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CLUB 444: Why Stay UMC?

August 14, 2022

Fred Wideman, online friend and colleague, states his case quite cogently. I’m sharing it here with his graciously expressed permission – – –

Why I Am Still a United Methodist

United Methodists are aware of the “splintering” movements of “disaffiliation” taking place within our denomination. Rather than question the intents of others or critique decisions being made, I thought I would simply state some of the reasons why I am still a United Methodist. This is simply what I believe.

  1. We are a Christ Centered Church
    We are not doctrine centered, Pope centered, Bible centered, or family centered. We are Christ Centered. Jesus Christ is the foundation of our faith. Jesus is the beginning point and ending point, the ultimate source of faith and interpretation of Scripture, the Alpha and Omega that defines and directs our mission.

We believe strongly in the Bible; but we do not worship the Bible. We love our families and work to see that they are faithful disciples of Christ and good citizens of our country. We do not worship our families.

We are not about labels like liberal or conservative. We know that following Jesus could make us appear to be either conservative or liberal depending on the context of the issue and people with whom we are in conversation. We believe in following Christ first, and letting others worry about how we may appear politically. We are a Christ Centered Church. “All other ground is sinking sand.” I like that about our church.

  1. We are a positive church.
    We are not Pollyanna or naive, but we are positive. We are not angry fear mongers who spend time and energy judging and shaming those with whom we disagree. We do not waste our time complaining about how awful the world is. We certainly do not blame God for all bad things happening in the world as though those events are signs of punishment.

We believe God to be a forgiving God. God is just and God is forgiving. While there are consequences of sin we all experience, we know God’s grace to be greater than our sin and its consequences. We hold to the Scripture that teaches, “We are saved by grace through faith, that is not our doing…it is the gift of God.” We understand that grace is never deserved, earned, or achieved.

We are a hope-filled people. Of all the powers impacting our world, we believe God is the greatest. God is sovereign. Though there exists many forces that work against the ways of God, in which we all may participate from time to time, we believe that in the end, God wins. Grace prevails. Believing in a God like that tends to make you positive. I like that about our church.

  1. Our faith is both personal and social
    Our faith is personal. We believe that each person must have a personal relationship with God. No one can do that for you. God has no grandchildren. You do not go through a preacher, priest, doctrine, or church to get to God. God comes to you, where you are, as you are. Our faith is personal.

Our faith is also social. God speaks to us in community. Wherever two or more of us are gathered in His name, God is present. We embrace our dependence on the community of faith to help us learn and interpret the scriptures, to understand the faith, to develop and grow that relationship with God. God spoke to little Samuel. But Samuel needed Eli to let him know what was happening.

Our understanding of the faith has been formed by the community of faith. Scripture, tradition, experience and reason are God-given sources for helping us understand and express our faith. We need that help. We find that help in the community of faith.

We serve in community. Methodists have always taken seriously “good works.” I can remember as a youth someone criticizing our church saying that we believed in “works righteousness.” That means that we believed that our good works saved us and take us to heaven. We have never believed that. However, I like that we take good works so seriously that we might be accused of believing in works righteousness.

We believe that we are saved by grace through faith. That is not our doing that we might boast. But the Scripture goes on to say that “we are created in Christ Jesus for good works.” That is our purpose. We are saved by grace but created for good works. We believe in saving souls and also saving the human condition as well. Our faith is both personal and social. I like that about our church.

  1. We are connectional
    Each and every United Methodist congregation is connected structurally, relationally, and missionally with every other United Methodist congregation and institution. When Ann’s father, Rev. Jimmie Caraway would travel out of state, he used the connection like a travel agency. He would find a United Methodist Church along the route, go in to meet the pastor, use the restroom and get a free cup of coffee.

As a child, I remember the impact of Camp Caney, a summer camp for children all over the district. My faith was impacted by that week long experience. It was made possible by clergy and laity giving of themselves. Following high school I attended La Tech University. I met a crazy bald headed man by the name of Bill Stokes. He was the director of the Wesley Foundation campus ministry. This was the Methodist way of continuing work with young adults. I received my call to ministry in those days and found help in discerning my call into ordained ministry.

When i made a decision to enter ordained ministry, there were United Methodist seminaries to attend and scholarships available made possible by United Methodist living all over the country. During and following seminary, there was a group of clergy called the Board of Ordained ministry, who tested me. They tested my faith, my theological statements and my lifestyle to make sure that I was fit to be unleashed on congregations. I jumped through more hoops than a French Poodle in a circus. And that was a good thing.

Our connection made possible my appointments to serve many wonderful congregations. The connection made possible the development of new congregations. The connection raised money and invested it in a pension for my retirement. This connection makes possible a tremendous world-wide mission, second only in size the the Roman Catholic Church. With war like that in Ukraine and natural disasters world wide and at home with hurricanes, our connection serves. Our love is made tangible. We are a connectional church. And I love that about our church.

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