umc logoI am, for no other reason (wink wink), reviewing older versions of the Book of Discipline. I found this statement in the 1912 version of the Methodist Episcopal Church. This would have been the northern half of the split.

…While its polity and administrative rules have been modified from time to time to meet changing conditions and opportunities, it remains unchanged in doctrine and in ministerial offices….

The Methodist Episcopal Church has always believed that the only infallible proof of the legitimacy of any branch of the Christian Church is its ability to seek and to save the lost, and to disseminate the Pentecostal spirit and life. The chief stress has ever been laid, not upon the forms but upon the essentials of religion. It holds that true Churches of Christ may differ widely in ceremonies, ministerial orders, and government. Its members are allowed freedom of choice among the debated modes of Baptism. If any member has scruples against receiving the Lord’s Supper kneeling, he is permitted to receive it standing or sitting. In ordinary worship its people are invited to unite in extemporary prayer, but for the Administration of the Sacraments, Ordinations, the Solemnization of Matrimony, the Burial of the Dead, and other special services, a Liturgy is appointed, taken in large part from Rituals used by the Universal Church from ancient times.

The sole object of the rules, regulations, and usages of the Methodist Episcopal Church is that it may fulfill to the end of time its original divine commission as a leader in evangelization, in all true reforms, and in the promotion of fraternal relations among all branches of the one Church of Jesus Christ, with which it is a coworker in the spiritual conquest of the world for the Son of God.

Imagine a United Methodist today speaking of the importance of a liturgy so shared that it makes us one, even in our differences (unity, without uniformity). Or… to speak about the “spiritual conquest of the world for the Son of God.” Shoot, how many of us still declare Jesus is the Only Begotten, not made, Son of God?

On another note, the role of “bishop” seems to be purely administrative, although there is an allowance to watch the theology of the schools.