A New Day of Renewal for the UMC!
I’ve heard the call to the spiritual battlefield in the UMC so often I’ve become numb to it. I’ve been to so many conferences, read so many blogs and email campaigns and whole decades of magazines. I’ve known and visited with many of the leaders in our renewal groups and hold them in high esteem. Yet I sometimes wonder if our means of working for renewal over the last several decades, which has clearly slowed the left-ward movement of the UMC, hasn’t also contributed to the stalemate we are currently facing. I’m genuinely grateful for the service and leadership of all those who’ve dared to stand and speak truth over the last several turbulent decades of life in the United Methodist Church. And I’m greatly encouraged by the birth of the Wesleyan Covenant Network. But now I feel it’s my turn, maybe I should say ‘our’ turn, to stand and speak truth. Yes it is ‘our’ turn for those of us who are just now coming into positions of leadership and influence in our denomination. As we move together into whatever the future may hold, as we engage our own turbulent days, as we begin to speak truth to the UMC, I’ve been thinking of some directional guidelines. I would love to get your gentle feedback on these guidelines:
1. To ground our thinking and conversation in orthodox Christian theology with a distinct Wesleyan-Arminian perspective. To not settle for the easy language of the Calvinist nor for the ‘feel-good’ perspective of the universalist. To emphasize anew those long neglected doctrines of entire sanctification/Christian perfection and the transforming movement of Grace from Prevenient grace to Justification and onward to Sanctification.
2. To live out this theology through the classical Wesleyan practices of meeting in classes and bands, focusing on personal and social holiness, and reigniting a new missional Methodist movement. To call all people to new life in Christ. To work together with those who will in acts of church planting, evangelism, and discipleship. To indeed see all the world as our parish; our mission field.
3. To intentionally seek out, support, and live in Christian community with those orthodox Wesleyan-Arminian Christians in the UMC who are increasingly marginalized in many areas of the United States. For far too long, those of us in orthodox-friendly areas have enjoyed the safety of our location while our faithful sisters and brothers have been marginalized, isolated, and even victimized in their orthodox-unfriendly areas.
4. To stay in the United Methodist Church. To not run from the turbulent days of struggle but to stay and speak truth. This will not be easy, but it is the right thing to do. The calls for a split have been about ‘running away’ from the challenges, the heresy, the issues, yet I think God would have us stay until He calls us to something new. And that call may yet come, but it has not yet come. And because it has not yet come, the final guideline…
5. To engage the larger United Methodist Church with a clear call to confession and repentance. Yes, we need to communicate this call lovingly and gently, but we must be clear: there will be no unity if those who’ve strayed from our orthodox Wesleyan-Arminian Christian doctrine do not confess and repent. There can be no unity apart from our essential Christian doctrines; apart from Christ.
So there they are, maybe not so different from the past, but a starting place. Now for the conversations. I imagine some of you are quite angry and others may be yawning and thinking ‘nothing new here.’ And still others may be thinking, ‘we’ve tried all that and still they break covenant so there’s no use giving it another try!’ If you’re angry with me, maybe a nice gentle push back … And for the others, if this doesn’t work for you, what do you suggest?
Grace and Peace,