In a tactical shift, evangelical leaders who said yesterday they would seek an "amicable separation" of the United Methodist Church now say they will pursue further dialogue.

James V. Heidinger, president of the Good News renewal group, said conservatives will not seek to impanel a committee to study a permanent split.  The denomination's General Conference, which ends today, has been meeting in Pittsburgh. But Heidinger said "the idea is not being forgotten."

"I think we were testing the idea, talking about that as a possibility, and will continue to talk about it," Heidinger said. "[Separation is] one of those things that we have been reluctant to discuss, but it's out there, and it's going to be a part of continued conversation."

Early yesterday morning, Bill Hinson, president of the Confessing Movement, announced during a breakfast meeting of conservative groups that despite progress this week by evangelicals during the General Conference, theological differences are "irreconcilable." Calling for a split, he said a resolution asking the Conference to appoint a task force to plan for the separation would go before the legislative body.

That idea never made it to the floor for discussion.

'I can't do that'
Yesterday afternoon, the coalition of advocacy groups abruptly decided not to present a resolution. The switch happened, in part, said Heidinger, because some conservative delegates voiced reluctance.

"The [delegates] with whom we have talked about specifically bringing it as a resolution thought that it is not timely right now to do it," said Heidinger.

Eddie Fox, world director of evangelism for the World Methodist Council, said he was asked to bring the resolution to the Conference, but he refused. "I said, 'I can't do that,' ...

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