Stripped image of John Wesley (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
On Friday, The Confessing Church in the United Methodist Church, said this about your’s truly.
Christian Post reported on two United Methodist pastors who plan to start a new group to “change the United Methodist Church’s official position on homosexuality and same-sex marriage via a grassroots campaign.” Christopher Tiedeman, an Indiana pastor and seminary student, and Joel Watts, a blogger, are quoted in this story.
Does the UMC really need another liberal caucus group to push an unbiblical and non-Wesleyan agenda? Is this something the BOMs in the connection should be considering when interviewing candidates for ministry who want to organizing against the church’s long-held position? I wonder why these candidates don’t pick a denomination that better fits their convictions. What do you think?
This was a nice subtle way to tell us to leave. This was my response. But, I wanted to draw out a bit more.
You see, John Wesley — who, as virtual founder of the denomination, should speak better to who is in and who is out rather than an outside group — was all about two things. In no particular order — Christian Unity and reaching the marginalized. He believed that Scriptural Holiness (something we need to define) should be the root of the Christian mission, but even if it wasn’t, people could still be Christians and should still seek unity.
Yet, we have people like Mark Tooley of the Institute on Religion and Democracy and the nice people at the Confessing Church movement who would rather dismiss Wesley’s teachings in this area while supposing they are themselves the final arbiter of what makes a good Wesleyan. Ironically, they lambast us for desiring not a root change — dispensing with Sacred Writ or even ignoring the Book of Discipline (very much the opposite, actually) — but a theological discussion centered on biblical scholarship (as Wesley would have engineered) because this, they insist, is unWesleyan. Yet, they themselves display their unWesleyan spirit by denying first charity and second unity.
Wesley never said ‘In necessariis unitas, in dubiis libertas, in omnibus caritas‘ (at least on record) yet we know Richard Baxter (a theological ancestor of Wesley) promulgated the saying. And much of Wesleyanism today would repeat it. Why? Because it encapsulates the Wesley we know.
What are the essentials? Wesley argued for orthodox doctrines although he was unsure about their vitality to the Christian faith. Of course, he would even go so far in sermons 38 and 39 to allow that those who old doctrines we deem reprehensible to Scripture are not ours to judge. Other times, Wesley questioned the necessity of the Trinity. Wesley exposed himself as a Romanist when it comes to Mary in at least one private letter. How many good United Methodists today believe in the Perpetual Virginity of our Mother? Perhaps we leave doctrines to the doubtful category and allow for liberty. What is essential then?
Again, the one thing Wesley turned to again and again in his sermons as essential are Christian unity and charity — not just help to those in need, but likewise a charitable hand to other Christians. Let us remember that one culture’s morals are not another. One denomination’s morals are not anothers. And yet we judge everyone by our standard. Perhaps this is why Wesley developed his simple rules.
“Do All the Good You Can,
By All the Means You Can,
In All the Ways You Can,
In All the Places You Can,
At All the Times You Can,
To All the People You Can,
As long as Ever …
If, in a Wesleyan denomination, while proclaiming Wesleyan tenants, you would seek to exclude others it might be best to first understand Wesley.
Someone once made the comment to John Wesley, “I never forgive,” to which he aptly replied, “Then, sir, I hope that you never sin.” Wesley’s quick-witted response highlights the truth that it is only as we are willing to forgive others that God extends forgiveness to us. Linda L. Belleville, 2 Corinthians
It is my hope groups like the IRD and the Confessing Church will repent of their sheer hypocrisy and, if they are truly Wesleyan Christians, live up to this creed.