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Club 444: A Reminder That’s Not Only for United Methodists

May 4, 2022

Vintage observations by Diana Bass from March 3rd, 2019 —-

A wee reminder to my UMC friends — Methodism began as a spiritual movement to renew a decaying institutional church and serve the outcast, the marginalized, and the poor.

It is the WCA “traditionalists” who are NOT traditional. They are like 18th century Anglicans (sorry Anglican friends!) who tried to quash a spiritual movement of inclusion and love.

It is the WCA “traditionalists” who are appealing to authority and order and ecclesial control — like the Anglican bishops who criticized and chastised John Wesley and the early Methodists.

Early Methodism was messy, based in small groups, empowered women, gave enslaved persons a sense of freedom, and created a vision of justice and liberation.

There is NOTHING “traditional” about Methodists saying “no” to the Spirit’s movements of liberating love.

More traditional Christians were horrified by Methodism. They thought it was a faith for the “unwashed rabble.”

Anyone who claims to be a Methodist but who acts like an 18th century Anglican prelate is NOT faithful to Methodist tradition.

Anyone who says there are limits to whose hearts get strangely warmed are NOT faithful to Methodist tradition.

The deepest Methodist identity is that of hearts on fire with love, of risk and rebellion, of holy revolutions, of challenging ecclesial authorities who say “NO,” of listening to the voices of the outcast.

The people who are currently claiming to be “traditional” are really innovators and revisionists. They are turning you into something you aren’t.

If you want to open your doors, open the table, love those who society hates, risk all for the sake of mercy, well, then you are real Methodists.

So remember: John Wesley did not start a church. He wanted to renew a church that had become narrow, moralistic, cold. He wanted to renew it through new hearts, a courageous spirit, community that included the least & the unwanted, and passion for Jesus.

It was a FEARLESS spiritual movement.

FEARLESS. Without courage and risking all for love, there would be no Methodists.

Be not afraid. Be traditional! Be fearless. Go forth. Hearts on fire. You are being called back to your roots. The world is your pulpit.

Don’t let anybody — don’t let any rule — silence you. Wesley didn’t.

The great historian Don Matthews wrote that early American Methodism was “a volatile, alienated, defiant, and charismatic” movement that empowered “those who were demeaned and degraded” w/a revolutionary sense of God’s liberating love. (“Religion in the Old South,” UChiPress)

If you don’t know that history, learn it. Methodism only got “nice” when it accommodated to slavery. So, the “traditionalist” Methodism that is taking over your church is complicit with white supremacy & slave-holding.

But there was always another Methodism — the kind that shook the American South to its core in the 18th century — the revolutionary, inclusive, heart-centered, Jesus-fired Methodism that scared authorities (mostly white men, according to Matthews).

It is time for colonized Methodism to go away and the real Methodist tradition to get reborn (Methodists like rebirths!). To be the rambunctious rebels against unjust societies and the unholiness of the dominions of this world.

And yes, Methodists once scared people.

ISN’T THAT GREAT?!

And the people they scared the most were white male land — and slave — holders.

METHODISTS SCARED THE RIGHT PEOPLE.

But the powerful got you — twisted your desire for holy living into niceness and used your longing for a new spiritual order into a polity of conformity to control your raging, risky Methodist hearts.

They scared you with threats of chaos and loss of status and even the possibility of your livelihoods.

And isn’t that interesting? Just when Methodists are getting brave again, standing up for those w/o voice, including the excluded, redressing racism and working for women’s equality, the heirs to those 19th century white guys basically come back threatening all the same stuff.

Do NOT let them do it again.

Fool you once.

Set history a-right. You’ve got a real chance here to be the sort of Methodists your founding generation dreamed.

—- What do you make of all this?

RSVP, any of the usual 2022 pathways.

See you back here tomorrow.


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