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UMC Buzzwords

April 10, 2007

Mike Holly has an interesting post about buzzwords that the UMC should, in his opinion, take a break from. Here’s a quote from his post.

This has got me thinking about other words that Methodists should “be on a break” from…

1. District
2. Board
3. Committee
4. General
5. Commission
6. Principles
7. Grace
only because it tends to dissuade us from personal and social holiness
8. Reason
9. Rumor
10. IRD
11. Rapture

12. Goodas in “how to have a good life/marriage/family/etc.
13. Nominations
14. Open Theology
– as in “United Methodists can make up their own minds…”
15. Hoops – as in those things you are “expected” to jump through

I don’t know about this list. I think he and I would disagree on more than a couple of points.

First of all, GRACE does not belong on that list. If only more United Methodists really got grace, understood it, and believed it. We all say we believe in grace, but we really don’t. The idea of getting something for nothing, of receiving an unearned gift is anathema in our culture. We believe you get what you deserve, what you work for, what you earn. (In other words, in our heart of hearts we believe in karma, not grace.) Grace is a gift God has given than we cannot earn and do not deserve. It is the crown jewel of our faith and the thing that separates Christianity from other religions and philosophies.

Maybe gratitude and responsibility (the key concepts of discipleship, IMHO) need to be added, but grace cannot be removed.

But let me add my own list of buzzwords the UMC would be better off without.

  • Liberal and Conservative. Both are used uncritically, incorrectly, and pejoratively. Neither carries any real meaning anymore. Nix ’em.
  • Biblical Authority (or “the authority of Scripture”). Give it a rest. Nobody in the church really denies biblical authority, even if they do understand the nature of biblical authority differently from some others. The only time anyone uses this term is when they want to accuse someone of denying it. There are other ways of reading scripture than as a 17th century Calvinist.
  • The historic church. Even a cursory look at church history will show that Christianity was diverse from the beginning. If we are to name only one as “the historic church” it would be the one that wanted to fry Luther, keep people from reading scripture for themselves, and kept getting into bed with governments to the detriment of both.
  • Amicable Separation. After the last General Conference in 2004, the Good News and Confessing folks got what they wanted regarding homosexuality in the UMC… the language in the Book of Discipline was clarified and strengthened. And in response to getting what they wanted, they put out a call for “amicable separation.” I always suspected that those who use the language of separation are doing so in an attempt to seize power in the church, but that move is what my poker-playing friends call a “tell.” You want to split after getting what you want? Riiiight. Which brings me to….
  • Reconciling Movement, Confessing Movement, Good News Movement. None of you are moving anything. The church is positively stagnant from the gridlock caused by these opposing “movements.” To paraphrase Lewis Black, after 9/11, with U.S. involvement two ongoing wars (Iraq and Afghanistan), genocide in Darfur, the threat of a third war (Iran), and with HIV and Malaria epidemics in Africa, this is what you’re most concerned with? GET A HOBBY!

I’m sure given enough time I can come up with more, but these are the ones that really give me the irks.

5 Comments leave one →
  1. Mike permalink
    April 16, 2007 9:47 pm


    Thanks for the lively discussion! I happen to agree with most of your points here. “Paul” actually posted the Amicable point in my comments section. And Biblical Authority is way overplayed. The one point I would argue with is the historic church — you are right to say that Christianity has always been diverse; however, we hardly ever look that far back as a denomination. And it was one of the rallying calls of Wesley himself!

    If the point is to get off of the “traditional tag words” (even if they are central and vital to our faith such as grace is — as you point out), then we need more “historic church”!


  2. Will Deuel permalink
    April 17, 2007 10:02 am

    Thanks, Mike. Yes, Paul’s response on your blog was the reason “amicable separation” made it onto my list. Shoulda given him the hat tip, but I guess I overlooked it.

    I believe if we are to engage the historic church in our conversations, then we mus engage it critically – taking seriously both its insights and its sins; its massive triumphs and its colossal failures.

  3. Mike permalink
    April 17, 2007 3:23 pm

    One reason I think that a recovery of the “historic church” is important is to reclaim a missionary hermeneutic — that sense of movement and Spirit-led faithfulness to God free from foundations and steeples and mortgages and calendars.

    I totally see your point in the Constantinian Christendom project.

  4. John permalink
    April 21, 2007 7:01 pm

    You are correct, we must engage the historic church critically. It did many wrong-headed and even evil things. But the advantage of a historical perspective is that it serves as an anchor against erroneous theology. If we say something that the whole historic church always rejected (e.g. “There was no physical resurrection of Jesus”), then we know that we have fallen offtrack.

    And, as Mike says, appealing to the historic church can restore a missional focus. A lot of Methodists today would be shocked at what John Wesley preached, such as his sermon “On the Use of Money”.

  5. Art permalink
    April 27, 2007 2:35 am

    Man, I am so sorry I’m just getting around to reading this post. I am such a slacker! But I agree with you 100%, Will. Preach on brother!

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