Methodists and Same-Sex Unions

From an unlikely source comes a surprisingly good (fair) explanation of the situation in the United Methodist Church regarding same-sex unions:

(The source is non-sectarian public-policy think tank, and I think they should be congratulated for wading into a theological argument to try to help explain it. Their position seems to be pro-SSM but they are reasonably fair in explaining, or at least briefly summarizing, the anti-SSM position.)

(Cross-posted from Pastor Luke’s blog.)

Calvin vs. Wesley

William Willimon reviewed Calvin vs. Wesley, a new book that might be especially interesting to people who attend a Presbyterian/Methodist Union church.

The book sounds like something a Calvinist like myself would enjoy reading, despite this bit (from the review, not the book):

I do wonder if his critique of Calvin — arguing that Calvin’s theory of the faith is bested by Wesleyan’s practice of the faith — is critical enough. What if Calvin’s pompous, overwrought systematic theology was not only too narrow, too systematized, and too static to do justice to biblical faith, but also wrong about God?

Something I was interested to see (in the review but apparently based on the chapters of the book) was a set of antitheses between Calvinism and Wesleyanism:

  • Love vs. sovereignty
  • Bible as Primary vs. Sole Authority
  • Grace as Prevenient vs. Irresistible
  • Salvation as Unlimited vs. Limited
  • Ministry as Empowering vs. Triumphal

I wonder how many of them I could explain briefly, much less describe how they relate to Wesleyanism.

Vital Congregations

I received the conference books from the Alaska Methodist annual conference earlier this year. I wasn’t able to participate this year, so I didn’t know as much about the conference as I did last year. For example, the conference theme this year was “Disciple is a Verb.”

That reminded me of the United Methodist “Vital Congregations” initiative. Rather than imposing a directive from the top down, Vital Congregations attempts to describe vital congregations in sufficient detail that less vital congregations would have something to emulate, if they are looking for help. That means there is a lot of depressing information about how few congregations are truly vital, but it’s not just numbers. Here are the “big three” takeaways. Vital congregations are:

  • Spirit-filled, forward-leaning communities of believers that welcome all people (Gal.3:28)
  • Places where Disciples of Jesus Christ are made through the power of the Holy Spirit. (Matt. 28:18-20)
  • Communities that serve like Christ through justice and mercy ministries. (Micah 6:8, Luke 4:17-21)

But the Vital Congregations initiative also describes what discipleship looks like (which is what got me started on this train of thought). According to Vital Congregations, disciples:

  • worship regularly
  • make disciples of Jesus Christ
  • grow in their faith
  • engage in mission
  • give to mission

That’s kind of vague, so I prefer Michael Foss‘ “six marks of discipleship,” which says disciples:

  • pray daily
  • worship weekly
  • read the Bible
  • serve at and beyond their local congregation
  • be in relationship to encourage spiritual growth in others
  • give of their time, talents, and resources

Methodist Appointment Security Upheld

From the UMC Connections blog:

The top court of The United Methodist Church has upheld church rules that ensure security of appointment for elders and associate clergy members, striking down legislation passed by the denomination’s lawmaking assembly last spring.

Since I’m a Presbyterian, I won’t comment except to say it seems fitting for a decision like this to come down before Reformation Day.

Homosexuality and Preachers

Last week the United Methodist General Conference rejected two motions that would have relaxed the church’s teaching about homosexuality. One of the results was a decision not to vote on related motions. From the Washington Post:

The UMC’s policy remains that ministers cannot marry same-sex couples and churches cannot host same-sex weddings. Clergy in same-sex relationships are likewise banned. … About 1,200 United Methodists clergy have agreed to break church rules and marry same-sex couples, surveys show young Christians favor expanding gay rights and other mainline Protestant denominations have adopted gay-friendly policies in recent years.

But what’s with that last part?

Can clergy disobey the teaching of the church?

Continue reading →

Complete Works of Charles Wesley Available

I was interested to see in the Aurora (the electronic newsletter of the Alaska UMC) that Duke University has completed the publication of the manuscript (the handwritten, which is to say, the unpublished) works of Charles Wesley. Together with another collection of the published works of both Charles and John Wesley, the combined archive represents the equivalent of a 15-volume printed edition.

And the price is right. Access the (new) manuscript archive here, or the (older) published-works archive here.

Willimon Quote from General Convention

I’m trying to learn more about Methodism by following the General Convention. Here’s a tweet of something Will Willimon observed there:

Wow. The goal is to make one disciple per year, and half of UMC congregations aren’t doing it.

Methodists Retain Existing Language on Homosexuality

I’m still figuring out the Methodist side of things at Jewel Lake Parish. But there’s a Methodist conference going on, and I’m trying to learn things as I go. I saw in the news that the Methodists are sticking with their existing teaching about homosexuality. They retained, by a 61% majority, the current wording of their Book of Discipline:

The Social Principles section of United Methodist teachings on sexuality in the Book of Discipline states: “The United Methodist Church does not condone the practice of homosexuality and considers this practice incompatible with Christian teaching;” and “Although all persons are sexual beings whether or not they are married, sexual relations are affirmed only with the covenant of monogamous, heterosexual marriage.”

An amendment to these statements would have added the sentence: “As a denomination, we are conflicted regarding homosexual expressions of human sexuality.”

One Future for the Church

I admit I haven’t followed the UMC Conference as closely as I probably ought to have. I’m still learning, well, pretty much everything about the United Methodist side of Jewel Lake Parish, and denominational activities aren’t at the top of my list. Still, it’s something I have some interest in, so I tried to pay at least a little attention to news about the conference.

Here is a video that was shown as part of the GC2012 Connectional Table Presentation:

(The program is about three quarters of an hour, so unless you’re really interested, I’d recommend you scrub forward and watch the two minutes that begin at 40:15. Or you can go directly there by clicking this link.)

The video is concerned especially with the future of the UMC, or one possible future for the UMC, but it could be about the PC(USA) just as well.

That doesn’t have to be the future of the church, but for two many congregations, it will be. God is doing amazing things in the world—not just overseas, but in our country as well. But God won’t force it on us. If we refuse to be part of it, God will use other churches. So the question for us, and really every church, is whether or not we are willing to move forward into God’s great adventure.