel material leads to eight lines of evidence in support of the conclusion that Jesus's tomb was discovered empty: (1) Paul's testimony implies the historicity of the empty tomb, (2) the presence of the empty tomb pericope in the pre-Markan passion story supports its historicity, (3) the use of 'on the first day of the week' instead of 'on the third day' points to the primitiveness of the tradition, (4) the narrative is theologically unadorned and non-apologetic, (5) the discovery of the tomb by women is highly probable, (6) the investigation of the empty tomb by the disciples is historically probable, (7) it would have been impossible for the disciples to proclaim the resurrection in Jerusalem had the tomb not been empty, (8) the Jewish polemic presupposes the empty tomb.

 Contemporary Scholarship and the Historical Evidence for the Resurrection of Jesus Christ After an appraisal of recent scholarship on the historicity of the resurrection of Jesus Christ, Professor William Craig contends that "the resurrection appearances, the empty tomb, and the origin of the Christian faith - all point unavoidably to one conclusion: the resurrection of Jesus".

The Bodily Resurrection of Jesus It has been argued on the basis of Paul's testimony that Jesus's resurrection body was spiritual in the sense of being unextended, immaterial, intangible, and so forth. But neither the argument appealing to the nature of Paul's Damascus Road experience nor the argument from Paul's doctrine of the resurrection body supports such a conclusion. On the contrary, Paul's information serves to confirm the gospels' narratives of Jesus's bodily resurrection. Not only is the gospels' physicalism well- founded, but it is also, like Paul's doctrine, a nuanced physicalism.
The Disciples' Inspection of the Empty Tomb There are three alternatives concerning the relation of Luke and John's stories of the disciples' inspection of Jesus's empty tomb: (1) Luke is dependent upon John, (2) John is dependent upon Luke, or (3) Luke and John are dependent upon a common tradition. (1) is not a plausible hypothesis because in light of Luke 24:24, a later scribe borrowing from John would have had another disciple accompany Peter. (2) is not plausible in view of the non-Lukan elements in 24:12 which are characteristic of Johannine tradition. Moreover, good grounds exist for positing pre-Lukan tradition. (3) is most plausible in view of its ability to explain all the relevant data, the improbability of Luke's dependence on John, and the improbability of John's dependence on Luke.

Cruci-Fiction and Resuscitation The title used above was the headline of a paid advertisement in a campus newspaper from a major university. Allegedly written by a university student named "Daniel," the ad appeared as a result of Resurrection Week on that campus in the spring of 1997.

I received a copy of the ad in a letter from a long-time friend of my son. He was angry, confused, and scared by the article. He opened his letter by saying, "This is one of the most upsetting articles that I have ever read. This paid advertisement' has contradicted everything that I believe in. It makes a mockery out of the way I have chosen to pattern my life. It even frightens me."

The Resurrection: Fact or Fiction? The most significant event in history is the Resurrection of Jesus Christ. It is the strongest evidence that Jesus is the Son of God. This event gives men and women the sure hope of eternal life a hope that not only gives us joy as we look to the future but also provides us with powerful reasons to live today.

Throughout the centuries, however, there have been scholars who have attempted to deny the account of the Resurrection. Our schools are filled with history books which give alternative explanations for the Resurrection or in some cases, fail even to mention this unique event.

Was Jesus Really Born of a Virgin? Of the four canonical gospels, there are two, Matthew and Luke, that provide details about the birth of Jesus. The accounts may reflect the unique perspectives of both Joseph (in Matthew's gospel) and Mary (in Luke's), for there are many differences between the two.{1} However, of the things they share in common, one cannot be missed. They both declare that Jesus was miraculously conceived through the supernatural intervention of the Holy Spirit in the womb of a young virgin named Mary

The Resurrection of Christ: Theological Implications We will begin this brief study with a quick look at the resurrection in the Old Testament, followed by the resurrection of Christ in early Christian preaching.

To sum up: life, relationship, forgiveness, sanctification, the future, sanctity of the body. A whole philosophy, an entire world view, is wrapped up in the resurrection of Christ. Act as if your life depends on the resurrection of Christ--because it does!

He is risen! He is risen! That is the best news we can possibly tell a dying world!

Evidences for the Resurrection For nearly 2000 years there has been the historical phenomena of Christianity. In spite of the fact that the church throughout its early years suffered intense persecution at the hands of both the Jews and the Romans, it flourished. Many of the first missionaries of the Christian faith died a martyr's death because of their belief in Jesus Christ.

Why were these early Christians willing to face death for their belief in Jesus Christ? It was because they were convinced of the historical fact of the resurrection of Jesus Christ, and that this proved without a doubt that Jesus Christ was the Son of God and the one and only Savior of the world. And, so for them, death was not the end. The resurrection is a historical fact--not just some philosophical ideal or idea.

