by

by

January 24, 2013

Comments (1)

Comment Feed

What is United Methodism?

I believe Brother Meunier hit the nail on the head with his list of descriptors of the UMC. I would have ordered the list differently, and topped it with "Middle to upper-middle class sensibilities and norms." We are an institution living within a nation of institutions, all of which operate within their own cultural milieu. We are a very middle-class institution, one which sees some religious practices (like conversions down the sawdust trail) as being declasse'.

We prefer to have Christians who have grown up in Christian homes, and for whom expressions of the Christian faith are not strewn with excessive exuberance or emotionalism. We would rather get new members who either long ago made their conversion (believing there is no one as offensive as the newly converted Christian) or who grew up in homes knowing no other Lord but Christ, and taking it for granted.

Even though we found our growth in the nineteenth century in going to where the people were and founding churches in every community we could, in truth, the home missionaries we sent out were not there to create new Christians by conversion, but by being a church to the settled folks. (Even John Wesley learned that when he came as a missionary to Georgia hoping to convert the Indians but finding that his church really only wanted him to be a chaplain to the Anglo immigrants.)

We are a church which likely is the last, relatively unadulterated remnant of an institution steeped in the political modality political scientists call "Jacksonian Democracy." This is a radical form of democracy where anyone who moves to a higher level, or represents a group, is elected by the group next lower in our polity. Every minister in the UMC was *elected* as a candidate by the Charge Conference of the Church in which his/her professing membership was held, and was affirmed by the District Conference in which his/her local church had its existence, before s/he could ever go for review by the Board of Ordained Ministry of the Annual Conference in which s/he sought membership. Our churches *elect* lay members to Annual Conferences, and *elect* lay and clergy delegates to the General and Jurisdictional Conferences. This is our organizational and polity DNA. The only recent and amazing thing about this, to me, was the shock and surprise that the Judicial Council undid the action of the General Conference seeking to re-organize the denomination. This action was as predictable as the tides and the phases of the moon!

We've made it work for years. Now, we need to learn how to make our church work in an era where the growing social divide is between the upper classes and the working class--our "market," the middle class, is shrinking. It can be done, if we can accept this, our corporate culture, and learn to live within it.

Tom Griffith more than 2 years ago

Notable Quotes

“We’ll have to see how gracious or vindictive voices within the LGBT community are in their responses (should the U.S. Supreme Court deliver a widely expected ruling legalizing same-sex marriage). Will they become a live-and-let-live movement or a stamp-out-dissent movement? If there’s respect, there’s likely to be less pushback from conservatives.”  – Ryan Anderson, Heritage Foundation Fellow commenting to Religion News Service.


"Politicians, adopting the rhetoric of their fundamentalist Christian constituencies, claim to revere the Bible but are clearly unaware of what it says, what it doesn’t say, or of the insights of those who study it seriously." – Peter Enns, commenting on Patheos about Newsweek's article on Biblical illiteracy.


“I just believe that God’s agenda has no gender." – Composer, singer and pastor Andrae Crouch in 1998 after he ordained his twin sister, Sandra Crouch, and named her co-pastor with him. Crouch died Jan. 8 of a heart attack at age 72.


“The Just Resolution Agreement achieved by the complainants and Bishop Talbert is a reminder that United Methodists don’t have to be divided by their differences. The conflicted parties came together, prayerfully listened to one another, challenged one another, and searched for God’s guidance for themselves and for the church.” – Bishop Elaine J.W. Stanovsky, in a statement announcing that Bishop Melvin G. Talbert won't face a church trial for officiating at a same-gender wedding of an Alabama gay couple.