Why I’m Staying in the UMC, For Now…
The other day I read a wonderful article from Chad Holtz over at the UMC HOlINESS blog entitled ‘Lord Jesus, help me keep on keepin’ on #UMC’ (you can read it HERE). It got me thinking. Just why do I stay in a denomination that is caught up is so much turmoil? The controversy before us is immense. The pain on all sides is virtually debilitating. We are obsessed, transgressed, and depressed. And I don’t know about the rest of you crazy Methodists, but I’m freaking exhausted by all this! So Chad’s blog yesterday did a great deal to calm me down and get me thinking. So, I took up the challenge for myself, to write out the reasons I stay in the UMC. Here are mine, you’ll have to come up with your own, or not…
My Reasons to Stay:
1. My Calling. When it comes right down to it, this is the main reason I stay. God called me to the United Methodist Church. Specifically He called me to preach in the UMC. And so far, He hasn’t released me from that call. If I were to leave now, I would be violating not just the trust of the people I serve and serve with, but the call of God on my life.
2. Our Theological Perspective. I haven’t found any better perspective on the Christian faith than the Wesleyan-Arminian way. I’m clearly on the more traditional, orthodox, conservative, evangelical (oh shoot, whatever the label is now!) side of things. I’m not a Calvinist, or Lutheran, or a Unitarian. I’m a Wesleyan-Arminian Christian. Our understanding of grace, especially prevenient and sanctifying grace, keep me home. We have a great understanding of how God through grace changes lives. Our combining of personal and social holiness is vital to me. I thoroughly support our theological position on women in ministry (there goes the Anglican Church in North America option, as well as many others…). No, our doctrine is the best I’ve encountered. Don’t believe me? Just read our Articles of Religion and Confessions of Faith!
3. My Local Church and Annual Conference. I serve a great church with great people who are seeking and serving Christ in amazing ways. And that’s true of each of the churches I’ve served over the years. And If I left the denomination, it would probably upset some folks, some less than others I’m sure, but my individual decision would have nothing more than a momentary effect. But If I attempted to lead my local church out of the UMC it would bring pain and division to the body of Christ that would be nothing less than sinful and selfish. Now, I know others have evaluated this situation and made the opposite choice, and I’m not judging them for their decision, but this is how I’d feel about it. I just don’t think I could do it. Furthermore, my conference, The Northwest Texas Conference of the UMC, is experiencing something of a revival. We are experiencing growth in our churches, especially our hispanic churches. We are planting new churches regularly. We’ve recently begun our own version of the Healthy Church Initiative that’s showing great promise in transforming existing churches. We have grown closer in clergy relationships and trust over the last few years. We’ve worked out many of our differences, or at least we’ve figured out how to work together in spite of our differences. I’ve spent nearly twenty years volunteering in our conference camps, and just last week we had over 350 mid-high kids at camp. Many of those kids encountered Christ for the first time at that camp. I would hate to think that all the work and all of the promise of the last few years in our conference was wasted.
4. Connectionalism. Yep. I still value connectionalism. In it’s many forms it’s just something that you rarely find in other denominations. I love knowing and working with pastors and churches around the world. From joint ministry projects to clergy covenant groups to combined missions trips to camps, well you get the idea. Several years ago while serving another church we had one our members get in an accident in Kansas City. I never thought twice about calling Church of the Resurrection for help, they quickly sent out a pastor to visit. When we are at our best we take care of each other. I really don’t know if you get that in other denominations, but it’s one of the things I appreciate most about ours.
A not quite final word, for now… You might ask, ‘Is there anything that could change my mind?’ And that’s a great question. Truthfully, it’s one I’ve been wrestling with the last few months. And yes, there are a few things, deeply related things, that could change my mind. 1. If God clearly called me to something new. 2. If there is an official change to our sexual standards or our doctrinal standards. And yes, I believe them to be deeply related. 3. If the disobedience without consequence that is happening nationally began happening locally, I might be tempted to leave. But really, it was the clear call of God that got me into this gig, and it’ll have to be the clear call of God to get me out of it!
What are your reasons for staying? What is your ‘line in the sand’ for leaving? How are you coping in the midst of this wacky world of the Methodists?
Grace and Peace, Rich