What the connection means to me

Tyson United Methodist Church 2
Tyson United Methodist Church 2 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

For anyone reading who is not aware, this is how the United Methodist Church is organized and also why United Methodists often refer to “the connection“.

That is all well and good for church structure, but here is what the connection means to me, and I believe should mean to everyone else who claims membership in the United Methodist Church.

First, the connection means that it is about something bigger than me. Not just my faith, but my church attendance, my gifts, using my talents the best that I can. It is about something bigger. It is about supporting the call of Christ through the work of the UMC as a connection. It is about more than my local church, but the world wide church. It is about helping in my community, but also about helping the world at large. The connection means we are a small part of a large tool for God.

Second, the connection means (in it’s best moments) that I can be assured that the beliefs and structures of the church have been pondered, discussed, and agreed upon by a majority. Understanding that none of us knows it all or gets it all correct, with many voices, the Holy Spirit has many opportunities to be heard and to act through people. Does this mean it is always right at that time? Nope, but it does mean that there is a better chance to get it right eventually. It also means that (in it’s best moments) that there is a recourse that I can pursue should the beliefs of the church not be upheld as they should be.

This is the big one it means to me though, and the one I truly believe that we all need to be buying into. The connection means that if you say something mean spirited to my brother, you say it to me. If you insult and intentionally attempt to harm another United Methodist, and truly another Christian, you are doing so to me. When you make a fellow Christian outcast because they think and believe differently than you, you have done it to me. When Paul says we are one body, this is what he is talking about. When Christ says when you did it to the least you did it to me, this is a part of the meaning. The connection does not mean we always agree. It may not even mean that we like each other. What it does mean is that we are in this together.

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9 Replies to “What the connection means to me”

  1. What the connection means to me…
    Facts from the referenced link. My conclusions:

    Local church body is the most important focal point. But note from “Local Churches”, “The Book of Discipline outlines rules and organization that local churches must follow but there is also room for a local church to express its ministry according to the community and its congregation.”
    The UMC, as an organization, is a relatively recent creation. So whether based upon Jesus or Wesley, not like the organization was created at the beginning of time by God. So not exactly like rigid orthodoxy is the general rule of order.
    Bureaucracy to the nth order. OK, maybe necessary. But Jesus might say, “inconceivable”. A little different than 12 guys hitting the road, with nothing but the clothes on their back and shoes, to accomplish their mission. And since the churches they established all varied in their doctrine (eastern and western orthodox, as an example), seems overkill to assume that strict doctrine consistency from top to bottom in the bureaucracy is necessary.

    Fact quotes in Reference:
    1. “When it comes to the United Methodist organizational structure, all roads lead back to the local church. As the visible presence or body of Christ, the local church is the place where members grow in faith and discipleship, putting their faith into action through ministry in the world.”

    “On April 23, 1968, The United Methodist Church was created when Bishop Reuben H. Mueller, representing The Evangelical United Brethren Church, and Bishop Lloyd C. Wicke of The Methodist Church joined hands at the constituting General Conference in Dallas, Texas.”
    “Local Churches
    Annual Conferences
    Episcopal Areas
    Central Conferences
    General Conference
    General Agencies”

    1. Organization and bureaucracy is not new in the church, it was being established shortly after the death of Christ by Peter, Paul and others. There has to be a base line of doctrine that the church agrees upon or else we would not be a denomination but rather a group of independent churches. There is some appeal to that, but the impact that you are able to have world wide is lessened. In the United Methodist church, the Book of discipline is what holds us together as a denomination. If things need changed, there is a process that has been used before to do so. I think that there needs to be some serious streamlining of the bureaucracy we have, but until that happens, we must work with what we have. The local church is the most important part of this to be sure, and that is exactly why doctrine matters so much. The local churches, following what has been agreed upon in the discipline, form the foundation of all the good that the UMC does. Once local churches start deviating from the discipline, that foundation crumbles and the whole of the UMC world wide suffers.

