In July of 1977, 50,000 Spirit-filled Christians gathered at Arrowhead Stadium in Kansas City for a conference on charismatic renewal. Over 500 United Methodists were a part of this meeting across denominational lines. Out of this historic event came a call for a fellowship to serve and to guide the growing renewal movement within the United Methodist Church.
Confirming the need for such a group was a historic document adopted at the 1976 General Conference. “Guidelines: The United Methodist Church and the Charismatic Movement” signaled an official openness to the renewal of the church by the Holy Spirit. Five United Methodist leaders responded to the call for this fellowship. Though reluctant at first, these initial runners sensed divine confirmation through prayer that, indeed, this was the will of God, not just the will of people. Ross Whetstone, Bob Tuttle, Bill Wilson, Bob Stamps and Tommy Tyson worked together, and with others, prayerfully seeking Gods will, to lay the foundation for the formation of the United Methodist Renewal Services Fellowship Incorporated.
The focus was to be an organization within the United Methodist Church whose members prayed and worked for the renewal of the church. The UMRSF was established with a Board of Directors and an Advisory Council committed to work within the structure of the United Methodist Church.
The first official function of the UMRSF was a Wesleyan Heritage tour in Scotland, England, and Wales. The tour was a part of the 1978 International Conference on the Charismatic Renewal in the Catholic Church. Just over a year later, Aldersgate ’79, the first annual conference on the Holy Spirit, took place August 9-12 in Louisville, Kentucky.
As the UMRSF began, it became evident that there was a need to interpret the Renewal movement to the church - including interaction with Bishops, General Boards and agencies, Annual Conferences, Districts and local churches. It also was evident that there was a need to help the renewal constituency understand the church. Created as a non political, non-adversarial ministry, the UMRSF has been faithful to serve under the authority of the church while respectfully working to bring renewal within it.
In addition to Aldersgate Conferences, God was training runners through ministry sponsored events throughout the year and around the nation. Local church seminars and regional Holy Spirit conferences became mini-training camps for those who wanted to “bring the life of the Spirit into the life of the church.”
To further train runners, the leadership encouraged the formation of local groups for worship, praise and study… helping people gain a Wesleyan understanding of the Person and work of the Holy Spirit. Manna, our original newsletter, became a training guide for the runners in renewal. Stories, photos, upcoming events, letters, and teaching articles filled the pages of this resource. Manna became a record book of faithful runners who trained and led others in the race. It told the story of people who sacrificed and labored to see others encounter the life-transforming power of the Holy Spirit.
In January of 1986, God simultaneously gave those in leadership both new vision for the expansion of their ministries and the anointing of wisdom to bring it to pass. God made it clear that intentional and structured prayer was essential for running the race and passing the baton.
God imparted strategy for intercession through our first national prayer coordinator Katherine Konow. Kathy led an army of prayer warriors in more than 200 churches across the country. Her initiation of a nation-wide prayer effort for Aldersgate conferences became both a model and the foundation for our current prayer ministries. In 1992, our present National Prayer Coordinator, Margie Burger, received the baton from Kathy. Margie’s passion for prayer resulted in God given strategy to pray “on-site with insight” for every decision making conference of The United Methodist Church.
One of the ways God began to answer the cries for renewal in the UMC was by providing a tool to clearly communicate the person and work of the Holy Spirit. A teaching event called the Life in the Spirit Seminar was birthed in Bedford, Texas, under the leadership of Gary Moore. The seminar was initially designed to bring new people in his local church into a fuller understanding of the ministry of the Holy Spirit. It soon became a national, and today, an international, seminar helping to train hundreds of runners each year for the Spirit-filled life. Gary soon became an Administrative Consultant for the UMRSF, serving under the Executive Director administrating conferences beginning with Aldersgate ’87 in New Orleans, Louisiana.