The Resurrection of Christ The bodily resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead is the crowning proof of Christianity. Everything else that was said or done by Christ and the Apostles is secondary in importance to the resurrection. If the resurrection did not take place then Christianity is a false religion. If it did take place, then Christ is God and the Christian faith is absolute truth.

Death is our greatest enemy and it has conquered all men but Christ. No man is wise enough to outwit death or wealthy enough to purchase freedom from death or strong enough to vanquish death. The grave always wins the victory and every person sooner or later returns to the dust.

Creation and the Resurrection The two greatest events in the history of the cosmos were, first of all, its supernatural creation and, secondly, the resurrection of its Creator from the dead. The evidence for each, to one whose mind and heart are open to evidence, is overwhelming. All true science points to creation, and the best-proved fact of history is the resurrection. The Bible, of course, teaches that both are vitally true, vitally important and vitally related, but even to one who does not believe the Bible, the evidence is still unanswerable. He may reject it, but he cannot refute it.

Furthermore, each is necessary to the other. The creation, invaded and permeated by decay and death, heading down toward ultimate chaos, can only be saved and renewed if death is defeated and life is restored by its Creator. The resurrection, conversely, triumphing over death and promising ultimate restoration of the perfect creation, can only be accomplished by the Creator Himself. The creation requires the resurrection and the resurrection requires the Creator.

Cynic Sage or Son of God?

This book is a whirlwind of detail and exploration into a very thorny topic of research. Boyd has provided his reader with a very thorough assessment of the quest for the historical Jesus. Boyd includes in this text a delineation of the historicity of what has occurred in the search of the historical Jesus over the last 200 years or so. Boyd has also discussed how these trends have permeated modern scholarship and the detrimental affects which have occured as a result. Several members of the ever popular Jesus Seminar group are discussed at great length, as well as the problems and ramifications of their writings upon higher biblical criticism and in particularly the person of Jesus. In this text, Boyd discusses dating, criticism, interpretation, and trustworthiness of the Biblical texts (i.e. Gospels and the Book of Acts). He has provided his reader with a careful detailed analysis of liberal scholars and their conclusions and then he systematically refutes their assessments. In other words, Boyd's counter arguments are very thorough and strong. The endorsements for this book are a regular who's who of scholarship (i.g. C. Stephen Evans, Clark H. Pinnock, D.A. Carson, Craig L. Blomberg, Ben Witherington III, and Gary R. Habermas). If you are wanting a very detailed work regarding the historicity of Jesus that is strong in its content and put together very well, then this is a book that you should add to your collection. I highly recommend it.

In this book, Boyd clearly demonstrates the massive difficulties facing the theories of historical revisionists such as John Dominic Crossan and Burton Mack regarding the origin of Christianity.

Boyd gives an overview of historical Jesus research and then summarizes the main arguments of his two opponents, Crossan and Mack. He then proceeds to show why the theories of Crossan and Mack are almost certainly false. Boyd argues convincingly for the canonical gospels and Paul's writings being much more reliable sources than the Gospel of Peter or Gospel of Thomas for information on Jesus.

Finally, Boyd dismantles Crossan's theory that Jesus' body was thrown into a common grave after crucifixion and eaten by wild animals. He explains how the resurrection of Jesus gives a much better explanation for the origin of Christianity than a theory which has Jesus eaten by dogs.

If you enjoyed Luke Timothy Johnson's, "The Real Jesus", then you will love this book. Boyd takes Johnson's arguments a little further and Boyd is a little narrower in focusing specifically on Crossan's and Mack's views.

The Case for Christ : A Journalist's Personal Investigation of the Evidence for Jesus by Lee Strobel

"The Case for Christ" is a well-articulated defense of the Christian faith, which is a statement I don't make lightly because I am not a Christian. I wish some of the reviewers of this book held to the same sober standards that the author employed in seeking the historical evidence for Jesus. They make all kinds of ill-supported claims --for instance, that the author tries to offer "conclusive proof" of the deity of Jesus. But the book never claims such "conclusive proof" is possible; only that the preponderance of the evidence points toward the conclusion that Jesus rose from the dead and thereby confirmed that he is the son of God. There's a big difference! Other claims about the martyrdoms of the disciples are easily put into context. For instance, the book never claims the disciple John was put to death for his faith. I'm sure Dr. Blomberg, who was one of the scholars interviewed, would not include John among the 10 disciples who died for their beliefs. Also, there is significantly better historical evidence for the martyrdom of some disciples (James, the half-brother of Jesus, for example) than for others. However, the critic can point to zero historical evidence that any disciple ever recanted their testimony about the resurrection, even in the face of grisly deaths. Also, the main point is the willingness of the disciples to die for their faith, not whether they actually did or not. Church history does record the martyrdoms of various disciples, and while someone may try to pick that apart, there is no other evidence to the contrary. But the biggest point is that the critic should read further into the book, to the interview with Dr. J. P. Moreland, who deals with the critic's argument that dying for one's beliefs does not mean one's beliefs are true. The point isn't that the disciples (like the Heaven's Gate followers) died because they believed something was true. In the disciples' case, they knew whether it was true that Jesus rose from the dead. They encountered him personally. And knowing the truth, they were willing to die. That's a major distinction apparently lost on the critic. As the book points out, many people die for what they believe is true, but nobody will willingly die for something they know is a lie. I mention some of this merely to point out that prospective readers of this book should take negative reviews with a grain of salt because there are answers to the objections raised. Unfortunately, it's difficult in this kind of format to instantly provide those responses. I'd encourage the reader to check the book out for himself and weigh the evidence personally. I found this book extremely helpful in my own investigation of Jesus.