      1. Pharisees felt the same way. I’ll write it again. UMC didn’t exist before 1968. Wesley didn’t have his connection principle before 1700 something. Jesus didn’t create the Book of Discipline. The disciples didn’t all agree on doctrine. The true principle is to do onto others as…not, if you do this, we will kick you out. You are in love with the organization and the law, not the principle.

  2. What if there are those within the connection wo refuse to follow the structures and beliefs that have been agreed upon by the majority. Are the , by definition, still a part of the connection? Can displeasure be expressed that they are hurting the church we love? Just wondering.

  3. ok you win. Not once have I insulted you, or anyone, nor will I. Not once have I questioned your love or faith nor will I. Not once have I made broad determinations of where your love or heart lies nor will I. I also will not be the token conservative punching bag for some on here. I will however do as much as is within my power to live peaceably with my brother. It is unfortunate, but that means I shall no longer trouble you with posting blogs here. Sorry Joel, I tried, but enough is enough.

    1. Wait a minute. I was just expressing my opinion. Actually, I don’t think I insulted you. I certainly would hope that you continue stating your opinion here. If it makes you more comfortable, I will cease commenting here, and I am sorry I offended you. I don’t want to close down discussion. So I’ll just pass on commenting. I think everyone knows how I stand on it, anyway. Same for posts by Milton.

  4. “You are in love with the organization and the law, not the principle.” this is not an opinion, it is a statement at best and an accusation at worst. I’m not offended Gary, I’m pissed off. This statement, and statements like it, are one reason why middle/right folks end up just going over to the hard right side and say screw it. Those statements end conversations. You want to know what I love? Here you go. I love my lesbian neighbors. They are coming to church with me next Sunday. I love the lady, who used to be a gentleman, across the courtyard, she’s coming to church with me too. I love the drug addict/alcoholic couple who live 4 doors down. They are coming too. I love the wife beating idiot in trouble with the law. He’s opening up and asking questions about faith. I love my bisexual daughter, even though I seriously disagree with the life she has chosen to lead. She’s coming to church too. I love my step son and try desperately every day to be a better example than his wife beating worthless father. I love his wife beating worthless father too and even helped him find a church that can steer him in the right direction because, as wrong as it is, I could not bring myself to be the one to help him. I love my God, I love my savior, and I love every hopeless and lost cause I come across. I even love you Gary. Next time you want to tell someone what they love, remember this rant. Next time you want to not “close down a discussion” have a damn discussion, instead of telling people what they think and what they love. I’m not a pharisee Gary. the pharisee’s perverted scripture for their own gain. All I gain by having a belief and position in the middle of all of this is shit from both sides and no tangible support system. To the left I am just another pharisee and to the right I am just another liberal who doesn’t care a lick for the bible. That is not gain, I promise. I am just some guy trying to find the Truth. I’m sad that I won’t be able to include this as a part of that process any longer. The only thing I am going to accuse you of being Gary is a Christian trying to find that same truth. If there is anything I got through to anyone here about, I hope it is that is the only accusation we should be making to each other. Cheers.

    1. This will close out my discussion. You said “I love my bisexual daughter, even though I seriously disagree with the life she has chosen to lead”…I love my gay son, but I also know it wasn’t a choice he made. Let’s put it this way; he was made that way. For whatever reason. But it was not a choice, not environment (he’s got a straight brother), not a satan lurking around the corner. And I don’t disagree with the life he leads. So if a gay person wants to be a pastor, I say good for him or her.

  5. Thank you for this Scott. I’m not a pessimist about the church, but today I was feeling a bit down. The word “schism” appeared too often in my feed, and in a melancholy state I pondered what my future might be – too conservative for the left, can’t in good conscience perform a same sex marriage ; a sacramentalist who believes that scripture must be viewed with and through tradition, so not dogmatic enough for the right. For what it’s worth, this is the first thing I’ve read today that didn’t leave me feeling alone.

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