During the mid eighties, the agenda of many meetings focused on ministry strategy and expanding structure for God’s glory. At a meeting in May of 1988, Gary Moore was asked to serve as full-time Associate Executive Director, and to prayerfully consider serving as Executive Director after Ross Whetstone’s retirement in 1989. A transition plan was designed and confirmed by the Board and Council at Aldersgate ’88 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.
The ministry entered a new season with fresh gratitude, growth, change and promise as the mantle of leadership was passed from Ross Whetstone to Gary Moore at Aldersgate ’89 in Little Rock, Arkansas.
The ARM staff are also supported and under girded by a much larger loving and faithful family of gifted servants who have served on the Board of Directors and the Advisory Council. With both paid staff and volunteers, God has allowed us to minister across the nation.
Along with the summer Aldersgate conferences, Life in the Spirit Seminars, local regional fellowships continued to host Holy Spirit Conferences, Pastor’s Conferences, Revivals, Leadership Conferences and prayer and healing seminars throughout the year.
As the ministry continued to grow, so did the need for more space. In 1994, God provided an office building in Goodlettsville, Tennessee, 20 minutes North of Nashville. The board not only changed the location of its headquarters, they also made the decision to change their “working” name to Aldersgate Renewal Ministries - Aldersgate being who we are, Renewal being what we are about and Ministries being what we do. As an affiliate organization, Aldersgate Renewal Ministries continues to serve as an ARM of the United Methodist Church.
In January of 1996, ARM reached across the sea to provide leadership for “Aldersgate in the Philippines.” Within the next two years, Life in the Spirit Seminars were held in the Philippines at Wesleyan University.
In the spring of 1998 ARM faced a financial famine that challenged its very existence. At Aldersgate ’98 in Dallas, Texas, God confirmed that we were to press on toward the future. Birthed out of “new visions and dreams,” God provided a new home and a ministry center out of which ARM would increase the fruitfulness and quantity of its ministry. The facility, called the Aldersgate Renewal Center, has literally become a training camp where runners are trained both to release the baton and to receive the baton through conferences and retreats hosted throughout the year.
God continued to confirm His Word that ARM would be a place of transformation by miraculously providing three homes in the ARC neighborhood. These ARCottages were purchased and remodeled to provide rest, renewal and refreshment of those who have chosen to lay down their lives in ministry to others. These homes provide a retreat for weary runners.
While the ministry continued to settle into the ARC, God gave increasing vision for international outreach. With the translation of the Life in the Spirit Seminar Manual into Spanish, the door has swung wide open to further bring the Life of the Spirit into the Life of the Church. In 2002, inaugural seminars were held for leadership in the Paraguay Methodist Church and at Nuevo Vida UMC outside of Chicago, Illinois.
During this season, Executive Director, Gary Moore began to see fulfillment of a word spoken that ARM would become a “minister to ministers and a leader to leaders.” Through events designed specifically for lay and clergy, God began, and continues to minister, to ministers.
Since 2002, local church renewal events have grown to include the Lay Witness Mission, the Ventures in Discipleship, Pathways to a Praying Church, and Worship in Spirit and Truth. International ministries have expanded to numerous countries including Brazil, Slovokia, Tanzania, Nepal, Great Britain and Peru. The staff has continued to grow. In March of 2009, the baton of Executive Leadership passed to Jonathan Dow who has been a staff member since 1999.
At a recent leadership meeting, one of the Executive Committee members shared what they sensed the Lord was saying about the future of ARM:
“I have only just begun to accomplish what I have planned and destined for you. This is only the beginning – the beginning of a new season. This is a time to purpose to follow me with abandonment and unabashedly. This is a time to step out in faith to fulfill those things that you KNOW that I have called you to do. This is a time to proclaim, declare and decree the promises that I have promised you. This is the time to expect to see the fulfillment of words that I have prophesied over you. Rise up Aldersgate Renewal Ministries, and move into the place that I have ordained for you!” ARM is seeking to fulfill that word.