This extremely readable and historically solid book is a must-read for any open-minded person who is truly seeking reliable information about Jesus and his identity. On one level, it's highly entertaining. The author has an uncanny ability to make complex issues understandable and to use colorful and compelling language to convey his points. He's an extremely gifted writer. And yet on another level it's a fully indexed reference book that will be an excellent resource in studying the controversial issue of whether Christianity is based on mythology or historical truth. I found the author's quest for accurate information about Jesus to be thorough, credible, and balanced. He raises tough questions and demands satisfying answers from the thoughtful scholars he cross-examines. A few have claimed the book is one-sided, but this completely misses the point! The author takes critiques of historic Christianity by Michael Martin and others and then seeks a response from the experts he interviews. It's up to the reader to decide whether these scholars give appropriate and meaningful responses. Also, the author exposes the faulty thinking and pseudo-scholarship of the liberal Jesus Seminar. Thus, it's false to say the book is one-sided. It deals responsibly with the toughest challenges to Christianity. One indication of the success of this book is that it has struck a raw nerve among atheists and others who apparently feel threatened by the book's ability to undermine their philosophy. A few have written reviews critical of the book. However, I say READ THE BOOK YOURSELF. In most cases, the author has already answered the critique of the reviewers!!! One example: a reviewer says, "Who would die for a lie? Heaven's Gate is only a recent example." However, this is faulty thinking, as the author points out. People in Heaven's Gate were willing to die for their faith because they BELIEVED their faith was true. However, they had no way of knowing whether their faith was REALLY true; they merely believed it was true. This was totally different for the disciples of Jesus. They didn't just believe Jesus was resurrected in the ultimate authentication of his identity as God; they KNEW it was true because they were in a unique position to actually encounter and interact with him. KNOWING what really occurred, they were willing to die for their beliefs. Thus, this is a completely different situation. I see this over and over: reviewers who raise issues but then ignore or misunderstand the author's point. In fact, I will say this: every single objection raised by reviewers is easily answered. Unfortunately, those who lack adequate background knowledge of these issues may be misled into thinking these criticisms carry more weight than they do. Some sound impressive -- until the reader goes through this book himself or examines similar books, such as Dr. J.P. Moreland's "Scaling the Secular City." I strongly recommend "The Case for Christ" to anyone who is sincerely interested in exploring whether Jesus was merely another man or was, indeed, the unique son of God. It will inform and challenge those who begin (as the author himself did!) as skeptics. And it will encourage and undergird the faith of those who already have concluded that Jesus is who he claimed to be. I'll add this: read ALL of the reviews before deciding whether to buy this book. Don't just read the most recent ones, but go to the next screen and go through all of them. And consider buying copies for friends. I've already purchased four paperback editions and given them to friends of mine who are curious about whether Christianity stands up to scrutiny. For those who speak German, I'd encourage you to read the foreword to the German edition of "The Case for Christ." It's written by Dr. Klaus Berger, one of Germany's most distinguished and thoughtful New Testament scholars -- and someone who is NOT an evangelical Christian. Dr. Berger's enthusiastic endorsement gives this book STRONG credibility. In fact, his intellectually informed endorsement is much more significant and important than some random and misleading critiques by amateurs who merely object to the author's conclusions. So CHECK IT OUT FOR YOURSELF. I did, and I'm richer for the experience.

Homosexuality and the Nazi Party …While the neo-pagans were busy attacking from without, liberal theologians undermined Biblical authority from within the Christian church. The school of so-called "higher criticism," which began in Germany in the late 1800s, portrayed the miracles of God as myths; by implication making true believers (Jew and Christian alike) into fools. And since the Bible was no longer accepted as God's divine and inerrant guide, it could be ignored or reinterpreted. By the time the Nazis came to power, "Bible-believing" Christians, (the Confessing Church) were a small minority. As Grunberger asserts, Nazism itself was a "pseudo-religion" (ibid.:79) that competed, in a sense, with Christianity and Judaism.

