Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Stuff that Ought to Matter

There has been some good and challenging stuff written lately regarding Methodism. Some topics include:
  1. The Methodist Church in Britain is going to bar members of racist political parties from becoming full members of the Church. It doesn't mean that they cannot attend church, but does emphasize that racism is denial of the Gospel.
  2. Ted Campbell of SMU/Perkins School of Theology has written a commentary, "Seven things I hate about UMC."
  3. Shane Raynor, one of the "gurus" of the Methoblogosphere, has written a blog entitled, "How to Get a New Pastor Without Going to the Bishop." He makes the bold observation that some pastors may not be among the converted (which I do not doubt).
1. The news from our Methodist siblings across the pond comes in light of our own denomination wrestling with a (poorly worded) amendment that would have mandated membership for anyone seeking it. There is always the danger that in the quest to be inclusive, we instead become generic - and generic is nothing. It stands for nothing, and stands against nothing. Most certainly, the Gospel bends toward justice, and what could be more injust that rubber stamping church membership in a Christian Church. That doesn't mean that we exclude folks from coming, but we do have standards for those who confess and profess Christ.

2. Ted Campbell always challenges us with boldness and bluntness. Perhaps his best "in our face" has to do with the way we do conference in most of our annual conferences. He says this:
If we’re not really going to confer about anything, there’s no point in holding a conference. We can approve committee reports by e-mail. And no, I do not intend to read them...

What’s the cost/benefit ratio for holding these conferences every year, especially where people must sleep in hotels, eat meals in restaurants and drive 150 miles each way? Is this helping us? Would the life of local congregations come to a grinding halt if we didn’t hold the annual conference every year? What are we accomplishing?
Amen and bravo. What if we actually conferenced at annual conference, in the manner of the means of grace Wesley saw conferencing? What if we instructed folks on how to do evangelism and how to make disciples (which is our Great Commission... and currently, we stink at it). I say we do business at conference by a consent calendar, submit reports in writing to whomever wants to read them, do whatever voting we have to have, and then do something that benefits the kingdom instead of ourselves! Annual conference is so clergy and "professional lay person" driven regarding salaries, pension, and insurance that it makes me ashamed how self-absorbed we clergy are and how clergy-focused and clergy-driven we are, and how pitiful we are at being Christ- and Kingdom-driven. We are currently servants all right... servants of ourselves.

3. And what can be said about clergy who aren't converted, much less spiritual leaders? There is no doubt we suffer from spiritual malnutrition, but our clergy may be contributing to the hunger instead of feeding us. If that's true, our bishops and superintendents need to address that, and address it quickly. Wesley certainly gives us the guide and model for that.

Good stuff - worth pondering, praying, cussing, and discussing about.


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