Unsettled Christianity

Gloria Dei homo vivens – St Irenaeus
September 10th, 2014 by Joel Watts

Dear #UMC, let’s reclaim our confessional heritage

English: "John Wesley," by the Engli...

Come on y’all, I was the one who wrote the Shorter Catechism. Why ain’t you using it?

Just a short post on a quick idea…

The UMC is held to be non-confessional. I’m generally okay with that, except we have such wide ranging views there may in fact already exist numerous UMC denominations without the larger one. I am now ready to admit that. I do not think, however, schism is healthy, biblical, or going to happen.

What remains is for us to relearn our Wesleyan and Evangelical Brethren heritage. To do so would require us to reclaim several pieces of doctrine left out of the Doctrinal Standards. From the EB side, we should add the Heidelberg Catechism. From Wesley, we should reclaim the Shorter Catechism which was reworked by Wesley to remove overly Calvinistic parts while retaining several elements of the Reformed Tradition. Granted, both could use an update on language unless there is no chief end of woman.

While the UMC is non-confessional is most ways, our Wesleyan heritage does not completely exclude Confessions of Faith. Indeed, Wesley worked up such a one. Perhaps we should seek to reclaim it.


Joel Watts
Watts holds a MA in Theological Studies from United Theological Seminary. He is currently a Ph.D. student at the University of the Free State, analyzing Paul’s model of atonement in Galatians, as well as seeking an MA in Clinical Mental Health at Adams State University. He is the author of Mimetic Criticism of the Gospel of Mark: Introduction and Commentary (Wipf and Stock, 2013), a co-editor and contributor to From Fear to Faith: Stories of Hitting Spiritual Walls (Energion, 2013), and Praying in God's Theater, Meditations on the Book of Revelation (Wipf and Stock, 2014).


6 Responses to “Dear #UMC, let’s reclaim our confessional heritage”
  1. From your mouth to God’s ears Joel. PS – thanks for the links to Wesley’s revised Shorter Catechism. Have you ever looked at the “Echo” catechism resource published by Seedbed? It is based on an old Methodist catechism, but apparently one that did not have the classic Reformed “chief end.”

  2. Morgan Guyton says

    Isn’t there sufficient “confessional” material in the BOD? I figure it’s just a question of whether or not it’s actually taken seriously.

  3. Joel, I’d encourage you to take a look at the Echo catechism I mentioned. I understand (I think) that you are looking for doctrinal clarity from the longer (Shorter) catechism, but I’m also looking for something that is actually useful in teaching children. I would have to dig a little to find the exact catechism they based it on, but it was a Methodist Episcopal (or South) publication. It appears to be more along the Catholic catechitical framework than the Reformed – i.e., the first question is “Who made you?” rather than “What is the chief end and goal of man?” However, the theology is Wesleyan-Reformed. The language has been nicely simplified, and the explanations much briefer, so that it can be more easily memorized.

  4. Scott Fritzsche says

    Confessions are good for the soul. They do a couple of things…first, it gives us a reaffirmation of what it is that we collectively believe. That can only been seen as good in a denomination that is currently mired in it’s differences. That leads to the second, and currently maybe the most important thing, it reminds us of what we have in common and that the truth is we share much more in common than we disagree on.

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