Unsettled Christianity

Gloria Dei homo vivens – St Irenaeus
October 20th, 2014 by Joel Watts

The (un)Official Via Media Methodists Lexicon and Illustrated Dictionary, 1st Edition

Stripped image of John Wesley

You wouldn’t believe the people who hated my via media. Stripped image of John Wesley (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

There is some confusion as to exactly what a Via Media Methodist is. In fact, not a single one of us will usually capitalize v or m when speaking about this topic. As many people know, when discussing anything, it is best if you engage the other person in the same language. For instance, if I wanted to argue about the failure of democracy in the United States, I would need to clarify democracy, failure, and to point to the specific entity known as the United States. To facilitate this discussion about VMM, I thought a short primer would be helpful.

These are some of the words I have found misused:

  • Progressive Methodist: (v) 1.) a member of the United Methodist Church who is affirming. 2.) a member of the United Methodist Church who believes creeds and a general attention to orthodoxy is restrictive to “Christianity.” 3.) a member of the United Methodist Church who believes “experience” is the individual experience in life or a group’s experience in history rather than the experience of Christian salvation. Likewise, this person tends to generally elevate “experience” above the other two legs of the Wesley Quad and makes it equal with Scripture whereas Scripture must agree with our “experience” or we must seek to change or otherwise ignore its implications. 4.) a member of the United Methodist Church who sees the Book of Discipline as a power play for white privilege
  • Evangelical Methodist: (v) 1.) a member of the United Methodist Church who holds to traditional Western views of Christian marriage, so that marriage exists between one man and one woman (at a time). 2.) a member of the United Methodist Church who sees little or no value in Tradition and Reason in reading Scripture and thus tend to hold to inerrancy and/or infallibility. They also tend to track 20th century American evangelical and are usually congregational in their approach to church polity. 3.) a member of the United Methodist Church who sees the Book of Discipline as unchanging and demands it be followed, except for itinerancy, doctrinal standards, and other non-sexual ordinances.
  • Third Way: (n) 1.) a political term used to describe the moderate or middle of the road synthesis that occurs between political agendas. Thus, the “third way” is an evolution out of the left and the right wings of political parties. It does not preexist those groups, but attempts to salvage a middle by mixing various elements acceptable to the majority. 2.) a term used to denote Christians who welcome in LGBT people but do not challenge denominational barriers. In this case, homosexuality is demoted to a non-essential. This is often used on congregational denominations.
  • Via Media Methodist (alt. 1, traditionalist; atl. 2, institutionalist): (n) 1.) a member of the United Methodist Church who does not align itself with either the progressive or evangelical wings (see above). Many hold diverse views on inclusion, but are unified on their desire to see the UMC remain unified, believing that the Church faces many issues and is a stronger-together force for good than if a splintering would occur. Via media is not a “third way” (see above) as it does not pretend to move forward or retreat backwards nor does it suggest a compromise between the two sides. Further, as via media pre-exists both the left and the right, it is impossible for it to be a “third way.” Rather, it is the way most likely to align with both Christian and historic Wesleyan orthodoxy. Thus, it is the way, rather than a wing or a “third way.” It is no more appropriate to call via media the “third way” than it is to suggest the Catholic Church was the third way in Reformation between the Anabaptists (Radical Reformers) and the Protestants (Reformers).  Whereas the left has decided the Gospel is about situational and privileged justice via bullying and the right has idolized “the bible” as a rule book, via media maintains the Gospel is about Christ only. While the left has closed the conversation to sin, the right focuses on one viewpoint on the matter, via media remains upon to God’s further correction upon our understanding of holiness. Both the left and right see ethics and morality as doctrine, while via media sees doctrine and then ethics. Further, via media continues to have faith in the Church rather than American political systems and the dichotomy of politicized sides and their agendas. 2.) All of the above, but inclusive of a generous orthodoxy with members holding various opinions on the atonement and other theological aspects not established in the creeds.
  • Dude bro (alt. dudebro): (n) 1.) White suburban males, usually 16-25 years of age, hailing from anywhere, USA. Characterized by their love of College football, pickup trucks/SUVs, beer,cut off khaki cargo shorts, light pink polo brand shirts (with collar “popped”), abercrombie & fitch, hollister gear, and trucker hats. Favorite bands include, but are not limited to, O.A.R., Jack Johnson, Dave Matthews Band, Avengened Sevenfold, The Fray, and often crappy radio rap (i.e. Nelly, Dem Franchize Boyz, D4L, etc.). Dude bro’s are incredibly insecure in their manhood, which makes them: insanely jealous of their girl friends, overly macho, and laughably homophobic. currently, there is no cure for being a dude bro. (Source: Urban Dictionary)
  • Brogressive: (n) 1.) Politically liberal or left-leaning person who routinely downplays injustices against women and other marginalized groups in favor of some cause they deem more important. (Source: Urban Dictionary)

By the way, since there is no caucus group or committee governing via media Methodists, this remains unofficial

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

3 Responses to “The (un)Official Via Media Methodists Lexicon and Illustrated Dictionary, 1st Edition”
  1. I smiled when our Sunday “Leader/People” service part included the phrase for the people to respond with:
    “we see our ancestors Abraham and Sarah who were alone until God blessed them and made them a great family.”
    Had to smile as well to the quote:
    “United Methodist Church who holds to traditional Western views of Christian marriage, so that marriage exists between one man and one woman (at a time)”…at a time, at a time, at a time…etc, etc.
    But Abraham had a Lot on his mind…
    🙂

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