Reflections Upon Why I am a United Methodist

So my first-ever series of any appreciable length is over and I was able to maintain my focus throughout–

Squirrel!

Wait, what was I saying?…

Anyway, after reading this book it’s easy to see why Methodism has been such an influential and dynamic force in Christianity. I had read directly from Wesley in the past, but (I suppose like a typical Protestant) I had delved into “the original source” without paying much thought to an overview of the structure he created. So, while I appreciated Wesley’s thought, I didn’t really have enough context in spite of growing up Methodist and attending a Methodist seminary.

GK Chesterton wrote once of a person asked what the benefits of civilization are. Such a person is generally not able to immediately articulate the benefits of society. They may start by point out lamp posts or the mail. I think there’s a point for me in this parable of Chesterton’s. I am immersed in Methodism by my family, my history, and my own choices. If I sometimes lose sight of the benefits of Methodism, I’m left pointing to a few pieces of evidence but am too often unable to properly articulate the benefits of Methodism. Bishop Willimon’s book is what I struggle to articulate about Methodism.

In another blogpost I recently read, the author writes that even though he’s moved from the Anabaptist tradition to Anglicanism, he is still deeply Anabaptist. His past is part of who he is today. We always carry that with us as Bishop Willimon points out in the introduction to Why I am a United Methodist. And it’s okay that we carry our past with us. It shapes and forms us. As Bishop Willimon pointed out, our past is a gift and another word for gift is “grace.” Our past is a grace from God for us.

As I’ve occasionally said in posts and comments, I can be an impatient person who wants to get right to the result. I want information, then a decision, then I move on. Being immersed in Church history, and even more so being immersed in Church family, is something entirely at odds with a results-oriented mindset. The gospel remains a direct challenge to my (and all of our) ways of thinking. I need to stop building barns to house a hypothetical future harvest and start paying attention to being faithful in the present moment. So, I’m not ready to stop delving into the richness of Christian history and tradition. But I’m also not ready to stop being Methodist just yet. And really, wherever my wandering path leads me, I’ll always be Methodist on some level.

And so, I suppose the best ending words for this series (and my whole journey) are Bishop Willimon’s own words:

“The Bible shows God to be infinitely resourceful and creative in getting his way. However, it appears that God has chosen to get his way with me through The United Methodist Church. Perhaps it will be the same for you.” (Page 120)

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~ by crossingthebosporus on September 4, 2012.

3 Responses to “Reflections Upon Why I am a United Methodist”

  1. That is the perfect ending. There’s something profound in the insight that whatever church we join, we carry with us the inheritance of where we have come from. Now I know there are some Orthodox and Catholics who think that is a bad thing in so far as they say that converts cannot be ‘properly’ Catholic or Orthodox – but that seems to me short-sighted, as it misses what we have in common and rejects anything which is not what we think we want – just like the Baptists you mentioned.

    • Hm, I’ve never seen a Catholic say that a convert can never properly be a Catholic (I thought that was the point of RCIA), but I have on occasion seen the claim from an Orthodox source. In all fairness, I doubt the vast majority of Orthodox would support that claim though. In fact, I can’t see how anyone could support such a claim because then they’d have to throw out dozens, if not hundreds, of their saints. Including Saint Paul and all the Apostles. Such a claim would then cast the foundation of the very Church suspect.

      Of course such a perspective fails to realize that all too often God speaks to us from outside of our comfortable boundary lines. We worship a God who eats with prostitutes, tax collectors, and Samaritans. Bringing our past into the Church can contribute to the very lifeblood of the Church. Jesus certainly didn’t “half-accept” these people.

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