John Wesley was born three centuries ago and was a leader in reviving The Church of England that became the movement known as Methodism. He and a small group of believers developed a “method” of living out their Christian life by practicing small groups; preaching in public places; celebrating Holy Communion as often as he could; caring for widows and orphans and other Christian disciplines.
Fast forward three centuries and the United Methodist Church as a denomination has twelve million people worshipping in this connection throughout the world. We are barely fifty years old (1968) since the Methodist Church and Evangelical United Brethren Church came together to form the United Methodist Church and today this worldwide connectional body seems headed toward a split.
You night ask; what’s a split? and what brought us to this point? A split in a denomination occurs when one group within the denomination disagrees on principle(s) with another group inside the denomination and the only way out of the impasse appears to be that a “split” should take place where basically one group goes their way and the other group goes their way.
What brought us to this possible split? There exists a disagreement concerning aspects of human sexuality. More succinctly, one group believes that “homosexuality is not compatible with Christian teaching*.” And one group believes the opposite to be true. One group is in favor of allowing LGBTQ marriages to be performed in UM Churches and would permit LGBTQ persons to be ordained in The UM Church . The other group is not in favor of either of these changes to United Methodist doctrine and *The Book of Discipline (above quote taken from this book.)
This disagreement has existed for a long time and the belief exists that because of this ongoing disagreement, we as a denomination are focused on that subject and not so focused on the ministry and mission of The Church.
This is where my perspective enters into this article. In the past twenty years I have stood before three different bishops at three different annual conferences asking me to uphold The Book of Discipline in serving as a member of clergy in the United Methodist Church.
The Book of Discipline guides the church with regards to form and polity and reflects Biblical values that are foundational to Methodism. “This book of covenant sets forth the theological grounding of The United Methodist Church in biblical faith and affirms that we go forward as “loyal heirs to all that [is] best in the Christian past.” “(1) Whatever decision is made in the upcoming months, it will have a direct impact on the Book of Discipline. If in fact it is not changed, leadership of the church should and will be called to enforce the boundaries of its covenant. If the Book of Discipline is changed, laity and clergy will have to decide for themselves which denominational path they will follow.
There are several paths the General Conference may take in the near future with regards to resolving this disagreement involving human sexuality. Any action or no action will have a ripple affect on UM congregations everywhere. Please join me in prayer that God will guide the hearts and minds of those involved in the decision making process. Delegates of the United Methodist Denomination worldwide will gather in Minnesota in May once again to address this and possibly other issues. Stay tuned and may God bless you.
(1) Excerpt from the Book of Discipline 2016, pg. v
A Perspective on Methodism
FIRST UNITED METHODIST
CHURCH OF CLEWISTON