Hi, friends. My posts are never controversial, so I wonder if this will be a popular one since the title promises drama. In this post, I’ll share some information about my denomination and feelings on being an object of scorn to some Christians.
How the UMC Is “Liberal”
I am a member of the United Methodist Church, a global denomination inspired by the teachings/example of John Wesley. The name “Methodist” originates from others taunting Wesley’s discipline with study, confession, etc. Wesley believed in principles like “saved by grace” and “anyone can be saved.” He emphasized personal piety (spiritual growth) and social piety (good works). Read more about Methodist beliefs here.
The reason I call us a “liberal” denomination primarily has to do with who we ordain for ministry. [Sidenote: Plenty of Methodists identify as conservative.] Divorcees, women, and people of color are treated with the same ministerial potential as white men who are unmarried/only married once.
Recent Discord in the UMC
Over the last few years, the question of whether homosexuals are qualified to serve as clergy members has rocked our denomination to the core. A recent vote in our General Conference determined the answer to that question as “no,” and it’s been a painful time for everyone–Christian homosexuals, their allies, even all those who believe homosexuality is sinful. Whether people agree or disagree with the verdict, we are all feeling damaged by how this issue is ripping our denomination apart.
We are grieving several things–our losing sight of “the main things” (follow Jesus, make disciples, transform the world), irreversibly hurtful words that have been exchanged, and the seemingly inevitable split of a global denomination that spent hundreds of years overcoming racism and other issues to come together under one title–UMC.
As we seek God’s guidance to move forward despite the intense discord this vote has stirred up, I feel a little disdainful about fellow brothers and sisters in Christ who mock us and deem us all heretics.
My aim in this post is not to justify UMC policies (which would result in a very long article) as much as to discuss the way denominations like mine are scorned by other Christians who believe their theology superior.
Warnings About False Teachers
When Paul spoke of false teachers in his letters, he was mainly referencing people who would not accept the unfathomable concept that Jesus was fully divine and fully human. Said false teachers wanted to dispel that idea by claiming that He was just a human prophet OR He was never really human at all. These perversions of the gospel undercut the very crux of Christianity (God in human form being resurrected and defeating physical death)… hence why declarations of faith like the Apostle’s Creed exist.
I have to wonder if Paul could foresee how brothers and sisters would use these excerpts nowadays to hurl stones at each other over ideas that are far less crucial. Want to de-legitimize a minister, a church, even an entire denomination? Start throwing around verses implying (or explicitly saying) that people are “wolves in sheep’s clothing” because their interpretations vary from your own.
Is Righteous Indignation Christ-like?
I’ve grown wary of Christians who write off other Christians. Here’s a hard pill to swallow: righteous indignation usually stems from pride. Hence, defending the gospel can easily get muddled with gratifying our flesh. The Christ-like way is usually the most difficult, and I think considering, listening to, and even respecting someone we disagree with is tougher than condemning them automatically.
I’ve seen ideas mocked that don’t actually deserve to be mocked–ideas like reading commentaries, considering contexts, and being open-minded. Is it so unimaginable to think that humans, imperfect creatures that we are, could have gotten some things wrong in the past? Is it really so irrelevant that Paul often addressed specific questions and problems in the churches he wrote to?
I don’t always agree with others’ interpretations, but I check my heart to see if I’m allowing resentful feelings towards them to fester, attempting to steer clear of pride. I hope all Christians can learn to extend more grace, even on doctrinal disagreements. We don’t look so different from the rest of the world if we’re throwing stones at each other.
I was going to write about being a woman in ministry, also, but I will table that for another post.
Thanks for reading! Assuming you haven’t already unfollowed me, would you like to have a civil discussion in the comments? If so, drop a line below. 🙂
Food for thought–do we resemble Jesus flipping over tables in the temple or Peter cutting off the soldier’s ear at Jesus’s arrest?