From the early years, leading Nazis openly attacked Christianity. Joseph Goebbels declared that "Christianity has infused our erotic attitudes with dishonesty" (Taylor:20). It is in this campaign against Judeo- Christian morality that we find the reason for the German people's acceptance of Nazism's most extreme atrocities. Their religious foundations had been systematically eroded over a period of decades by powerful social forces. By the time the Nazis came to power, German culture was spiritually bankrupt. Too often, historians have largely ignored the spiritual element of Nazi history; but if we look closely at Hitler's campaign of extermination of the Jews, it becomes clear that his ostensive racial motive obscures a deeper and more primal hatred of the Jews as the "People of God."

The probable reason for Hitler's attack on Christianity was his perception that it alone had the moral authority to stop the Nazi movement. But Christians stumbled before the flood of evil. As Poliakov notes, "[W]hen moral barriers collapsed under the impact of Nazi preaching...the same anti-Semitic movement that led to the slaughter of the Jews gave scope and license to an obscene revolt against God and the moral law. An open and implacable war was declared on the Christian tradition...[which unleashed] a frenzied and unavowed hatred of Christ and the Ten Commandments" (Poliakov:300).

"The Nazi Master Plan: The Persecution of the Christian Churches"

1 posted on 02/07/2003 3:52:46 PM PST by Remedy
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To: xzins
2 posted on 02/07/2003 3:59:17 PM PST by Remedy
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To: Remedy

Sprague is a heretic. He should be thrown out. Unfortunately, in its weird wisdom, our denomination never created an office or an official higher than a bishop. It only has a process whereby that bishop "might" be thrown out.

Here is an email I received on this and another issue just as bad.

I am the retired Methodist attorney that H........... refered to. My take on this mess is that the United Methodist Church is improperly organized and set-up, and as a result the Discipline, the Resolutions, and Social Principles are not followed as they should be, and are often totally ignored. As a further deficiency the tenets clearly set forth in the Bible are also not taken seriously as they DEFINITELY should. Each Bishop can, and does make his or her own interpretation of the church's laws and rules, and for some unexplained reason they seem to this entitles them to ignore the Holy Scriptures if they feel like it. I specifically refer to Leviticus 18: 4, 22-23.

The problem as I see it was when the UMC was organized they saw the need for an executive authority, but did not set one up because they feared that in doing so they would create a "pope". The incorrect assumption was that any executive authority would have to be a Bishop. As a result they instead created the Council of Bishops as the executive authority which, by any other name, is a committee. The old adage that an elephant designed by a committee, comes out a giraffe is very much applicable to the present situation of the UMC. Of course, the Chief Executive Authority doesn't have to be a Bishop, in fact, a lay person is preferable. The results of this deficient organization results in the type situation you are now trying to deal with. A good CEO would make sure that everybody is reading from the same page. One Bishop in Chicago has an entirely different beliefs than those of us who call ourselves Christian, yet he can't be removed as he should because of the Bishops trying to control everything. He is Joseph Sprague, and in my opinion is a disgrace to the UMC and the entire Christian Community. If you would like to check this out, check with Mark Tooley whom I have sent a copy of this e-mail.

3 posted on 02/07/2003 4:06:39 PM PST by xzins
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To: Remedy
read later
4 posted on 02/07/2003 5:28:01 PM PST by LiteKeeper
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To: Remedy
You realize your comment was about twice as long as your article? Holy moley, people really need to learn how to properly express their points.
5 posted on 02/07/2003 6:45:20 PM PST by Conservative til I die
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To: Remedy
Methodism is a free-for-all. What makes this Bishop so different than the many other heretics polluting these "churches".
6 posted on 02/07/2003 6:46:14 PM PST by Conservative til I die
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To: Conservative til I die

You realize your comment was about twice as long as your article? Holy moley, people really need to learn how to properly express their points.

LOL- check this out…The Question of God

7 posted on 02/07/2003 6:57:12 PM PST by Remedy
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To: xzins
Unfortunately, in its weird wisdom, our denomination never created an office or an official higher than a bishop. It only has a process whereby that bishop "might" be thrown out.

Created an office/ mean to say that this office/official is not scriptural?

8 posted on 02/07/2003 10:20:59 PM PST by PFKEY
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9 posted on 02/08/2003 1:48:48 AM PST by xzins
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To: Remedy
Thanks for the links - plenty to get through!
10 posted on 02/09/2003 1:33:47 AM PST by BlackVeil
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To: Remedy
The Jesus revelation is primary for Christians

How can he tell?

11 posted on 02/09/2003 2:41:19 AM PST by nickcarraway
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To: Remedy

It would seem that Catholicism is not the only religion where people are speaking out more about the corrupted leaders. I applaid the actions of these Methodists.

The flip side is that God will be the final judge.
12 posted on 02/09/2003 6:43:18 AM PST by Salvation (†With God all things are possible.†)
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