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Two conservative groups that are active in the United Methodist Church have announced leadership shifts, with the Rev. James Heidinger retiring from Kentucky-based Good News, and Mark Tooley moving up to president of the Institute on Religion and Democracy in Washington.
Heidinger, 67, has headed Good News for 28 years and has been a leader of the Methodists’ evangelical wing that successfully resisted repeated moves to liberalize church positions on homosexuality. He said it was time to “pass the baton on to new leadership.”
“I am joyful, excited, and optimistic about the future ministry of Good News as we welcome new leaders. God’s anointing rests upon this ministry,” Heidinger said in a statement.
The Wilmore, Ky.-based ministry has tapped the Rev. Robert Renfro, the pastor of adult discipleship at The Woodlands United Methodist Church in Houston, as its next president.
Tooley, a former CIA employee who has spent the last 14 years at the conservative Washington think tank, will move up as president, succeeding retiring president Jim Tonkowich.
Tooley has been a vocal critic of the Methodists’ liberal-leaning Washington office and, like Heidinger, has helped defend the denomination’s bans on gay clergy and same-sex unions. The IRD has recently opposed environmental action among evangelicals and downplayed the reemergence of the religious left.
“More than ever before, the IRD is needed today to continue to challenge America’s churches to be faithful to their great traditions and to shun liberal fads that always spiritually and culturally marginalize once great churches,” Tooley said in a statement.
By Kevin Eckstrom
Religion News Service
Copyright 2009 Religion News Service. All rights reserved. No part of this transmission may be distributed or reproduced without written permission.

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