Wednesday, June 18, 2014

So Much More Than This

My family and I recently left the United Methodist Church. So recently, in fact, that if most of my former Methodist Church family were to read this, it would be news to them. It had never occurred to me to "go public," until I saw this article in a blog by Trevin Wax of The Gospel Coalition, "Is There 'A Way Forward' for the United Methodist Church."

To sum things up, Adam Hamilton, a pastor of The United Methodist Church of the Resurrection in Leawood, Kansas, is offering "A Way Forward" in an effort to hold the UMC together in the midst of the current controversy over same-sex relationships within the church. It is basically, an acknowledgment of the UMC's official stance, which restricts the right of members of the LGBT community to marry or be ordained within the church, but allows for local churches to disagree with and disobey that view. I encourage you to read both Pastor Hamilton's views and Trevin's post.

Trevin Wax sites blog posts of Timothy Tennent, a Wesleyan theologian and the president of Asbury Seminary. Tennent is of the opinion this goes far beyond the homosexuality issue and says, "...if the 'crisis' over homosexuality were to disappear tomorrow, it would not fundamentally change the nature or gravity of the crisis which is engulfing the UMC." Trevin goes on to quote Tennent as saying there are three underlying problems in this division between progressives and traditionalists:

    1. 'We have experienced a slow decline in our confidence in the authority of Scripture.'
    2. 'A “muddled” understanding of the gospel message.'
    3. 'A narrow denominational parochialism which seems to blind leaders to the grand faith of the church of Jesus Christ through the ages and around the world.'
Allow me to share with you a portion of an email I wrote regarding our departure:

"[With regard to our Denomination], I CANNOT in good conscience welcome another baptized infant or toddler into the family of God. They are not heirs or part of God's royal priesthood because they were dunked, poured or sprinkled. I think it is eternally wrong to send such a message. I've never been comfortable with the denomination's endorsement of female elders and pastors, and their soft-line with regard to homosexuality. I think the Wesleyan quadrilateral has become grossly misshapen; reason and experience are becoming foundational over Scripture."
I attended a non-denominational, but largely Baptist, Christian school all throughout high school, all the while attending a United Methodist Church. I remember questioning my father as to why we had a female pastors but I was being taught in school that the Bible said we should not. I even asked a female pastor recently, how she reconciled one with the other. "Well, I felt called," she said with a tone that indicated she was prepared for people like me. She wasn't. I know God doesn't call us to do things contrary to what He says in His Word. So I heard her answer very clearly, "I don't and I can't."

I questioned my father why other churches voted and hired pastors while we were appointed pastors. I questioned who this body of people was making the decisions for me and my fellow congregants. I questioned why we had female Bishops, and "what was a bishop anyway?" I questioned why we baptized infants. "Dedicate," my father would correct. "But the bulletin says, 'Infant Baptism.'" My poor father. And in all fairness to him, they were dedicated and welcomed into "the family of God," a term that has become so benign, like "child of God," which has come to mean to some, anyone created by God. I let it slide.

However, one day I heard that these children were heirs and servants in the royal priesthood. No ambiguity there. I heard that we should not give up on those who have died because, though the judgment follows death, we have no way of knowing when, and that we should continue to pray for those people. Whoa! I think there's some muddling of the gospel message there. I listened as my daughter left for boot camp and member after member wished her "good luck."

Please don't misunderstand, I am not passing judgment, but this is where the Church (capital "C") is at, in United Methodism. Trust me, many other local UMC congregations have teetered into progressivism long ago; I considered this one of the better local churches. Reason, tradition, experience, but where is the Scriptural activity in all of this? I agree with Trevin Wax when he says:

"...we should grieve whenever churches and denominations are divided. Jesus claimed that one of the ways the world will know the Father’s glory is through His people’s unity. Too often, we give lip service to unity while justifying schism.
 "At the same time, true and lasting unity must be based in the truth of God’s Word. Unity is impossible when the clarity and sufficiency of Scripture is denied.
 "The United Methodist Church is divided today over a number of issues, many of which go to the heart of our faith. We have Wesleyan brothers and sisters seeking to be faithful to the gospel in an increasingly difficult situation. Let’s pray that Wesley’s passionate love for Jesus and devotion to God’s Word would once again flood the churches of his theological descendants."

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