What Every United Methodist Should Do Right NOW!
We all know that these are uncertain days for the United Methodist Church. There are calls for a split. There are increasing numbers of pastors, churches, and even bishops who are openly defying the Book of Discipline. The Covenant is in shreds. And many of us are filled with hurt, pain, anger, confusion, and a growing sense of depression. So, what should we do? Here are four suggestions for all United Methodists to do right NOW…
1. Pray. It all starts here. We serve an amazing God. I seem to remember a little phrase, ‘All things are possible.’ What if we were to be more serious and intentional with our prayers? Well then, all things are possible, even a new day for the people called Methodist. Like many of you, I stopped praying for revival or renewal quite some time ago. It’s not that I lost interest, or thought it beyond the possibility, rather, I just got impatient. Yet, maybe our prayers should move past revival or renewal and settle in as prayers for resurrection. When all we see is death, our God seems to specialize in bringing new life.
2. Learn. There seems to be a general ignorance about who we are theologically. Billy Abraham labeled it ‘Doctrinal Amnesia.’ I think he is right. Further, we have a theological self-esteem issue that’s certainly linked to the fact that we’ve forgotten who we are. We all could do with a refresher course in Wesleyan-Arminian theology. Our surrounding culture, particularly in the media, tend to use labels like ‘Evangelical, Conservative, Traditionalist, and Fundamentalist’ as synonyms for reformed theology. And terms like ‘Progressive and Liberal’ as synonyms for universalism. Those of us in the Wesleyan-Arminian stream don’t quite fit their understanding. Yet, in our current state of theological amnesia folks across our connection seem to easily slide right into those labels. Our theology is not second rate! Wesleyan-Arminian theological thought is a vital, vibrant, robust, coherent stream of orthodox Christian Theology. It’s time for us to be who we are, even if we have to relearn our own basics!
3. Gather. When times of controversy and conflict arise many people are tempted to take shelter, hide, run away. I certainly understand that tendency. It makes sense. Focus just on the local church. Avoid conference, district, and other larger church gatherings. And therefore avoid the hurt and pain a bit. But I encourage you to take the counter-intuitive path instead. Call some friends and colleagues together for a time of prayer and worship. Learn the issues together. Debate and dialogue. Pray some more. In these times of controversy and conflict we need our connectional community more than ever. Seek it out! Isolation will not bring healing; it will only cause the pain and confusion to grow and fester. Gather with your brothers and sisters in Christ, pray, worship, study, and support one another! Don’t try to go it alone!
4. Engage. Finally, engage in the debate. The condition of the United Methodist Church is not a spectator sport. The future of our once great church is too important to ‘leave it up to somebody else.’ Engage! Start a blog. Write some letters. Call a bishop or two. Organize a discussion group. Start a prayer group. Write a petition for your annual conference. Do Something! In today’s connected world, everybody literally has a voice at the table if they’ll just speak up and engage in the debate. A word of caution, do so civilly, nicely, respectfully. Even if those who disagree with you treat you in despicable ways, remain respectful, stay nice. But stay engaged.
What do you think? What are your prayers for the UMC? What will you do to stay engaged?
Yes, I know, these are confusing days. But they are also important days. And our God of Resurrection just might be about to breathe the breath of Life right back into the people called Methodist!
Dear Lord, may it be so!
Grace and Peace, Rich
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