I Love the United Methodist Church
I know that I can come across as cynical and bitter at times, and as I’ve pointed out before my cynicism comes from being a romantic whose heart has been broken. To characterize my personality accurately and honestly I must make a few confessions:
- I am deeply optimistic and prone to getting my hopes up.
- I tend to see the best in people, and offer up the benefit of the doubt.
- I realize that my more confessional blog posts put me in a vulnerable place. Yet I hang on tightly to the passages that say “by his wounds we are healed,” and “my power is made perfect in weakness.” So if I am truly called to re-present Christ, then I call upon us all to share our vulnerabilities together. Healing is not made manifest in denial of our weaknesses, but in sharing them.
- I am a hope-filled romantic.
I have used this blog to share my heartbreak, my grievances and my passions. I have been deeply and vocally critical of the bureaucracies within our denomination and their seeming detachment from the realities of ministry on the ground. And in doing so one might come to the conclusion that I don’t really like the United Methodist Church. But nothing could be further from the truth. The grievances I’ve aired here are a lover’s quarrel with the church with whom I am in a covenant relationship.
I love the United Methodist Church.
The United Methodist Church gave my mom a church home when she was searching. The United Methodist Church sent me to church camp as a teenager, and I was led to Christ there. My United Methodist pastors (Niles Stone, Steve Palmer, Tom Richards, Harold “Red” Andricks, Bruce Owens, Larry Gilbert, Victor Long) showed me different aspects of God’s passionate love. John Wesley’s Arminian understanding of the prevenient, justifying and sanctifying natures of grace is, to my reading, exactly right. The United Methodist Hymnal taught me songs that have changed my life. United Methodist congregations have loved me, taught me, nurtured my gifts and graces, encouraged me, and supported me in my convoluted path toward ordained ministry.
I love that we are a connectional church. Through church bodies like UMCOR and the United Methodist Women we can do things far greater than any single church can alone. I love that we are a “Big Tent” denomination where liberals, conservatives and centrists can disagree – sometimes deeply – yet eat of the same bread, drink of the same cup, and love and pray for one another. I love that I can be in a covenant group with other United Methodist pastors and feel less like a Lone Ranger in ministry. I love that some of our congregations are almost Episcopalian while others are almost Baptist. I love that the United Methodist Church takes missions of mercy and healing seriously, and that when disaster hits we often have the reputation for being the first to arrive and the last to leave. I love the Walk to Emmaus and I have seen lives change there. I love Abingdon Press, the Upper Room, Cokesbury, The United Methodist Hymnal, The Faith We Sing, and the wealth of materials available to clergy and laity through Cokesbury.
I love that the Residence in Ministry program has given me lifelong friends throughout our Conference, and I am proud to kneel beside them this June as the Bishop lays hands upon us. Each one of them, and the group as a whole, gives me hope for the future of the church. And I would not know them as I do in any other denomination.
My strongest experiences of God have happened in and through ministries of the United Methodist Church.
I love the United Methodist Church. May the UMC continue to be on board with what God is doing in the world, and may God bless the UMC.