Unsettled Christianity

Gloria Dei homo vivens – St Irenaeus
July 6th, 2017 by Joel Watts

#NextMethodism will have no bishops

‘At a time when Bishop Butler asserted that Christianity was “wearing out of the minds of men” Wesley kept the English people Christian, and shamed the Church that closed her pulpits to him into imitating his spirit, if not his methods. No historian will venture to stake out the limits of movements whose most vivifying force works in the silence of the religious life of masses of men and women. But it is certain that into the moral fibre of the English people, even in the classes most anxious to repudiate the debt, were woven new strands by the abiding influence of Methodism’—‘A History of England,’ in seven volumes. Edited by Charles Oman. Vol. vi. ‘England Under the Hanoverians.’ By C. Grant Robertson, Fellow of All Souls College, Oxford, Tutor in History to Magdalen College.

Around the blogosphere, traditional United Methodists and those who care dearly for the People called Methodist have written about their hope and vision for these people.

I want to add a few things, and will as time permits. Right now, I want to focus on who will lead the Next Methodism.

I pulled my UMC membership in October 2016 and have as of mid-May this year ceased to attend our local congregation. The split is coming and I will not need to choose whether to serve the local cause of liberalism or Jesus. I have decided to move on now. This is not the only reason, but is does stem from the topic of this post — failed leadership.

I have written before about the utter failure of the College of Bishops as a whole. I believe the failure, the rot, has so rocked the ship that it is hardly a church. We cannot truthfully call the UMC a church, even if it is still a denomination.

When Fr. John, an Anglican priest, first appointed Thomas Coke and Francis Asbury as superintendents of the American wing of the People Called Methodists, he did not give them the label of bishop. As I have written before, he was infuriated at Frankie for taking upon himself that title. That founding myth and the attachment issues it engendered has long held sway over the College, preventing many of them from actually being bishops.

Rather, we have bureaucrats. We have inefficient ear-ticklers. What we have on the whole are little more than failed politicians whose only victory amounts to $145,000 a year cushion from which to proclaim themselves prophets while promoting lie and lie after lie. There are a few UMC bishops I believe who meet the definition of a real Christian and a real Christian leader. Such as Bishop Mike Lowry.

In reading — in absorbing — St. Symeon, the New Theologian, as well as Wesley’s life of battling feckless bishops engaged in keeping the world (i.e., the monarch) happy, I have come to believe that the Next Methodism must operate not with the bishops of the UMC, but with the Bishops given, ordained, and maintained by rightful Apostolic Succession.

Apostolic Succession is not merely the power to lead, but it is the sacred trust to change nothing as handed down by the Apostles to their disciples and so on. It is not merely the authority to bless the sacraments, but it is the willingness to forgo earthly praise in order to witness to the heavenly Christ. Apostolic succession grants the Bishop the right to ordain ministers under them, but it requires that Bishop to ensure those so ordained follow the precepts of Church order and discipline, living a holy life and preaching sound doctrine. The Next Methodism must winnow down the bishops, removing the measures that have gotten us to this lackluster frauds who seem to only perpetuate clergy that have no business anywhere else but at the altar of repentance.

What I envision are Bishops of such caliber that one knows they stand in the presence of a living reminder of the longevity of the Christian Church. These Bishops will achieve true ecumenicism and will restore the ecclesiological underpinnings of the People Called Methodists. They will lead a revival, not only of doctrine, but of the works of a faithful following of Jesus Christ.

Next Methodism will not have superintendents who misappropriate their office, fiddling away on Twitter while the Church burns, but will have descendants of the Apostles.

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).

Comments

2 Responses to “#NextMethodism will have no bishops”
  1. Warren Lathem says

    I have been working, along with others, on the #NextMethodism related to a recovery of the five-fold offices or functions of ministry (Ephesians 4:11). Where I see these functioning, the church is growing. In the UMC we only acknowledge Pastors and Teachers. We give lip-service to Evangelists, but do not take them seriously. If we acknowledge anything related to the role of Apostle or Prophet, we so redefine as it to be meaningless. This must change for the future of the movement. But the UMC as we now know it is incapable of making this change. Therefore, for me, the sooner the inevitable split occurs, the better, and the better chance we have to make it an amicable and equitable split.

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